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Maximizing Graphics Potential

System Builder Marathon, Sept. 2010: $400 Gaming PC

We disabled DirectX 11 in DiRT 2 and switched to a lower 720p resolution, hoping to expose more reasonable settings for our Radeon HD 5670. But I still wanted to probe into the performance we left on the table by using AMD's Catalyst Control Center to overclock instead of MSI's Afterburner utility.

Here, we specifically concentrate on the point at which our more conservative overclock falls short on 3D power.

In Modern Warfare II, the overclocked $400 PC already delivers decent 1080p performance at our maximum test settings. An additional 7% performance boost isn’t too significant beyond increasing the machine's overall gaming value versus other machines.

High details in Crysis were playable at 720p, but our lowest official SBM resolution was beyond the system’s capabilities. The 8% boost isn’t shabby, but framerates are still below what we consider playable throughout the whole game.

DiRT 2 warrants more than one view. At high details without AA, the 8% performance boost seen at 1680x1050 could certain aid in smoother gaming. Cranking up to Ultra details with 8x AA, a 9% boost makes for an even better maxed-out 720p experience. The 10% boost at our lowest official SBM resolution of 1280x1024, however, still falls short of our desired target.

Lastly, an 11% increase in S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Call of Pripyat (or more specifically, 12.5% in the Sun Shafts test), provides just the performance boost needed to call our lowest official test playable.

In all, our Radeon HD 5670 had 10% more performance or so still untapped, meaning that the decision not to use a third party overclocking utility during official benchmarks handicapped the potential performance gain over stock settings by roughly half. This could impact how the overclocked $400 PC stacks up to against the higher-priced builds. What is clear, though, is that even our maxed-out Radeon HD 5670 is still unable to stand up to the demanding SBM gaming suite.

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