Elite: Dangerous Performance Guide

Greetings commanders! I have been dying for this game. This is a title I’ve invested at least 100 hours into and still can’t get enough of it (at the time of writing, Elite hasn’t been released yet, it’s in final stages of testing). My personal opinion on it is that it’s the baby Jesus reincarnated thus I would be unable and unfit to do an unbiased review. Instead I’m going to focus on creating a performance guide for everyone wanting to get the best gaming experience out of this game and you can decide for yourselves if exploring the galaxy with no storyline is the best thing for you! Let’s get cracking.

NOTE: This performance review is based on the Gamma 2.01 version which has been released on the 11th of December, 5 days before the actual release version. It is safe to assume that the performance experienced here will be at least equivalent to the one delivered at launch. Should this not be the case, the article will be updated accordingly after launch date.

Basic Features:

  • API: DirectX 11
  • Adjustable FOV: Yes
  • Vsync: Yes
  • Anti-Aliasing: Yes
  • Aspect Ratio: No – enforced Auto
  • Choose Display Screen: Yes
  • Locked FPS: Adjustable
  • Mouse Acceleration: No
  • Oculus Rift Support: Yes
  • 3D Screen support: Yes
  • Borderless Window: Yes

We need to give Frontier Developments extra brownie points for both Oculus Rift support and Borderless Window mode. I highly appreciate not taking 10 minutes to Alt+TAB just to type a message in a chat window or change a song…. Their minimum system requirements are not too bad either. You could even us a graphics card from 5-6 years ago and still play this game.


  • DirectX 11
  • Quad Core CPU ( 4 x 2Ghz is a reasonable minimum)
  • 2 GB System RAM (more is always better)
  • DX 10 hardware GPU with 1GB video ram
  • Nvidia GTX 260 / ATI 4870HD
  • Internet connection – Be warned, this is an online game, even the “Solo” mode which although doesn’t contain other human players gets real-time data from the game servers to update content (missions, market data, in-game events, etc.)

The aesthetic itself is a matter of taste, but the game looks well made and the ships and space stations are very detailed. The universe is breathtaking, really crossing into the uncanny valley. The downside is that the smallest of inaccuracies can quickly kick you out of your immersion. Let’s have a look at the options menu then:

Elite Dangerous Options Menu part 1

Elite Dangerous Options Menu part 2

Elite Dangerous Options Menu part 3


So I’ve turned all the options down to their lowest setting and set the resolution to 1080p. On my test machine the game would run at a consistent 90FPS after doing so. I’ve then proceeded to, one by one, turn all the seettings up to maximum and analyse the impact on framerate. Here are the results:

Model Draw distance: It has a LOW impact on framerate

Texture Quality: It has a LOW impact on framerate

Shadow Quality: It has a HIGH impact on framerate

Bloom: It has a LOW impact on framerate

Blur: It has a VERY LOW impact on framerate

SMAA – It has a HIGH impact on framerate
FXAA – It has a MEDIUM impact on framerate
MLAAx2 – It has a MEDIUM impact on framerate (Recommended Option)
MLAAx4 – It has a HIGH impact on framerate

Ambient Occlusion: It has a MEDIUM impact on framerate

Environment: It has a LOW impact on framerate

FX Quality: It has a MEDIUM impact on framerate

Reflection Quality: It has a MEDIUM impact on framerate

Material Quality: It has a MEDIUM impact on framerate

Galaxy Map Quality: It has a LOW impact on framerate

NOTE: Galaxy map has severe performance issues at the time of writing, while it is not a game-breaker you may experience severe drops while it is open. On my machine it usually halves the framerate when its open, hopefully it will be fixed soon.

After doing my tests I’ve turned all the settings up to maximum and the game consistently ran at 50FPS. On maximum settings, my GPU processing core would be at 92% utilization with the Video RAM reaching 1.5 GB usage, on low settings the core would sit at 80% with 1.2GB of Video RAM usage. CPU-wise it would stay at 45% usage, utilizing 4 of the 6 available cores. As expected the main culprits here are the Antialiasing and the Shadow Quality. I recommend when tweaking to start with those settings and for an extra optimization look at the Reflection Quality. Bellow you can find the difference between absolute low and absolute high GFX settings and you will see there is a significant difference in lighting and particle effects:

Low Graphics

Low Graphics

High Graphics

High Graphics

Unfortunately once you’re done doing this after about 20 minutes, you’ll be stuck doing key bindings for the next hour, as the button list is colossal to say the least. Overall the game runs really well with no sudden FPS drops that could be identified. Frontier have done an excellent job with their Cobra game engine and a lot of triple A companies should take notes or maybe pay them for consultancy.

Obviously the performance impact will vary from configuration to configuration, so the important thing is to identify which settings should be reduced first. Naturally you will reduce settings that have a “VERY HIGH” performance impact first and then go to “HIGH” and “MEDIUM” and so forth until you hit your desired framerate.

My Testing Machine:

  • CPU: AMD Piledriver FX-6 Six Core 6300 Black Edition (3.5Ghz x 6 Cores)
  • Video Card: Gigabyte GeForce GTX 660 WindForce 2X 2048MB (Driver version: TBA)
  • RAM: 12GB @ 1600MHz (no it does not affect perfromance, i’ve benchmarked…)
  • OS: Windows 7 64-bit 

Final verdict for PC quality:

Elite: Dangerous by Frontier Developments: EXCELLENT (shite, mediocre, good, excellent).

Howdy y'all! I'm a Systems Engineer working day (and sometimes night) to fix all of your VoIP communications problems but my heart resides with the over-captivating world of gaming. Although I can't say too much about gaming engines and raw usage of the GPU, when it comes to multiplayer LAN, WAN, MMO or CO-OP (local or otherwise) I'm your guy. Follow me on : Google + , Twitter, Facebook

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