Battlefield 3 Frame Rate Drop Issue with GeForce GPUs

Subject: Graphics Cards | December 28, 2011 - 06:24 PM |
Tagged: gtx, geforce, bf3

Every once in a while we come across some gaming issue that when we approach those responsible for it, NVIDIA, AMD, the game developer, they seem as lost as we do.  For the last few days I have been banging my head on the table trying to figure out an issue with GeForce GTX graphics cards and Battlefield 3 and I am hoping that some of YOU might have seen it and can confirm.

While testing our new X79-based GPU test bed we continued to find that while playing Battlefield 3, frame rates would drop from 30+ to ~10 while running at 2560x1600 and Ultra quality presets.  It could happen when walking down an empty hallway or in the middle of a huge dramatic shootout with some enemies.  And sometimes, the issue would reverse and the frame rate would again jump back up to 30+ FPS.

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A 10 frame per second tank?  No thanks...

Even more odd, and something the normal user doesn't monitor, the power consumption of the system would drop significantly during this time.  At 30+ FPS the power draw might be 434 watts while when running at the ~10 FPS level it would draw 100 watts less!  The first theory was that this was the GPU going into a lower "p-state" due to overheating or some other bug, but when monitoring our GPU-Z logs we saw no clock speed decreases and temperatures never went above 75C - pretty tame for a GPU.

To demonstrate this phenomenon we put together a quick video. 

In the video, you are seeing the "tearing" of Vsync in a much more dramatic fashion because of of our capture method.  We actually were outputing a 2560x1600 signal (!!) to an external system to be recorded localy at a very high bit rate.  Unfortunately, we could only muster a ~30 FPS capture frame rate which, coupled with the 60 Hz signal being sent, results in a bit of double up on the tearing you might usually see.  Still, the FRAPS-reported frame rates are accurate and we use an external system to capture to video to remove the possibility of any interference on performance during the capture process.

The hardware used in this video was actually based on an ASUS X58 motherboard and a Nehalem Core i7-965 processor.  But wasn't I just talking about an X79 rig?  Yes, but I rebuilt our old test bed to make sure this bug was NOT related to X79 or Sandy Bridge-E.  The systems that exhibited the issue were:

  • Intel Core i7-3960X
  • ASUS P9X79 Pro
  • 16GB DDR3-1600
  • 600GB VelociRaptor HDD
  • Windows 7 x64 SP1
  • GeForce GTX 580 (two different cards tested)
  • 290.53 Driver

Also:

  • Intel Core i7-965
  • ASUS X58 WS 
  • 6GB DDR3-1600
  • 600GB VelociRaptor HDD
  • Windows 7 x64 SP1
  • GeForce GTX 580 (two different cards tested)
  • 290.53 Driver

For me, this is only occurring at 2560x1600 though I am starting to see more reports of the issue online.

  • Another 560 ti and BF3 FPS Low Or Drop!
    • Well I just Installed my 2nd evga 560 ti DS running SLI and When I play battlefield 3 i get about 60 to 90 fps then drops at
      20 to 30. Goes Up and down, I look at the evga precision looks like each gpu is running at 40% each and changes either up or down.
      Temp. is under 60 degrees c.
  • GTX 560 Ti dramatic FPS drops on BF3 only
    • "having any setting on Ultra will cue dramatic and momentary fps drops into the 30's. if i set everything to High, i will stay above 70 fps with the new beta 285.79 drivers released today (which i thought would fix this problem but didn't). i've been monitoring things with Afterburner and i've noticed that GPU usage will also drop at the same time these FPS drops happen. nothing is occurring in the game or on the screen to warrant these drops, FPS will just drop even when nothing is going on or exploding and i'm not even moving or looking around, just idle. they occur quite frequently as well."
  • BF3 Frame Drops
    • "When i use 4xAA i get abnormal framedrops, even while nothing is going on, on the screen.
      The weird thing is that, when it drops, it always drops to 33/32fps, not higher, not lower.
      It usually happens for a few seconds."
  • BF3 @ 2560x1600 Ultra Settings Preset Unplayable
    • "I know its a beta, but i haven't heard any problems yet about framedrops.
      Sometimes my frames drop from 75fps way back to 30/20 fps, even when nothing is going on, on the screen."

So what gives?  Is this a driver issue?  Is it a Battlefield 3 issue?  Many of these users are running at resolutions other than the 2560x1600 that I am seeing it at - so either there is another problem for them or it affects different cards at different quality levels.  It's hard to say, but doing a search for "radeon bf3 frame drop" pulls up much less incriminating evidence that gamers on that side of the fence are having similar discussions.  

I have been talking with quite a few people at NVIDIA about this and while they are working hard to figure out the source of the frame rate inconsistencies, those of us with GeForce GTX cards may just want to back off and play at a lower resolution or lower settings until the fix is found.  

January 16, 2012 | 12:30 AM - Posted by Nitronaf (not verified)

Any updates? Stupid thing stutters even on low settings. Thinking of getting new ATI card instead since this is really frustrating.

January 20, 2012 | 02:59 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

I was really dissapointed by this same issue. My rig is by no means high end (e5200, GTX 550Ti, 2 GB RAM) but autodetect puts me all at high settings. Skyrim, and Deus Ex: HR run at max settings at 50+ FPS. I've tried just about every fix I can find online, and just for giggles am in the process of a nuke, and pave.

According to various forums, this was introduced with some of the most recent patches for the game. Hopefully it gets sorted quickly because when I am not stuttering... I'm having a blast.

January 21, 2012 | 03:33 AM - Posted by andy (not verified)

this happens to me to,

system specs: 6870 crossfire ( ore no crossfire doens't matter)

fx8120 cpu
12gb ram
asrock 990fx motherboard.

every other game runs fine , except battlefield 3 sinds the latest patch!

tryd every driver there is, kepp getting framedrops from 70-100 , then it sundenly drops to 17-20 frame's

unplaybale,

the load of power to the machine drops pretty hard from 439 to 200 !

February 26, 2012 | 01:55 PM - Posted by Teremai (not verified)

I have exactly the same problem have 40-50 fps which is good enough to run the game but then it drops to even 1 fps and the game is laggy as hell.
Thought I had it solved by cleaning my video card but still have it.
I'm using a GS250 which should be fine to play ate high but I have the same problem on Medium and even on Low.

February 5, 2012 | 10:55 AM - Posted by J2O (not verified)

It happens to me too :( (GTX 560 TI)

The new nvidia drivers (295.51) didnt change anything either..

March 23, 2012 | 03:33 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

I have the same problem, mine caps at 29 or 30 fps. a temp fix is to go to Video options and turn VSync on and off and apply settings.

April 3, 2012 | 03:57 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Same problem here with 3x GTX580 3GB SLI powered by a I7 980@4.6Ghz.

The only map this doesnt happen is Metro where i usually get around 130fps on 2560x1440, 4xMSAA (2x TSSAA forced via driver), Ultra, no post AA, not motion blur, no SSAO/HBAO.

Ive tried everything possible to get rid of the fps-drops but problem persists. The drops can occur in a big firefight or while watching up they sky reaching the ingamelimit of 200fps (if not raised manually). Sometimes it goes back to normal or I either have to alt-tab or change any videosetting until the next drop. I'm certainly not running out of Vram as I barely hit 1,8Gb since 2nd last patch.. With Release-version it easily peaked up to 2.6Gb but I experienced the same fps-drops and afaik this was a memoryleak.

-HT off
-playing with prerender-limit
-playing with ingame Renderahead limit
-trying 2way SLI
-using stock-settings
-use low-ingame settings
-force maximumpower
-force a fps-cap
etc etc

the ingame performanceoverlay just goes crazy on every map except metro and, once it shows cpu as bottleneck, the next second its the gpus and all asynchronous.

Problem dissapears as soon as I force single-GPU but thats not an option for 2560x1440 and such as system.

April 23, 2012 | 07:19 AM - Posted by Remco (not verified)

The FPS-drops also happen in Bad Company 2. I've played this game without problems (a regular 60 FPS) for more than a year. But lately my FPS frequently drops from 60 to 2-5 FPS. After a few seconds the FPS goes back up again to 60.
I love the game, but it has become unplayable. All other games (like Crysis 2, Bulletstorm etc.) work fine.
It seems both Battlefield games suffer the same problem.

May 17, 2012 | 05:03 PM - Posted by yasslejezair (not verified)

Try
GameTime.MaxVariableFps x , x being the less fps you get during fps drop
Put that line in a user.cfg file in your bf3 folder you won't get fps drops anymore, you'll be playing with lower fps tho but no more stuttering.

May 23, 2012 | 11:26 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Bf3 is a good game, but so is Modern warfare, I don't see why people have to hate, if you're a fanboy of either, get a life, but in my personal opinion, if you want to have fun on a ridiculous game, you play Mw3 but if you feel like you want a good game to play alone battlefields 4 u so don't diss a game until you have it, personally I prefer modern warfare for playing with friends.

June 5, 2012 | 10:30 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

try alt+tab 1 or 2 times. Seems to fix my problem in Skyrim and Civ5

July 10, 2012 | 04:59 AM - Posted by Germen (not verified)

Regarding THE fps issue i have an AMD phenom II x6 1090 t processor and a asus m4a88 td-m motherboard en 8 GB ram 1333 MHz and an asus gtx560 direct cu II 1 GB ddr5 o.c. And i had issues with lag and frame drops it turns out to be 2 updates of micorsoft visual 2010 security updates. And i removed Those updates and everything is fine again with 30 - to 40 steady fps on ultra settings

September 17, 2012 | 11:27 AM - Posted by Pepz (not verified)

i have a 460 2win and have the same frap drop!

February 5, 2013 | 02:21 PM - Posted by GraphXHD (not verified)

playing on lower setting with ultra low resolution still results in these FPS drops, its almost unbearable.
i installed bfbc2 again because bf3 is not worth playing with these major issues.

August 29, 2013 | 07:28 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

I have this same problem with 2 evga gtx560s 2gb cards in sli and it drops from 120fps to 30fps it sucks they need a fix.

May 29, 2014 | 04:15 AM - Posted by chrisbeardykneesbrown (not verified)

i have a major issue with BF3, the first thing that i do with all the games that i buy is put all the settings up to ultra, for BF3 i got about 20-30fps which is pretty good considering that i am running a laptop and not a desktop. so the frames are ok for the campaign, sometimes i get a few drop here and there but i get that with most game every so often. however just out f interest i put all of the graphics to as low as they go, and much to my surprise the game actually runs slower about 10-15fps which is near unplayable, i have no idea why this is happening, as i can run other games such as Titanfall and the newest AC Black Flag maxed out at about 40fps solidly with no drops.

my specs are as follows:
4th gen i7
Nvidia GT 730m
6gb DDR3 ram
Acer Aspire Timeline M, gaming edition.

can someone please tell me where i am going wrong and what i can do to fix my problem?

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