Benchmarks: FPS, Frame Time & Smoothness
DiRT 4 does not include an integrated benchmark, so we had to come up with our own reproducible sequence for graphics card testing. We settled on the Wales map, and used a rally course generated by the game's “Your Stage” custom creator. The level is relatively rich in vegetation and proved quite taxing, slowing down more noticeably than some of the game's most complex circuits. This was quite a surprise to us.
Performance Versus Detail Level - 1080p
First, let’s take a look at the impact of various detail settings on the fastest and slowest cards in our line-up (that'd be the Radeon R9 390 and RX 460 2GB). Given what we said earlier about the Very Low preset forcing severe sacrifices in quality, we're excluding it altogether.
It is no surprise that higher detail presets negatively affect performance. You can drop to High using the Radeon R9 390 and have a completely playable experience. But if you want the same from a Radeon RX 460, you'll have to use the Medium or Low quality settings.
Ultra Quality - 1080p
Seeing as how the game is supposed to run well on fairly modest hardware configurations, we decided to test it at 1920x1080 using the Ultra preset, 8x MSAA, and 16x AF.
Surprise: the Radeon R9 390 pulls ahead of AMD's RX 480! Meanwhile, Nvidia's GeForce GTX 1060 6GB and GTX 970 do battle with the RX 470. Our GeForce GTX 1060 3GB is a step behind; it can’t seem to average 30 frames per second.
It's frankly impossible to play on the GTX 1050 2GB or RX 460 2GB with these settings. That's what we'd expect, though, given the mainstream status of both boards.
High Quality - 1080p
Drop to High quality if you want DiRT 4 to be playable on a GeForce GTX 1050 2GB or Radeon RX 460 2GB with 4x MSAA and 8x AF enabled.
The rest of the field consistently exceeds 60 frames per second, but only AMD's Radeon R9 390 averages at least 90 frames per second.
Ultra Quality + EQAA (Radeon) - 1080p
DiRT 4 offers Radeon users an anti-aliasing mode called EQAA (Enhanced Quality Anti Aliasing) that goes one step beyond MSAA. Naturally, applying EQAA imposes an even more taxing workload on our graphics cards. But we wanted to know how bad it'd get by comparing 8x MSAA with 8f16x EQAA.
Only the Radeon R9 390 exceeds an average of 40 frames per second with these settings.
Of course, it is still impossible to play with the RX 460 2GB. Our RX 470 is largely unplayable, and even the RX 480 shows sign of weakness.
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Another thing: Why are the shadows so much sharper at High than at Ultra?
Edit: seeing as how the Asus 6GB 1060 bests the 3GB Gigabyte version, in spite of having less aggressive clocks, I guess I have my answer. Glad I sprung for the 4GB model.
Softer shadows are more natural looking. It is always like this when raising the settings. You get more softer shadows.
Yeah this is a disappointment compared to DiRT Rally which I was an early access adopter of. It is extremely easy on the GPU and at 1440p maxed out everything and 4xMSAA, the built-in bench with my SLI 970s overclocked to 980 reference performance showed ~120fps average. VRAM allocation according to Afterburner was around 2.2GB max. About the same for Grid Autosport as well. Single 970 results in the tests were in the 70s on average and never dipping below 60FPS in minimum.
Compare ^that^ to the 970 results at only 1080p of this game. Codemasters got sloppy with DiRT 4 it appears. Great gameplay, but from my viewpoint, the increased consumption of GPU resources is disappointing for the results. And what's up with CM ditching the built-in game benchmark they've had in Autosport, Rally, and earlier F1 versions? I'll relinquish this one to PS4 duty. Slack console port attempt. Disappointing, CM.
The shadows are also softer at lower settings though. And they seem to be lower res, such that features are lost (beyond what a bit of softness would warrant).