We try to rotate our official test bench hardware every few years to maintain a relevant, but realistic configuration. Ideally, we use mid-range components that more accurately reflect what a consumer would build – an i5-3570K or i5-4690K, for instance, rather than a $340 i7-4790K. This platform is applied to all of our game benchmarks, which aim to report real-world framerates of newly-launched games.
In a recent attempt to increase testing efficiency, we opted to remove the tried-and-died NZXT Phantom 820 (the case is shot from years of abuse) and migrate to an HPTX top-deck tech station, or “test bench,” as we call it. The unit is fully open-air, exposing expansion cards and video cards for easier access and swapping when performing tests. There are some test concerns by opting for this route, but we've addressed those in our methodology (and will briefly mention them below).
As we've always updated our readers on the site's methodologies and proceedings, I thought I'd put together a video showcasing the new test bench. You can find that below.
Our initial review of nVidia's new GTX 960 looked at ASUS' Strix model of the card, a $210 unit with a custom cooler and an emphasis on silence. We declared the GTX 960 a formidable competitor at the price range, remarking that its software-side support and power made it a primary choice for 1080p gaming. AMD's closest competitor is the R9 280 – a powerful alternative for users who don't mind a bit higher TDP and less frequent driver updates – priced closer to $170 after rebates.
As nVidia continues to push SLI as an actionable configuration, the question of SLI compatibility with video games is raised once again. Not all games adequately support SLI and, for this reason, we've historically recommend a single, more powerful GPU in opposition to two mid-range options in SLI.
Part of our daily activities include extensive graphics benchmarking of various video cards and games, often including configuration, OC, and performance tweaks. As part of these benchmarks, we publish tables comparing FPS for the most popular graphics cards, ultimately assisting in determining what the true requirements are for gaming at a high FPS.
Although our test methodology includes extra steps to ensure an isolated, clean operating environment for benchmarking, the basics of testing can be executed on everyday gaming systems. This article explains how to benchmark your graphics card, framerate (FPS), and video games to determine whether your PC can play a game. Note that we've simplified our methodology for implementation outside of a more professional environment.
In Left 4 Dead-like form, Evolve reintroduces the concept of monster vs. humans multiplayer gameplay with high-fidelity graphics. 2K's soon-to-be released “Evolve” has already been analyzed by us a few times, but now we're returning to specifically benchmark the game's PC FPS performance.
This Evolve GPU FPS benchmark tests the game on Very High (max) and Medium settings, pitting some of the best graphics cards against one another. On our Evolve graphics bench, we tested the GTX 980 vs. the GTX 780, 770, 750 Ti, & R9 290X vs. the R9 285, 270X, R7 250X, & HD 7850. Once we got past the FPS limitations (resolved easily, as explained in an upcoming guide), testing Evolve was fairly easy and unrestrictive.
NOTE: This game is in BETA. Although it is near completion, results could be significantly improved prior to launch as GPU manufacturers move to finalize drivers specific to Evolve. The same is true as 2K continues to implement optimization patches.
Elite: Dangerous is one of the best-optimized games we've tested this year, right up there with GRID: Autosport. The game is a member of the impending cluster of space sim and space-flight combat games actively being developed. Like Star Citizen, Elite: Dangerous comes from the designers of a game that's decades-old, 1984's “Elite.”
With Elite: Dangerous' official launch, we've put the game on our GPU bench to test the FPS on various graphics card configurations, including an R7 250X, 270X, GTX 750 Ti, GTX 980, and more. In addition to our usual video settings tests, we ran Elite: Dangerous using AMD's VSR and nVidia's DSR (super resolution) to render output at 4K. These tests are representative of performance yield on a true 4K display. Our crash fix guide may be useful to those who are experiencing issues running Elite: Dangerous.
CIG's Star Citizen aims to revitalize the PC gaming space by fully utilizing every system component to its fullest potential, starting with multi-million poly-count objects that hit the GPU heavily. In our very first interview with CIG's Chris Roberts – a man who has managed to raise $60 million in crowd-funding – we discussed Star Citizen's emphasis on full system hardware utilization. Roberts told us “I've got eight cores – I want to use them.”
The game is currently in alpha, versioned at version 0.9.2.2. Star Citizen's persistent universe (the major multiplayer component) has yet to begin production and is still in the design phase, though the “Arena Commander” module is currently available for download to early backers. The next module in the release schedule will patch-in FPS elements, but the game's current alpha offers dog-fighting, free flight, hangar exploration, and “murray cup” racing.
In a bid to garner attention in the graphics market, AMD's Radeon graphics division has branded its newest Catalyst driver update simply as “Omega.” Unlike previous iterations, the new driver attaches a codename to symbolize the dramatic changes made to the underlying software. Catalyst Omega introduces direct competitors to NVIDIA technology (like DSR, seen here), offers greater Linux support, and hosts a suite of media playback smoothing options. We'll look into all of those here, along with some driver benchmarks.
Here's a quick overview, as provided by AMD (note that AMD's numbers differ from our benchmark numbers, shown and explained further below):
Ubisoft launched all its AAA titles in one go for the holiday season, it seems. Only days after the buggy launch of Assassin's Creed Unity ($60) – a game we found to use nearly 4GB VRAM in GPU benchmarking – the company pushed Far Cry 4 ($60) into retail channels. Ubisoft continued its partnership with nVidia into Far Cry 4, featuring inclusion of soft shadows, HBAO+, fine-tuned god rays and lighting FX, and other GameWorks-enabled technologies. Perhaps in tow of this partnership, we found AMD cards suffered substantially with Far Cry 4 on PC.
Our Far Cry 4 GPU FPS benchmark analyzes the best video cards for playing Far Cry 4 at max (Ultra) settings. We tested lower settings for optimization on more modest GPU configurations. Our tests benchmarked framerates on the GTX 980 vs. GTX 780 Ti, 770, R9 290X, 270X, 7850, and more. RAM and VRAM consumption were both monitored during playtests, with CPU bottlenecking discovered on some configurations.
Update: For those interested in playing Far Cry 4 near max settings, we just put together this PC build guide for a DIY FC4 PC.
In a somewhat promising turn for the industry, Assassin's Creed Unity ($60) uses almost all of the VRAM we were able to throw at it. We'll get into that shortly. Regardless of the game's mechanics and value (reviewed here), there's no arguing that Assassin's Creed Unity has some of the most graphically-impressive visuals ever produced for a PC game. In coordination with nVidia and its GameWorks suite (detailed), Ubisoft implemented new Percentage Closer Soft Shadows, TXAA, and ShadowWorks technology to soften and blur lines between cast shadows. Not all graphics technologies require nVidia video cards.
In this GPU benchmark, we look at the best video cards for Assassin's Creed Unity for max (Ultra High) settings and other settings; our test pits the GTX 980 vs. GTX 780 Ti, 770, R9 290X, 270X, and more. Low settings tests are also included. Further, we checked RAM and VRAM consumption while playing ACU, hoping to further determine the game's most demanded resource.
As we tend to do with new game releases – GRID, Titanfall, and Watch_Dogs included – we decided to put Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel through its performance paces. We originally spoke about Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel at PAX, where we got hands-on with the game and discussed gameplay mechanics. Since then, the title has shipped at the now-normal $60 price-tag, complete with the usual nVidia partnership and a basis on Unreal Engine.
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