Battlefield 3

Its popularity aside, Battlefield 3 may be the most interesting game in our benchmark suite for a single reason: it’s the first AAA DX10+ game. It’s been 5 years since the launch of the first DX10 GPUs, and 3 whole process node shrinks later we’re finally to the point where games are using DX10’s functionality as a baseline rather than an addition. Not surprisingly BF3 is one of the best looking games in our suite, but as with past Battlefield games that beauty comes with a high performance cost

For anyone keeping score, we reran all of our numbers after the recent Battlefield 3 Radeon HD 7000 series performance patch. The results are virtually identical. While we don’t have official confirmation, we believe that DICE switched to a different FXAA codepath; however doing this doesn’t seem to have impacted the performance of the 7000 series, which is either a testament to AMD’s shader compiler, or proof that the overhead from FXAA is very low in the first place.

In any case while AMD’s BF3 performance has improved since the 7970 launch, it’s still one of their weaker games. The 7870 can hang with the GTX 570 at 1920 but the 7850 once more falls behind the GTX 560 Ti. The 7850 in particular just isn’t doing very well here, and it would be necessary to drop down in settings or in resolution to get fluid gameplay out of BF3. However at the same time we do see some further evidence of the impact of having 2GB of VRAM, as both 7800 cards improve relative to NVIDIA’s cards at 2560.

Meanwhile compared to the 6900 series, the 7800 series takes another small lead. At 19x12 without MSAA the 7870 has 5% on the 6970, while the 7850 is effectively tied with the 6950. It’s interesting to note however that relative to the 7950, the 7870 is doing very well here, trailing AMD’s faster card by less than 4%. The fact of the matter is that with the same basic frontend and the same number of ROPs, the 7870’s 1GHz core clock can significantly eat into the performance lead of the 7950 if the 7950 is primarily performance bound by either of those two rendering stages.

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  • Kiste - Monday, March 5, 2012 - link

    So, how many people do you know who would spend a few hundred bucks for a performance "sidegrade" that saves them a few bucks per year on their energy bill?

    Price/performance is still the relevant metric for most people, with everything else being secondary. Not unimportant, but secondary. Noise can also be addressed on cards with high power draw by buying a card with a custom cooler or using a 3rd party cooler.
    Reply
  • Kaboose - Monday, March 5, 2012 - link

    Some people are just entering the market, some people are coming from 3+ generations ago, some people are looking for HTPC's that can game and need low power and low temp cards that provide solid performance. It isn't a sidegrade for someone who is coming from integrated graphics or maybe a 7800GT etc. It is easy to think that everyone who buys these types of GPU's are knowledgeable and already have high performing GPU's. But that just isn't the case a lot of the time. If you have a high end 5xxx or a mid-high range 6xxx GPU already then there is no reason to upgrade, frankly with the 68xx series AMD isn't looking to grab that market. Reply
  • Kiste - Monday, March 5, 2012 - link

    If you're looking for great price/performance, there are plenty of cards that offer more bang for your bucks.

    If you're looking for raw performance, you look elsewhere, too.

    Though I'll happily concede that the 7850/7870 are great absolutely fabulous for everyone who is building a "HTPC that can game".
    Reply
  • medi01 - Monday, March 5, 2012 - link

    And exactly where do you look for raw performance, pretty please? Maybe at nVidia 570, that costs 80$, consumes more energy yet is outperformed in most tests by 7850? Reply
  • Kiste - Monday, March 5, 2012 - link

    Where would you look for raw performance? How about the 79xx line?

    And what the hell are you talking about anyway? The 7850 does not "outperform" the 570 in most tests, unless you're again back at comparing an overclocked card to a non-overclocked card. Most 570 cards can do a 15-20% OC easily, btw.

    Hell, I bought my GTX570 about 12 months ago for €289. And I'm supposed to be blown away by something like the 7870 in 2012?

    The GTX570 became available about 14 months ago. It took AMD 14 frigging month to come up with a card like the 7870 that is 9% faster on average at the same price point?

    Gee, what a marvel of technology.
    Reply
  • krumme - Monday, March 5, 2012 - link

    570 is 250% larger and 9% slower
    Its a giant leap
    talk about marvel of technology
    Your card is tech from stone age compared to a 7870.
    Old tech is old
    Reply
  • SlyNine - Monday, March 5, 2012 - link

    I'm running a 5870 which is basically 75% the performance of a 7970, and I paid 379 for the 5870. Which is also 75% of the cost of a 7970. The price of a 7970 is basically the exact same price structure as the 2 1/2 year old 5870, So we are stuck where we were in 2009, yay.

    Yea we are sure moving forward...
    Reply
  • morfinx - Monday, March 5, 2012 - link

    75% performance of 7970 would mean that it's 33% faster than a 5870. And that's just not accurate. I have a 5870 as well, so I was paying a lot of attention on how much faster the 7970 is in various reviews. Everything I've read indicates that it's anywhere from 70-110% faster at 2560x1600 resolution (I run 3600x1920, so likely even even more of a difference). That's not even even considering the massive overclocking headroom of the 7970 vs barely any OC headroom of the 5870. Overclocked, a 7970 is easily twice as fast as a 5870. Reply
  • RaistlinZ - Monday, March 5, 2012 - link

    This is true. I came from a 5870 to a 7970 and at 2560x1600 the 7970 is easily twice as fast.

    And that's even before overclocking. My 5870 could barely overclock for crap, whereas my 7970 overclocks 27% on core and 18% on memory.
    Reply
  • SlyNine - Thursday, March 8, 2012 - link

    Not according to Anandtechs benchmarks. Reply

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