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Part 3: Building A Balanced Gaming PC

Benchmark Results: Grand Theft Auto IV

Grand Theft Auto IV

The amount of available memory for each graphics core determines the detail levels Grand Theft Auto (GTA) IV allows to be used. Rather than bypassing this constraint, we basically cranked settings for the 896MB per GPU available on the GeForce GTX 260 and GTX 295. Note that, here, if you were using cards with 1GB per graphics processor, you could further raise Shadows to Very High and set view distance to 30%.

I was totally new to the GTA series when I started work on this project. But having heard the voices of readers wanting to see this game added to the benchmark suite, I obliged. The first order of business was to play the game on various configurations and get accustomed to the expected performance and hardware requirements. We again use the game’s built-in benchmark and shoot for a target of 40 FPS. Some time spent playing on our tested platforms indicated that systems capable of reaching this target were at least playable, providing 30+ FPS during intensive gameplay, with just the occasional dip into the mid 20s. Whether in-game or running the benchmark, GTA IV doesn’t seem push graphics cards all that hard.

GTA IV is clearly the most CPU/system-limited game we have visited thus far, as performance for all graphics cards are pretty much bunched tight together. The overclocked Pentium E6300 is able to provide 50+ FPS on average, but it’s clear this CPU is holding back even our lowest tested video card. If you are seeking balance, opt for a high-clocked Core 2 Duo, or better yet a processor with more cores.

Pretty much the same results are seen at 1680x1050, although a bit more spacing is evident between graphics cards.

Again, the Pentium E 6300 + Radeon HD 5750 get the job done. Given enough CPU horsepower, though, a GeForce GTX 260 or Radeon HD 4890 offer a far greater level of performance.

At stock clocks, the GeForce GTX 260 completely fell below the mark at 2560x1600, but the factory-overclocked card sits comfortably above the line paired with Intel's Core 2 Duo E8400 or quad-core processors.

If you are stuck with a weaker CPU, the Radeon HD 4890 looks to be the better route to go. Safer yet, pair a quad-core CPU with either the GeForce GTX 285 or Radeon HD 5870 for even smoother gameplay. Also remember that cards with 1GB of graphics RAM allow slightly higher detail levels than what we are able to run with the 896MB frame buffer of the GeForce GTX 260 and GTX 295.