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.  

December 28, 2011 | 07:51 PM - Posted by Mangix (not verified)

i say it's related to motion blur. don't know about you but on my system(core2quad with a 450 superclocked), motion blur gives me some really weird input lag. fps also drop by about 20. leaving it off though is fine. this is at 1080p resolution btw.

December 29, 2011 | 07:20 AM - Posted by Sihastru

Actually, from my own investigation I can conclude that the issue is related to the memory quantity available on the videocards.

I used MSI's Afterburner and looking at the GPU Memory that was allocated, everytime the framerate begins to drop, the memory is at 100%. This will ofcourse result in large textures (and/or a large number of textures and other data) being swapped on the PCIe bus at that time, and the card cannot output at the same rate since it most probably can't find the textures/data that it needs in the VRAM and will request them either from the System RAM or even worse... the HDD/SSD (they should be fully cached in the System RAM, but who knows how bad it's actually coded).

After multiple video options adjustments I managed to get my framerate to be stable.

Unfortunatelly it was impossibe to get it stable at my usual 2560x1600. No matter what settings I used, the video memory will get full eventually at this resolution and the framerate dives. Lowering the resolution and some of the quality settings did the trick.

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December 19, 2012 | 11:12 AM - Posted by Henry (not verified)

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December 28, 2011 | 09:31 PM - Posted by ThorAxe

I have read that some users only encountered this after the latest BF3 patch.

December 28, 2011 | 09:41 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

I have 2 systems and they both exibit this regularly. System 1 is a asus p6x58d premimum and system 2 is asus p8z68v-pro. They both have gtx 570's in sli and they both frequently drop the framerate down in the 30's for several seconds at a time randomly. Running @ 1920x1080, 120hz on both also. Normal fps is ~ 100 fps on both systems also. A fix would be nice and I am glad someone else noticed. BTW I am running with ultra on all settings on both systems.

December 28, 2011 | 10:42 PM - Posted by John T (not verified)

Ryan!!! Thank you for looking into this. I have only just started to experience this issue with the latest 290 beta drivers and the latest BF3 patch. I never used to experience this, but it has started to occur after those updates. I am running a Rampage IV Extreme, 3930k, and SLI GTX-580s. It seems to happen randomly, but I can usually repeat the issue when I right click to aim down my sight or scope. I'm gaming at 2560 res with Ultra settings and motion blur turned OFF, and only 4x AA and Aniso.

December 28, 2011 | 11:47 PM - Posted by hacksaw777 (not verified)

I have had this happen to me since the games release with every driver set , I am running gigibyte GA-Z68XP-UD3P 12 Gigs corsair 1600 ram, and gtx 460 sli's running at 1920x1200. The game runs at 90 to 100 fps 90 percent of the time except its having same issues as what you are talking about , its so annoying that I have finally just set the game to run on auto till it is working right. Hopefully you talking to them can get it figured out. I was almost about to go buy two gtx560 ti 448's to see if it would fix the issue but seems I waited just long enough for you post. Thanks!!!!

December 29, 2011 | 12:31 AM - Posted by auzwang (not verified)

You could try reverting to the 285 drivers as this issue has plagued me only from both 290 betas.

My drops are from 120fps to 40fps and can be reproduced consistently. Enter an attack helicopter or jet equipped with rocket pods and proceed to firing a barrage. There should be a clear drop in fps as the rockets trail away.

December 29, 2011 | 02:42 AM - Posted by AnonyMouse (not verified)

1. Screenshot clearly shows "BETA"
2. No FPS indicator on it
3. You're running out of VRAM.

December 29, 2011 | 06:14 AM - Posted by John T (not verified)

Hey Genius,

It's obvious that screenshot is a Beta and it is not claimed to show the problem. As you can tell by the comments, it is clearly not a beta issue. I have 3GB of Vram between both of my cards, I am not running out. This is a driver or BF3 issue.

December 29, 2011 | 06:37 AM - Posted by Yapa (not verified)

3Gb between both of your cards? What cards?

If you have a GTX590 it can only use ~1.5GB of VRAM as the memory in SLI does not get doubled... same with GTX580 in SLI.. only 1.5Gb is available for both GPU's.

You really need a 2GB card and higher to run those resolutions with Ultra textures and 4x MSAA.

To lower VRAM usage drop:
HBAO to off
Motion blur to off
4x MSAA to off
Texture Quality to High or Med and see again.

December 30, 2011 | 04:40 AM - Posted by AnonyMouse (not verified)

You don't even know how SLI works and you call someone a "Genius"? MegaLOL.

December 29, 2011 | 10:24 AM - Posted by Ryan Shrout

Yes, this was NOT a Beta test run, that is just where the screenshot was sourced from. Sorry for the confusion.

Watch the video!!

December 29, 2011 | 06:32 AM - Posted by Yapa (not verified)

It's related to VRAM... you need more VRAM.

Test with a 2GB or 3GB GTX570/570 etc.. even some of the 560Ti 2Gb and you will most likely not see this issue.

December 29, 2011 | 09:03 AM - Posted by assassin37 (not verified)

wrong,

I have 3 x gtx 580 (3 gig models), 16gb ram on 2600k at 2560 x 1600,
ram usage never go's over 2.1 gb and I experience frame drop from 130fps down to 30-40

December 29, 2011 | 07:48 AM - Posted by ThorAxe

I tested my GTX 570 SLI, 18GB 1600, X58, i7 920 @3.8GHz, 120GB Vertex 3 SSD running 2560x1440 with everything on Ultra and the highest settings possible for the rest EXCEPT Deffered Antialiasing which set to Off. FPS hovered around 80 and briefly dropped to 40 before jumping back to normal.

December 29, 2011 | 02:44 PM - Posted by Badmau5 (not verified)

I got 2 pc's one has gtx570 and other has 5870. Often BF3 gameplay gets very choppy - its stuttering pretty bad and FPS stay above 60 all the time, so to fix that i have to close the game and open it again. It also starts if i switch between windows. Very annoying issue. 5870 pc has no issues running bf3 at all.

December 30, 2011 | 05:22 AM - Posted by Leader98 (not verified)

I am experiencing the very same problem when I play BF3 on my 2x GTX295 setup...

Assigning PhysX to one card (and thereby disabeling the quad SLI setup) seem to be a fix but has an impact to the framerate...

December 30, 2011 | 08:56 AM - Posted by Adam (not verified)

I got a RAdeon 6870 1GB Ram. and I see lots of frame rate drops. usually because of Lag from other gamers joining the server or a lot of action on the screen. Oen time the lag was so bad the match was automatically restarted by the server. usually such lag/frame rate drops ulast only about 10-30 seconds And goo away on their own or when I respawn. I got a hearty system so its not my computer its other players I believe and my ping is low around 12-20.

Core i7 960 3.2Ghz
12GB Ram
Asus Sabertooth x58 mobo
Power color 6870 1GB
1TB Western Digital Black.

December 30, 2011 | 11:55 AM - Posted by AMDScooter

I don't think it's a NV only issue. I've also noticed it a lot on the new MP maps with my AMD based GPU's. I play at 1920x1200,Ultra, FSAA High, MSAA 4x,vsync enabled, HBAO and Blur disabled. Quick system specs:

CM HAF932 | OCZ ZX 1250W PSU | i5-2500k@4.6Ghz | Corsair H-70 | MSI P67A-GD65 B3 | 16GB (4x4GB) Corsair Vengeance LP DDR3-1600 | 2x MSI 6950(unlocked 885/1375) Xfire | ASUS 25.5" VW266H LCD | 2x 64GB Crucial M4 SSD RAID 0 boot | 2x 1.5TB Samsung RAID 1 | 64GB ADATA SSD(pgfile) | Killer 2100 NIC | X-Fi Titanium Pro | Klipsch 5.1 | G15 KB | MX1100 mouse

I'm using the AMD 12.1 Performance preview drivers and all other system drivers are current.

I randomly get FPS drops into the 40's and it seems to happen a lot more since the new map pack released. It has nothing to do with activity. I can be standing still or in heavy action. The rates just drop for no apparent reason. My kill-a-watt is under my desk so I cannot easily see what it's reading but will try to snatch a peek next time it occurs. Other than that the temps all seem normal and GPU/CPU/memory/Disk usage are unchanged when it happens.

December 31, 2011 | 05:05 AM - Posted by Ryan Shrout

Interesting... I'll do some more testing. So far on the HD 7970 we have, we have not seen it at all.

December 31, 2011 | 10:56 AM - Posted by AMDScooter

^^^ That's good news for me as I'm getting a pair of 7970's as fast as I can get my mitts on a pair.

The issue is indeed really odd. I thought it was my rig and started troubleshooting... I could not find anything. I'm not able to monitor vram usage with MSI afterburner, but at my resolution I would not think it an issue at all. Never know though, but that's pretty much the only parameter I cannot monitor.

It seems to be completely arbitrary and you know right away when it hits. Please keep us updated.

thanks
-scoot

December 30, 2011 | 11:42 PM - Posted by CandidCapture (not verified)

I get a frame rate drop on my GTX 550ti with 2gb ram. EVGA reports no more than 1.2gb in use and it shows a steady 30fps, right until someone pops out and starts shooting.........

I was joking about how bad BF3 is to a buddy and complained about the frame rate drop today and while researching the 3930k I happened across this article. Awesome, I am not imagining it.

December 31, 2011 | 12:21 PM - Posted by Aleko (not verified)

I get FPS drops too.. SLI GeForce 280M GTX.. Tried Single-GPU , still the same. From 50-40 fps to 10-5 fps for about 10 seconds every 2-3 minutes or so. It's very annoying.

January 1, 2012 | 10:54 PM - Posted by Steve (not verified)

I experience extreme stuttering in SLI setup with GTX 560, non Ti. Game runs great with a single GTX 560 on High settings @ 1920 X 1080; throw in the 2nd card on SLI and the game is un-playable.

January 2, 2012 | 02:36 AM - Posted by Techno (not verified)

Two things sprung to mind when I read this:-

1.. is the gpu thermally throttling down?

2.. is this related to the NV control panel power setting ie either adaptive or prefer performance?

My guess is that it may be due to the latter....try setting the NV control panel to prefer performance rather than adaptive.

January 2, 2012 | 10:42 AM - Posted by 0pTiMuS (not verified)

I also get framedrops in BF3, running @ 1920x180. When i run everything at ultra the game is unplayable. When i disable MSAA the game runs much better.

My system specs,

Core i7 940 (stock)
3x 2gb DDR3 dominator
Asus P6T
EVGA 560 Ti 2win

January 3, 2012 | 05:26 AM - Posted by Nitronaf (not verified)

I have this exact issue with two Gainward 560ti Golden Samples in SLI in BF3. No other game exhibits dramatic unplayable -turn around a corner, stutter, die- problems like this. I wish there was a fix. For now I play with "single GPU" in my BF3 Nvidia Profile, while overall is a lower fps but it is much much more playable.

January 10, 2012 | 03:46 PM - Posted by [Easy]SkogNisse (not verified)

I play in 6000x1200 reso, a mix of low/high detail settings (no AA) on 3-SLI 570 GTX -2560MB Version.

I see vram usage of around 17-1900 MB , but thats with
many settings on low to achieve a somewhat playable FPS.

I don't experience any fps drops at all like that, im always at a stable 70-90FPS (capped at 90with bf3 settings)

But the more anoying, game-breaking Bug i notice , is that the "heat signature/laser lock" squares etc , does not show up on my primary monitor! So playing coo-op in like "fire in the sky" mission, i get no red squares on rpg / brp etc , so its hopless. have to go down to single screen to be able to play such missions, also same problem in multiplayer with Laser designator and 2-3 tanks. i have no freakin clue which one it locks on . running 285.79.

290 series gives a huge increase in mouse-input lag, and is even more unplayable.

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