X4 Performance Troubleshooting Suggestions

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Imperial Good
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Joined: Fri, 21. Dec 18, 19:23

X4 Performance Troubleshooting Suggestions

Post by Imperial Good » Mon, 16. Dec 19, 11:57

This topic provides suggestions and possible solutions to various performance and stability problems that some players may encounter while playing X4. Advice is also provided for players looking to maximize their system performance or confirm that their system is performing as expected.

Expected Performance

X4 is best described as a 2018 open world space sandbox developed by a reasonably small development team. Due to the nature of such a game it is impossible to expect high refresh rates and good frame time consistency in all situations when playing. However, with appropriate hardware one should still manage decent framerates in most situations.

The following can be considered appropriate hardware for X4, as well as the effects the player can observe if their hardware is not appropriate.
  • CPU: At least a 4 core processor running at 4GHz or more from at earliest 2013. X4 is extremely CPU intensive to run and especially benefits from high single thread performance rather than large core counts. X4 will run on practically any x86-64 processor, even ones over 10 years old, but slower processors may result in very low frame rates in a lot of gameplay situations and could be considered unplayable to some players.
  • Graphics card: 3 GB free dedicated graphic memory discrete GPU with Vulkan support. X4 is not very GPU intensive in most gameplay situations, especially with complex shader effects disabled. It does require at least 3 GB of free dedicated graphic memory to function properly. If a GPU with less than 3 GB of free memory is used, there will be noticeable visual artefacts during gameplay which may considerably impact playability. X4 is not intended to be played on integrated GPUs and may not even start on older ones.
  • Available memory (RAM): At least 8 GB of free memory (not used by other applications). The amount of memory used by X4 is related to the complexity of the universe the player has made. It will usually use less than 8 GB of memory however very complex gameplay scenes or future expansions may require more memory. If X4 runs out of available free memory then performance will be significantly impacted due to page faults.
  • Installed on: SATA 3.0 (AHCI) or PCIe Gen3 (NVMe) Solid State Drive. X4 runs well from SSDs and will have longer load times and noticeable asset stalls affecting frame rate consistency if running off a mechanical hard drive.
Common Technical Issues

The following is a list of technical problems that some players may encounter while playing X4.
  • After playing for some time, graphic artefacts start appearing in the form of corrupted or missing textures or corrupted or missing geometry.
    This is usually the result of not having at least 3 GB of free dedicated graphic memory for X4 to use. Background applications such as browsers might use graphic memory reducing the amount available for X4 to use. If playing at a resolution higher than 1080p then X4 may require more free graphic memory. If using an older GPU with only 2 GB of dedicated memory, consider upgrading to a more modern or second hand one with 4 GB or more of dedicated graphic memory.
  • While loading a fresh start in X4 the computer spontaneously turns off or resets. The OS reports the cause as an unexpected power interrupt.
    X4 initializing fresh game starts is very CPU intensive, loading more than 8 threads at 100% utilization. This can expose unstable overclocks or thermal issues with either the PSU or motherboard VRM. This issue most commonly occurs with second generation AMD Zen+ Ryzen processors that have been installed on very low-end motherboards or been overclocked aggressively by an automated tool. One can try reverting the processor to stock in the UEFI/BIOS. Another approach which might work is to restrict the cores X4 can load to just 2-3 during the initialization process since power consumption is proportional to the number of cores loaded.
General Performance Help

X4 depends heavily on CPU performance, much more so than most games. Usually a high-performance processor paired with a reasonable GPU will result in a high and consistent framerate in most scenes. If one has such hardware but still gets low framerate then the following advice be able to improve performance. Note that some suggestions require some technical knowhow.

General Suggestions:
  • Some sectors and zones in X4 are more demanding than others due to a combination of the visual effects used and the random nature of universe. Try flying to another sector and seeing if performance is any different.
  • Try running X4 in exclusive full screen mode for the best performance. Windowed modes rely on the window composer for displaying the drawn frames. The window composer can apply frame rate limits, extra latency and even cause poor framerate consistency. If this happens, this is usually the result of some other application interacting with the window composer, or a limitation of the window composer itself.
  • Some people have reported performance issues when multiple audio outputs are available, especially HDMI audio from the motherboard or discrete GPU. Disable all unused audio outputs at an OS level. A player usually uses just 1 audio output device to play X4 while motherboards often come with 3 or more.
  • Try turning off overlays such as steam, discord, etc. These can negatively affect performance or cause other technical issues.
  • If a beta version of X4 is currently available, consider giving it a try. The developers try to optimize where possible and so any performance problems may already be fixed in the upcoming release.
  • Check the graphic driver is up to date. Try clean installing the latest graphic driver. Use Display Driver Uninstaller to completely remove the existing display driver. If the latest graphic driver still performs poorly, try reinstalling with an older version if possible. Some graphic driver releases have unintended performance regressions which may take a few weeks to be fixed.
  • The OS should be set to use a balanced power plan. Balanced power plans should offer you performance as good as maximum performance power plans while also saving some energy. Energy saving power plans may severely limit CPU performance by decreasing clock speed responsiveness or even disabling any sort of turbo/boost technology the processor uses. If using a portable device, X4 should only be played when plugged in for an optimal user experience.
  • Confirm that your CPU performance is close to what one would expect. Run benchmarks like Cinebench R20 and compare the resulting score with what others get running the same or similar CPU SKU at stock. A correctly functioning system should be within a few percent of such result. A properly overclocked system should score considerably higher. If the score is considerably lower then there is some hardware, BIOS/UEFI or settings problem. For X4 single thread scores are especially important.
  • If your system is overclocked, try reverting it to stock and comparing performance. Overclocking does not necessarily improve performance.
  • Check CPU and GPU thermals in case significant throttling is occurring. CPUs usually throttle at around 95°C and GPUs usually around 85°C. When throttling occurs, frequency is reduced resulting in reduced performance. If throttling, revert any overclocks and test again. If still throttling the system will need better cooling.
  • Memory should be set to run with XMP profiles appropriate for your CPU and motherboard combination. Memory will run at slow compatible speeds by default which may significantly impact performance.
  • Check that your system memory configuration is optimal. Each memory channel should have the same amount of memory inserted in it. Ideally matching DIMMs should be used between channels for best memory performance. Any memory amount not operating in the optimal channel configuration will incur a significant performance penalty when utilized. Most consumer processors are dual channel. HEDT processors might have between 4 to 8 channels. Check that the BIOS/UEFI correctly detects all inserted memory.
  • Enough power connectors must be installed for both CPU and GPU, including any PCIe power connectors if a lot of PCIe expansion cards are used. The power limit of a component may be determined by the number of connectors plugged in, as is the case for modern Nvidia GPUs. They do not need all connectors plugged in to function, but they might perform worse than with all connectors plugged in due to the lower power limit. A CPU usually needs a single 8 pin connector while GPUs use anywhere from 1 to 2 x 8 pin connectors depending on the SKU and variant. Enthusiast GPU variants and motherboards may have extra connectors which do not need to be plugged in for everyday use, these are intended for extreme overclocking use only.
  • For optimal SSD performance the SSD must have at least 20% of its capacity free. This can be allocated to partitions but must not be currently used by the partition to hold data. If the drive has too little free space it may suffer from reduced performance. This should only affect write performance but if the drive is busy writing data, like an OS drive can be, it may affect read performance as well.
  • Keep the page file enabled. Windows refers to this incorrectly as "virtual memory" in some of the settings. Contrary to misinformation spread by some, this will not significantly degrade SSD life in a system with enough memory as it will practically never be used. It almost always is required for correct and reliable system operation.
AMD CPU suggestions:
  • Update your motherboard BIOS/UEFI. AMD may have rolled out a new AGESA version included in the update. This may significantly improve performance. Be warned that updating BIOS/ UEFI may revert all settings in it to default, requiring that they be reapplied.
  • Update your OS. Windows 10 has recently added kernel improvements which the newer AMD chipset drivers expect for optimal performance. This should only affect AMD Zen2 processors, but it might affect older ones as well.
  • Update AMD chipset drivers. Together with the latest BIOS/ UEFI and OS kernels, these can result in significant performance improvements. This performance usually comes from better boost behaviour.
    If using an AMD Zen2 processor, the AMD balanced power plan should be chosen. This is required for optimal boost behaviour. AMD Zen and Zen+ should use the standard balanced power plan. Any sort of energy saving power plan may disable boost behaviour, significantly reducing CPU performance.
  • Zen2 processors use a GPU like aggressive boosting algorithm to deliver optimal performance. As such they will suffer from decreasing performance as temperature increases well below the thermal limit. This effect increases in strength as the thermal limit is approached. Improving cooling such that a processor operating at 90°C is operating at 70°C can yield over a 100 MHz improvement in clock speed. This can be a problem with the stock cooler in a poor airflow case.
  • AMD Zen and Zen+ processors are picky with the DDR4 memory frequencies they support. Try operating the memory close to the recommended stock frequency, if supported, and compare performance. AMD Zen2 tolerates a larger range of frequencies but has an optimal frequency range past which minor performance regression can occur. All Ryzen processors should use memory with at least the frequency of their specified system memory for optimum performance and do benefit significantly from tightened memory timings.
  • Modern AMD processors are made from multiple core cluster chiplets with multiple core clusters on them. Communicating between cores on different core clusters incurs a penalty, especially when between chiplets. Try limiting X4 to only running on cores on a single core cluster or core cluster chiplet. In theory this should only reduce framerate, but if there is some scheduler anomaly going on causing excessive communication overhead between clusters it might also improve framerate. Applies especially to ThreadRipper due to the number of chiplets it contains and the size of the processor. Applies less to Zen2 processors due to significant architectural improvements.
  • Monitor the status of AMD Ryzen CPUs using the AMD Ryzen Master application. This application can be used to determine if the CPU is boosting correctly and what is limiting CPU performance. During general gameplay the CPUs should be boosting close to their specified boost frequency and not running into any limits. It is normal for Zen2 CPUs to fall short of the specified boost by up to 100MHz under such workloads.
Intel CPU suggestions:
  • Verify that your CPU is turboing to the expected frequencies for the workload. The expected frequency depends on the number of cores currently busy as well as the type of workload the core executes. Highest boost frequency is obtained when just 1-2 cores are loaded with AVX workloads. Lowest frequency is when all cores are running AVX512 workloads. Search online for tables relevant to the specific processor, such as on sites like WikiChip.
  • Intel turbo boost is defined to have a finite duration. After this duration expires the processor will revert to the significantly slower base frequencies which define the processor TDP. For optimum performance one wants to disable the duration limit to allow the processor to boost indefinitely. Many motherboard vendors do this by default, but some require the limit to be explicitly disabled in the BIOS/UEFI. Some OEM systems might not allow this limit to be disabled. This will make the processor use significantly more power than the specified TDP so does require ample cooling to take advantage of without thermal throttling.
  • Modern operating system kernels come with security mitigations to combat many of the security flaws in Intel processors. These mitigations have a CPU performance cost which can result in slightly reduced frame rates. It is possible to regain some of this performance on operating systems like Linux by disabling the use of the mitigations. This does have security implications as such systems are then left open to attack using the exploit. Anyone thinking of doing this for extra performance should read up about the risks involved and balance them against any performance gained.
Example Systems and Performance

Below is an example of a system used to play X4 when it first released in December 2018. The play experience was not very good with low framerates, bad frame pacing and long load times. Scenes with very low frame rates are when not paused and viewing the map late game, near large stations, near large asteroid fields and during large battles. Framerate could hit single digits which many players would consider unplayable. This is due to the weak CPU. The long loading times and bad frame pacing were due to the use of a mechanical drive to store X4. Loading times were so bad that teleporting into a busy area used to have models popping into view for most of a minute, all the time with a very low frame rate. Visual settings used were pretty much all maxed except anti-aliasing, screen space effects and draw distance. X4 ran stably on this system, just the player experience was not good.
  • CPU: Intel Core-I7 920 @ stock from 2009.
  • GPU: Nvidia GTX 760 4 GB @ stock, 1080p.
  • Memory: 18 GB DDR3 @ 1333 MHz.
  • Storage: Hitachi HDT721010SLA360S @ old 10-year-old 1TB mechanical drive.
The storage used was replaced by a modern SATA SSD. This SSD was used to house both OS and X4. Loading times and frame pacing were dramatically improved. Even teleporting to the same busy areas only had minor pop in which lasted only a few seconds and did not noticeably affect frame pacing. Average frame rate was still poor as before due to the same CPU bottlenecking performance.
  • CPU: Intel Core-I7 920 @ stock from 2009.
  • GPU: Nvidia GTX 760 4 GB @ stock, 1080p.
  • Memory: 18 GB DDR3 @ 1333 MHz.
  • Storage: Samsung SSD 860 EVO 1TB @ SATA 2.0.
Due to hardware failure the motherboard, CPU and RAM was replaced by modern components while GPU and storage were kept the same. Although a Ryzen 9 3950X was used, a cheaper Ryzen 5 3600 would perform similar. In the same scenes that had single digit framerate with the old system, framerate does not drop below 30 FPS. X4 plays very well on this system.
  • CPU: AMD Ryzen 9 3950X from 2019.
  • GPU: Nvidia GTX 760 4 GB @ stock, 1080p.
  • Memory: 16 GB DDR4 @ 3200 MHz XMP.
  • Storage: Samsung SSD 860 EVO 1TB @ SATA 3.0.
Moving X4 to a faster PCIe 3 NVMe drive did not yield a visible performance improvement over using the SATA SSD. Upgrading the GPU is unlikely to yield a significant improvement to framerate in most scenes, although it would allow the player to play at higher resolution and enable higher visual settings such as ambient occlusion, screen space reflections, anti-aliasing and draw distance.

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Re: X4 Performance Troubleshooting Suggestions

Post by CBJ » Mon, 16. Dec 19, 13:03

Thanks Imperial Good. This is really useful information, so let's keep it at the top of the forum where people can see it. :)

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