Nvidia: Pascal and Maxwell Performance
Despite VR’s relative youth, there are already endless combinations of graphics cards, games, and quality settings we could test to start characterizing performance. Before we start exploring other titles (or indeed, other HMDs), though, let’s feel out the VR-capable hardware from Nvidia’s Pascal and Maxwell architectures using the same demanding sequence from Chronos using Epic detail settings.
We already know the Titan X is a best-case scenario for this game—it drops a scant four frames and never needs ASW to deliver 90 real frames per second through our benchmark.
The GeForce GTX 1080’s performance deficit is large enough that ASW does kick in for 541 frames in the middle of our test. Across the run, its unconstrained frame rate is just north of 112, whereas the Titan X averages more than 134 FPS.
As we’ve already seen, a GeForce GTX 1070 spends even more time in ASW mode—Nvidia’s VR Analyzer shows it synthesizing more than 2000 frames and dropping 13 (more than any other Pascal-based card). A ~90 FPS unconstrained rate drops to ~65 delivered FPS when you take into account the 90 Hz display interval and roughly half the run spent at 45 Hz in ASW mode.
Dropped frames aren’t an issue on the GeForce GTX 1060 6GB. Its entire run is spent in ASW mode, yielding an even 45 delivered frames per second. While that sounds nice and tidy, we’ve already shown you some of the artifacts associated with ASW. Gamers sensitive to the blur or fuzziness of spacewarp may prefer to adopt a lower quality preset, minimizing their reliance on it.
More problematic is the GeForce GTX 1050 Ti, which Oculus considers the lowest-end Pascal card that’s Rift-ready. Obviously, you’d want to dial in Recommended or Low settings in Chronos. But for the purpose of our comparison, FCAT’s VR Analyzer says 2703 of this run’s 7553 frames are new, while 4848 are synthesized. Though it seems implausible to create more frames in a given time period than are actually rendered, in their November 2016 blog post introducing ASW, Oculus’ Dean Beeler, Ed Hutchins, and Paul Pedriana mention that the technology doesn’t scale well below half of the display’s refresh rate. The suggestion there is that it still functions below half of the display’s refresh rate. Regardless, simply specifying a less demanding detail level should get you around whatever strangeness we observe.
Based on what we know about the Pascal and Maxwell architectures, and what we saw in the previous chart, these cards land pretty much where you might expect.
The GeForce GTX Titan X and 980 Ti slightly underperform the 1070 with sub-90 FPS unconstrained rates. Interestingly, the Titan X spends more time in ASW mode synthesizing frames than the 980 Ti, but does achieve higher overall performance.
Technically, the GeForce GTX 980 hits roughly 64 unconstrained frames per second, while the 970 approaches 58. But because they dabble in a similar range, ASW mode remains active on both cards through our benchmark and they similarly deliver 45 FPS.