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Forza Horizon 4 PC graphics performance: How to get the best settings

Greasing the wheels

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Forza Horizon 4 remains one of the most joyous driving games you can play on PC, and the new LEGO Speed Champions expansion (out now) is just further proof that the folks over at Playground Games know how to have a real good time behind the wheel. As a result, I thought it was high time to revisit this colourful motor fest to see what kind of performance you can get from Forza Horizon 4 with today’s best graphics cards, plus a couple of oldies I’ve got knocking around in the boot. Whether you’re here for the big blocky LEGO cars or coming in fresh as part of Microsoft’s new Xbox Games Pass for PC, here’s how to get the best settings for your GPU.

Forza Horizon 4 PC graphics performance: The specs

Playground Games had a lot to prove with the PC version of Forza Horizon 4 when it first came out last October, as its Australian-themed predecessor Forza Horizon 3 needed its fair share of PC pit stops when it launched back in 2016. Happily, I’m pleased to report that Forza Horizon 4 is a real beaut in the old graphics card performance department, as even the ancient GPUs I’ve got accruing in my collection can handle it at decent settings without stalling and coming to a grinding halt.

But before we dive straight into how each graphics card got on, let’s take a look at Forza Horizon 4’s minimum and recommended PC requirements. As you can see below, it shouldn’t be too difficult to get Forza Horizon 4 up and running, no matter how aged your graphics card might be. My test PC comfortably exceeds the recommended spec, as I’ve tested every card with an Intel Core i5-8600K with 16GB of RAM and the latest Windows 10 update.

Minimum specs:
OS:
Windows 10
Processor: Intel Core i3-4170 or Intel Core i5-750
RAM: 8GB
Graphics: Nvidia GeForce 650Ti / AMD Radeon R7 250X
Video memory: 2GB

Recommended specs:
OS:
Windows 10
Processor: Intel Core i7-3820 or higher
RAM: 12GB
Graphics: Nvidia GeForce GTX 970 or Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 3GB / AMD Radeon R9 290X or AMD Radeon RX 470
Video memory: 4GB

Click the links below to see how each graphics card fared. I should note, there are still a couple of omissions here due to simply being unable to get the cards sent to me for testing, so apologies in advance to GTX 1080 Ti and Vega 56 card hopefuls, but I’ll do my

Forza Horizon 4 PC graphics performance: The goal

As always, the main goal here is to find the best combination of settings to achieve a smooth 60fps at 1920×1080, 2560×1440 and 4K. Fortunately, as I mentioned above, Forza Horizon 4 is incredibly well-optimised, and most cards should be able to play at Ultra or High settings without much fiddling whatsoever.

To test each card, I used Forza Horizon 4’s internal benchmark. This takes you through a race in a 2018 McLaren Senna car with multiple other super cars onscreen, different lighting conditions and various weather effects at play, such as rain and spray from wet puddles on the road, and spits out an average frame rate result at the end of it. However, for the sake of thoroughness, I also made a note of the highs and lows I saw in the frame rate while the benchmark was taking place, giving you a rough idea of the very worst kind of speeds you can expect, as well as the best.

Forza Horizon 4 PC graphics performance: How to get the best settings

I stuck with the game’s preset quality settings during my tests, as most cards ran Forza Horizon 4 so well that I felt little need to start tweaking them. However, it’s worth pointing out that the top Ultra setting doesn’t actually max everything out, so if you fancy even prettier shadows, motion blur, dynamic geometry (that is, better draw distances and surrounding detail), reflections, windshield reflections, and superior anti-aliasing, you can shunt all of those up another notch (some to EXTREME) if you feel like your graphics card isn’t being challenged enough. FXAA (another type of anti-aliasing) is also turned off even when you’re using the Ultra quality setting, so you can switch that on for even smoother edges if your graphics card is up to the task.

If you want a more bespoke Forza Horizon 4 experience, you can tweak each setting individually using the Advanced menu in the Video settings to create your own Custom quality profile. That said, the only way to switch between different quality presets on the Basic menu is to make sure the Dynamic Optimisation setting is turned on. Otherwise it locks off whatever quality setting you currently have enabled. A bizarre choice, perhaps, but an easy thing to work around.

I left Dynamic Optimisation turned off during my tests so I could get a more uniform idea of how each card performed across different presets, but I found that leaving it on actually makes very little difference. When I re-ran the benchmark on the Nvidia GeForce GTX 970 with Dynamic Optimisation turned on, for example, I got the same average frame rate and saw the same highs and lows as I did with it turned off. As such, those hoping this setting might revolutionise the experience of a struggling card will probably have to dig deeper into the advanced settings menu to get the performance boost they’re looking for.

Helpfully, you can get a rough idea of what each setting does to your GPU’s performance by reading the description on the right side of the screen. Some settings only have a ‘minor’ impact on your graphics card, for example, while others have a more ‘moderate’ impact. It also tells you which settings benefit from having more video RAM (so you might want to turn those down if your card only has 2-4GB of VRAM, for instance), and which ones affect your CPU as well, allowing you to pinpoint which settings to adjust depending on what’s inside your PC.

The big ‘uns to watch out for are:

  • Shadow Quality
  • Dynamic Geometry
  • World Car Level of Detail (which improves the quality of the online Drivatars, traffic and other player cars)
  • Reflection Quality
  • MSAA (multi-sampling anti-aliasing for smooth edges)

Forza Horizon 4 also gives you the option of lock the frame rate on the Basic Video menu to 30fps or 60fps if you prefer to keep things nice and steady instead of veering from one frame rate to another. 30fps can be handy if your graphics card is struggling to get to 60fps (although, judging by my results, I doubt this will be a problem for most modern GPUs), but generally I found that even older cards were pretty stable when playing on one of the presets (the difference between their minimum and maximum frame rates often no higher than 10fps), so you’ll probably be fine sticking with the 60fps lock for the most part. Of course, those with high refresh rate monitors will want to make sure the frame rate is set to Unlocked (Variable) so you can take advantage of all those lovely extra frames.

With all that in mind, let’s jump straight in and see how each graphics card held up. You can either use the page navigation bar below or jump back up the screen to hit individual cards.

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Who am I?

Katharine Castle

Hardware Editor

Katharine writes about all the bits that go inside your PC so you can carry on playing all those lovely games we like talking about so much. Very partial to JRPGs and the fetching of quests.

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