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Benchmark Results: S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Clear Sky

Part 2: Building A Balanced Gaming PC
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S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Clear Sky

S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Clear Sky represents the second game that is so graphically intensive, we are unable to maximize the quality details and enable AA at the same time. The game is not known for being well-threaded, so any of our tested dual-core CPUs are capable of delivering playable performance. In essence, what’s going to determine playability in S.T.A.L.K.E.R. is having enough GPU muscle for the resolution at which you hope to game at.

We typically use an average of the four scores given by the stand-alone benchmark to measure S.T.A.L.K.E.R. performance. But for this story, we spent some time playing the game on various hardware, and then came close to utilizing a FRAPS benchmark run instead. Unlike Crysis, you do not really need to get far into S.T.A.L.K.E.R. before the game shows your hardware just what it’s going to be up against. All that it takes is exiting a building for the first time while the morning sun rays shine into camp.

In the end, we still found the benchmark tool useful for this series, but we needed to set the minimum target at 45 FPS on average. In every scenario benchmarked, if the overall average was 45 FPS, the “Sun Shafts” test averaged about 30 FPS. Playing the game at these settings still results in areas where the frame rates drop to the mid 20s, but overall still seemed to represent what we could consider playable performance.  For gamers with higher playability demands, we will also try to mention platforms capable of maintaining even higher/smoother frame rates in the Sun Shafts test.

Clearly, the results here are mainly GPU-limited, with a slight performance curve resulting from the core speed of the CPU. Pairing the GeForce GTX 260 with the Phenom II X2 550 BE is the most affordable solution to reach our target, and if you want more performance, dedicate a larger budget for graphics.

At 1680x1050, the GeForce GTX 285 is the only single-GPU card offering acceptable performance. Forget spending extra on the CPU. If you want more performance, the Radeon HD 4870 X2 delivers the highest overall score, while the GeForce GTX 295 delivers the highest “Sun Shafts” performance.

As in Part 1, only the big boys remain playable at 1920x1200. Scoring roughly 37-39 FPS, Nvidia's GeForce GTX 295 leads by a couple of frames per second in the demanding Sun Shafts test, while the Radeon HD 4870 X2 again takes the other three tests, resulting in the highest overall average score. 

While not as bad as the beating taken in Crysis, none of the graphics cards handles S.T.A.L.K.E.R. at this resolution. The Radeon HD 4870 X2 is reduced to 24 FPS in the Sun Shafts test, while the GeForce GTX 295 manages 26 FPS. 

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