In the following guide, I will talk about Frames per second so before starting, some notes should be stated:
· I will refer to Frames per Second as F/S just to differ it from the FPS (First Person Shooters)
· This guide will have some information about certain monitor's refresh rate measured in hertz, please take note that refresh rate in old CRT monitors differs from refresh rate in LCD and LED monitors.
Owning a PC for games is different to having a Console, being a PC gamer means you have to upgrade PC components every few years to play the latest demanding games.
We can identify three groups of gamers:
1- Gamers who don't care about graphics, they will play a game on lowest settings as long as the game runs smoothly. These gamers often have a budget PC with a low end video card and CPU.
2- Gamers that like the balance between performance and graphics, they will play a game on medium settings with a high resolution with good frame rates. These gamers often have a mid range Video Card and CPU.
3- Gamers that like play game at the highest settings and resolution, sometimes with more than one monitor. These gamers have the latest Video Cards and CPUs with high amount of RAM.
Regardless of the set up you have and to which group you belong, we all want our games to be playable and lag free; I can assure you, playing a game with even a minimum amount of lag can lead to disastrous consequences.
Let's start with the term "Frames per Second" (aka FPS, but in this guide F/S), also called "Frame Rate". This is the rate at which an imaging device produces unique consecutive images called frames; the term applies to anything that produces motion images, including movies and games. However, there is a big difference between a movie frame rate and a game frame rate.
When watching a movie, the frame rates do not change so they are stable; let's say at 24 F/S. In Video Games, the frame rates are dynamic and constantly changing. As there are lots of game genres out there, we cannot say for sure what the playable frame rate is for all these games. This can drastically differ from game to games as it depends on the game's motion.
Generally speaking, video games should be playable from 30 to 60 F/S, but with some monitors that come with 120 HZ refresh rate, frames could reach 120 per second. Be advised that there is a significant difference between 30 and 60 F/S on a 60 HZ monitor. On a 120 HZ monitor 120 F/S differs significantly from 60 F/S.
Vertical synchronization (Vsync) can be used to prevent screen tearing by limiting the frame rate to be the same as the monitor's refresh rate. This phenomenon happens when the frame rate exceeds the monitor's refresh rate.
· First Person Shooters are not like Real Time strategy games, racing games or other genres like adventure or action.
Let's start with the first person shooters; here we have the likes of Call of Duty, Battlefield, and Crysis. These games consist of fast paced action happening on the screen, like fast shooting, running, looking around with the first person view perspective. This genre needs a minimum frame rate of 40 for a decent experience, but some of these games can be played with 30 F/S.
· Strategy games are thing altogether; if you have ever played a strategy game, such as the Command & Conquer series, Starcraft series, Total War series, etc… you will notice that the camera motion is not the main focus as it is in first person shooters or racing games.
The player usually controls the game with a mouse and/or keyboard, with the camera's angle being isometric so the whole game environments can be viewed. This type of games can be easily played with 30 F/S and even less (20 to 25 F/S should be fine for many of these games as well). You will also find that lots of strategy games are locked at 30 F/S like Red Alert 3.
· Racing games consist on fast, constant motion on the screen.
While 60 F/S is preferable in these games, it is not mandatory. Some racing games are locked at 30 F/S, sometimes to the annoyance of PC players, but many racing games can be played at 30 F/S. As always, higher frame rates provide a better experience.
· Adventure and action games can generally reach frame rates above 30, but some games like L.A. Noire are locked at 30 F/S as well, and you will notice the frame rate can go as low as 25 F/S whilst still being playable. This is due to the game's engine, and the motion capture technology used by the developers for facial movement.
Several tools can be used to measure the frame rate of any given game, but the most common tool used is "Fraps". This will measure the frame rate, take a screenshot, and capture in-game videos (30 to 60 seconds in free version). The free version can be downloaded from: www.fraps.com
Finally, to be able to play a game at a good frame rate, remember to check that your PC meets, and preferably exceeds, the minimum requirements of any game.
There are a number of ways to improve the frame rates you get in game:
1- Get a better Video Card. This is the most important part in a Gamer's PC, without a good video card even the fastest CPU won't help.
2- If you're video card exceeds the minimum requirements, consider upgrading to a better CPU. A Core 2 Duo 2.0 GHz and above is recommended for any gamer.
3- If your games are stuttering from time to time (little pauses), consider adding another GB, or more of RAM. This is one of the cheapest upgrades you can make to your PC to improve performance.
4- Always clean your PC regularly (at least every month); dust will create problems including heating issues which will mean bad performance in game. You may also consider adding fans to your PC Tower.
5- Finally the most important, and ignored, part of your PC, the Power Supply Unit, or PSU. Having a good quality PSU will ensure a better life span of your PC parts. A 500 W PSU, with at least 32 Amps under the +12 V Rail is recommended for a low-mid range Video Card. A 600 to 1000+ W PSU with at least 40 Amps is recommended for all high end Video Cards.