Keep your GPU cool, quiet & save energy while gaming, without underclocking

In desktop PC’s and gaming laptops, high-end GPU’s and CPU’s can get extremely hot and noisy when pushed to their limits. Even if the noise doesn’t bother you, the heat will reduce the lifespan of your hardware and power consumption will go up dramatically. This is bad for both the electric bill and on laptops your battery will drain fast, thus need to get charged more often, lowering its capacity over time.

You could undervolt or underclock the GPU

Altering core/memory speeds and voltage levels ( -> tutorial) is a whole different game and can be challenging… The results can be great if your GPU supports it well, but it’s just not for everyone. The solution proposed hereafter will be simpler, and can add to the benefits undervolting/underclocking already gave you.

Why not just lower the resolution and/or the image quality?

This won’t work, since your GPU and CPU will just get more headroom to produce more frames per second. The GPU usage will still remain 100% (unless your CPU is the bottleneck).

The solution is simple: Set a global frame rate limit for your GPU

When you’re running games at e.g. 60fps, that’s already a very smooth and responsive experience. So ask yourself: why not just limit it there?

  • At which framerate are you no longer able to tell the difference if it’s increased?
  • To what framerate is your monitor limited to? (hz) You won’t even get to see extra frames, (although they will add to the ‘responsiveness’ of the game)
  • In which situation or games do you really nééd more than (in my case) 60fps?
  • When your kids play light games -like Roblox or Minecraft- on your PC, should it run at +250 fps?

If you’d ask me; unless you’re a die-hard gamer with a high-refresh-rate monitor, extremely high amounts of fps are unnecessary

Luckily some modern games already allow you to set a maximum frame rate, but it would be easier to just set this once on a global scale and forget about it.

How to set a system-wide (nVidia) Max Frame Rate or (AMD) Radeon Chill / FRTC Frame Rate Target Control

Recently, both NVIDIA and AMD introduced a global framerate limiters in their drivers to prevent your GPU (and CPU) from calculating/rendering unnecessary frames every second. Here’s how to activate this setting:

nVidia: Max Frame Rate

  1. Go to the nVidia Control Panel (Right-click on the desktop)
  2. Click ‘3D Settings’ in the left pane
  3. In the Global settings Tab and find the “Max Frame Rate” setting
  4. click the ‘off’/number and change it as you wish.

AMD: “Radeon Chill” or Frame Rate Target Control (FRTC)

Since I don’t have an AMD GPU, I can’t produce my own screenshots or verify how this works. AMD calls it the Frame Rate Target Control or more recently: Radeon Chill. It should look like this:

Just make sure you’re changing the setting on a global scale.

… And now, lowering your resolution will -also- have a massive impact on your GPU!

Limiting your FPS is great global measure. But if you game at 4K, you might not experience a lot of difference, since your GPU might not even reach 60fps. That’s why now it makes sense to lower your resolution.

Especially on notebooks with a 4K screen, you will barely notice a difference by going to 1440p, since the pixel density is still very high. On 4K TV’s the same applies if you keep some distance to the screen.

My experience and result?

I play on a 120hz 4K Oled TV. When I ran Doom Eternal on 4k with ‘Ultra nightmare’ graphics, my PC went absolutely crazy.
Since I don’t have proper airflow in my case, the fans got very loud and I saw the GPU throttling as it reached >80°c in just a minute.

Now I just scale down to 1440p, limited at 60 fps. The game looks just as awesome, and my GPU is now only used for about 35 to 40%. Needless to say, it runs much cooler, almost completely silent and uses much less energy. I love it!

The same happened in the game “It Takes Two”; in the graph below you can clearly see the effect from switching 4K, with unlimited fps to 1440p locked at 60:

*Just* 10% drop in GPU usage made the GPU temps drop from 82°c to about 45°c(!) and reduced power consumption significantly(!)

In conclusion, I hope this article can help you with overheating and/or battery drain issues,
and perhaps it made you realize you don’t need to constantly max-out your GPU when gaming.

So… What’s your target FPS? What is the impact on your gaming laptop?…
If you play on a modern TV, you could actually limit to 45 or even 30 fps and try turning on motion smoothing and still experience a very smooth image, but a very small bit of added input-lag… And who knows, maybe soon we can game with system-wide Async Reprojection!
Feel free to share your experiences in the comments!

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