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Battlefield 3 Beta Performance Testing and Image Quality Evaluation - Day 1

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Manufacturer: EA

The Battlefield 3 Beta

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!

It was an exciting day at PC Perspective yesterday with much our time dedicated to finding, installing and playing the new Battlefield 3 public beta.  Released on the morning of the 26th to those of you who had pre-ordered BF3 on Origin or those of you who had purchased Medal of Honor prior to July 26th, getting the beta a couple of days early should give those of you with more FPS talent than me a leg up once the open beta starts on Thursday the 29th.

My purpose in playing Battlefield 3 yesterday was purely scientific, of course.  We wanted to test a handful of cards from both AMD and NVIDIA to see how the beta performed.  With all of the talk about needing to upgrade your system and the relatively high recommended system requirements, there is a lot of worry that just about anyone without a current generation GPU is going to need to shell out some cash.  

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Is that a justified claim?  While we didn't have time yet to test EVERY card we have at the office we did put some of the more recent high end, mid-range and lower cost GPUs to the test.  

Continue reading our initial performance results with the Battlefield 3 beta!!

Before I jump into the results, I thought I would just take a quick moment to describe the way Battlefield 3 works on the PC as it is quite different than what you might be used to with other PC games.  Rather than just launching the game, you first have to launch Origin, which is essentially EA's take on the Valve Steam client.  Yes, I am one of those people that desperately wanted EA to just adopt the Steam platform so we could have "one to rule them all", but giant companies like this just don't do that.  So Origin it is.  After opening it and logging in, then selecting the BF3 Beta, rather than starting the game you actually get a browser opened up:

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The entire server browser, friends list, group creation and more actually launches from your default web browser rather than the Origin client or even the BF3 game itself.  And since we saw disabled buttons for co-op and for single player selections I am guessing that even when this game is released on October 25th, this interface will remain.

The controls aren't really THAT bad and in some ways it is nice to be able to look for servers to join while still having other windows open and being able to do or check on other tasks besides Battlefield 3.  The server list doesn't update as often as I would like so you never know if you are trying to join a server that has become full since the list originally loaded but most of my first day of testing was done hitting that magical "quick match" button.  

Initially, the BF3 game loads in a window and that happened in ALL CASES for me.  EA tells you in several places that the shortcut to go full screen is "ALT + ENTER" and in my case only the left ALT button actually did that.  Other than that minor nuisance, the game loaded up pretty well.  

Our Testing Process and Headaches

Testing a multiplayer game is hard and is made even more so by the fact that you cannot create your own servers to control who joins, etc.  This left me running around on seemingly random servers (since getting on the same server twice seemed nearly impossible) trying not to die during my many 120 second FRAPS runs.  Because of this, keeping an exact path and process for our benchmarking testing was impossible and instead we mitigated that issue by playing it for MANY sets of benchmarking results for each card and in each setting.  We then had to manually look at the results and find which were the "average" while kicking out those that had especially high or especially low scores.  

For the most part, we were able to get fairly consistent benchmark runs though at the expense of whatever team happened to be saddled with me.  (Sorry Internet!)  Here you can see a set of three results from the outdoor section of the Metro map on the GTX 580 with Ultra quality settings:

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So even though there was some variance that is pretty much impossible to avoid in a large multiplayer game like this, my methods did result in good repeatability. 

As I mentioned above, all of our testing was done on the "Operation Metro" map as it was the only one publicly available on the first day of the beta.  Rumors are circulating that soon the second map will open with 64 player support and vehicles so we are going to keep an eye on that for sure and see if performance is drastically affected. 

There were two sections of the Metro map though that had very different performance characteristics and thus we tested them independently.  Of three main areas on the map, the first starts in a larger outdoor area, the second takes place inside tunnels of a subway while the third returns outside in a more cityscape style design.  My testing differentiated between the first outdoor section as being the most GPU intensive while the indoor section was much easier on the graphics card.  You will see results for both map areas on the following pages.

Also, just to get as many different cards in as we could with the limited amount of time in a day, we ran all of our testing at 1920x1200 resolution and at Ultra quality settings.

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We will start with performance testing between our NVIDIA and AMD cards on the next page and then take a quick look at image quality comparisons between NVIDIA and AMD following that.  

Our test setup included a Core i7-965 Nehalem processor, 6GB of DDR3 memory and a 600GB VelociRaptor hard drive.  We used the latest drivers from both NVIDIA and AMD that were released specifically yesterday for Battlefield 3: 285.38 for NVIDIA and 11.10 Preview for AMD.  

September 29, 2011 | 09:28 AM - Posted by Colin (not verified)

Ryan, I am running a 6970 with the beta 11.10 preview and it works perfectly on both the indoor and outdoor sections. Please retest. I have everything at max and it performs wonderfully.

September 29, 2011 | 10:55 AM - Posted by Adam (not verified)

How much RAM and CPU resources does the game use? How many cores does the game utilize?

September 29, 2011 | 06:00 PM - Posted by Ryan Shrout

So far the game seems to be fairly well threaded. During my testing with a Core i7-965 processor (quad core with HT) it was using ~40% of the CPU power.

October 1, 2011 | 01:45 AM - Posted by Tim (not verified)

It uses 75%~ on my 2500K@4.2GHz and win7 64bit used 4.8GB ram all up

September 29, 2011 | 11:26 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

I would like to see the HD4870(512mb) getting tested in DX10.1(saying this because I have seen other sites testing DX10.1 cards in DX10 only to keep the comparison "fair")

I think it also would be interesting to test the 512MB model and 1GB model of an otherwise identical card, to see how much this game benefits from the extra VRAM

September 29, 2011 | 12:01 PM - Posted by AMDScooter

Even with the 11.10 previews I'm getting bad texture artifacts outdoors. The recently released 11.9 and CAP 11.8/4 are a hair better on my unlocked 6950/xfire setup. Frames are nice and steady with all the bells and whistles maxed out.

September 29, 2011 | 12:28 PM - Posted by fuzzynuts69 (not verified)

well i know i have been play the last 3 days! i have 2 evga 465gtx in sli and got 58fps with everything maxed out. i will say the servers are far to laggy in any setting though. im not sure what to think about this game, i dont know if it is that i have been waiting for ever to play it and had to high of expectations for the game but it is not what i thought it would be:( lol. and im all about battlefield till the end!!!

September 29, 2011 | 12:54 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

I'd love to see FPS levels at different settings with these GPU's and maybe even a different CPU with the same tests.

September 29, 2011 | 01:35 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

260GTX Core 216 or the 48701gig, they're both the same thing.

Would definitely like to knew where those stands at middle settings with things like SSAO turned off. I'll be heartbroken if the game isn't playable with this card, the 260 isn't bad at all (especially the 216 revision). :(

September 29, 2011 | 02:09 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Nice benchmarks. I am running with I7 920 @ 3.8 and 580 SLI and am getting 70-90 fps. I imagine once released and you can up the anti aliasing options alot of cards may start showing their limits.

September 29, 2011 | 03:15 PM - Posted by sorenk (not verified)

i need a better graphic card, this game is slaughtering my old GTX260 core 216. at medium settings fps is 20-30.

September 29, 2011 | 03:43 PM - Posted by bf_lover (not verified)

I am currently using Q9550, it runs well with bfbc2, but the CPU usage remain 85-95% in the game.
i would like to see how these old C2Q CPUs perform in BF3, compare to new i3\i5.

my spec:
23" 1920x1080\Q9550\8GB DDR2\HD 6850

September 29, 2011 | 05:52 PM - Posted by Kusanagi (not verified)

i just did a run in test. my video card isn't that great, but it's giving me some pretty decent results

system set up:
AMD Phenom 2 X6 1045T @ 2.70Ghz
8GB DDR3 1333
AMD Radeon HD 5570 1GB

FPS:
30 @ 1920x 1080P

custom game settings:
Texture Q: High
Shadows: Medium
effects: medium
Mesh: medium
Terrain: medium
AA Defered: Off
AA Post: Low
Motion Blur: off
AF : 4X
Ambient Occlusion: SSAO

September 29, 2011 | 06:01 PM - Posted by Ryan Shrout

Those are actually really good results for a 5570. What was your CPU utilization like?

September 29, 2011 | 11:36 PM - Posted by Kusanagi (not verified)

i actually haven't tested that out, yet Ryan. i'll most likely get a chance to tomorrow and post it up

September 29, 2011 | 11:49 PM - Posted by Kusanagi (not verified)

it stays at 45%, max it'll hit is 49&

September 29, 2011 | 06:50 PM - Posted by Mark (not verified)

Athlon 64 x2 6400+, slow memory and a 560ti, low setting is the best playable, memory is really the bottleneck for me.

September 29, 2011 | 10:29 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Honestly, I'd bet your processor is the bottleneck.

September 29, 2011 | 08:09 PM - Posted by AParsh335i (not verified)

I really want to see 6950 2gb and 6970 2gb on eyefinity results :).

September 30, 2011 | 12:03 AM - Posted by TinkerToyTech

What's the PCPER IRC Chatroom info?

September 30, 2011 | 05:42 AM - Posted by Anonymous89 (not verified)

Overclocking Sandy Bridges (i5/i7 2500/2600) gives 1-3 additional FPS. Overclocking your GPU by 10% might give alot more.

ENGTX570 @ 900/2050 65-120 FPS @ Ultra

September 30, 2011 | 08:25 AM - Posted by Billy (not verified)

Since we know that a typical i5/i7 + 570/6970 setup can easily run this game with no issue

Perhaps u could try test something like this.

1. minimum CPU/GPU combo to run @ min 24-30fps @ 1680x1050/1280x1024/1024x768 on LOW setting, WITHOUT AA/Anisotropic. Yes cut everything u can. I still see u run 2x aniso @ 9800GT. Why we need to on these when we need to cut every detail out for fps right?

2. minimum CPU/GPU combo @ 1920x1080/1680x1050 @ medium setting WITHOUT AA that is not too far image quality drop from Ultra max setting.

again to be honest I cant really tell the huge diff between with AA and without on a 1080p, even my primary rig is 2500K +570 now, I barely use >2x AA.

September 30, 2011 | 10:23 AM - Posted by jose nava (not verified)

So I downloaded battlefield 3 beta even know that nvidia says that I couldn't run this game,however I knew that my card could handle this game easy. I run crysis 2 on it without any lags at 1920X 1200.I got an amd athlon X 11 quad core 3.0. 6gb ram 1tb and 460gtx nvidia.my pc runs battlefield 3 beta at 1980x1020. No problems just download the new driver!!

September 30, 2011 | 10:28 AM - Posted by jose nava (not verified)

Sorry 1920X1200

September 30, 2011 | 10:30 AM - Posted by jose nava (not verified)

Sorry !! 1920x 1080

September 30, 2011 | 10:37 AM - Posted by Shawn (not verified)

I just saw a 9500gt ddr 2 512mb pull 29 avg. fps with fraps at 1024*768 at all low settings. graphics arent candy as in ultra but its pretty playable.

September 30, 2011 | 12:16 PM - Posted by simplicity311

You're testing the very two cards that I have in my work and home PC's! I do have a few concerns though with performance on my home PC and would like some insight. Please see below...

Home PC Specs:
-Win 7 64 Pro
-Radeon HD 5850 1GB x1
-Intel Quad Core Q9400@2.66GHz (not overclocked)
-8GB RAM

*Currently seeing avg 18-20 FPS on low settings at 1920x1200

Work PC Specs:
-Win 7 64 Pro
-Nvidia GeForce 460 GTX 1GB x1
-Intel Core i7 930@2.80GHz (not overclocked)
-8GB Ram

*Currently seeing avg 30-60 FPS on low settings at 1680x1050

As you can see from the drastic FPS difference, I'm beginning to wonder how CPU dependent BF3 really is...thoughts anyone?

September 30, 2011 | 12:30 PM - Posted by simplicity311

You're testing the very two cards that I have in my work and home PC's! I do have a few concerns though with performance on my home PC and would like some insight. Please see below...

Home PC Specs:
-Win 7 64 Pro
-Radeon HD 5850 1GB x1
-Intel Quad Core Q9400@2.66GHz (not overclocked)
-8GB RAM

*Currently seeing avg 18-20 FPS on low settings at 1920x1200

Work PC Specs:
-Win 7 64 Pro
-Nvidia GeForce 460 GTX 1GB x1
-Intel Core i7 930@2.80GHz (not overclocked)
-8GB Ram

*Currently seeing avg 30-60 FPS on low settings at 1680x1050

As you can see from the drastic FPS difference, I'm beginning to wonder how CPU dependent BF3 really is...thoughts anyone?

September 30, 2011 | 01:10 PM - Posted by FastRedPonyCar (not verified)

I tested it at ultra settings / 1920X1200 yesterday on my system

SLI GTX470's w/mild overclock
i7 920 clocked @ 3.6 ghz
6 gigs DDR3

seemed to get constant 50~ish fps outdoors and stays pegged at 60fps (vsync) indoors. I'm really pleased with the performance. If they did indeed withhold some graphical goodies, even better!

Skyrim is the one game this year that I think could seriously challenge my setup aside from witcher 2 at max settings.

September 30, 2011 | 01:52 PM - Posted by Natsumex (not verified)

How long is the beta going to be available :o

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