Math For Sim Racers: The Beef Between Resolution And Frames Per Second

Updated: Feb 15

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Let's start this by saying that this article is specifically for those that are partaking in sim racing on PC, those turning laps on consoles are limited to default resolution settings (disclaimer: at the time of writing this next-gen consoles have been out for all of a week and no one can get their hands on them. So the true FPS possibilities are unknown). The advantages of playing at a high resolution. Historically, playing anything at a higher resolution meant accepting lower FPS and at this point in time this is still the case for anyone that doesn’t have $4,000 or more to spend on a new build.

High-Resolution Advantage

When it comes to high resolution in sim racing the only advantage actually comes from how aware the driver is of their surroundings, so if you are a driver that drives with tunnel vision you may just wanna skip this part. The advantage of racing in high resolution is that your surroundings are extremely clear and sharp, if you are racing with your environment like you should be and spotting your brake markers and entry engagement points resolution is a strong ally. A great example of this is in between the Schwedenkreuz and the Aremberg corner on the Nordschleife, there is a change in the color of the track (see photo below) that serves as an excellent braking reference. Now admittedly we do not know if this is a change in surface type or if it is a more recently paved section of the track but none the less the higher the resolution the more definitive that precise change in color is while on approach.

Frames Per Second Advantage

Alright, let's do math! Frames are king and before you get upset, and yell “but pretty graphics mo’ better!” Hear us out and listen to science. For those of you that are unaware frames per second are how many individual pictures your monitor can produce on your screen and piece together in 1 second. This process is associated with the refresh rate of your monitor which is the rating for how fast your monitor is rated to perform this process. If your monitor is rated at 60hz, it will refresh up to 60 times per second meaning your effective frames per second are capped at 60. The higher the number the more frames you will see but be aware this is limited to the power of your computer. If you have a low to mid-range computer your frame rate comes with diminishing returns, higher frames mean you're going to have to give up performance in another process your computer handles.

Now back to the math, let’s say you are approaching a braking zone at approximately 40 MPH which is equivalent to 60 feet per second and your computer and monitor is producing 60 frames per second (60hz). In theory, you are now working with a 1 to 1 ratio in terms of visual perception. For every frame, your monitor shows your car travels 1 foot, this is good but not great for reaction times and hitting your marks consistently. Let’s say you need to break at the 100-meter mark, in our current scenario the visual projection on the screen is so that if you press the brake right at the 100-meter mark, it translates into hitting your mark within 1 foot of when you intended to hit your mark, that’s fairly good. Now let’s increase the speed in this scenario, now you’re approaching the same corner at approximately 185 MPH (approximately 270 feet per second) and you’re using the same 60hz monitor. This means that you are now at a 4.5 to 1 ratio meaning that your car is traveling 4.5 feet for every 1 frame that you see on the screen. This means that when you hit your brakes right at what your brain thinks is the 100-meter mark, you are really within 4.5 feet of that 100-meter mark and that’s if you’re perfect. “4.5 feet isn’t that big of a deal bro, relax,” you say, and for the casual and novice sim racers out there yes, it’s not that big of a deal but to someone who is out there hunting perfection 4.5 feet is a third of a car length which is more than enough to overshoot or undershoot your entry.

The moral of the story here is that we can borrow a page from our friends in the first-person shooter world, higher frames are ALWAYS better than mo' pretty (in terms of performance). Back before I was fortunate enough to have built a fairly powerful computer, I was turning laps on Assetto Corsa at the lowest possible settings in order to max out those frames per second on my 144hz monitors. Did my experience often resemble the 1994 Nintendo ‘64 hit Cruisin’ USA? Yes, but my lap times were consistent because my braking zones were consistent and for those of you that are new to the game, speed might find the lead but consistency always finishes the race.

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