In This Article
What is Bottleneck GPU?
Bottleneck refers to a condition when the GPU cannot perform at its fullest potential with respect to another in similar conditions. GPU bottleneck is a situation where other components, such as the CPU, perform far better and handle more workload than it, which causes the performance to drop.
In simple terms, bottleneck GPU refers to the situation when the graphics card is fully occupied, capping its speed and performance.
- The performance of a game is determined by the Frames per Second or FPS which drops significantly when there is a bottleneck condition in the graphics card.
- You can detect a bottleneck in the GPU while playing a game by using a specific type of performance meter or any third-party software program that will show the different performance metrics.
- Bottlenecks in the GPU can also be detected simply by determining whether the work items are piling up, mapping all activities along with the queues, and measuring the cycle time in every stage.
- Some easy solutions of GPU bottlenecking are scaling the graphics, reducing the graphical settings, lowering resolutions, and overclocking the core speed if possible.
- A few easy steps to prevent GPU bottlenecking from happening include not allowing it to sit idle to cause ripple effects, reducing workload on the GPU, and reducing and managing Work in Progress limits well.
Understanding Bottleneck GPU
Technically speaking, in the world of computers, CPU and GPU bottlenecking have similar effects on the performance of the computer system overall and the causes and solutions are also quite similar.
Therefore, you may find a few things in this article that are applicable to both CPU and GPU bottleneck.
Ideally, bottleneck refers to a condition where one particular component in a computer system performs much better than another.
This forces it to slow down with an intention to maintain the balance between those two components.
Games, specifically, as you may already know, can be both CPU and GPU reliant.
For example, simulation games in particular are more reliant on the CPU than the GPUs because these games need to do a lot of simulation.
Therefore, to run smoothly and function properly, these games need the CPU to process all the necessary data fast.
On the other hand, a lot of other games tax the GPU more than the CPU.
These games are more often than not visually impressive which means that these AAA games need a faster and better graphics card in order to function properly.
The graphics cards are specially built by the manufacturers so that these chips can handle a large volume of visual data quickly and efficiently so the games look good when these are run on a computer.
The more graphically demanding the game is, the more strain the graphic processing card will be in.
Typically, bottlenecks are best understood with reference to teamwork.
Take a project for example in which several members of a team are working together.
If one particular member of the team is slow in doing his job then the entire workflow is affected and slowed down.
This is what happens in a GPU or CPU bottleneck condition.
The slowest components of a computer involved in a particular task put a cap on how fast it can be completed.
However, in common computing, a bottleneck can be created by almost any component in a computer.
For example, the memory module of the computer may not be as fast as it should be to feed the necessary info to the CPU which results in the CPU spending idle time as it waits for the data to arrive.
In this case, the RAM is creating a bottleneck.
In an ideal condition, the performance of every different part of the computer is balanced properly so that none of these have to spend idle time waiting for the other to finish their tasks.
However, as it is said, this happens in an ideal situation but is certainly not a realistic goal.
The performance of a game is usually measured by the primary metric – FPS or Frames per Second.
This signifies the number of discrete images rendered in one second.
Most of the games available today have a desired target of up to 60 frames per second though the minimum performance target is 30 frames per second.
If this number is not reached, profound playability issues will be apparent.
While drawing a picture on the display of the computer there is a specific set of steps involved and every frame produced by the game is the end result of a render pipeline.
In a computer, these different steps are followed by different parts of the computer working in parallel.
However, a few of these components have to wait for the other to render its output before they can add their own.
Technically speaking, for showing 30 frames per second on the display, the render pipeline needs to complete every frame within a time limit of about 33 milliseconds.
And, if you want double that frame rate, the time limit will be reduced to half of that.
This means that, if you are playing a game that runs at a frame rate of 120 FPS or above, the amount of time is literally cut down to single-digit milliseconds to render a complete frame.
If the CPU is able to contribute only a part of the desired render pipeline quickly within the time limit, then it does not matter how powerful or fast the GPU is. And, the converse is also true.
Therefore, to sum up it can be said that both these components must complete their render pipeline obligations within the desired time limit or else you will have a bottleneck that will limit the performance of the game to whichever constituent is the slowest.
The Different Signs
There are different signs of GPU or CPU bottlenecks and may be a result of some other bottlenecked component of the computer.
These are also good to know about at this point.
Ideally, it is pretty difficult to detect a bottleneck in a game.
For that, you will need to use specific software or a performance meter to show the different performance metrics while playing a game.
You can use one of the several third-party software programs available out there or simply use the Win + G shortcut in Windows 10 to bring up the built-in performance monitors.
No matter whichever performance meter you want to use, these are some of the general signs of bottlenecks. Consider these as the rules of thumb:
- Consider a CPU bottleneck when the CPU performs at 99% to 100% but the GPU performs at lower than that level
- Consider it to be normal when the GPU performs at 99% to 100% but the CPU performs at a level lower than that unless the performance is under the targeted frame rate when you may consider it to be a GPU bottleneck
- Consider it to be a VRAM or Video Random Access Memory bottleneck when it performs at 99% to 100% but is overfull which will lead to the swapping of data to the Hard Disk Drive and Solid State Drives that are typically much slower and
- Consider it to be a RAM bottleneck when it works at 99% to 100% but is overfull which results in a slowdown while moving data from the page file or to it.
All these are relevant when the performance of the game is affected or runs at a slower speed.
However, if the game runs at the target frame rate consistently and also displays the details just as you want, none of these signs matter.
However, remember that different games may have different bottlenecks.
Therefore, your computer system may show signs of a bottleneck in one particular game but not in another.
On the other hand, two different games may also bottleneck in completely different ways on a computer.
This is because different game genres and engines put different amounts of pressure on the different parts of the computer system.
For example, the major open-world games tax the CPUs needing more realistic simulations but the flashy First Person Shooter games put a lot of load on the GPU.
Identifying a Bottleneck
There are three basic steps in which you can identify a bottleneck in your system. They are:
- Visualize – Keep a track of all the jobs in the form of a task card. This will help you to see the work items piling up, if at all. This will indicate an issue, which, in all possibilities, is due to a GPU or CPU bottleneck.
- Map all queues and activities – Mapping all the queues and activities separately will also allow you to see the amount of time a particular work sits idly in a queue before a specific activity. If you see that the queue is growing much faster in comparison to the working of the activity stage processes, it indicates a bottleneck once again.
- Measure cycle time in each stage – This will help you to create a cycle time heat map plan. When you look at this graph it will reveal the stage in which a particular job spends most time. If the particular workflow stages are queues as well, it indicates a bottleneck.
When you have identified the bottleneck, it will be much easier for you to resolve it.
A Few Effective Solutions
There are lots of useful and effective ways in which you can fix bottlenecks and the ways may be different according to the type of bottleneck.
GPU bottlenecks are easier to fix than CPU bottlenecks.
Ideally, when it comes to GPU bottlenecks, you will not have as many methods available as there are for fixing CPU bottlenecks.
However, here are a few effective ways.
You can scale the graphics easily to get larger gains.
You can reduce the graphical setting of the game or lower the resolution by a couple of notches when you experience GPU bottleneck.
Lower all intensive settings such as:
- General resolution
- Texture resolutions
- Effects and others.
You may also overclock the core speed of the GPU and the speed of the memory module as well to enhance its performance.
However, at this point you should remember that the graphics cards usually do not overclock as significantly as the CPUs do.
The GPUs are typically much more responsive to even undersized boosts. Therefore, make sure that you are careful with it.
If you experience too frequent bottlenecks of a GPU, you may also be benefited if you replace the graphics card.
However, this is an expensive step but still it is one of the most favored ways among the gamers to reduce or even eliminate GPU bottlenecks completely.
You can use any modern high-end or mid-range graphics cards available today that are all quite powerful to support any game.
However, make sure that you pair it with the right kind of and an equally powerful CPU.
And, always follow the optimization guide of the game which highlights the settings for biggest impacts on the performance.
As said earlier, you can prevent bottlenecks from happening if you pair the right type of CPU and CPU while building a computer or upgrading your existing one.
This will surely balance the performance of both and offer a smoother and better user experience.
Apart from that, here are a few specific things that you should do in order to contain the GPU or even CPU bottleneck:
- Never allow the GPU or anything to be idle because it will cause a ripple effect on the rest of the workflow. Therefore, the bottleneck process especially should be always loaded to its full capacity.
- Lower the strain on the GPU to avoid bottlenecks as well as to make sure that the tasks arrive at the very best form and speed possible. You will need to review the processes right from the start in order to make it flawless. This will eventually reduce time and money.
- You should also manage the Work in Progress limits by lowering it. If you set one correctly it will reduce context switching.
If you are working on a project as a team, it is also quite effective to process similar types of work in batches.
This will take much less time. However, be cautious because if the size of the batch is large it may cause higher risks.
Follow the rule of thumb to create smaller batches which are always better.
However, consider the situation in hand because in the real world application you may need to make some compromises sometimes.
In that case, you may add more resources and even people to the job. This will expedite the working process and reduce bottlenecks.
However, make sure that your eyes are wide open and watchful to identify a bottleneck appearing somewhere else, which is bound to happen when you redistribute resources.
And, the best way to prevent bottlenecks is to analyze the performance continuously.
This will ensure a healthier and more productive workflow with the least amount of disruption to the working process allowing it to stream through freely.
Typically, bottleneck analysis is an ongoing process to identify new bottlenecks and the way in which they can be reduced quickly and more efficiently.
What Does Bottleneck GPU Mean?
Bottleneck GPU means that the CPU of the system performs at a much faster rate than the graphics card and hence is kept waiting.
The CPU actually executes the audio, actions, and other processes of the game but the graphics card, which is also called a video card, is responsible for the visual aspects or image rendering in the game.
Therefore, if the working capacity of the CPU is much larger than the processing ability of the graphics card, the game may be smooth but the images will be fuzzy.
This is the result of a graphics card bottleneck.
This usually happens when you pair a high-speed and high-end gaming CPU with a low budget and slower Graphics Processing Unit.
The GPU will not be able to keep up with the faster pace of the CPU thereby causing a lag in the workflow due to a sudden and dramatic drop in the frame rate per second or FPS.
What Causes a GPU Bottleneck?
Usually, GPU or CPU bottlenecks occur when there is a conspicuous mismatch in power between the components.
However, simply having a powerful and modern Graphics Processing Unit in your computer is not enough to make a game run properly or avoid bottlenecks.
If you pair it with an outdated CPU, there is no guarantee that the GPU will be able to generate as many frames as it is required by the game.
This is because it will have to wait for some time for the CPU to work on the current set of data and complete it before it starts processing the next set.
This means that the GPU will not be able to send all those frames quickly to the display.
On the other hand, bottlenecks may also occur when you pair a low-end or entry-level GPU with a modern and robust Central Processing Unit the same thing would happen but in this case the CPU will have to wait for the GPU to complete producing the requested frames for each definite set.
This is exactly what is referred to by GPU bottleneck.
Apart from the mismatch in the hardware, GPU bottlenecks may also be the result of the particular software of a particular game.
If the software is GPU dependent but the graphics card in your system is low-end, it will result in bottlenecks.
In short, GPU bottlenecks are the result of a major discrepancy between the processing units as well as poor game design in some cases.
Can Bottlenecks Damage Your GPU?
Unless you overdo things or put excessive force into it, bottlenecks will not damage the graphics card of your computer system.
It is true that there will always be some sort of a bottleneck if you do not turn on the frame rate limiting or VSync but it will not cause any damages even to the computer system.
The modern computer systems are built with throttling controls and thermal sensors.
These modern computer parts prevent damages to the CPU, GPU and other parts inside the casing due to overheating even if you run the GPU full out.
Most importantly, if the GPU is bottlenecked, you simply cannot get a high performance out of it.
Moreover, in most games if the GPU usage is in excess of 95% it is a GPU bottleneck but that is ideal in games.
Therefore, your GPU will not be damaged unless you overvolt it or the CPU and the temperatures of it look good.
Does Overclocking Help Bottleneck?
Well, in spite of all the benefits offered by overclocking a CPU or a GPU, it is certainly not the best solution to do away with bottleneck issues.
Yes, it is true that overclocking the CPU will help in resolving the issues due to CPU bottleneck but it will do it only to a specific extent.
The main reason behind it is that overclocking a CPU simply means making it perform at a higher level than it is generally intended or designed to do.
Therefore, overclocking is certainly not beneficial in such situations, especially when you know the fact that things are not the same now as it was before.
Overclocking a component in the earlier days could increase the level of performance of the component by as much as 50% to 60% before.
However, nowadays you will only get a performance boost of about 15% at the maximum due to overclocking.
This is not enough to do away with the bottleneck issues and most importantly, you will have to sacrifice quite a lot for that insignificant amount of boost in the performance.
Ideally, it will not help in any way to get a faster and higher workflow out of the bottleneck. In fact, it may even make your GPU worse instead of making it work faster.
Therefore, overclocking is not an ideal solution to bottlenecks because you will ideally get more or less the same performance.
So, both GPU and CPU bottlenecks have a similar dramatic effect in the performance of the system overall.
These bottlenecks can cause serious issues that can be very annoying when you play a game or perform any graphics intensive tasks on your computer and reduce both your computing and gaming experience.
Thanks to this article, now you know that GPU bottleneck is a serious issue that is caused primarily due to the mismatch in the components of a computer and their power.
That is why you will need to make sure that your computer has all the right set of components to adapt to your gaming style.