88: My FSX Tuning Part 2 – Display Card

After the initial setup in Part 1, the second thing to look at is now the display card because many issues of jagging, blurry, shimmering and stutter in FSX are all related to the settings of it.

My display card is an ASUS Matrix HD5870 over-clocked to 970MHz/5000MHz (default 894MHz / 4800MHz).  Current Catalyst driver installed is 11.8.

The focus of display card setting is to get the best balance between image quality and game performance.  The results below are decided based on many testings under various conditions.  However, further changes may still be needed as the tuning process goes.

This setting enhances 3D image quality by softening the jagged edges, providing smoother, more realistic 3D objects. The higher number of samples it uses, the better image quality in 3D objects it renders; however, the greater impact it also has on fps.

  • “Use application settings” should be disabled to allow custom settings by hardware.
  • “Morphological filtering” must be OFF because it not only blurs images but also causes stutters.
  • In general, 8X sample is enough to generate good quality 3D objects. Increasing the sample to 12X or 16X will only influence fps performance unless the computer hardware is very high-end.

Anisotropic Filtering

This setting impacts the sharpness of textures viewed from a distance or at oblique angles. Setting it at a lower level will blur the image clarity towards the horizon.

  • As usual, “Use application settings” should be disabled to allow custom setting.
  • Setting it to 4X or 8X sample is good enough to render a good image quality.  Actually, don’t see any difference between the two.

Tessellation is a technique to manage polygons and divide them into triangular (or other) structures for more effective rendering.  It is a key feature to Direct X 11 and OpenGL.  But FSX is basically running Direct X9.  So don’t see any difference in image quality and performance between OFF and 64X.

  • “AMD Optimized” must be disabled as it causes stutters.
  • “Use application settings” should be disabled to allow custom setting.
  • Set to OFF based on “less is more” principle.

Catalyst A.I offers an optimization to trade some minor visual quality for performance improvement.

  • Setting it to High Quality will have impacts on performance.
  • Either leaving it to Quality (default) or Performance is fine.
  • MUST DISABLE  Surface Format Optimization. (updated)

MIPMAP Detail Level
Mipmaps are collections of variously sized textures for a single image. Setting it to Performance side makes texture blurred, or the Quality side sharper images.

  • The difference between Quality and High Quality is minimal.
  • However, it always helps a little in performance when setting to a lower level, if required.

WAIT for vertical refresh
Although wait for vertical refresh helps to eliminate the tearing of images, adding ForceFullScreenVSync=1 under [GRAPHICS] section in fsx.CFG renders a better result to this issue. Therefore,

  • Keep Vertical Refresh to “Off” or “Off, unless application specifies”
  • Also, enable Triple Buffering, which can improve framerate when vertical sync is activated.

Anti-aliasing mode is the most critical setting to the elimination of jagging, blurry and shimmering. However, the finer mode it uses, the more computer power (both CPU and GPU) it demands and the more stutters it produces.

AMD’s Catalyst Control Center offers three basic types of anti-aliasing:

  • Multi-sample AA (default)
  • Adaptive Multi-sample AA
  • Super-sample AA

Other third-party display card enhancement utilities, such as RadeonPro and nHancer provide even more anti-aliasing choices but they also bring forth a lot more variables to the final result.

  • Adaptive Multi-sample AA is the minimum level needed for an acceptable image quality.
  • Super-sample AA is needed to render HD aircrafts properly.
  • Super-sample AA is recommended unless hardware fails to handle it.

Now the graphics card 3D setting is done, it is time for a series of test flights before proceeding to further tuning.


4 thoughts on “88: My FSX Tuning Part 2 – Display Card

  1. I’m a fellow HD5870 flyer and just wanted to say thanks for all this. Nice to finally have some tried and true settings – never did take the time to experiment much myself. Had some set close to yours but tweaked to match and I like the results.


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