Review Index:

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

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

How long is the beta going to be available :o

October 1, 2011 | 01:15 AM - Posted by Ryan Shrout

It runs through Oct 10th.

September 30, 2011 | 05:57 PM - Posted by Cody Templeton (not verified)

Ultra w/anti-aliasing in this game is pretty pointless IMO. It does so much post-processing there aren't many hard edges to soften... my AMD 955 w/stock 5850 gets well above 30fps outdoors, all ultra settings except for AA (which is turned off), and approaches 60 in the subway tunnels.

Performance on the big outdoor 64 player map is better than you would think, very comparable to outdoors on the Metro map, although it seems a lot buggier. I noticed many more problems with the destroyable buildings on that map, more stability issues, and occasional frame rate tanks with little rhyme or reason.

September 30, 2011 | 06:56 PM - Posted by Tomas K. (not verified)

Good article, nice testing.

Do you think i get normal frames on my system or is it a bit too low(outside)?:

i5 2500k @4.0ghz
corsair 2x2gb 1600
MSI GTX 570 Twin Frozr II/OC @750/1000

Min fps:34

Everything is set to max - Ultra, 4xAA etc. Resolution 1920x1080

October 1, 2011 | 12:00 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

I used a dual geforce gt 540m with an Intel Core i7 2720QM (2.2GHz, turbo boost up to 3.1) and a 8Gb RAM and it passed 60 FPS

October 1, 2011 | 12:01 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

I used a dual geforce gt 540m with an Intel Core i7 2720QM (2.2GHz, turbo boost up to 3.1) and a 8Gb RAM and it passed 60 FPS on ultra (1920 x 1080)

October 1, 2011 | 01:10 AM - Posted by Devil 2 U

I am currently running a system with an E6600 Core 2 and 2X EVGA GTX460s SC 1GB in SLI, overclocked. All set on the graphics front. However, I have been waiting for Bulldozer to build a new system. With the desktop part release pushing further into the future, it may take longer than planned to build a new rig. Therefore, I very well may be using this CPU and sys at the release of BF3.
I am also curious what other Core 2 CPU users, who have good GPUs, are finding in terms of performance. I am downloading the beta now (along with the NVidia beta driver), so I will report results tomorrow.

October 1, 2011 | 01:16 AM - Posted by Ryan Shrout

Great, looking forward to hearing your results!

October 2, 2011 | 04:02 AM - Posted by Scott Michaud

When I was using that CPU for my Unreal Tournament 3 mods, I know it was bottlenecking my GTX 260 in that game. I believe I jumped from ~50FPS to ~90 in my level when going to a Core i7 920.

Not sure what type of luck you will have with it.

October 1, 2011 | 04:20 AM - Posted by MDMonster (not verified)

I get between 25-45fps on my GTS 450 at 1920x1080, and between 29-53fps in 1280x720fps. The rest of my computer consist of an AMD Athlon II x2 260 @3.2GHz, 8GB DDR3 1333MHz

October 1, 2011 | 04:21 AM - Posted by MDMonster (not verified)

ALso forgot to mention, I have it maxed with these frames.

October 1, 2011 | 03:29 PM - Posted by pc master (not verified)

hmmm very interesting indeed running an skv 9800 slrdram with dual cooled cores at 9.7699 ghz ultra high mood i have noticed that after shooting an enemy to approximately 20% health... there seem to be pop stains on the characters pants around the buttox area...a detail that would have gone unoticed if ur not running maximus titan 7.29 mercess shader buffer.

October 1, 2011 | 03:31 PM - Posted by pc master (not verified)

i meant to say poop stains.

October 2, 2011 | 01:12 AM - Posted by cstinson4 (not verified)

I have a late 2010 MBP running Windows 7 x64, i7 processor, 2.66GHz, and 4GB RAM, and have the NVIDIA GT M330 graphics card. I've put my computer on performance mode, downloaded the 285.38 drivers, and turned all the graphics settings on low in the beta, but I'm still getting pretty choppy gameplay. Does anyone know a fix to this because I've heard of people getting smooth gameplay with the same system as me. Thanks!

October 2, 2011 | 06:48 AM - Posted by Scott (not verified)

Hey, right now i have an old intel core 2 duo overclocked to 2.56 ghz and an nvidia gtx 260m. I can run that on low-medium with a decent frame rate. I will be getting a new computer before the year ends and was wondering how this would do. Intel Core i5 2500k @3.3ghz---nVidia gtx 560 2gb

October 3, 2011 | 07:00 PM - Posted by durjoy184 (not verified)

if ur planning to get a 560ti...then ull find its test results on this site

and i too have almost the same config as u ..except i got a 6870 which is a lil lower than the 560ti...

ive oc'd my 2500k to 4.7ghz..and i get 50-60 fps out @ ultra and 4xAA and i have a 4GB ram @ 1600mhz long as ur planning to overclock..ull be fine :)

October 3, 2011 | 03:55 AM - Posted by Deafty (not verified)

Any results from overclocked e8400's with 4890 VGA
I'm @4.2Ghz and debating crossfire or Gtx 570,..
CPU upgrade to follow next year with IVY Bridge.

October 4, 2011 | 06:07 AM - Posted by Anas (not verified)

Great review you made Ryan thank you.
just to mention, I have XFX HD 6970 and I did not face the issue you mentioned regard the crash outside in metro! yes I face this on first day of releasing public beta but then everything went smooth. I play on 1080p. if you want some result regard this card on outside you are welcome. but keep in mind the max resolution is 1080p.

October 5, 2011 | 09:25 AM - Posted by Troy (not verified)

I've been running the BF3 beta on a GTX 460 1GB MSI Hawk, slightly OC'ed to 850/1700/2000, a I5 2600k @ 4.3, and 8gb ddr 1600, and I get a average of 50-65 inside, and 40-50 outside. On 1920.. That's of course with only light AA on, but still..

October 8, 2011 | 01:05 PM - Posted by Yuri (not verified)

Hello, exelent review, but i have a question, i have the EVGA 460 2win card, do you think that i will be able to play this monster game in ultra setings with good frame rates, mi CPUits I7 920 OC to 3.4, 6 gbram 1726mhrz.

October 8, 2011 | 01:06 PM - Posted by Yuri (not verified)

Hello, exelent review, but i have a question, i have the EVGA 460 2win card, do you think that i will be able to play this monster game in ultra setings with good frame rates, mi CPUits I7 920 OC to 3.4, 6 gbram 1726mhrz.

October 22, 2011 | 05:34 PM - Posted by Edu (not verified)

Great review!
Detail: I think the last screen about nvidia and ati quality images are exchanged.
I'm assuming this because the ATI images are better.

October 25, 2011 | 01:51 PM - Posted by Danny (not verified)

I have a geforce 460 and battlefield 3 runs very smooth. however, doesnt quite look like the textures are as good as BC2. I have a quad-core phenom II 965 OC up a hair to 3.7Ghz, 8GB RAM, and running at 1920X1080. Im sure it must be my graphics card that is limiting my texture and detail. any detailed advice on getting the quality better in settings would be greatly appreciated.just a temporary fix til I upgrade in a couple months. Thanks.


November 2, 2011 | 03:19 AM - Posted by Jono (not verified)


Proccesor - Intel® Core™ i7-2630QM
• 2 GHz

Chipset - intel HM65

Memory Standard - 8GB 1333 MHz DDR3 (2 X 4 GB)

Graphics (worried!!) - ATI Radeon HD 6630 (1GB GDDR3)


June 26, 2012 | 03:57 PM - Posted by Anony (not verified)

amd looks much better and realistic to me

June 26, 2012 | 04:01 PM - Posted by Anony (not verified)

and amd much more detail defenatly

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