Gaming Benchmarks: High End

Alien: Isolation

If first person survival mixed with horror is your sort of thing, then Alien: Isolation, based off of the Alien franchise, should be an interesting title. Developed by The Creative Assembly and released in October 2014, Alien: Isolation has won numerous awards from Game Of The Year to several top 10s/25s and Best Horror titles, ratcheting up over a million sales by February 2015. Alien: Isolation uses a custom built engine which includes dynamic sound effects and should be fully multi-core enabled.

For low end graphics, we test at 720p with Ultra settings, whereas for mid and high range graphics we bump this up to 1080p, taking the average frame rate as our marker with a scripted version of the built-in benchmark.

Alien Isolation on MSI R9 290X Gaming LE 4GB ($380)

Alien Isolation on ASUS GTX 980 Strix 4GB ($560)

Total War: Attila

The Total War franchise moves on to Attila, another The Creative Assembly development, and is a stand-alone strategy title set in 395AD where the main story line lets the gamer take control of the leader of the Huns in order to conquer parts of the world. Graphically the game can render hundreds/thousands of units on screen at once, all with their individual actions and can put some of the big cards to task.

For low end graphics, we test at 720p with performance settings, recording the average frame rate. With mid and high range graphics, we test at 1080p with the quality setting. In both circumstances, unlimited video memory is enabled and the in-game scripted benchmark is used.

Total War: Attila on MSI R9 290X Gaming LE 4GB ($380)

Total War: Attila on ASUS GTX 980 Strix 4GB ($560)

Grand Theft Auto V

The highly anticipated iteration of the Grand Theft Auto franchise finally hit the shelves on April 14th 2015, with both AMD and NVIDIA in tow to help optimize the title. GTA doesn’t provide graphical presets, but opens up the options to users and extends the boundaries by pushing even the hardest systems to the limit using Rockstar’s Advanced Game Engine. Whether the user is flying high in the mountains with long draw distances or dealing with assorted trash in the city, when cranked up to maximum it creates stunning visuals but hard work for both the CPU and the GPU.

For our test we have scripted a version of the in-game benchmark, relying only on the final part which combines a flight scene along with an in-city drive-by followed by a tanker explosion. For low end systems we test at 720p on the lowest settings, whereas mid and high end graphics play at 1080p with very high settings across the board. We record both the average frame rate and the percentage of frames under 60 FPS (16.6ms).

Grand Theft Auto V on MSI R9 290X Gaming LE 4GB ($380) Grand Theft Auto V on MSI R9 290X Gaming LE 4GB ($380) [Under 60 FPS]

Grand Theft Auto V on ASUS GTX 980 Strix 4GB ($560) Grand Theft Auto V on ASUS GTX 980 Strix 4GB ($560) [Under 60 FPS]

GRID: Autosport

No graphics tests are complete without some input from Codemasters and the EGO engine, which means for this round of testing we point towards GRID: Autosport, the next iteration in the GRID and racing genre. As with our previous racing testing, each update to the engine aims to add in effects, reflections, detail and realism, with Codemasters making ‘authenticity’ a main focal point for this version.

GRID’s benchmark mode is very flexible, and as a result we created a test race using a shortened version of the Red Bull Ring with twelve cars doing two laps. The car is focus starts last and is quite fast, but usually finishes second or third. For low end graphics we test at 1080p medium settings, whereas mid and high end graphics get the full 1080p maximum. Both the average and minimum frame rates are recorded.

GRID: Autosport on MSI R9 290X Gaming LE 4GB ($380) GRID: Autosport on MSI R9 290X Gaming LE 4GB ($380) [Minimum FPS] 

GRID: Autosport on ASUS GTX 980 Strix 4GB ($560) GRID: Autosport on ASUS GTX 980 Strix 4GB ($560) [Minimum FPS]

Middle-Earth: Shadows of Mordor

The final title in our testing is another battle of system performance with the open world action-adventure title, Shadows of Mordor. Produced by Monolith using the LithTech Jupiter EX engine and numerous detail add-ons, SoM goes for detail and complexity to a large extent, despite having to be cut down from the original plans. The main story itself was written by the same writer as Red Dead Redemption, and it received Zero Punctuation’s Game of The Year in 2014.

For testing purposes, SoM gives a dynamic screen resolution setting, allowing us to render at high resolutions that are then scaled down to the monitor. As a result, we get several tests using the in-game benchmark. For low end graphics we examine at 720p with low settings, whereas mid and high end graphics get 1080p Ultra. The top graphics test is also redone at 3840x2160, also with Ultra settings, and we also test two cards at 4K where possible.

Shadows of Mordor on MSI R9 290X Gaming LE 4GB ($380) Shadows of Mordor on MSI R9 290X Gaming LE 4GB ($380) [Minimum FPS]

Shadows of Mordor on MSI R9 290X Gaming LE 4GB ($380) Shadows of Mordor on MSI R9 290X Gaming LE 4GB ($380) [Minimum FPS]

Shadows of Mordor on ASUS GTX 980 Strix 4GB ($560) Shadows of Mordor on ASUS GTX 980 Strix 4GB ($560) [Minimum FPS]

Shadows of Mordor on ASUS GTX 980 Strix 4GB ($560) Shadows of Mordor on ASUS GTX 980 Strix 4GB ($560) [Minimum FPS]

Shadows of Mordor, Dual-GPU

Shadows of Mordor on 2x MSI R9 290X Gaming LE 4GB ($380)

Shadows of Mordor on 2x MSI R9 290X Gaming LE 4GB ($380) [Minimum FPS]

Conclusions on High-End Graphics

Moving to faster GPUs and higher resolutions pushes the burden away from the processor and more onto the graphics cards, so as a result some of the titles here, on some GPU combinations, see little gain moving up through the processor stack. That being said, some titles (like Alien Isolation, GRID and Mordor on a GTX 980) love the horse power under the hood and AMD can have a hard time keeping up here against the blue team. I wouldn’t be surprised if AMD is hoping that DirectX 12 levels the playing field in this regard.

Gaming Benchmarks: GTX 770 and R9 285 AMD A10-7870K Conclusion


View All Comments

  • nathanddrews - Monday, June 1, 2015 - link

    I'm not sure it's a good idea for anyone to buy a dual-core CPU nowadays. You're better off spending the extra $20-40 on an i3. The boost to minimum frame rates and basically everything else you do outside of gaming seems well worth it IMO. Generally speaking, that is. Without knowing everything his brother needs/wants to do, it's hard to say. Reply
  • nikaldro - Monday, June 1, 2015 - link

    An i3 costs TWICE as much as a pentium.
    i3s offer horrible value, considering that i5s go for as low as 160$.
  • nathanddrews - Monday, June 1, 2015 - link

    Twice the cost depends on the pricing on the given day/week. As of TODAY, Microcenter charges $50 ($70 Amazon/Newegg) for the G3258 - arguably the only Pentium worth buying. However, you'd have to buy a more expensive motherboard to get the OC option you need. They charge $100 for the i3-4370, $160 i5-4590, and $200 for the i5-4690K. So as of TODAY, it's twice the price for the CPU alone, but $50 is a small price to pay for the added power. The second you start doing anything multithreaded, the Pentium falls short. Likewise, the minimum framerates on that G3258 are up to 50% lower than an i3. A cheaper Pentium would be even worse. The only way it makes sense is if you only work/play in a single-threaded world. Reply
  • nikaldro - Monday, June 1, 2015 - link

    You don't need an expensive mobo at all.
    You can easily take the G3258 to 4.2Ghz on an H81M-P33 with the stock cooler.
    If you even only consider buying the pentium, that means you are on a tight budget. 50$ on a tight budget can be as much as 15% of the whole budget.
    Of course, if you even have "just" a 600$ budget, then you can very well fit an i5 and a good GPU in there, but it seems to me that this is not the case.
  • artk2219 - Tuesday, June 2, 2015 - link

    If you really wanted to bring Microcenter into this they have 100 dollar FX 6300 bundles that come with a cheap board, or for 10 bucks more you can move up to a 970 chipset based board. For 120 you can get an FX 8320E with a 970 chipset based board or pay 170 to move up to a 990FX based Gigabyte board. For 110 you can get an a10 7850K with a cheap board or pay 135 to move up to an A88 based board. Basically all around the I3, intro I5, and even pentium dual core price range there are great AMD bundles that you can get from Microcenter. The only problem is they aren't everywhere so it can be difficult to get those deals. They also do have intel bundles like you said, but frankly they kind of suck in comparison.
  • tabascosauz - Tuesday, June 2, 2015 - link

    Horrible value? Son, you might want to check your facts.

    The 4M L3 i3s offer little value because one can buy an i5. It's the 3M i3s that make the G3258 look like, well, not a very appealing option.

    Overclocking? Sure, it's locked, but tell me, exactly how many more frames is that 4.5GHz Pentium going to net you compared to an i3-4130? About 5 fps? I thought so. On the other hand, what is going to happen to the G3258 in the games are completely unoptimized for it? While the i3-4130 is merrily playing whatever game is at hand, the G3258 is struggling with stuttering, lag, and other issues, if it even successfully runs at all.
  • nikaldro - Tuesday, June 2, 2015 - link

    Son?? Who the hell are you?!?
    For the same price, an fx6300 STOMPS an i3 in most cases.
    The i3 is a bit better than the pentium of course, but the doubled price makes it a bad choice for budget builds, and if budget isn't a major concern, just 60$ more grant you an i5, wich totally CRUSHES an i3.
  • Lolimaster - Monday, June 1, 2015 - link

    The cheapo gaming way with a dedicated gpu is the Athlon 870K (quad core). Reply
  • AS118 - Monday, June 1, 2015 - link

    I've got to agree with that. The 860K's not bad either. Reply
  • Lolimaster - Tuesday, June 2, 2015 - link

    Steamroller offers better performance than piledriver on modern games. It also destroys piledriver in emulation (dolphin for example). Reply

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