Closing Thoughts and More to Come

Beta Game Headaches

Keeping in mind that this is a beta, and that this is why they have betas in the first place, anything I complain about here is likely to get written off in that vein.  First, the web client is kind of a pain and the fact that your game always starts in a window is kind of annoying.  Also, the fact that you cannot change game settings without first deploying and putting yourself and your team in danger really must be changed and makes me doubt that they were really thinking about the PC platform "first" in the case.

Still, for day one I found the game to be relatively stable (except with our issue with the Radeon HD 6970 mentioned before) and a hell of a lot of fun.


Both NVIDIA and AMD are going to love what Battlefield 3 does for their sales – and what it might have done already.  I have gotten more emails and questions on our podcast as well as TWICH (This Week in Computer Hardware) about upgrades for BF3 in the last 3 months than I can remember so I know it is a hot topic for the gaming community.  Based on my initial performance evaluation it seems that the worries were at least somewhat warranted – a GTX 560 Ti, currently selling for about $220, doesn’t quite cut it at "Ultra" quality settings in my book. 

The GTX 580 and Radeon HD 6970 users should have no problem maxing out the settings in most cases though again we are still waiting for the 64 player maps to open so we can see how that affects PC performance.

Let’s take a look at current card pricing and performance:

  • Card – Price – Indoor / Outdoor FPS
  • ASUS MARS II Dual GTX 580 – $1400 – 85.8 / 74.6 FPS
  • GeForce GTX 580 – $470 – 51.6 / 42.9 FPS
  • Radeon HD 6970 – $350 – 50.5 / XX FPS
  • GeForce GTX 570 – $320 – 49.3 / 36.9 FPS
  • Radeon HD 6950 – $270 – 40.6 / 34.2 FPS
  • GeForce GTX 560 Ti – $220 – 42.7 / 30.7 FPS
  • Radeon HD 6870 – $180 – 34.3 / 27.8 FPS

The pricing stack of these cards tested puts an interesting spin on things.  The GTX 570 and the Radeon HD 6970 seem to go nearly head-to-head in cost while the HD 6950 sits all by itself between the GTX 560 Ti and the GTX 570.  Also, the HD 6870 is pretty big cost jump down from the GTX 560 Ti.  If we look at a value of cost per FPS (dollar per frame per second) then this is the break down where the lower the cost, the better:

  • Card – Indoor / Outdoor Cost (lower is better)
  • ASUS MARS II Dual GTX 580 – $16.31 | $18.76
  • GeForce GTX 580 – $8.37 | $10.95
  • Radeon HD 6970 – $6.93 | XX
  • GeForce GTX 570 – $6.49 | $8.67
  • Radeon HD 6950 – $6.65 | $7.89
  • GeForce GTX 560 Ti – $5.15 | $7.16
  • Radeon HD 6870 – $5.24 | $6.47

Wow, this is really making things more complicated though, isn’t it?  If we look at the HD 6970 and the GTX 570 on the outdoor scene (since the indoor section crashed on the AMD solution) you can see that the GTX 570 is actually a slightly better deal that both the HD 6970 and the HD 6950.  On the outdoor scene that result flips and the HD 6950 is the better value than the GTX 570. The unfortunate part of this scale is that as the price goes down in our card selection it LOOKS like the best deal is the HD 6870 – our rating doesn’t take the playability of the experience into account.  So this is just another factor of many to consider when it comes to making your purchase. 

Overall I think the NVIDIA cards are currently offering just a bit better experience than the AMD cards due to my instability with the HD 6970 and the better multi-GPU scaling being reported with SLI than CrossFire.  But with so much time between now and the final game release, that could shift or remain the same depending on the driver work each team puts in.

Update (9/29/11): We have new performance results for the GeForce GTX 460, Radeon HD 5850 and even the GeForce 9800 GT!  Be sure you find those on the last page of our article!

Update 2 (9/30/11): We have some quick results from our time on the Caspian Border map as well if you are interested – check them out!

Image Quality

Battlefield 3 definitely looks good, though perhaps not as good as the trailers would have led us to believe.  I’m not surprised by that.  I am surprised by how good the game looks in not only Ultra settings but also in High and Medium settings.  It appears to me that DICE decided to set the bar higher in terms of required hardware in order to not sacrifice on image quality in a large way.  

Is that the right call?  Hard to say, but if you wanted to play BF3 with image quality something like Battlefield 2 with older hardware, it looks like that might not be possible.

Also, I am hearing that it might be the case that DICE left out some of the most advanced image quality features for the beta and if that is the case, the Ultra quality levels might be harder on your hardware than we are showing here.  If that is the case, we will update our testing and let you know!

Further Testing

We aren’t done testing Battlefield 3 yet – we have lots more to do.  First, we’d like to see the larger maps and see how vehicles and having 64 players affects gaming performance.  I’d also like to spend more time looking at how the processor affects BF3 performance and if upgrading in that direction will make much of a difference.

And obviously we want to test more cards – and we are open to suggestions in our comments below – including things like the GeForce 9800 GT for those of you REALLY long in tooth and maybe the GTX 260 and GTX 460 – both great sellers in their day.  AMD has quite a backlog of cards to test out as well including the Radeon HD 5000 series including the HD 5800 cards that were the most popular of the last few years.  

I also want to see just how much performance we can get back by dropping from Ultra to High settings, or to Medium, since we aren’t seeing THAT dramatic of image quality differences.  I am guessing performance differences will be just as minimal, but if they aren’t it might make more sense to run at lower settings rather than Ultra.

Closing Thoughts

As you can see we have a lot more to do and not a lot of time to do it.  So excuse us as we get back to playing some Batt, er I mean testing some Battlefield 3. 

If you have any questions, comments or suggestions for our follow up to this story, please leave them in the comments below!!

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