Best Performance/Visuals Benchmarking & Final Thoughts

Performance Benchmarking “Best Playable Settings” and the Conclusion

All of our games were benchmarked at the panel’s native (or just above it), 100%, or 150% SteamVR resolution or (as noted) with the Vive Console set to Ultra/90Hz or Extreme/120Hz.

It is important to remember that BTR’s charts use frametimes in ms where lower is better, but we also compare “unconstrained framerates” which shows what a video card could deliver (headroom) if it wasn’t locked to either 90 FPS/120 FPS or to 45 FPS/60 FPS by the HMD.  In the case of unconstrained FPS which measures just one important performance metric, faster is better.

Before we do our testing with the RTX 3080 Ti, we want to follow up our RTX 3070 Ti testing featuring Skyrim with Motion Compensation On vs. Off.

Motion Compensation does as expected although FCAT VR does not distinguish between dropped and synthesized frames.  It increases the synthetic frames generated and inserted in-between frames instead of dropping them keeping the framerate high but at the expense of visual artifacts caused by temporal issues with prediction.  It will help make some games more playable but probably should be avoided especially for sims.

Overall, we do not like nor recommend Vive’s Motion Compensation currently as it tends to introduce far more artifacts than SteamVR’s Motion Smoothing.  VR gamers should test it for themselves to see which games are tolerable and which are not.

Next we are going to look for playable settings using our RTX 3080 Ti with our six test VR games.

First up, Assetto Corsa Competizione.

Assetto Corsa Competizione

BTR’s sim/racing editor, Sean Kaldahl created the replay benchmark run that we use for both the pancake game and the VR game.  It is run at night with 20 cars, lots of geometry, and the lighting effects of the headlights, tail lights, and everything around the track looks spectacular.

Just like with Project CARS, you can save a replay after a race.  Fortunately, the CPU usage is the same between a race and its replay so it is a reasonably accurate benchmark using the Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps.

iRacing may be more accurate or realistic, but Assetto Corsa Competizione has some appeal because it feels more real than many other racing sims.  It delivers the sensation of handling a highly-tuned racing machine driven to its edge.  Unfortunately, it is probably the most demanding of the racing sims and it may not yet be well-optimized for VR.

VR High

Here are the frametimes using the VR High preset which is custom set in SteamVR to just above the panel’s native per eye resolution of 2472×2472 at 90Hz/Ultra or at 2464×2464 at 120Hz/Extreme.

Here are the details are reported by FCAT-VR:

The RTX 3080 Ti at Ultra/90Hz (2472×2472) delivered 95.10 unconstrained FPS with 460 dropped frames (5%) which means it stayed above 90 FPS 95% of the time delivering a decent VR experience but at just above the panel’s native resolution.  Individual settings may be dropped to maintain a steady above 90 FPS VR High experience if this lower resolution is acceptable.

At Extreme/120Hz (2464×2464) it delivered 95.46 unconstrained FPS together with 5968 dropped (48%) frames which means almost half of the frames will be dropped (or synthesized using Motion Compensation).  120Hz may be better suited for future video flagship cards.

VR Low

Here are the frametimes using the VR Low preset at Ultra/SteamVR default 150% Render Resolution and at Extreme/150% and 100% Steam Render Resolutions.

Here are the details are reported by FCAT-VR:

At 90Hz/150% SteamVR default Render Resolution (3924×3924), the RTX 3080 Ti delivered 90.43 unconstrained FPS with 2481 (27%) dropped frames

At 120Hz/150% Render Resolution (3376×3376), it delivered 105.10 unconstrained FPS together with 6363 dropped (50%) frames making it unsuitable for play unless Motion Compensation can be used to deliver a steady 60 FPS at this very high default SteamVR 150% Render Resolution.

At 120Hz/100% Render Resolution (2756×2756), our RTX 3080 Ti delivered 130.88 unconstrained FPS together with 739 dropped (6%) frames making it acceptable for the VR Low setting.  It suggests that Ultra/90Hz would give the best VR experience for ACC and there would be enough performance headroom to raise individual settings from the Low preset and/or the Render Resolution above 100%.

Next, we check out Elite Dangerous.

Elite Dangerous

Elite Dangerous is a popular space sim built using the COBRA engine. It is hard to find a repeatable benchmark outside of the training missions.

A player will probably spend a lot of time piloting his space cruiser while completing a multitude of tasks as well as visiting space stations and orbiting a multitude of different planets (~400 billion).  Elite Dangerous is also co-op and multiplayer with a very dedicated following of players.

VR High

We picked the High Preset and we set the Field of View to its maximum.  Here are the Elite Dangerous 100% Render Resolution frametimes on VR High using both 120Hz and 90Hz settings.

Here are the details are reported by FCAT-VR:

Using SteamVR’s 100% Ultra/90Hz (3184×3184) Render Resolution, the RTX 3080 Ti delivered 95.00 unconstrained FPS with 21 dropped frames making it acceptable for optimum play.

Using SteamVR’s 100% Extreme/120Hz (2756×2756) Render Resolution, it delivered 111.17 unconstrained FPS together with 4191 dropped (49%) frames making it largely unsuitable for play except at 60 FPS with Motion Compensation (if it works properly).

The experience playing Elite Dangerous at High settings is acceptable using the Pro 2 at 100% SteamVR Render Resolution but we may want to consider the experience of playing on VR Medium with a higher Render Resolution also.

VR Medium

Here are the frametimes testing VR Medium on 90Hz and 120Hz comparing SteamVR’s 100% Render Resolution performance with 150%.

Here are the details are reported by FCAT-VR:

Using the VR Medium preset at 90Hz/100% Render Resolution (3184×3184), the RTX 3080 Ti delivered 149.07 unconstrained FPS with no dropped frames.

At 90Hz/150% Render Resolution (3900×3900; chart has typo), it delivered 98.92 unconstrained FPS with 4 dropped frames and 1 Warp miss.

At 120Hz/100% Render Resolution (2756×2756), the RTX 3080 Ti delivered 159.11 unconstrained FPS with 6 dropped frames and 1 Warp miss.

At 90Hz/150% Render Resolution (3376×3376), it delivered 130.40 unconstrained FPS with 259 (3%) dropped frames.

This above results indicate that we can play Elite Dangerous on the Medium preset at either Ultra or Extreme settings up to the default 150% SteamVR Render Resolution, or we can use the High preset at up to 100% SteamVR Render Resolution at Ultra/90Hz in the Vive Console without needing Motion Compensation.

Let’s continue with another demanding VR game, No Man’s Sky.

No Man’s Sky

No Man’s Sky is an action-adventure survival single and multiplayer game that emphasizes survival, exploration, fighting, and trading.  It is set in a procedurally generated deterministic open universe, which includes over 18 quintillion unique planets using its own custom game engine.

The player takes the role of a Traveller in an uncharted universe by starting on a random planet with a damaged spacecraft equipped with only a jetpack-equipped exosuit and a versatile multi-tool that can also be used for defense. The player is encouraged to find resources to repair his spacecraft allowing for intra- and inter-planetary travel, and to interact with other players.

Here is the No Man’s Sky Frametime plot.  We set the settings to Enhanced which is above Low but below High, and we also set the anisotropic filtering to 16X and upgraded to FXAA+TAA.

We also set the DLSS setting to Balanced which is below Quality but above Performance and Ultra Performance in an effort to maintain as much performance as possible without compromising image quality too much.

Here are the FCAT-VR details of our comparative runs at 90Hz/100% SteamVR Render Resolution and at 120Hz/100%.

Here are the details.

Using the Vive Console Ultra/90Hz preset at SteamVR’s 100% Render Resolution (3204×3204), the RTX 3080 Ti delivered 97.03 unconstrained FPS with 256 (3%) dropped frames and 1 Warp miss.

Using the Extreme/120Hz preset at SteamVR’s 100% Render Resolution (2756×2756), it delivered 114.49 unconstrained FPS with 3530 (38%) dropped frames.

We would suggest dropping a setting if necessary so the RTX 3080 Ti can deliver a constant 90 FPS at Ultra/100% Render Resolution. It has a superior image even using the Enhanced Preset with 100% Render Resolution and it plays and looks very nice using DLSS Balanced.  DLSS is a lifesaver in this regard as without it, it would not be possible to play at 90 FPS even on Enhanced without dropping or synthesizing frames.

Next, we will check out another demanding VR game, Project CARS 2.

Project CARS 2

There is a real sense immersion that comes from playing Project CARS 2 in VR using a wheel and pedals.  It uses its in-house Madness engine, and the physics implementation is outstanding. 

Project CARS 2 offers many performance options and settings and we prefer playing with SMAA over using MSAA.

Project CARS 2 performance settings

We use all settings on Medium with everything else on.  If necessary, we recommend lowering grass and reflections further to maximize framerate delivery as motion smoothing or reprojection tends to cause visible artifacting.

Here is the frametime plot where this time we benchmarked Ultra/90Hz and Extreme/120Hz with the panel’s native resolution and also at 100%.

Here are the FCAT-VR details.

Using the Medium settings at 90Hz/Native Render Resolution (2472×2472), the RTX 3080 Ti delivered 101.33 unconstrained FPS with 10 dropped frames.

At 90Hz/100% Render Resolution (3224×3224), it delivered 60.45 unconstrained FPS with 4602 (49%) dropped frames.

At 120Hz/Native Render Resolution (2456×2456), the RTX 3080 Ti delivered 66.38 unconstrained FPS with 52 dropped frames and 1 Warp miss.

At 120Hz/100% Render Resolution (2780×2780), it delivered 77.47 unconstrained FPS with 4006 (39%) dropped frames.

At either Native or at 100% Render Resolution, The Pro 2 is able to deliver 60 FPS steady using the Extreme/120Hz setting which may be an acceptable option for some.  Otherwise Medium settings on the Ultra/90Hz at the panel’s native resolution may be a better option for others.

Let’s benchmark Skyrim VR.

Skyrim VR

Skyrim VR is an older game that is no longer supported by Bethesda, but fortunately the modding community has adopted it.  It is not as demanding as many of the newer VR ports so its performance is still very good on maxed-out settings using its Creation engine.

We benchmarked Skyrim VR using its highest settings but we did not adjust in-game Supersampling.

Here are the frametime results.

Here are the details of our comparative runs as reported by FCAT-VR.

Using Skyrim’s highest settings at 90Hz/Native Render Resolution (2464×2464), the RTX 3080 Ti delivered 219.58 unconstrained FPS with 1 dropped frame.  

At 90Hz/100% Render Resolution (3184×3184), it delivered 122.85 unconstrained FPS with 1 dropped frame.

At 90Hz/150% (SteamVR Default) Render Resolution (3900×3900), the RTX 3080 Ti delivered 97.27 unconstrained FPS with 2781 (22%) dropped frames and 1 Warp miss.

At 120Hz/100% Render Resolution (2732×2732), it delivered 156.40 unconstrained FPS with 372 (2%) dropped frames and 1 Warp miss.

At 120Hz/150% Render Resolution (3344×3344), it delivered 124.32 unconstrained FPS with 4891 (29%) dropped frames.

As before, raising or lowering the SteamVR Render Resolution is a great way to adjust the performance.  Skyrim VR cannot be played without dropping or synthesizing frames at maxed out in game settings at SteamVR’s default 150% Render Resolution.  Fortunately, it looks like 120% is an attainable compromise for a RTX 3080 Ti and the visuals are not degraded substantially compared with 150%.

Last up, The Walking Dead: Saints & Sinners.

The Walking Dead: Saints & Sinners

The Walking Dead: Saints & Sinner is the last of BTR’s Pro 2 VR test games.  It is a first person survival horror adventure RPG with a strong emphasis on crafting.  Its visuals using the Unreal 4 engine are outstanding and it makes good use of physics for interactions.

We benchmarked Saints and Sinners using its highest settings, but we left the Pixel Density at its default in game 100%.  Here is the frametime chart using both Vive Console Ultra and Extreme Presets at 100% and at 150% SteamVR Render Resolution settings.

Here are the details as reported by FCAT-VR.

Using Saints & Sinner’s highest settings at 90Hz/100% Render Resolution (3184×3184), the RTX 3080 Ti delivered 106.30 unconstrained FPS with 2 dropped frames.  

At 90Hz/150% (SteamVR Default) Render Resolution (3900×3900), it delivered 79.05 unconstrained FPS with 2827 (47%) dropped frames.

At 120Hz/100% Render Resolution (2756×2756), the RTX 3080 Ti delivered 132.38 unconstrained FPS with 437 (5%) dropped frames.

At 120Hz/150% Render Resolution (3404×3404), it delivered 107.56 unconstrained FPS with 4133 (48%) dropped frames.

The best Pro 2 settings for The Walking Dead: Saints & Sinners using a RTX 3080 Ti to avoid either Motion Compensation or dropped frames are the highest in-game settings using the Vive Console at Ultra/90Hz and at 100% SteamVR Render Resolution.

Using a RTX 3090 may allow the Render Resolution to be increased while using a RTX 3080 may require dialing back settings or lowering the Render Resolution a bit.  It takes experimentation coupled with checking the SteamVR developer overlay in the headset to find the best playable settings.

Let’s check out our conclusion.

The “Best” HMD

There is no such thing as the “best” HMD unless you are just talking about specs, in which case, the Pro 2 wins by virtue of its higher resolution.  VR is more “alive” and immersive using the Pro 2 over the original Pro or the Index.  Unfortunately, at $799 the Pro 2 – by itself without considering the base stations and controllers costs – is much more expensive than the Reverb G2 at $599.  The G2 setup is also less complex and time-consuming.  The advantages that the Pro 2 has over the G2 are with its more precise tracking, wider FoV, and its ability to use wireless for a completely untethered experience.

If you are a racing or flight sim enthusiast, the G2 may be a better choice over the Pro 2.  However, for action games and especially for standing games or for shooters where precise tracking is critical, the Pro 2 is a better choice – if price is no object.  Unfortunately, we find the Pro 2 to be overpriced at $799 as a consumer headset as Vive shifts to industry VR away from the consumer market.  But if a VR gamer already has a top video card and a Vive headset/base station tracking, then the Pro 2 may be an excellent almost drop-in upgrade solution.

We wish to extend our thanks to HTC for loaning us a Pro 2, and we enjoyed testing and evaluating their new VR headset.   We like it so much that we purchased a Pro 2 from Newegg for our own enjoyment as well as for future benchmarking.

Unfortunately, Vive software still appears to be a work in progress – especially in regard to Motion Smoothing – and it appears that a default SteamVR target of 150% Render Resolution is simply too high for this generation of video cards.  As long as a gamer is willing to tweak his Pro 2 and per-application settings, the Pro 2 is an outstanding VR headset for gaming.

Next up we are going to review our “off grid” mostly solar-powered office followed by a 1TB SSD review before we return to VR.  We will continue to benchmark the Pro 2 and will also follow-up this review with another showdown with the Reverb G2 using the top AMD and NVIDIA video cards.

Happy VR Gaming!



    • Relative clarity depends on many factors.

      Make sure you set the Vive Console setting to Ultra (or Extreme) and work very hard to find your sweet spot. You may have to move the Pro 2 headset higher up on your face (or lower) to find it – and play with the fine tuning to get the lenses at the right distance from your eyes.

  1. I recently brought a Reverb G2, and on the whole been very pleased with it’s performance/ for it’s price. I appreciate that there’s always going to be a better product on the way. As I have trouble getting any MSFS2020 VR time in, as both my kids jump in when my back is turned (Beatsabre, half-life Alex etc) I find I’m drawn towards buying a second HMD, this looks like a good candidate.

    • They are the same Vive Wand controllers and were originally covered in the Pro (1) review linked in the unboxing. Fortunately, Valve Index Knuckles controllers (or any SteamVR controller) work great and they are an excellent choice.