While it’s been possible to run basic benchmarks on VR-capable GPUs for a rough understanding of performance, NVIDIA’s new FCAT VR tool allows detailed logging and analysis of runtime data captured from any VR app on any GPU. We’ve thrown the latest VR Ready GPUs at the tool to see what we find.

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While the FCAT VR tool is developed by Nvidia, the company insists it is headset and GPU agnostic, and meant only to capture data. The tool itself doesn’t contain a benchmark; according to the company, the tool logs information directly from the VR runtime. For each frame, FCAT VR can read if a properly rendered frame is shown on the headset, if a frame is dropped, or if the frame is synthetically generated (via Asynchronous Spacewarp), and much more. This lets us dig in and compare true rendering performance that cuts through blips that would otherwise be hidden with tricks like Asynchronous Reprojection and the aforementioned Asynchronous Spacewarp.

vr gpu benchmarking testing comparison (3)For our initial FCAT VR benchmarking run we’ve compiled data from the following VR Ready GPUs:

  • NVIDIA GTX 1080 Ti
  • NVIDIA GTX 1080
  • NVIDIA GTX 1070
  • NVIDIA GTX 1060
  • AMD RX 480

Benchmarking Notes

vr gpu benchmarking testing comparison (4)For each GPU we used FCAT VR to capture performance data on maximum and minimum settings using Dirt Rally (2016) and Robo Recall (2017). Because ASW is enabled dynamically (and unpredictably) by the Oculus runtime, we disabled it for all tests to ensure comparable results. Generally speaking, consistent periods of dropped frames would be filled by synthetically created ASW frames if the feature was enabled, so the data captured with the feature turned off is largely the same, but the view through the headset would be different because you’d often see a synthetic ASW frame rather than a dropped frame.

All tests were performed with an Oculus Rift headset on a single system with the following specs:

  • Motherboard: ASUS Rampage V Extreme X99
  • Memory: Corsair Dominator 4x8GB DDR4 2666MHz
  • CPU: Intel Core i7-5960X
  • OS: Windows 10 x64 TH2
  • GPU Drivers: Latest public drivers as of 3/14/2017

Variable Captures

Because VR involves lots of looking around and free-form interaction, testing a single static scene is not a great way to collect data for performance analysis. During each run of the game and capture process, effort was made to enact a similar set of behaviors, but there will always be some level of variability between runs. Analysis of trends rather than individual data points is therefore the best way to understand the data.

How to Read Results

fcat-vr-graph-how-to-read-fixedIn addition to the data shown in the charts, you’ll find a table listing ‘Delivered FPS’ which is the average framerate based on fully rendered frames that reached the headset. This is a good overall indicator of the performance of a given GPU and a useful point of comparison.

Dirt Rally

Ultra – GTX 1060, 1070, 1080, and 1080 Ti

ultra custom all nvidia cardsultra custom all nvidia cards interval

ultra custom all nvidia cards data-2Running Dirt Rally on Ultra settings, we can see all but the 1080 Ti struggle to maintain consistent performance without dropped frames. While the frame timing of the 1070 and 1080 is grouped fairly close together, the 1060 and 1080 Ti are a significant step away from that middle ground on the low and high end of the performance spectrum, respectively.

Low – GTX 1060, 1070, 1080, and 1080 Ti

low all nvidia cardslow all nvidia cards interval

low all nvidia cards dataAt minimum settings, there’s much less variability in frame timing seen between cards. All cards hold consistent performance, rendering frames well under 11 milliseconds. In the second half of the frame timings we can see an interesting moment that causes the 1060 to perform worse than the first half of the data capture, while the other cards perform better than the first half.

Ultra – GTX 1060 vs. RX 480

1060, 480 ultra custom intervals

1060, 480 ultra custom dataAt Ultra settings, both the GTX 1060 and RX 480 have trouble maintaining performance, with frame timings well above 20 milliseconds. While the cards show close performance, the RX 480’s frame timing has a notably greater variance from one frame timing to the next.

Low – GTX 1060 vs. RX 480

1060, 480 low interval plot

1060, 480 low dataAt low settings, both cards maintain strong performance with frame timing well under 11 milliseconds. While the GTX 1060 holds a slight edge in the first half of the test, something happens which causes a dip in performance, while the inverse happens with the RX 480, seeming to make the GTX 1060 the standout here, as (in the test above) the 1070, 1080, and 1080 Ti acted more like the RX 480 with slightly increased performance at this section of the test.

Robo Recall

Ultra – GTX 1060, 1070, 1080, and 1080 Ti

ultra custom all nvidia cards graphultra custom all nvidia cards graph interval

ultra custom all nvidia cards graph-dataAt Ultra settings, Robo Recall challenged all cards in this run. Even the 1080 Ti would need to be dialed back to avoid consistent frame drops in lieu of Asynchronous Spacewarp. As with the Ultra test with Dirt Rally above, there’s a notable jump from the 1060 to the 1070, while the performance difference between the 1070, 1080, and 1080 Ti is more equidistant.

Low – GTX 1060, 1070, 1080, and 1080 Ti

low all nvidia cards graphlow all nvidia cards graph interval-2

low all nvidia cards graph dataOn low settings, all four cards manage consistent framerate, but there are occasional frame drops scattered throughout resulting in spikes in frame timing, despite the majority of frame timing being well under 9 milliseconds.

Ultra – GTX 1060 vs. RX 480

1060, 480 ultra custom graph interval

1060, 480 ultra custom graph dataOn Ultra settings, both the GTX 1060 and RX 480 struggled to push Robo Recall at a playable framerate, with a significant portion of frames taking more than 40 milliseconds to render, leading to frames being dropped consistently three times in a row before a new frame is able to be rendered.

Low – GTX 1060 vs. RX 480

1060, 480 low graph interval

1060, 480 low graph dataOn Low settings, both the GTX 1060 and RX 480 handle Robo Recall relatively well with the majority of frame timing falling under 10 milliseconds. Occasional dropped frames, slightly more from the GTX 1060, pepper the results.

– – — – –

vr gpu benchmarking testing comparison (2)While we hope this analysis is useful for those seeking to understand comparative performance of the latest VR Ready GPUs, there’s plenty more to look at, including benchmarking more GPUs, the impact of Asynchronous Spacewarp, differences in rendering between Oculus and SteamVR runtimes, specialized VR rendering techniques (like VRWorks), and of course, plenty more games. What analysis would you need to see next?


Disclosure: NVIDIA made hardware available for Road to VR to collect data for this article.

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  • sntxrrr

    My main VR poison is Elite: Dangerous. I would love to see some stats with the 1080 Ti in both single and SLI configuration, since I’m contemplating buying that. And needless to say, going SLI is quite the investment.

    • JF Nadeau

      I second that. I would really like to see benchmark for ED.

      • victor

        I third that!!

    • superdonkey

      its been confirmed time and again on the ed forum that elite dangerous does not use SLI due to deferred rendering, apparently.

      • sntxrrr

        I remember there was discussion about that years ago but I haven’t kept up on it. So it sems SLI would still be useless then, what a pity.
        Still, it would be cool to see that confirmed in a benchmark.

        • Arv

          There’s no SLI support for VR currently so if you’re planning on playing Elite Dangerous or any other game in VR (and there’s NO other way to play the game, the first time you try it is jaw dropping…the scale of everything is amazing!) save your cash and just get one.

          • Marcin Stachowiak

            What about alternate frame rendering? I am, I remember it made a difference in valve vr benchmark.

          • 1droidfan

            Alternate frame rendering allows deferred renderers to use SLI however its not applicable for VR because it introduces a frame of latency.

          • Nicholas

            There are a handful of VR SLI games available (the two Serious Sam titles, and I think Raw Data). The list should hopefully grow since the more recent versions of UE4 and Unity support it.

        • mbze430

          Current list of games with SLI/mGPU support:
          NVIDIA VR Fun House – nVidia SLI (VRWorks).
          Trials of Tatooine – nVidia SLI (VRWorks).
          Serious Sam VR: The Last Hope – mGPU with ATI 480 and nVidia (LiquidVR).

          I can confirm VR Fun House and Trials of Tatooine uses both my Titan XP using RTS + HWINFO (while looking at a monitor and engage the head sensor with the Rift) No other games I know of uses SLI in VR

      • Nicholas

        For 2D games, yes. But for stereoscopic VR, it should be possible to render with one GPU per eye.

  • Marcin Stachowiak

    Can you please run some tests on overclocked cards? My 1080 happily stays at 2ghz, I am sure 1080ti is capable of. Similar clock speed.

  • mareknr

    I vote for specialized VR rendering techniques as next. Thanks. :-)

  • Ryan Knapp

    Please compare using the SteamVR performance test. It would be interesting to see if results are similar to GameSpots (47% increase from the 1080 to 1080 ti).

  • PeteB

    Nvidia rules, AMD drools.

    • Brian Jorch Dehn Kristensen

      Me too *drools*

  • Kenneth Hilker

    Newbie question : can you explain how you define Ultra and Low settings? In-game option? NVIDIA setting? SteamVR setting?

    • benz145

      Good question, all settings were based on what was available in each game. ‘Ultra’ means all the available nobs cranked up, ‘Low’ means all the nobs cranked down.

      • WNCmotard

        “knobs”

        • benz145

          You’re right, thank you : ). Will fix.

    • WNCmotard

      They are in game preset graphics options.

  • Ben

    1) Explore the impact of ASW, I just finished reading another article about FCATS where it seemed that a 980Ti was rending the ASW frames themselves faster than the 1080. This would be worth investigating, considering the nearly universal use of Asych time or space in real world use.

    2) Explore the benefits of using a secondary GPU as a dedicated PhysX processor. There are several VR titles already heavily leaning on PhysX (AZ Sunshine comes to mind) and seeing as SLi won’t be a viable option until the year 2049, we need to find some way of augmenting single card setups in the short term.

    *Fallout 4 in 2D makes heavy use of PhysX including FLEX. I probably don’t need to explain why that could be significant for VR.*

    3) Investigate the results of lowering the bandwidth of a pcie 3.0 x16 slot down to x8. People keep claiming that current cards have yet to saturate 8x, yet I just recently read a study that completely disproved this from a statistical perspective looking only at FPS… although there were many unexpected results that couldn’t be explained easily. Maybe being able to visualize the frame pacing with FCATs would shed some light here. The incentive to investigate this is obviously related directly to #2.

    Sorry for the essay, and thanks for the FCAT coverage.

  • Jerald Doerr

    Look… did not look at this hole post… but my Vive runs like a wet dream now that I have duel EVGA 1080 FTWs… don’t bather to tell me not much VR stuff works with SLI …

    • JMB

      What? English. Do you speak it?

    • SwissChris1

      Nope, you are wrong. SLI is not supported out of the box and only a few games are able to use both cards.

  • There are two versions of the 1060 that differ in the amount of ram.
    Which of the versions is it?

    • DougP

      Re: “two versions…differ in the amount of ram”

      Ditto goes for the AMD RX 480!

  • Martin Haggas

    Have you had any luck using FCAT on the Vive? I cant seem to get the thing to generate any CSV files.