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Battlefield 3 Performance: 30+ Graphics Cards, Benchmarked

Battlefield 3 Reinvigorates PC Gaming

You’re given a choice between two AAA titles launched within a month of each other: Battlefield 3 or Rage? Hey, and don’t forget Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 coming out in a little more than a week.

Predictably, the decision is going to come down to preferences. Do you relish the thought of multiplayer camaraderie with your buddies, or a more comprehensive single-player experience? Visceral combat or sci-fi? Designed for PC or ported over from the console world?

Zing. I don’t mean to be trite, but that really matters to me. I’m no game reviewer; I’m a hardware guy. So, I spend night after night benchmarking the latest and greatest. I don’t always get to play games, but when I do, I enjoy seeing high-end hardware deliver ever-more realistic experiences.

Battlefield 3 looks good to me in a way that makes me excited to play it. Battlefield 3 was designed for the PC first, and the outcome reflects that in a way made more noticeable by its sharp contrast to Rage.

A Four-Day Data Dump

Truth be told, though, I haven’t even made it very far into playing Battlefield 3. I was online as it went live with one goal: to find a sequence that could be benchmarked reliably (hard to do in a multi-player environment of any sort) and then generate data with it using the extensive hardware collection in our lab.

What I have here is performance information gleaned from 30 individual graphics cards as powerful as AMD’s Radeon HD 6990 and Nvidia’s GeForce GTX 590 down to the GeForce 8500 GT and Radeon HD 4670. I have quad-GPU results from both vendors (along with other SLI- and CrossFire-based numbers), plus a look at how performance is affected by in-game anti-aliasing settings. There’s also a brief look at CPU scaling (brief because, at least in the campaign, processor performance is so de-emphasized).

It would have been nice to break down the effect of every single image quality setting in Battlefield 3, similar to what I did in World Of Warcraft: Cataclysm--Tom's Performance Guide (there are a lot of them, after all). However, that piece involved a colossal two-week effort, which Blizzard supported with early access to the expansion. Here, we were only able to jump on Monday night, just like everyone else. So, we generated the performance data as quickly as possible, leaving you to more granularly tune your Battlefield 3 experience with the many knobs and dials that Dice exposes.

We have a mess to clean up...

With that in mind, let’s take a look at the long list of hardware involved in today’s massive performance comparison.

  • kyosuke
    pffft. My HD 6870 handles Ultra maxed just fine!
    Reply
  • jrnyfan
    Great review, thank you very much!
    Reply
  • 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
    Reply
  • 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)
    Reply
  • orellius
    blah, I guess my first comment didnt come through, nevermind then! ha
    Reply
  • spentshells
    Wow does it look good, I played the demo on Xbox did it ever look dumb
    Reply
  • 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.
    Reply
  • 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. :)
    Reply
  • 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.
    Reply
  • canadian87
    Frikkin' finally, now I can upgrade safely. :)
    Reply