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Part 3: Building A Balanced Gaming PC

Benchmark Results: Crysis


First up is Crysis. Although this first-person shooter was released in November of 2007, it still arguably represents one of the most graphically-demanding games out there. We needed to settle for less-than-maximum eye candy just to achieve any level of playability, so our compromise was to test at Very High detail levels and no AA, rather than drop to high details and enable AA.

Utilizing our normal benchmark tool provides a good combination of graphical eye candy and physics effects. Our typical target has been 40 FPS, but we put that foregone conclusion to the test in preparation for this series, playing and FRAPS benchmarking numerous configurations in three of the most demanding levels of the game.

The 40 FPS target remains our recommendation. Although Crysis is still quite playable at less than 40 FPS, there will be areas in levels like “Paradise Lost” and “Assault” where framerates will drop into the mid 20s. We feel the 40 FPS recommendation is a safe bet for acceptable performance, although the possibility still exists that stuttering during the game’s closing battle in “Reckoning” could require settings to be tuned down just a bit.

The Intel Pentium E6300 was the only one of the seven processors tested in Parts 1 and 2 that fell in the “too little CPU” quadrant at our lowest resolution. We fully expected overclocking would change this, but it’s surprising just how much the nearly 3.9 GHz E6300 is limiting the performance of the GeForce GTX 285 and up. Pairing with the overclocked GeForce GTX 295, for instance, brings just borderline-playable performance, when in Part 1, the stock GTX 295 and Core i7-920 managed to average 58 FPS.

However, overclocking this inexpensive dual-core processor does allow us to tap the full potential of the Radeon HD 4890, making for the most affordable pairing to reach our target performance level. Some gamers may find a highly-overclocked GeForce GTX 260 acceptable here, but our factory overclocked model still fell 3 FPS shy of the mark.

If you are looking to dig out Crysis and see it in all its glory, prepare to drop a good chunk of change dedicated to graphics. The Radeon HD 5870 is the only one of our single-GPU cards to remain playable at even a modest 1680x1050 resolution. Luckily if you are willing to overclock, adequate performance can still be squeezed even paired with an inexpensive CPU.

Getting the full potential from a GeForce GTX 295 requires pairing with a quad-core processor, while Radeon HD 5970 owners will find even a high-clocked Core 2 Duo can do the trick.

Our overclocked Radeon HD 5870 would likely still handle 1080p quite well, but 1920x1200 tempts us to bump up voltages and seek higher graphics core speeds. The reality is that at this resolution, we have now entered dual-GPU territory. The Pentium E6300 does manage to deliver playable performance here, but we certainly can’t recommend pairing it with a $700 graphics solution.

All of today’s platforms fall far short, as we simply do not have the graphics muscle needed for 2560x1600. Performance occasionally slows to a crawl, causing the sporadic variations in the GeForce cards.