After going through a lot of trial and error I thought to leave some hints and tips about optimizing VR settings in Elite for others. Most of them are related to SteamVR but I am sure some things can be used with other headsets too. I am by no means sure everything is optimized so please point out if something is off. I will gladly update this post with all feedback so it will serve as reference for other VR players!
Set Render Resolution to Custom/100% in either SteamVR General settings, or under Video/Per-application Video Settings for Elite. Depending where you set it it will either affect all VR apps, or only Elite. Auto is just a big no for Elite and causes reprojection easily.
Turn off Motion Smoothing in SteamVR General settings. You save around 1ms per frame on that.
Afterwards go to SteamVR settings, select Show on “Advanced Settings”, then under “Developer” turn on the “Show GPU Performance Graph in Headset” option. This will allow you to monitor your ms while wearing the headset.
The goal is to get the graph fully green under 11.1ms on 90Hz for fluid 90 fps gameplay without any reprojection. Any other color means you are dropping frames or reprojecting. If you cannot achieve below 11.1ms at 90Hz, you can go down to 80Hz which gives you extra headroom up to 12.5ms.
(note: 30x card series currently can have some dropped frames – seen as pink lines – due to driver issues. I have a 3070 and do not experience that bug. See: https://www.nvidia.com/en-us/geforce/forums/game-ready-drivers/13/402768/valve-index-missing-dropped-frames-since-nvidia-d/ )
For Elite settings:
For the test period I recommend going out of the hangar at a space station and staying on the pad without launching, facing the mailslot. That is a resource hungry scenario. Note your ms and go from there.
To begin fine-tuning I would recommend setting VR Medium as a start point, then adjusting different settings.
The Holy Grail is HMD Image Quality, but it is heavy on resources. Even going to 1.25x makes a very visible gain in quality and text crispiness, therefore this setting should be the main priority. With stronger cards you might pull off 1.5x. Mileage may vary based on which headset you are using, so aim for highest setting with stable ms. I have a 3070 and 1.25x is my limit on Index.
Keep Supersampling at 1.00x. While I read elsewhere downsampling to 0.65x and adjusting supersampling in SteamVR is a bit more resource efficient I found the text much blurrier compared to adjusting HMD Image Quality. At the same time volumetric effects (e.g. deep core mining) do not work properly with that down/supersampling combo making them look terribly bugged.
Preferably forget anti-aliasing. Eats up resources for little gain in comparison to HMD Image Quality. If you have headroom and want it, go for FXAA since it has a visible ms gain over SMAA with barely perceivable quality loss in VR. Text will become slightly blurrier when using this though.
Shadows, for whatever reasons, give better ms on Medium, rather than on Low. Resource hungry in general.
Ambient Occlusion to Off. It eats up a lot of resources for little fidelity.
FX Quality recommend at least Medium, otherwise you miss out on a lot of effects, like the “smog” in space stations.
Jet Cone quality has a big ms bump between Medium and High, applies only to going around systems with respective stars.
Other settings like texture quality had very little effects on ms for me, so most of them I have set to medium/high. Terrain Work likely set minimum but haven’t tested it much yet.
In my case in heavy RES fights with multiple ships the CPU wouldn’t manage at 90Hz and now I just set to 80Hz if I know I will be going for battles. In deep space exploration I can pull 120Hz.
Will be updating! o7
– Unconfirmed if helpful with 100% Render – for Steam VR section, 3) Turn off Advanced Supersample Filtering under SteamVR Video settings. I am not quite sure how this applies in this scenario, but it was recommended elsewhere.
– Terrain Work setting effects on planetary ms