Results: Arma 3 And Battlefield 4
Based on reader feedback, I dug deeper into Arma 3 on both gaming-oriented machines and found the "Infantry" showcase isn't hard enough on these inexpensive CPUs. Other parts of the game, especially larger Altis maps, can absolutely hammer the CPU.
My newest PC survives through 1920x1080 at standard defaults, but struggles at times to deliver smooth performance across three panels. And it’s not the resolution hammering frame rates, but rather the increased processing load that comes from this wider aspect ratio.
At 4800x900, the configuration with the stock Athlon X4 750K has its frame rate drop into the teens at times. Overclocking the graphics card yields no improvements. The only way to help smooth out performance was increasing the Trinity-based APU's frequency.
Arma 3's Ultra preset proved too much for the Athlon and Radeon combination, no matter what Showcase level I loaded. At times, the frame rate was pinned in the teens, even limited to a low resolution like 1280x720.
The Core i3 I used in last quarter's System Builder Marathon is as mainstream as you'd want to get for this detail level. At 1920x1080, it enabled 50-100%-higher frame rates, typically staying above 30 FPS with occasional dips lower.
I’ve played through Battlefield 4’s entire single-player campaign on modest gaming systems, and am confident that a ~40 FPS average in this demanding sequence represents playability throughout.
Both machines breeze through the game’s Medium quality preset, serving up playable performance all the way through 4800x900.
It’s no surprise that our Athlon-powered PC caves in earlier under the graphical demands of Ultra-quality details. Thankfully, the machine remains playable through 1600x900.
Performance at my 1920x1080 target is slower than I'd like, even after overclocking. Simply dropping to 2x MSAA helps nudge average frame rates back up into the mid 40s. At that point, minimums stay above 30 FPS.
A smooth experience in Battlefield 4 with maxed-out graphics is not easy to achieve across three displays. Even last quarter's faster (and more expensive) rig required more mainstream settings at 4800x900, despite its beefy GeForce GTX 770.