Battlefield 3 Performance: 30+ Graphics Cards, Benchmarked

Battlefield 3 Is Good For PC Gaming….

…and now I’m looking forward to catching up with the rest of you who’ve enjoyed the game over the last week while I was benchmarking. I have all of this hardware from which to choose. So, what am I going to put back together for my own Battlefield 3 gaming rig?

Processor-wise, it doesn’t really matter. I could pick an AMD FX, an Intel Core i3, or a Core i7 and get the same performance. I’ll probably throw a Core i5-2400 on a Z68-based motherboard just because the former rarely needs to be used for testing and I have spares of the latter. I’ll likely drop in a pair of GeForce GTX 570s for Ultra quality on a 24” (1920x1080) screen. And I’ll definitely use an SSD.

That’s not something I really tested for in this piece, but Dice does do a lot of object mesh and texture streaming during multiplayer levels. Minimizing level loads and the time you spend looking at a Saving prompt really encourages the use of faster storage.

One last thing that needs to be mentioned: I made it about five levels into the single-player campaign before buckling down to benchmark. I have a lot of data here based on that 90-second snapshot where there is no running, jumping, or magazine-emptying combat.

A distinction even has to be made between this single-player experience and what you’re almost certain to see in a multi-player map. I’ve seen benchmarks from the multiplayer beta where there’s more of a hit incurred dropping down a given processor vendor’s stack. What’s most clear there and here, however, is processor performance takes a back seat to graphics potential.

But this sequence is friggin consistent. So, when you compare frame rates, keep relative performance in mind, and not the absolute numbers attained here, which are guaranteed to range both up and down, depending on what you’re doing in Battlefield 3.

AMD And Nvidia: Two Disappointments

I had my own issues in testing for this story, and they are summed up in two points: AMD’s CrossFire support and Nvidia’s image quality on DirectX 10-based cards.

AMD first. Apparently, prior to launch, the company had everything running swimmingly. We do know that Dice pushed out a 222 MB v.1.01 patch prior to Battlefield 3 going live, though, and perhaps it broke something. Regardless, shortly before publication, AMD confirmed it had replicated my problems with CrossFire and was trying to figure out what happened. Should the company fix this issue with haste, maintaining excellent scaling, it’ll emerge a favorite for its exceptional performance.

I’m not sure what’s going on with Nvidia’s Low Terrain Quality setting in DirectX 10, but it looks really bad. AMD’s Radeon HD 4870 didn’t exhibit the same artifacts, so I have to assume this is fixable in software. Until that happens, I’d be inclined to stay away from anything in the GeForce 200 series or older. Fortunately, the GeForce GTX 400- and 500-series cards look great, run well, and take a much smaller hit when you apply MSAA than AMD’s boards.

A special thanks to the Tom's Hardware readers who engaged with me on Twitter to help shape the direction of this story as I tested. If want to play a more active role in the projects we tackle, make suggestions on the tests we run, or simply share your enthusiast for hardware technology, please join me!

Chris Angelini
Chris Angelini is an Editor Emeritus at Tom's Hardware US. He edits hardware reviews and covers high-profile CPU and GPU launches.
  • kyosuke
    pffft. My HD 6870 handles Ultra maxed just fine!
  • jrnyfan
    Great review, thank you very much!
  • great review. but I am curious if a gtx 560ti can run ultra on a playable fps? because I am about to buy one :D
  • orellius
    nevermind my comment about 560 Ti, I see it in the benchmarks (high) but it is not on the main page list of cards (missed putting it there?) (yes, I used the search feature in my browser, no 560 to speak of)
  • orellius
    blah, I guess my first comment didnt come through, nevermind then! ha
  • spentshells
    Wow does it look good, I played the demo on Xbox did it ever look dumb
  • m0th2
    sirus3020great review. but I am curious if a gtx 560ti can run ultra on a playable fps? because I am about to buy one
    Without any form of AA you can run it on ultra and get over 30fps on every map @ 1920x1080 easily (over 60 when close quarters). Depends on your cpu and if you OC your gpu though. i have mine at 940/2100 and its always above 40fps.
  • kcorp2003
    AWESOME! thank you very much for this. looks like i wont have to upgrade my CPU then. i have HD4870 and i play this on medium settings but still i want the ultra settings. :)
  • aznshinobi
    Great read, lovely to see a wide assortment tested, specially my 5850. Thanks for taking the time Chris, I'm sure it must've taken FOREVER to bench and swap all those cards.
  • canadian87
    Frikkin' finally, now I can upgrade safely. :)