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Valve Introduces Per-Application SteamVR Settings

Late last night, Valve introduced a new SteamVR feature that enables per-application video settings so you can better utilize your graphics card’s resources in less demanding titles and not overload the GPU in graphics-heavy titles. 

Two years ago, when consumer VR headsets first hit the market, having a powerful enough GPU to operate an HMD was a big concern. Not many people owned a GTX 970 or R9 290/390 level graphics card at the time, and using a lower-end GPU was simply untenable.

Today, the graphics card market is a different beast. Though it’s admittedly difficult to find a graphics card on the shelf these days, pretty much anything you can buy today, save for the cheapest budget tier cards, would be able to drive an HTC Vive or Oculus Rift. As such, if your system is rocking a top-tier GPU, it would be able to drive much higher resolutions than the native HMD displays demand.

SteamVR includes a feature called the Rendering Target, which sets the rendering resolution for your headset independent of the display’s physical resolution. If you have a powerful graphics card that isn’t being used to its full potential, you can adjust the rendering target to improve the visual fidelity of your games. 

The rendering target in SteamVR is a global setting, which means that any changes you make to the rendering resolution would affect every game and experience that you run. Because of that, you must take care to adjust the rendering target settings in accordance with the application that runs most poorly on your system. That’s not the most efficient way to get the most of your setup, so Valve created a new option that would enable you to hone your system’s performance for individual pieces of content.

The new SteamVR beta build allows you to select any title in your library and adjust the rendering resolution to maximize your PC’s performance potential. Games like Job Simulator, which features low-poly 3D models and single-color textures, run exceptionally well on modern graphics cards, which leaves significant headroom to boost the rendering resolution for clearer visuals. More demanding titles like Island 359, however, may not run well with an increased rendering target because it can push the limits of a GTX 980 Ti at high settings.

Valve’s new per-application resolution setting works in conjunction with the global rendering target setting. The per-application option allows for a range between 20% of the rendering target and 500% of the rendering target setting, which means you could use it to reduce the rendering resolution if you so desired.

Valve said the per-application resolution setting is just the first of multiple new settings that are coming down the pipeline for SteamVR. The company didn’t give any hints about what else we should expect, or when we should expect it.

Valve’s SteamVR per-application graphics settings update is available in the SteamVR beta channel. If you’re not afraid of unfinished software, you can opt in to the beta from the Applications tab in SteamVR settings.