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

Part 1: 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 both of our 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. 

The dual-GPU cards lead the way, pulling 50+ FPS in the Sun Shafts test. But as long as we step above the Radeon HD 4850 on the graphics side, all of the platforms are capable of handling Ultra details at 1280x1024. Despite trading blows with the Radeon HD 4890, the GeForce GTX 285 provided 36.5-37 FPS in the Sun Shafts test; in each case, approximately 3 FPS higher than the Radeon HD 4980.  

At 1680x1050, the GeForce GTX 260 and Radeon HD 4890 both fall below the target line, leaving only the GeForce GTX 285 left standing with the two dual-GPU cards. CPU muscle has little effect on the Sun Shafts frame rates, and the GeForce GTX 285 reaches 30 FPS with each CPU, although it takes a pairing with the E8400 to reach our average target. While the Radeon HD 4870 X2 leads in overall score, it manages 42-43 FPS in the most demanding test, while the GeForce GTX 295 comes out on top with 45-47 FPS.  

Only the big boys remain playable at 1920x1200. Scoring roughly 37 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 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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