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Battlefield 3 Laptop Performance Review: Road Warrior?

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Manufacturer: Electronic Arts

Introduction, Campaign Testing

Introduction

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As you might have noticed, we’re a bit excited about Battlefield 3 here at PC Perspective. It promised to pay attention to what PC gamers want, and shockingly, it has come through. Dedicated servers and huge multi-player matches are supported, and the browser based interface is excellent.

If we’re honest, a lot of our hearts have been stirred simply by the way the game looks. There aren’t many titles that really let a modern mid-range graphics card stretch its legs, even at 1080p resolution. Battlefield 3, however, can be demanding - and it looks beautiful. Even with the presets at medium, it’s one of the most attractive games ever.

But what does this mean for laptops? Has the resident laptop reviewer at PC Perspective, I know that gaming remains a challenge. The advancements over the last few years have been spectacular, but even so, most of the laptops we test can’t run Just Cause 2 at a playable framerate even with all detail set to low and a resolution of just 1366x768. 

To find out if mobile gamers were given consideration by the developers of Battlefield 3, I installed the game on three different laptops. The results only go to show how far mobile gaming has come, and has far it has to go.

Continue reading our article on mobile Battlefield 3 performance!!

Dell Inspiron 14z: No Such Luck

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First up for testing was the Dell Inspiron 14z, a recently reviewed system. You can read the full details in your review, but the basics are this. It’s a somewhat slim system with a 14.1” display and Intel Core i5 processor. Graphical power is provided by the Intel HD 3000 IGP.

I installed Battlefield 3, loaded it, and...nothing. Literally nothing. No flicker, no error message, no stubbornly minimized window. Battlefield 3 simply refused to launch. Since I’d previously played the game on my desktop, I wondered if the settings had carried over and perhaps tripped up the Dell. I changed then, but still...nothing.

To Google I went, and soon found user complaints and/or warnings that the Intel HD 3000 IGP was not supported. My test had come to a premature end. 

Some people responding to the users complaining about this were a bit mean about it (of course) stating that no one should be able to expect games on Intel HD graphics. That’s just a load of hooey. As has been shown time and time again in our test, Intel HD graphics is capable of reasonably competent performance. It’s generally on par with entry-level discrete mobile graphics from a generation ago. 

Alienware m17x: Single Player Performance

With the Dell Inspiron 14z out of commission, it was time to bring out the big guns - Alienware’s m17x. Equipped with Core i7-2630QM processor, Radeon HD6990M graphics and a whopping 16GB of RAM, it’s no slouch. And, more importantly, it will start the game.

To begin, let’s do an analysis of performance at each of the presets available in the game; low, medium, high, and ultra. 

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As you can see, the performance gradient here is easy to understand. With each increase in quality, there’s a decrease in framerate. In addition, the decrease is fairly linear. Going from low to medium loses you 9 frames per second (average), while going from medium to high throws out another ten frames per second. The biggest hit comes from ultra, which is down a full fifteen frames per second compared to high.

Remember, this is a high-end laptop with a quad-core processor and outstanding graphics, yet even this m17x does not provide playable framerates at Ultra in the single-player campaign at 1080p resolution (shew! that’s a lot of qualifiers). High is perfectly tolerable, although there are rare moments where it feels a little hesitant. Gamers who are twitch-obsessed will probably want to play on medium.

Of course, any player’s decision about the settings they’d like to use is going to be somewhat dependent on the visual payoff. Does ultra really look much better than high, for example? To find out, I took a couple screenshots at each preset. 

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In screenshots, the difference between medium/high and high/ultra can be difficult to notice, although it is there. Low, on the other hand, is very obviously worse than all of the others thanks to a lack of anti-aliasing and jagged shadows. 

I found image quality differences to be more noticeable in real-world gameplay. A lot of the improvement comes from lighting effects, which are excellent on high and sometimes jaw-dropping on ultra. One room early in the game contains a beam of light that comes in through high windows. On low, it’s kind of neat. On ultra, it’s absolutely beautiful. 

November 21, 2011 | 05:17 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

This is clearly a sign that GPU manufacturers need to step it up on the mobile side.

November 21, 2011 | 04:08 PM - Posted by Matt Smith

Eh...I don't know if I'd say that. In fact, it's rather remarkable what even Intel HD 3000 graphics can do these days - you may not be able to play on very high settings, but you can at least play a lot of games.

Battlefield 3 is just in another league, even when compared to games like Just Cause 2. I think only Metro 2033 and maybe Skyrim are in the same league, so it's no surprise that even high-end solutions struggle.

November 23, 2011 | 02:09 AM - Posted by midagedgamer (not verified)

BF3 plays just fine on my 2 year old Asus G72GX with a P8700 and GTX 260M and 6GB Ram. I just ratchet down the tinsel a bit and everything's great. It does heat up the 260M at times but other than that no issues.

In short Integrated graphics are crap for games that have any expectation of a 60FPS norm at over 1280x1024 with high textures.

Discrete cards do work better but are about 75% the performance of their desktop bretheren

November 23, 2011 | 06:59 PM - Posted by Ben (not verified)

Desktop cards would be nowhere near as powerful if they had to fit into a 100W thermal envelope each.

For a reference the current SB integrated gfx is about as quick as the GDDR2 8600M GT in my nearly 5 year old Vostro 1500 which was a midrange GPU at the time and played some games at the 1920x1200 native res of the screen.

December 1, 2011 | 02:49 PM - Posted by chale (not verified)

Hi as many others I'm having problems with the game freezing after playing a couple of minutes. The graphics just freezes but the sound seems to just quit down to the games own back ground sounds.

As suggested in many threads I've tried updating Origin, Punkbuster, onboard Tealtek sound driver, disabling the onboard sound, put all graphic settings to the lowest possible, rued the game as an administrator, did a clean boot with startup process disabled and still the same problem every time. Also checked for GPU overheating using speedfan but it never gets above 75 degress celcius when playing for those precious couple of minutes, so that shouldn't be a problem either.

I'm running it on my laptop and my system specs are:
Windows 7 Professional 64-bit
Intel(R) Core(TM) i7-2720QM CPU @ 2.20GHz (8 CPUs), ~2.2GHz
8192MB RAM
NVIDIA GeForce GT 525M (Driver Version: 8.17.12.6601)

EA custumor support suggested updating the GFX driver which I fearred they would suggest, as it's a mobile GFX and this prevents me from using NVIDIA's own driver. I've tried but with no luck. As you might know you should use the manufacturers own driver and unfortunately the manufacturer's (Compal) newest version is the current one (266.01) :( I've tried contacting Compal but to be honest I don't think that they will release an updated driver version anytime soon just beause I wan't to play bf3 :)

So I turn to you guys. Could it really just be a matter of an outdated driver causing this?? Can't a manually set some parameters somewhere that might solve the problem?? I appreciate your help and time.

July 22, 2012 | 02:31 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Battlefield 3 Gameplay on Intel HD 3000
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zvMq7sWr-tM

Max Payne 3 Gameplay on Intel HD 3000
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9wzCJMK9fYo

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