Why do games run worse on low settings?

by Juniorslothsix. Posted on Jul 14, 2020    0    27

So was playing some games on my decently high end PC today and metro exodus in particular was giving me trouble, so a pushed the settings down, and it dropped 15 FPS right away. I’ve also noticed his in arma 3 when I lower the settings it gets worse performance.

Does anyone know why this is?



Sounds like a GPU bottleneck.


What's your power setting? Try changing to 'High Performance' and see if that helps.

  Juniorslothsix 1

I’ll check!


Most important for FPS on PC

1) GPU clock/memory speeds and core count (more cores mean can higher handle heavier workloads, more VRAM for textures and higher resolution

2) Memory speed (above 2800 mhz + should be good.. if you are running slower RAM it can bring down your FPS like 5 or more)

3) CPU - you can get by with a four core system, 6 is sweet spot. Ideally you want CPU that runs at higher frequency and most games favor single core rather than multicore performance. As people are mentioning AMD cpus tend to run at slower GHZ than Intel (4ghz vs 5 ghz max).So you may see better results with a beefier CPU for gaming. At lower res 1080P you will be CPU limited, vice versa for higher res


While the OP's statement is obviously false to a rather large degree, there are games in which having the graphics scaled up will actually increase the framerate and overall performance.

I can't remember which game off the top of my head this occured, but I've personally experienced this phenomenon on one title...

In that particular instance, by lowering the graphics of the game, some of the work was switched from the GPU to the CPU, as the GPU was somehow deemed unnecessary yet it was a graphically intensive game.

TLDR: Yes it does happen but it is very rare


Actually my statement is true, both metro exodus and arma 3 give me worse performance when lowering settings from high or ultra.

Ttvgamezngainz 1

I said your statement was false to a large degree, which is factually correct and then went on to support your claim with an example. But go ahead and downvote me for trying to help. Shouldnt be surprised, its 2020, the year where constructive criticism or any criticism is bad


Could be bottleneck


I’d doubt it, ryzen 7 1800x, RTX2080TI, 32gb ram.


If you don't utilize the full potential of your graphics card or CPU, you can bottleneck one or the other if I am not mistaken. Think of your CPU wanting to turbo and go fast during a gaming session, although your GPU is sitting there at 10% usage and idling by.

Here's a quote on a forum I read: "On higher settings, your graphics card is being stressed. On low settings, your CPU is being stressed. Your graphics card is significantly newer than your CPU, so it would be best to play on medium to high settings. Whichever gives you more FPS."

DownvoteHappyCakeday 2

I remember that happening a lot when Planetfall 2 came out. People would get bad performance and turn down the graphics settings, but that caused it to use the CPU for rendering, which made performance even worse in a CPU heavy game.

Proud_Office_Worker 1

this is a bruh moment


You're running an 1800x with a 2080Ti, your CPU is absolutely bottlenecking your GPU.

Edit: Not to be rude or come across as arrogant. You're running a 1st gen Ryzen CPU with a 20 series GPU. Your CPU is the weak link in your build and is likely what's causing your performance on lower graphical settings.

In almost every case/scenario, running a game on the lowest graphical settings should increase a game's performance significantly.

  Juniorslothsix 3

Huh, I didn’t know this. Thanks!

dirtyego 12

I don't believe that person is correct. Your CPU is the weak link in this case and would likely cause a bottleneck on low settings, but it wouldn't bottleneck at 15fps. It would bottleneck at in the high values since your graphics card would be pumping out frames faster than your CPU can deal with. At that point your monitor would most likely be your limiting factor.

You can test this. Open up any performance tracking software and run the game on low settings. See what percentage utilization your CPU,GPU,and ram are at. That will give you your answer.

CptBrian 11

Of course his CPU is the overall bottleneck, but it shouldn't have to be explained that lower settings should give more FPS in literally all cases, not less, unless the game's configurations are bugged or something else is wrong like low hardware power states.

*Let me put it this way: If the CPU has no problem making CPU calculations for 200 FPS on high settings, why would it struggle to hold 100 on low settings? That makes no sense.


High settings: GPU does the work. Low settings: CPU does it. At least that's how it worked a couple years ago.

Nicholas-Steel 1

That's... not how it works. You've made a fundamental mistake.

CptBrian 4

It's not offloading GPU tasks to the CPU though, that would be bad.
GPU does GPU tasks
CPU does CPU tasks
Lower settings = Fewer GPU + CPU tasks, so more frames can finish rendering.

B4-711 1

> It's not offloading GPU tasks to the CPU though, that would be bad.

That's how it used to work in some games. ARMA 2 comes to mind. I remember reading that on medium shadow settings the CPU has to compute the shadows and on high the GPU does it.

I never said it wasn't bad...

DemitriX2k 2

Maybe you bottleneck other parts of your system or your gpu may run at a lower core clock because its not as demanding, set power to maximum performance in the 3D application settings.

frostygrin 2

It's extremely unusual. What normally happens when you drop settings is that the game's framerate goes up, but may get less stable as you're getting CPU-bottlenecked. So you see more stuttering unless you're using Vsync.

What you describe sounds like a bug.

vermillionmask 4

I think it's nvidia's way of saying "pump those graphics up, you have a 1200 gpu ffs."

In all seriousness, what the guy above said is probably true. Ryzen cpus are a bottleneck for 2080 tis.

I noticed the bottleneck goes away at 4k though.

areyougame 16

GPU power management can reduce performance since it will drop the clocks on the GPU to save power when there is less of a load on the GPU.

You can see if there is a change by going into the Nvidia control panel 3D settings for that game and set the power management mode from adaptive/optimal to prefer maximum performance.


This is most likely the culprit. Dropping it to low prob made the gpu go to a lower power profile so it isn't running where it should be.

Zynismus 9

Arma is just garbage like that tbh