Instant Replay Affecting FPS: How?

Here’s how instant replay affects FPS:

It depends on what you are using for the replay and the schematics of your computer setup.

On average, GPU-run replay tools like ReLive and ShadowPlay only lower performance by two to three FPS.

More powerful software, like OBS, can lower frame rates by 30 FPS or more, depending on many conditions.

So if you want to learn all about how activating instant replay can affect your FPS, then this article is for you.

Let’s get right into it!

Instant Replay Affecting FPS: How? (Everything to Know)

What Is Instant Replay?

How are we going to talk about impact if we don’t first explain instant replay?

What is it?

It’s a software feature that allows you to record a video feed on a computer.

Most commonly, instant replay is used to refer to AMD’s ReLive feature.

This is software that comes with Radeon graphics cards, and it does something interesting.

While you have it on, it will record your screen constantly.

But, it constantly records over itself to save on data.

If you hit the replay button, then the software will save the previous 20 seconds of recording and move those seconds to a permanent folder.

You can then browse and edit your 20-second replays as you see fit.

What Is FPS?

FPS stands for “frames per second.”

This is a measurement style used to help gauge video performance.

If you’re intimately familiar with FPS, feel free to skip around, but if you don’t have all of the background information yet, then let me talk about FPS for a minute.

The general rule for video game performance (and video performance on computers in general) is that a higher FPS is associated with better performance.

This is because a higher FPS means that the screen is refreshing more frequently, and that leads to a smoother video display.

If you have a game that allows you to toggle the FPS settings, you can play with this to see the difference.

At 30 FPS, most games look like they have subtle visual skips.

It’s like information is missing, and that’s because of how video rendering works.

Imagine a very simple game where Super Mario is running across a screen.

In order to animate his running, your computer is updating the monitor screen with still images at a very fast rate.

If the rate isn’t fast enough, then Mario’s running animation has to skip some of the images along the way.

They literally don’t animate.

So, if 30 FPS looks a little choppy for animation, then doubling up to 60 FPS will probably smooth things out.

Movie theaters run video at 60 FPS, and it’s usually pretty smooth.

But, if you’re playing a game with very high-precision graphics, then even 60 FPS might feel a little too rough.

As an example, professional Counter-Strike players typically play with 120 FPS or higher.

All of this is to say that the FPS is important, and in most cases, you want a higher FPS if possible.

So, as we look into the relationship between replay and FPS, I’ll stick with this convention.

The real question is how many frames per second do you potentially lose by using replay?

How Are Instant Replay and FPS Related?

That’s enough background information.

How does Instant Replay affect your FPS?

Unfortunately, there’s not a simple answer.

This depends on a lot of factors, including your individual computer setup.

Some computers will experience significant drops in FPS when instant replay is activated.

Others will hardly notice a change.

So, to really answer this question, we have to break it up a little.

What are you doing with the computer?

What is your build like?

Which replay feature are you using?

In general, replay won’t affect your computer’s performance by more than 20%, but to really give you a clear idea of what to expect, I’m going to quote a lot of benchmark tests and statistics.

You’ll remember that your own experience may differ, but we can at least build a concept of what will happen when you start using replay.

What Are You Using for Instant Replay? (4 Tools)

So far, I’ve mostly talked about Instant Replay, but this is actually only one of many replay features.

Each tool will impact your system differently, so I think it’s worth going over the most popular replay tools during this discussion.

As I mentioned before, Instant Replay is an AMD feature (also known as Radeon ReLive).

Conversely, you could take advantage of Nvidia, OBS, or even in-game tools for replays.

Realistically, you could use any recording tool that you want, but I’m going to stick to the ones that tend to get the most attention.

#1 AMD

The first thing to know about ReLive is that it’s not available with all AMD equipment.

You have to have a decent graphics card before the feature is even an option.

Because of that, you can usually expect that your computer is equipped to handle what ReLive throws at it.

For the most part, you’re looking at RX Vega Series, 500, 400, 7700+, 8500+, Pro Duo, and R9.

That’s still a lot of possible graphics cards, but they are all made for reasonably high performance.

Since you’re using such a graphics card, what happens to FPS when you start using ReLive?

According to benchmark tests, there was a measurable frame drop when ReLive was running, but it was minimal.

On average, systems lost less than 3% of their frame rate.

So, if you’re running at 100 FPS, you can expect your rate to drop by less than 3 total frames.

It’s a minimal problem.

Of course, we have to account for other system differences, but I’ll be going through all of that in a later section.

#2 Nvidia

Nvidia has its own replay feature that is meant to compete with ReLive.

This one is called ShadowPlay, and it essentially serves the same purpose.

It constantly records gameplay, and at any point, you can hit a hotkey and automatically save the previous seconds that were recorded.

You can adjust the settings for exactly how long the replay recordings last, but the idea is to capture a specific moment of gameplay rather than a whole match.

All of that is right in line with how ReLive works.

How about the frame rates?

Once again, the frame losses were measurable but minimal.

You’re still looking at around a 2% drop in overall frame rate when you activate ShadowPlay.

This is because ShadowPlay, like ReLive, is only available with graphics cards that can handle it.

#3 OBS

OBS is a different animal.

It stands for “Open Broadcaster Software,” and it is probably the most-used recording software amongst people who play video games.

It’s free to download, which helps its appeal.

It’s also powerful software that has been optimized by developers and prolific streamers.

The first thing to understand is that OBS is not exactly the same as the other two replay tools we’ve discussed so far.

OBS is designed to record long sessions (it can do short recordings too if you want).

If you wanted to do a five-hour video game stream, OBS could broadcast and record the whole thing.

Naturally, you can make short replays with it too, but because it’s offering so much more, it’s also more demanding on your system.

On average, OBS can drop up to 30 frames each second from maximum performance.

This is one reason why professional gamers shoot for such high frame rates.

They often stream on a regular basis.

If you’re going to lose 30 frames by streaming, then it’s better to start at 200 FPS than at 100 FPS.

This is one reason why a market for less-demanding replay software arose.

A lot of people want to be able to make short replays, but running OBS is hard on a system.

If you can’t afford top-of-the-line equipment, then less-demanding software seems like a good idea.

#4 In-Game

Games have had various versions of replay features for many years.

Especially in games that focus on fostering competitive environments, replay features are seen as valuable tools where players can review their performance.

Replays can also be super fun for capturing interesting moments that you want to relive later.

There are a lot of different in-game replay functions, and I can’t hope to list them all.

Fortunately, we don’t have to do that.

In most cases, the replay function is built into the game itself, so making use of the replay doesn’t impact performance at all.

In order to run the game, you also have to be able to run the replay component of the game’s software.

There is no real off or on in most cases.

It’s just the same experience regardless.

Of course, the downside is that these features are not universal.

You can’t use the replay function from one game to record moments in another.

So, if you want replays in a game that doesn’t already offer such a feature, then you’ll need third-party software to do it, and you’ll very likely lose some frames for your trouble.

How Can You Boost FPS? (4 Things)

I keep saying that the frame drops will depend on your individual system.

So, let’s explore that.

Below are the major contributors to frame drops that will vary from one computer to the next.

I’m also including some advice on how to overcome these obstacles.

If you use replay and it kills your frame rate by more than a couple of FPS, then the entries below are for you.

#1 Minimize Graphical Tasks

The hardware in your computer is actually only part of the FPS equation.

Computers are pretty complicated machines, and they can do a lot of things.

More importantly, they can do a lot of things at the same time.

But, as you pile on more and more tasks, you aren’t giving the computer any extra hardware resources.

Eventually, you overwhelm the device’s capacity, and you get performance issues.

So, one of the main impacts on FPS, when you use replay software, is the other software you have running.

If you have multiple instances of games open at the same time, then that can lower your frame rate—even if you’re only playing one of those games.

That’s because of resource allocations.

In many cases, games are designed in a way that they reserve certain amounts of computer capacity so that they can ramp up and run the computer harder when they need to.

So, if you have a dozen games open, each one is reserving some of the graphics processing power.

That leaves less for the current game and your replays, and your frame rate drops as a consequence.

Less specifically, reducing the number of software tasks that are running at any given moment can help your computer maintain its frame rate while you run your replay software.

#2 Lower Settings

Another thing to remember is that the game itself usually requires more graphical processing power than the replay software.

This is even true with OBS.

Modern games—especially the ones that are graphically intense—tend to include adjustable settings.

Some of these settings control graphics.

You can adjust these settings to reduce the game’s draw on your graphics hardware, and this can help preserve your frame rate.

It’s another non-hardware factor that goes into the performance.

Some of the most common settings that hold the most impact on performance include ray tracing (turn it off to free up resources), resolution (lower resolution leads to higher frame rates), and various synchronization settings (turn off for better performance).

There are countless other individual settings that could show up in any given game.

Your best bet is to do a little reading and see what the game developers recommend.

This can help you optimize your settings, and if FPS is what matters most, you can squeak out more frames, even while you take advantage of replays.

#3 Upgrade

Of course, hardware matters too.

If you can’t control frame rates well enough through software alone, you can consider a hardware upgrade.

Directly, there are three components that can heavily impact frame rates.

Peripherally, a lot of parts of your computer have a smaller influence on performance.

The most important thing, by far, is the graphics card.

If you get a graphics card rated for better performance, you’ll usually get a better frame rate.

Graphics cards can have more memory or faster processing (or both).

Any upgrade is usually a good upgrade.

Slightly less important is your processor.

For high-end games, the workload is usually well-defined.

The graphics card does most of the graphics rendering, and the processor handles things like computing in-game physics.

Improving your processor can be a little complicated because more powerful processors don’t always lead to better frame rates.

Instead, you want to look at developer recommendations to see which processor gets the best benchmark results.

Lastly, you can consider the system memory (or the RAM).

RAM usually isn’t the limiting factor for frame rates, but if you’re running out of memory, it can lead to computational slowdowns that do inhibit frame rates.

Usually, if RAM is the problem, you’ll see massive drops in FPS. If turning on your replay software brings the frame rate to a grinding halt, then check the RAM.

If you don’t have enough RAM, adding more is simple and effective.

#4 Improve Cooling

The last major component of your system that impacts frame rates is cooling.

All of this hardware works intensely, and heat is generated as a result.

Normally, the systems are designed to manage heat, and everything is fine.

But, if heat management is insufficient, then you can see major frame drops.

The easiest way to recognize cooling problems is that the frame rate drops more as you play longer.

Or, you can get temperature-monitoring software.

Regardless, if cooling is impacting your video performance, you can try cleaning your computer.

Compressed air dusting goes a long way.

You can also get the computer out of a tight corner with bad airflow.

If none of that is enough, you can upgrade the computer’s overall cooling system.


  • Theresa McDonough

    Tech entrepreneur and founder of Tech Medic, who has become a prominent advocate for the Right to Repair movement. She has testified before the US Federal Trade Commission and been featured on CBS Sunday Morning, helping influence change within the tech industry.

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