The launch of the Witcher 3 introduced a couple of game graphics options that aren't very commonly available in settings menus. Photographers may be familiar with the likes of chromatic aberration and vignetting, but not many games have offered these items for tweaking in the past.

We recently benchmarked The Witcher 3 for GPU performance and remarked that the game was horridly optimized, taking the opportunity expand on the graphics settings in a limited fashion. Since this posting, CD Projekt Red has released a new game patch (1.03) that drastically improves PC performance on various video cards; AMD is expected to release a Catalyst 15.5 beta driver update that focuses on the Witcher in the near future.

This Witcher 3 optimization guide defines the best graphics settings for improving FPS in the game, seeking to explain each option in greater depth. We independently benchmarked various game settings on a Titan X (to eliminate bottlenecking on the hardware) and took a graphics settings comparison video, found below. Although screenshots can get some of the job done, a comparison video is critical for a game like The Witcher; CD Projekt Red's newest RPG makes heavy use of temporal filters, which means that the filters make the most impact over time (seen through movement, which isn't conveyed in a screenshot). We'd encourage checking out the video for just a few comparisons of the many options.

Johan Andersson, a Frostbite developer under EA, today posted a photograph of AMD's new liquid-cooled video card. It is already known that the R9 300-series video cards are due for release in the summer – likely June – and that the flagship devices will be liquid cooled, but little has been officially announced. The pictured Pirate Islands card is assumed to be a 390X.

The Witcher 3's bombastic launch included bonus, spill-over fanfare surrounding the use of nVidia's GameWorks middle-ware in Project Cars. AMD spewed fire, telling Ars that GameWorks “completely sabotaged” AMD's performance, further stating “it's wrecked our performance, almost as if it [were] put in to achieve that goal.” This implication of an nVidia-branded torpedo to AMD's performance garnered attention on reddit and other social networks, following a week of similar postings related to Project Cars. We decided to do some of our own research.

First, it's worth noting that we've already invested countless hours into graphics testing in The Witcher 3, and we're still conducting further settings performance analysis for every option.

During the GTA V craze, we posted a texture resolution comparison that showcased the drastic change in game visuals from texture settings. The GTA content also revealed VRAM consumption and the effectively non-existent impact on framerates by the texture setting. The Witcher 3 has a similar “texture quality” setting in its game graphics options, something we briefly mentioned in our Witcher 3 GPU benchmark.

This Witcher 3 ($60) texture quality comparison shows screenshots with settings at Ultra, High, Normal, and Low using a 4K resolution. We also measured the maximum VRAM consumption for each setting in the game, hoping to determine whether VRAM-limited devices could benefit from dropping texture quality. Finally, in-game FPS was measured as a means to determine the “cost” of higher quality textures.

Not one recent triple-A PC title has launched without its share of crashing, flickering, mouse acceleration / smoothing, or other issues. In our time benchmarking the Witcher 3's PC performance, we encountered a couple of resolvable issues pertaining to the game's stability.

Benchmarking the Witcher 3 proved to be more cumbersome than any game we've ever benchmarked. CD Projekt Red's game doesn't front the tremendously overwhelming assortment of options that GTA V does – all of which we tested, by the way – but it was still a time-consuming piece of software to analyze. This is largely due to optimization issues across the board, but we'll dive into that momentarily.

In this Witcher 3 – Wild Hunt PC benchmark, we compare the FPS of graphics cards at varied settings (1080p, 1440p, 4K) to uncover achievable framerates. Among others, we tested SLI GTX 980s, a Titan X, GTX 960s, last-gen cards, and AMD's R9 290X, 285, and 270X. Game settings were tweaked in methodology for the most fair comparison (below), but primarily checked for FPS at 1080p (ultra, medium, low), 1440p (ultra, medium), and 4K (ultra, medium).

That's a big matrix.

Let's get started.

We normally upload a “benchmark course” video to the site's YouTube channel, dedicated to showcasing just a small part of our extensive testing methodology for each game benchmarked. The previous title we tested was GTA V, and with the launch of the Witcher 3 – Wild Hunt, focus shifts to CD Projekt Red's new game.

This video walks through our benchmark course used during video card benchmarking for the Witcher, an exhaustive process that seeks to uncover the best graphics cards at various settings. We've only got four video cards left in our test tonight, which will be followed-up immediately by an article with FPS charts and other data. More performance articles will follow shortly thereafter.

In the meantime, take a look at the game's hi-fidelity graphics at 4K resolution:

It's been a while since we've done a low-budget HTPC build, so this time around, we've pieced together a PC for under $500. This will do great as either an entry-level gaming system or as an HTPC for the living room. If you're looking for a build with a bit more "under the hood," consider our high-end Witcher 3 PC Build.

This sub-$500 gaming PC build is powered by an AMD A10-7850K, which is a cheap solution for light gaming, streaming, and everyday usage. You won't be playing GTA V or the Witcher very well on this build, but not everything has to be high-end – for League of Legends, Skyrim, DiRT, and similar games, this will do just fine.

This weekend's sales round-up a high-precision gaming mouse, pair of PC speakers, a toolkit for system building, and a 144Hz monitor with a $50 discount.

It's been a while since our last card-specific GTX 980 review – and that last one wasn't exactly glowing. Despite the depressing reality that 6 months is “old” in the world of computer hardware, the GTX 980 and its GM204 GPU have both remained near the top of single-GPU benchmarks. The only single-GPU – meaning one GPU on the card – AIC that's managed to outpace the GTX 980 is the Titan X, and that's $1000.

This review looks at PNY's GTX 980 XLR8 Pro ($570) video card, an ironclad-like AIC with pre-overclocked specs. Alongside the XLR8 Pro graphics card, we threw-in the reference GTX 980 (from nVidia) and MSI's Gaming 4G GTX 980 (from CyberPower) when benchmarking.

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