Performance Test: Freelancer

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Freelancer is a game that follows in the legacy established by the Wing Commander series back in the early 90’s (Sept. 27, 1990 to be exact… was it really that long ago?). Freelancer has some gorgeous graphics matched only by the intense dogfights throughout the game.

Not the final mission in Freelancer. :)

Here we are going to test all five cards in the final mission of Freelancer. This mission in particular is rife with enemy ships, not to mention a special “environment” that adds extra burden on the video card (I’m purposely being vague as to not spoil the finale for others).


  • 1024x768x32bit, and 1600x1200x32bit trials
  • Maximum details

Freelancer 1024x768 benchmark results.
* FX5600 set to 6XS anti-aliasing. **Playable FPS: ~20 FPS or higher.

Freelancer 1600x1200 benchmark results.
* FX5600 set to 6XS anti-aliasing. **Playable FPS: ~20 FPS or higher.

General Remarks
Freelancer makes the NVIDIA cards look pretty poor when compared to the ATI based cards. As you increase your AA and AF levels, you see all NVIDIA cards drop drastically in performance, while the ATI cards maintain very playable framerates for a much longer period. However, just because the NVIDIA numbers look bad relative to the ATI numbers, it does not mean that the game is unplayable.

Radeon 9700
This card comes out on top in practically all the tests. It is only matched by its Radeon 9500 sibling at 1024×768. At high resolutions, performance does not degrade to a point where it is unplayable. Throughout testing, the Anubis fighter maneuvered gracefully even with dozens of ships swarming around the target zone.

At highest details and resolution (6xAA,16xAF, and 1600×1200), the Radeon 9700 still manages a very usable 36.5 FPS. The game looks and performs beautifully with no lag.

Radeon 9500
The Sapphire Radeon 9500 performs very well at 1024×768 resolution. At no point was there a noticeable slow-down, even with the highest AA and AF levels. However, at 1600×1200, we begin to see the card struggle.

Once at 1600×1200 with anti-aliasing 4x or higher, we see the performance drop drastically. I experienced really bad mouse lag which made it nearly impossible to hit a moving ship, and difficult to launch a torpedo properly.

You can probably get better performance if you turn down some details or tweak the driver settings a bit. However, I suspect many of you will just play with 2xAA and not worry about any performance issues.

Though the numbers for the FX5600 are not as good the Radeon 9500/9700, the FX5600 performs very well up to and including 4×8 AAxAF at 1024×768. Flight and combat is very smooth. Once past this point, however, we begin to have serious performance issues. The mouse would lag and targeting was harder.

At 1600×1200, Freelancer is playable only at 0xAA (though the reported average here is FPS is 20). At 2xAA, I experienced slight mouse lag, which meant that it may be sufficient for other missions and perhaps even playable with the driver tweaked a bit. Anything above 4xAA is unbearable.

The FX5200 is only playable up to and including 4×8 at 1024×768 screen resolution. Anything higher was not usable. 1600×1200 gaming is not possible except at 0x0 AAxAF.

The Ti4800SE performed similarly to the FX5600 except at 0x0 where it beats the FX5600 by a significant margin. However, unlike the FX5600, it was not playable at 4×8 AAxAF at 1024×768 resolution. At 1600×1200, I am able to play the game without any major issues up to and including 2×8 AAxAF. So far the Ti4800SE is proving itself an equal if not superior to the FX5600 (look at the 0x0, 2×0, and 2×8 tests at 1024×768).

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