Most PC games have a plethora of graphics settings that let you strike the perfect balance between quality and performance. If you don't enjoy digging into these settings, though, both NVIDIA and AMD have apps that will do all the heavy lifting for you — with just one click.
I personally love tweaking these settings myself, and knowing how they work is the best way to hit that sweet spot between quality and speed. A lot of people, however, don't like fiddling — they just want to start playing games (understandably). That's where these apps come in: with just one click, you can optimise your games' graphics for your particular hardware, with no work at all, and get the best experience possible. Here's a quick overview of the two apps. Check out the video above to see them in action.
For NVIDIA Cards: GeForce Experience
If you have an NVIDIA card, you'll want to download NVIDIA's GeForce Experience tool. Not only does it give you detailed information about your hardware, let you screencast games, and update your drivers, but it will auto-optimise a bunch of games.
When you first start it up, it will scan your library for compatible games. To optimise one, just click on it in the left sidebar, and then click the Optimise button. That's it. You're ready to start playing.
Of course, if you're curious, there's some other useful info here. You can see what your optimal settings are compared to the settings you currently have, and see a preview in the image at the bottom — including some descriptions of what each setting does.
Most importantly, if it's settings aren't quite ideal, you can adjust them. Just click the wrench and you'll see a slider that lets you adjust what "Optimise" means. I found, for example, that NVIDIA's settings were a bit too high for my tastes — a few levels in Battlefield 3 dropped below 60 frames per second, and I like to get the smoothest experience possible. So, if you just move this slider a few notches, it will tweak its "Optimal" settings for your tastes. This is similar to just setting them at "Low", "Medium" ,"High" or "Ultra" in the game's options, but it's much more precise — while being just as easy.
For AMD Cards: Gaming Evolved
If you have an AMD card, you'll want the slightly less mature, but still pretty solid Gaming Evolved tool. It has a more social focus than GeForce Experience, but you can still use it to update drivers, screencast your games, and — obviously — tweak your settings with one click.
Just like GeForce Experience, when you first start it up, it will scan your library for compatible games. To optimise one, just click on it in the left sidebar, and then click the Optimise button. You can launch the game right then and there and start playing.
You can see what settings it changes in the pane below the Optimise button, if you're curious, and change the presets to "Balanced" or "Performance" if the Optimise button is a little too aggressive for you. We really wish this were more precise like NVIDIA's tool — it only has three options, rather than a big slider — but it works well enough.
Neither of these apps are perfect, and tweaking the settings yourself will always yield the best results. AMD's app in particular is still young, so it isn't ideal, but if you truly hate tweaking graphics settings, both are worth a shot. If nothing else, they'll give you a good starting point so you don't have to tweak from scratch.
Video music by Multifaros.