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Benchmark Results: F1 2012 And Far Cry 3

System Builder Marathon, Q2 2013: The $400 Spirit Of Mini-ITX

F1 2012

The Pentium G860’s clock rate advantage allows the tiny build to creep up past the $500 PC in the CPU-bound High graphics preset of F1 2012.

However, our most frugal platform’s bottleneck quickly shifts when we switch to the Ultra quality preset, and the Radeon HD 7750 requires overclocking to survive each resolution without us cutting back on anti-aliasing.

Far Cry 3

This joy ride screeches to a halt when Far Cry 3’s High quality preset puts a quick hurting on the Radeon HD 7750, limiting it to 1600x900 or less. Overclocked, I played the game for a little while at 1920x1080. It was a borderline-acceptable experience, with a few dips below 30 FPS. Fine-tuning the detail settings or stepping down to 1680x1050 is a safer bet for folks more sensitive to slow-down.

CPU-bound, the $500 PC remains playable through 1920x1080, while the $650 build’s Tahiti GPU delivers a solid 4800x900 experience.

I have so many hours into testing and playing Far Cry 3 on various platforms that I know exactly what CPU and GPU combinations it takes to make me happy. For starters, a 3.3 GHz Ivy Bridge-based Core i3 is plenty. Paired with a Radeon HD 7970, frame rates never drop below 40 at 1920x1080, matching the Core i5-3570K, even when reduced to 2x MSAA.

However, subjected to 4x MSAA, our $650 PC's Tahiti-based Radeon HD 7870 requires a mild overclock to maintain satisfactory performance, averaging 36 FPS and never dropping below 32. Had it needed more, there was still headroom available (if I was willing to sacrifice more heat and noise).

I also know that an overclocked Radeon HD 7850 can handle Ultra quality at 1920x1080, but only when I drop to 2x MSAA and use a capable quad-threaded processor. The older $500 PC, overclocked, necessitated dropping to Very High quality. Those settings also push the limits of a stock Radeon HD 7850, and stepping up from Pentium to last quarter's Core i5 does little to help until we overclock.

The point I’m getting at is that neither the Pentium G860 nor the Radeon HD 7750 is capable of Ultra quality settings, but the weakest link in this game is by far the graphics card. The $500 rig’s Pentium and Radeon HD 7850 are far more capable.

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