Little known tricks to speed up console games.

Posted: March 29, 2011 by ryanlecocq in Technology

While it’s mostly true that there is no way to improve game performance on a console, there are a few tricks that can increase performance as well as visual and audio quality.  I’ll break it down between consoles.

Xbox 360

Hard Drive

Hardware wise, there aren’t any improvements that can be made to the Xbox.  All the hard drives of each series are the same speed, so the only way to speed up loading is by buying a newer series Xbox.  What does make a difference in some games is installing them to the hard drive.  At the very minimum this will decrease loading time and in many games that use the hard drive cache, it will solve glitches related to loading data.

Native Resolution

Always set your Xbox to display at the TVs native resolution.  If your TV is a 720p set, but can downscale 1080p images, you should not set the Xbox to 1080p.  You will always get the smoothest screen refreshing if you stay at the native resolution, this is even more true if you are playing on a PC monitor.  Also if your TV is 1080p and you are connecting with anything besides an HDMI 1.3a or above, make sure to set it to 1080p and not 1080i as it won’t set it automatically.  Also keep in mind that 99% of the time 1080i is not a native resolution.  If your TV isn’t 1080p, you should always set it to 720p.  Even though 1080i sounds like more, it’s irrelevant as the TV has to do more to convert the image to 720p anyway as that is the native resolution.

Wired connection for everything.

The convenience of wireless is undeniable.  The lag and signal interruption of wireless is also undeniable, no matter how much it improves.  To be absolutely sure the game is reacting as fast as you do, you should play over a wired LAN connection using a wired controller.  I know going back to the days of controllers with cords is a pain, but even the best wireless controllers have between 100-200 milliseconds of lag.  Wireless internet is generally pretty reliable these days, but loss of data is still a reality.

PS3

Hard Drive

The first step to improving PS3 gameplay is ordering a new hard drive for less than the cost of a new game.  To give you an idea, most of the Sony HDDs are slow 5400rpm models with tiny 4mb caches.  A 400gb Samsung drive with 7200rpm speed and a 32mb cache will set you back less than $60 and cut your loading time down to about 1/4.  It will also hold all your data for quite some time.  The final benefit is that even more than the Xbox, the PS3 relies on HDD cache for gameplay streaming.  This means your games will actually run better as the game loads data faster.  The PS3 uses a standard 2.5″ SATA notebook drive of any brand and capacity, just remove the panel with a screwdriver and pop it out with the same screwdriver, easy.

New HDMI cable

Besides system updates, the best improvement for the ‘always too dark’ complaint against the PS3 is a new HDMI cable.  An HDMI 1.4a cable won’t make your PS3 any better, but the light adjustment will actually work properly for the first time, reducing the shadowy blur that most PS3 games often are.  To enable this you need to go into the PS3s visual settings and turn on the HDMI black and color level options.

Settings

Like I mentioned above, turning on the color and black level options for the HDMI connection is a good idea if you’re connecting through HDMI.  Other than that, what I said about the Xbox applies here as well, always play at the native resolution, no matter the screen type.

Wired/Wireless

PS3 controllers are Bluetooth connected as opposed to the Xbox 360’s 2.4ghz RF wireless.  Bluetooth is a much faster and more reliable method and considering that all first party controllers are wireless, there is no reason to hunt down a quality wired controller.  PS3s also come with WiFi built in, so if connecting a LAN cable is not convenient, don’t sweat it too much.  I only recommend that for the Xbox because the WiFi adapter is an $80 device that can actually harm gameplay, depending on your connection.

Wii

Before anybody makes jokes about not bothering with Wii performance, it’s not like I actually own one.  There isn’t a lot you can do to improve games on Nintendo’s box.  The main one that people don’t seem to realize is that the Wii looks a lot less awful when you buy component cables and switch it to 480p.  Still not anywhere near HD, but your TV doesn’t have to de-interlace as well as upscaling.

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