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Benchmark Results: Battlefield 3

System Builder Marathon, Q4 2012: $500 Gaming PC
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The very foundation for today’s comparison is how these two machines measure up in the games shared between last quarter's benchmark suite and the this quarter's: Battlefield 3 and The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim.

Battlefield 3

Battlefield 3’s single-player campaign is the most graphically demanding test in our current gaming suite, giving our new build its biggest opportunity to shine. There are more taxing sequences in this game than our 90-second Fraps test, so I shoot for an average of 45 frames per second as a minimum target.

At medium detail levels, and without anti-aliasing applied, our current build leads last quarter's by more than 12 FPS on average in the four tested resolutions. It in fact, even at stock settings, it beats our best attempts to overclock Nvidia's GeForce GTX 560 across the board.

The most impressive victory comes from the overclocked Radeon HD 7850 at 1920x1080, where it averages more than 100 FPS and bests the overclocked GeForce GTX 560 by more than 40%. When we bought them, each of these cards claimed the same $170 of our system budget.

We already determined that an overclocked GeForce GTX 560 or GTX 560 Ti is the lowest-end card you'd want to play through Battlefield 3's single-player campaign at 1680x1050 using the Ultra quality preset. Last quarter, we picked up about 15%-higher frame rates from our graphics card overclock, but that still wasn't enough to make 1920x1080 viable.

Our current PC is 20% faster at 1680x1050 and 1920x1080. And, after a run through of the demanding “Operation Guillotine” level, we're calling it playable at our highest test settings, even if there were brief drops down into the mid-20 to low-30 FPS.

Thankfully, we didn’t need to settle for borderline playability. In story form, we had barely begun to tap the Radeon HD 7850's full potential. Using last quarter's stock machine as our baseline, we squeezed 50%-higher frame rates (on average) out of the four tested resolutions. More important, the gains were greater-than-50% at the two resolutions most interesting to us. At 1920x1080, performance during “Operation Guillotine” rarely dipped below 40 FPS!

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