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Part 4: Building A Balanced Gaming PC

Benchmark Results: Crysis


First up…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.

This resolution has belonged to the Radeon HD 4890 and any of the nine overclocked processors visited thus far prove to be a good match. Paired with enough processor muscle, the Radeon HD 5870 is able to provide an additional 14 FPS on average. At this low resolution, it’s only with the Core i7 that the two dual-GPU cards are able to pull away from the Radeon HD 5870.

We see mixed results comparing the cheapest two AMD processors. The GeForce GTX 295 continues to be a poor solution for dual-core processors, while most of the other cards benefit from the Phenom II X2’s L3 cache more than from the Athlon II X4’s extra cores.

If you are looking to dig out Crysis and see it in all of its glory, prepare to drop a good chunk of change on 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 from an inexpensive CPU. Reaching our target with the GeForce GTX 295 requires a platform boasting four or more processing cores, while the Radeon HD 5970 again looks to suffer from the Athlon II’s lack of L3 cache.

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 of the situation is that, at this resolution, we have now entered dual-GPU territory. While the GeForce GTX 295 and Athlon II X4 640 are the cheapest combo to crest our target line, we see a dual-core Phenom II and Radeon HD 5970 pairing offer more performance.

At 1920x1200, we have sufficient GPU demands to no longer see any gain from stepping up to the overclocked Core i7. So basically, the overclocked Phenom II X4 955 BE is all the CPU needed to squeeze maximum performance from the top two graphics cards.

All of today’s platforms fall far short of offering playable performance at 2560x1600. Once again, framerates occasionally slowed to a crawl, causing the sporadic variations on the GeForce cards.