The Best Graphics Settings for GTA V
Grand Theft Auto V can still give even the best graphics cards a chance. It’s a surprisingly intense game despite being seven years old and emphasizing not just the GPU but the CPU as well (we’ve rounded up the best AMD CPUs and the best Intel CPUs to help out there).
However, GTA V is a well-optimized game. With specific adjustments, you can increase your performance without significantly affecting the image quality. In this guide, we’re going to give you the best graphics settings for GTA V. There are plenty of them, but some have a much more impact on performance than others.
How we tested
We tested each of GTA V’s graphical settings at 1080p using the internal benchmark. 1080p is by far the most common resolution for PC gaming. GTA V’s benchmark includes five scenes, each of which gives an image average. We took these averages and re-averaged to get a single number for each of the graphical settings.
We also tested each setting individually. In the following charts, the number refers to the difference in performance when the corresponding setting has changed. For example, this was the only setting we changed when we tested MSAA.
For testing, we used an RTX 2080 and a Ryzen 7 2700X – both with standard frequencies – paired with 32 GB of RAM. We’ve set every setting as high as possible to get a baseline – either Very High or Ultra with FXAA and MSAA 8x. To get you started as quickly as possible, the following settings are ranked in order of importance, with grass quality affecting performance the most.
Based on our tests, the grass quality has the greatest impact on GTA V’s performance. Between Ultra and Normal, we saw an average improvement of 12 FPS. Even bringing the grass quality up had a significant performance advantage and gave us an average of six additional frames. However, we did not find any difference between Very High and Ultra. After doing the rounding, we found the same average frame rate for both settings: 63 FPS.
We recommend leaving this setting at either Normal or High for best results. However, there’s a pretty significant difference between these settings and Ultra. At Normal, GTA V doesn’t render nearly as much foliage, but opts for flat grass structures that are occasionally interrupted by bush. However, you won’t notice much of a difference in the neighborhoods of Los Santos. For this reason, we continue to recommend lowering the quality of the grass, even if it means giving up some grass when you get into the mountains.
Shortly after the grass quality is anti-aliasing or especially MSAA. Based on our tests, FXAA has little to no performance hit and doesn’t have a huge impact on graphics. As a mild form of anti-aliasing, you can leave FXAA disabled if you wish. However, there is no measurable difference in performance.
It’s quite a big difference from MSAA, which isn’t surprising. Of all forms of anti-aliasing, MSAA is usually the most demanding of all titles, and GTA V is no different. We regained 8 FPS by simply turning MSAA off, but unlike a lot of other settings, you don’t have to resort to dumping the quality completely. We still had an average of 70 FPS with MSAA 2x enabled – a difference between frames versus turning MSAA off – and a respectable 66 FPS with MSAA 4x.
MSAA is demanding because it works especially at lower resolutions. If you’re using a 1080p display, we still recommend MSAA 2x (assuming you can get the average frame rate you want). With native 4K, it’s safe to turn MSAA off completely. While some anti-aliasing will still help make the image look better, at this resolution you are giving up a lot of performance for very little visual benefit.
Post-FX in GTA V is anything that happens to the image after a frame has already been rendered. These include the camera’s depth of field, motion blur, light bloom and more. While the difference in visual quality is noticeable when comparing the Ultra Post FX settings to Normal, the difference is not quite as noticeable when gaming. Bloom and motion blur in particular are two visual enhancements that you really only miss once you know what to look for. Setting Post-FX to Ultra will give you a better picture, but even on Normal, GTA V doesn’t look bad.
It’s easy to give up on the improvements with the performance gains. Between Normal and Ultra, we recovered roughly four frames, which brings our average frame rate to 67 FPS. However, the difference between High and Very High was not so clear. After the rounding, Very High and Ultra came out with the same average FPS of 63, while High got a frame back (well within the margin of error).
Post-FX is an all-or-nothing setting. Compared to grass quality and anti-aliasing, lowering Post-FX to Normal doesn’t bring back as much performance. However, it still earns a significant amount back. We recommend leaving the setting on normal. If depth of field, bloom and motion blur are important to you, we recommend Ultra. Based on our tests, there is no significant difference in performance between Ultra, Very High, and High. So you might as well give it your all.
It’s worth noting that turning Post-FX on to Very High or Ultra opens up two more settings: Motion Blur Strength and Depth of Field. With Normal and High, the depth of field is completely deactivated. Once you jump to Very High or Ultra you can turn it on, but that doesn’t mean you should. We ran our tests with the setting enabled, but disabling it returned three frames at Very High. If you don’t like the look of GTA V with Post-FX on Normal, turn it up to Very High and turn off Depth of Field.
The shader quality affects how you perceive the depth of objects in GTA V. In scenes where light and dark areas mix – like in the alley screenshot above – you’ll see the biggest difference. If you set the shader quality to normal, you will get a much flatter image. At very high, light falls more precisely on different surfaces and gives them more dimension. Pay attention to the blue wall in the screenshot above, especially towards the back. With Normal we lose a lot of detail when the wall recedes, while with Ultra we keep those details.
Shader quality has a pretty big impact on image quality, but like post-FX, it’s easy to forget about it as you play. We increased our average frame rate from 63 FPS to 67 FPS by reducing the shader quality to normal. We saw the same performance benefit at High, which averaged 66 FPS. Shader quality has a significant impact on performance, but not as much as grass and MSAA. We recommend lowering these settings first. If you’re still not getting the performance you want, lower the Shader Quality to Normal.
For how good the reflections look in GTA V, there is a surprisingly small decrease in performance when the setting is set to Ultra. With MSAA turned off and set to Normal, we had an average of 66 FPS compared to our baseline of 63 FPS. At Very High and High, we saw similar performance averaging 65 FPS and 64 FPS, respectively. Although our frame rate was technically lower at High than Very High, this is more of a rounding problem. The averages for both settings were actually within half a frame of each other.
Ultra reflections look wonderful, however. As with shaders, increasing the reflection quality gives the game world a certain depth. In the screenshot above, you can see a noticeable difference in reflection between the two cars. Aside from that, however, you can also see that light behaves much more accurately as it subsides in the darker areas of the floor. In comparison, normal reflections appear flat and wash out the entire floor in a gray color.
Still, there is a big difference in performance. We recommend changing the setting to Normal or High if you are experiencing performance issues. The good news is that you can turn on MSAA on reflections without a huge performance hit. We found the same average frame rate for ultra reflections with MSAA turned off and up to 8x.
The shadow quality is much less critical compared to the settings above. We won three frames by reducing the setting to Normal, which brings our average to 66 FPS. We recommend that you set this setting to Normal regardless. As you can see in the image above, there isn’t much of a difference in quality and lowering the setting will add to performance. Shadow quality determines how accurately shadows are displayed, which is not always obvious. For example, in our comparison above, both shadows look excellent.
However, we can see a difference around the edges. When turned up, the individual leaves of the tree cast a shadow, while with normal the edges become blurred. Similarly, the Ultra Shadow is more dynamic, with light shining through in certain places in the tree. While it’s interesting to see the difference, you probably won’t notice it when you play.
It is important to note that there are some tradeoffs when you start adjusting the shadow settings. They range from soft to sharp, and both extremes have their advantages and disadvantages. If you choose the soft setting, you’ll find that your graphics are razor-sharp, but your device’s functionality is limited. If you choose the Sharp option, you will see dark shadows and lines appear on your graphics, but your device will have improved functionality.
Textures, tessellation and everything else
The above settings are the most important based on our observations. You can regain additional performance by reducing texture quality, particle quality, and anisotropic filtering. Ultimately, however, it is a minimal upgrade. We gave it a try and captured two frames as we went from the very high to the normal texture level, which took our average to 65 FPS. Most newer GPUs can easily handle very high textures. For those of you with older GPUs (anything less than 4 GB of memory), reducing textures can result in significantly improved performance.
We didn’t make much by turning off tessellation and lowering the particle quality to the Normal setting. We just got a single frame back and didn’t find a measurable increase in performance. For comparison, we did not measure the difference in performance with anisotropic filtering. GTA V. is not far from a decade old and recently celebrated its seventh birthday. While the game is still remarkably in demand, most current CPUs can handle these settings at 1080p.