Benchmark Results: AMD Graphics Cards, High Quality
Overcoming Teething Pains
Despite my searching, I could find no evidence that Battlefield 3 is one of Nvidia’s “The Way It’s Meant To Be Played”-sponsored games (even though the studio had a strong presence at GeForce LAN 6). As a result, I was a little surprised to encounter so many problems getting AMD-based multi-GPU configurations working.
At first, the Radeon HD 6990 wouldn’t run at all with the Catalyst 11.10 Preview 3 driver installed, locking up before I could complete any benchmark run (and on the only two boards in my collection). The Radeon HD 5970 worked, but dropped a GPU after every resolution change, requiring a game restart. A subsequent install cratered the 5970 altogether, preventing us from generating anti-aliasing scores with it. None of our two-board setups functioned at all.
Then, I spent a full day trying to drum up answers. Replacing cards, power supplies, switching motherboard slots, swapping SSDs, reformatting SSDs, installing beta Application Profiles…none of it helped. On a whim, I pulled the 16 GB (2 x 8 GB) Crucial DDR3-1333 memory kit I used for my Bulldozer review and replaced it with 8 GB of G.Skill modules. Suddenly, I could run benchmarks. They’d still crash when I changed resolutions. But I could generate results, at least.
I asked AMD what interaction CrossFire had with system memory that wasn't part of a single-card config and would cause a system memory compatibility problem, but didn't get an answer. The company did, however, confirm that it's seeing the same CrossFire-based issues in its own lab.
In this particular sequence, AMD’s Radeon HD 6990 performs exceptionally, smoking right past what we saw the GeForce GTX 590 do. It’s only a shame, then, that the 6990 and 5970 behind it are currently so unusable.
At 1680x1050, the more than two-year-old Radeon HD 5850 is a solid bet, trumping the more modern Radeon HD 6850. That’s not to say you couldn’t get playable performance out of lesser cards like the Radeon HD 5770 or 4870. You’d simply need to dial down the visuals to get there.
Maintaining High quality at 1920x1080 is still possible with a Radeon HD 5850, though you’d probably be better-served by a 5870 or Radeon HD 6900-series board.
Meanwhile, even a Radeon HD 6970 is going to have a hard time keeping up at 2560x1600. Really, it takes a dual-GPU solution to push the big frame rates at that resolution. Frankly, the same thing applies to Nvidia's line-up, though. In fact, the Radeon HD 6970 achieves a better result at 2560x1600 (and the other two resolutions) than the GeForce GTX 580!