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Tested: Is Discord really slowing down Nvidia GPUs?

A recent Discord update may have introduced a bug that slows down your Nvidia GPU when you use the popular voice chat app. Not all cards are affected, but it appears that the vast majority of them might be.

We tested it ourselves to verify whether there really is a performance drop. Here’s what we know, and if you are affected, there’s a quick fix that can solve this problem.

RTX 3080 graphics cards among other GPUs.
Jacob Roach / Digital Trends.

The report about this peculiar issue first emerged on the Linus Tech Tips forums. An owner of an RTX 3060 Ti graphics card found that the memory clock of their GPU dropped by 200MHz as soon as Discord was launched, and it stayed at the lowered value until the app was closed.

Another user then pitched in and posted on the Nvidia subreddit, reporting that same problem, this time on an RTX 3080. It appears that Nvidia’s latest and greatest RTX 40-series cards are unaffected right now.

Both reports are related to RTX 30-series cards, but we tested this ourselves and found that the issue will likely affect a much larger user base than we initially thought. Even older graphics cards suffer from this problem, and as per the Steam Hardware Survey, those GPUs still make up the majority of the market.

I tested this myself on my dated GTX 1060. Starting with HWiNFO, I compared the memory clock with and without Discord running in the background. Although the drop was less significant (100MHz instead of 200MHz), it was still there, and the moment I turned Discord off, the clock bounced back to normal.

I also ran a FurMark benchmark to compare performance with and without Discord. This rig can’t score high even on a good day, but within those measly scores, I could see a drop when I ran the benchmark while Discord was on. Without it, the card averages 71 frames per second (fps) and 4,272 points; with Discord, it maxed out at 69 fps and 4,151 points. It’s interesting to note that in the benchmark, the memory clock did indeed drop by just over 200MHz.

Benchmarks of a GTX 1060 GPU.
Benchmark scores with and without Discord running in the background.

The bug likely stems from the most recent Discord update that enabled AV1 streaming in 4K60 for Discord Nitro users. This seems to be limited to RTX 40-series cards, though, so while it enabled one feature for those high-end GPUs, it also seems to have broken something for other users.

A lot of gamers run Discord in the background, and it’s no secret that many of Nvidia’s best GPUs are found in gaming rigs. For some players, this will almost be constant if they use Discord most of the time.

With that said, 200MHz worth of memory clock speed is really not that much, especially on high-end GPUs. Seeing a drop by 2 fps is pretty much nothing. You don’t have to worry about the performance of your card, at least not unless you want to squeeze every last drop out of it. In games, this won’t have any impact whatsoever.

Nvidia was quick to react to the post on Reddit and came up with a temporary fix. If you want to get ahead and sort this problem before Discord and Nvidia roll out proper updates of their own, make sure to check out the official Nvidia help article here.

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