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 28, 2011 | 02:39 PM - Posted by ZackJ (not verified)

Thanks Ryan for your day 1 review, I along with the community greatly appreciate this at the time. I can't wait to hop on BF3 come Thursday to test out my GTX460. I could get 45 - 70fps at 1680 x 1050 on Battlefield Bad Company 2 at max so looks like BF3 is going to be pretty rough on my card. Can't wait to see more test from you and your crew.

September 28, 2011 | 05:34 PM - Posted by Ryan Shrout

Hopefully I'll be able toss in a GTX 460 today and post some updated results.

September 28, 2011 | 09:11 PM - Posted by 72VirginExpress (not verified)

I have the following specs:
AMD Phenom II 1100T Black Edition
EVGA GTX 460 1024 GDDR5
8.0 Ghz 2X4 Kingston DDR3 1600Mhz Barracuda 1-TB

Had absolutely no problems running all settings on high with no noticeable glitches...except for ability to bind mouse settings.

You can contact me if you are looking for more information.

Good bit of research you have done to date....keep it up. First time visit to your site, not last I should think.

September 28, 2011 | 03:52 PM - Posted by mark (not verified)

man the new metro benchy.....nice article

September 28, 2011 | 04:58 PM - Posted by AMDftw (not verified)

I used the 11.9 cat for my dual 5870. I didn't have any problems with mine. I was getting detween 45-70 fps@ 1920*1200. I didn't try my 3 monitor setup tho. I will later on tonight. My set up is. AMD 1090t@4.1 ghz 8gb gskill 2000 mhz flare. 2x120gb ocz ssd in raid. Ga-990fxa-ud7 mobo. 2xga5870 Gpu. 1200watt psu.

September 28, 2011 | 05:34 PM - Posted by Ryan Shrout

At first I was very surprised by your results then I saw you were using TWO Radeon HD 5870s. That falls much more in line with my thinking.

September 28, 2011 | 06:02 PM - Posted by Paul (not verified)

I also am using 2 5870s with an i7 920 @3.2. I am using the 11.9 driver also and am getting 55-85 FPS on Ultra setting @1920*1200

Pretty happy and the 11.10 driver is supposed to be better with cf support for bf3.

September 28, 2011 | 04:59 PM - Posted by Adam (not verified)

AMD just released a new video driver for the BF3 beta today and nvidia just did the same a few days ago. i think you need to retest things with the updated drivers. Awesome review Ryan.

September 28, 2011 | 05:09 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

If you read page one where Ryan tells us the specs of the PC being used he says and I quote ”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 28, 2011 | 06:11 PM - Posted by rahul (not verified)

Hi Ryan, thanks for putting so much effort into testing BF3!
I was wondering, if you could do some CPU performance tests? Perhaps testing scaling with number of cores or frequency?

September 28, 2011 | 06:16 PM - Posted by Ryan Shrout

I would like to do that and see how frequency and CPU cores helps. May not be until tomorrow sometime that I can sort of play with that.

September 28, 2011 | 06:32 PM - Posted by M3rc Nate (not verified)

I just wanted to say that i have a Q9550 (3.6ghz) and a 6950 2Gb Flashed to 6970 shaders (BF3 Beta Drivers installed). I am getting 50 average outdoors in the park (never dipping below 40) and indoors the average is about 80, sometimes as high as 90FPS.
I game settings are on auto, which has res at 1920x1080, Ultra, 16x AA, and everything on High and Ultra.
To be honest i was expecting much lower frame rates. BC2 and the Witcher 1 had worse frame rates than im getting in BF3. Im loving it though, and im buying a second 6950 to Crossfire.

Odd however is my friend whos using my GTS-250 (512mb) is unplayable in full screen with everything on as low as it can go (at 1920x1080) but he played BC2 on medium everything (same res) and it was smooth.

September 30, 2011 | 12:02 AM - Posted by TinkerToyTech

Hey, I have the exact same setup and I'd be interested in your clocks, timings and voltages as I've little experience with this CPU and OC'ing it. Your help would be most appreciated.

September 28, 2011 | 10:15 PM - Posted by durjoy184 (not verified)

Hi Ryan, i own a i5-2500k @ stock clocks 3.30Ghz...i am planning on overclocking it to 4.5ghz to take advantage of its "K" my question is...will that increase the fps ingame by much?
and in between...RAM, processor speed, GPU...which might you think will be a dominating factor and by how much?

On a different note Seeing as there isnt much difference between high and ultra except for a little smoothing of textures and the AA...would you kindly put up a performance chart of the cards running on high?

Because if there is a considerable increase in the fps, there might not be any reason to run the game at ultra at all... keeping in mind the comparitively high loss in performance.

any feedback is greatly appreciated :)
and thank you for all your hardwork, really is helping us make important decisions on our purchases.

Thank You :)

September 28, 2011 | 10:20 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

"Overall I think the NVIDIA cards are currently offering just a bit better experience than the AMD cards due to my instability with the HD 6970 and the better multi-GPU scaling being reported with SLI than CrossFire."

How can you say SLI scaling is better than Crossfire scaling when you didn't even test Crossfire? If you're generalizing, that's some pretty bad "scientific" testing.

September 28, 2011 | 10:55 PM - Posted by Jesse (not verified)

I find this funny because the textures in the beta on ALL platforms are around half quality. They aren't even showing you the best graphics yet. Therefore, your benchmarks are a waste of time =P

September 28, 2011 | 11:06 PM - Posted by Ryan Shrout

This is incorrect - verified through both GPU vendors and their developer relations teams. That WAS the case in the alpha though.

September 28, 2011 | 11:47 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

You are of course aware that the majority of 'ultra' settings aren't functional yet, and don't do anything.. yes?

September 29, 2011 | 12:06 AM - Posted by Ryan Shrout

Reference? I am hearing the exact opposite from both NVIDIA and AMD.

September 29, 2011 | 12:27 AM - Posted by Tim (not verified)

Great rundown PcPer. Just gotta wait for the 7900HD's now :(

Depends what the bottleneck is. What is your graphics card? I play Medal of Honor and had a Q6600@4GHz, with a 5850. when i changed to a 2500K, at stock, it doubled my frames. But still at 4.5GHz, it only added about about 5% more frames

September 29, 2011 | 06:12 AM - Posted by durjoy184 (not verified)

AMD HD6870 stock clocks...i know its a mid-level card...but its all the money i had :\

September 29, 2011 | 12:30 PM - Posted by fuzzynuts69 (not verified)

lol you will be fine!!!

September 29, 2011 | 10:18 PM - Posted by durjoy184 (not verified)

so your saying that i might get a considerable performance boost if i go from 3.3-4.5ghz? :O

and as for ur MOH situation...i think games like those that dont demand much of the cpu....just get overkilled after a stage and cant go any im playing C0D right now....and play it after 4.5ghz....there wouldnt be any difference at all....but on games like crysis, metro 2033...which are more may take effect

i just wanted to make sure of the same for battlefield 3 too before i did any overclocking. :)

September 29, 2011 | 03:00 AM - Posted by HM (not verified)

for the poor folks like me who are still stuck on dual core CPUs, could you disable 2 cores, I mean set affinity to 2 cores only during the game to see the difference (and HT off)?

September 29, 2011 | 05:59 PM - Posted by Ryan Shrout

We might be able to fit that testing in over the next couple of days, sure.

October 2, 2011 | 06:20 AM - Posted by Pablo (not verified)

That would be cool. I'm not really sure if it's worth upgrading to a 6870 while rocking an i5 650.

October 3, 2011 | 05:15 AM - Posted by Irishgamer01

I think a visit to ebay might help.
Some serious bargins. Got my 990x there.
(Yip. Was nervous but it arrived and worked a treat.)
I did my brothers dell too. A Core 2 system. Just swapped out the chips,Dual to quad. Ebayed the dual and got some money back. Just need to check your chipset.

September 29, 2011 | 04:28 AM - Posted by Nilbog

Definitely one of the best articles I've ever read, thank you for such an in depth look.

September 29, 2011 | 04:39 AM - Posted by HalloweenJack (not verified)

wouldnt mind seeing the ultara low end results - minimum spec ones , like HD4xxx or 9800GT , or a minimum cpu/ram combo (amd and intel)

September 29, 2011 | 06:21 AM - Posted by scottwd (not verified)

I agree with HalloweenJack, I wouldnt mind seeing the ultara low end results. I play on a nice beefy PC at home and and barely functional one at lunchtimes at work.

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