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Part 4: 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 us to use. Rather than bypassing this constraint, we basically cranked settings for the 896 MB per GPU available on the GeForce GTX 260 and GTX 295. Note that, here, if you were using cards with 1 GB per graphics processor, you could additionally 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 game play, 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 tightly together. The overclocked Phenom II X2 550 Black Edition 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 in this game, chose a processor with more cores.

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

The overclocked Radeon HD 5750 can still get the job done at 1920x1200 paired with any of the CPUs, but given enough processing horsepower, a GeForce GTX 260 or Radeon HD 4890 offers a vastly superior level of performance.

At stock clocks, the GeForce GTX 260 had completely fallen below the mark at 2560x1600, but the factory-overclocked card sits comfortably above the line, besting the Radeon HD 4890 when paired with four or more processing cores. The Radeon HD 5870 averaged similar performance with each CPU, but it's likely that factoring in minimum framerates would still favor the higher-end processors. When matched up to a capable-enough CPU, the GeForce GTX 285 could be swapped in for equal performance. Remember, cards with 1 GB of graphics RAM would allow slightly higher detail levels than what we are able to run with the 896 MB frame buffer of the GeForce GTX 260 and GTX 295.