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Frame Rating: High End GPUs Benchmarked at 4K Resolutions

Author: Ryan Shrout
Manufacturer: Various

Skyrim - Single GPU Cards

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (DirectX 9)


 

The Empire of Tamriel is on the edge. The High King of Skyrim has been murdered.

Alliances form as claims to the throne are made. In the midst of this conflict, a far more dangerous, ancient evil is awakened. Dragons, long lost to the passages of the Elder Scrolls, have returned to Tamriel.

The future of Skyrim, even the Empire itself, hangs in the balance as they wait for the prophesized Dragonborn to come; a hero born with the power of The Voice, and the only one who can stand amongst the dragons.

Our settings for Skyrim

Here is a video our testing run through, for your reference

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Onward to Skyrim!  The single GPU results are consistent from FRAPS to observed and show the GTX Titan as the obvious winner, running the game at 3840x2160 steadily over 60 FPS.  The HD 7970 GHz Edition is coming in second followed by the two GTX 680 options.

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Frame times are pretty consistent and even for all four cards though all of them exhibit a few cases of hitches and spikes; something that Skyrim has become known for unfortunately.

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The GTX Titan averages nearly 70 FPS, the Radeon HD 7970 52 FPS and the GTX 680s in both 2GB and 4GB form hit 45 FPS based on our data.  All of them result in fairly even frame time drops as well.

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Variance is basically non-existent on all four options.

 

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As we have seen time and time again, the Radeon HD 7970s in CrossFire have serious problems with CrossFire and runts.  What you might find interesting is that we didn't see much issue with Skyrim at lower resolutions but now that Skyrim is running at 4K, the GPU is much more of a bottleneck and thus our runt frames return.

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You can see the issues pop their head up here as the orange line very quickly moves between near 0 ms frame times and 20+ ms frame times.  All the SLI solutions are well metered though and we only see a small issue late in the test run at about the 50 ms mark with the GTX Titan SLI setup.

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Averaging over 120 FPS, the GTX Titans have the best overall experience though with slightly more steep slope on the FPS percentile graph, which points to slightly more frame variance than we would like.  The GTX 680s in SLI both have averages over 80 FPS with the edge going to the 4GB model ever so slightly.

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For all of the NVIDIA SLI options, the frame variance is actually pretty low with only the poor results from the HD 7970s in CrossFire standing out.

 

Looking for native 4K captures of our Skyrim gameplay?  Have fun!

Download the MP4 (710MB)

April 30, 2013 | 03:56 PM - Posted by ervinshiznit (not verified)

How come you're running these tests with AA enabled? We use AA at standard resolutions because the pixels are "too big" and makes edges look jagged. At 4k I don't think it's necessary. Yes, a 55" screen at 4k has a lower ppi than 2560x1440 at 27". But you're going to be sitting much further back from the TV so you can actually see enough of the screen, making the pixels take up less radians of what you see, reducing the perceived pixel size. If we get a 4k monitor at 27" then I don't see AA being of any use at all.

April 30, 2013 | 03:59 PM - Posted by Ryan Shrout

I could still tell a difference between AA enabled and disabled in terms of quality.

April 30, 2013 | 04:53 PM - Posted by Randomoneh

Anti-aliasing will never become obsolete, no matter how high the [angular] resolution is, because Moiré patterns will appear otherwise.

May 4, 2013 | 09:53 AM - Posted by Wendigo (not verified)

Yes, but only SSAA was capable with this defect (moire pattern), the MSAA doesn´t work with the internal areas of the triangles.

April 30, 2013 | 04:22 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Aliasing(in whatever form it comes, e.g. shader aliasing) is still an issue on any resolution, no matter how high it gets.

Playing without AA is a no-go for me.
First I try if I can enable 4x or 8x SGSSAA and if performance is okay. Works great if you find the right compatibility bits to force it(DX9 games) or if the game offers ingame-MSAA to enhance via driver(mostly DX10 and 11 games).

If that fails, I try to downsample it via custom resolution in the NVControlPanel (3840x2160 or 2880x1620 to 1080p, which is essentially OGSSAA), maybe add post processing-AA too if it doesn't blur the textures too much.

Using post processing-AA(FXAA, MLAA, SMAA, TXAA) alone is the last resort.
Though recently some games (for example Max Payne 3's FXAA, Crysis 3's 4x SMAA mode which includes an MSAA-part) had some good implementations where not much sharpness was lost due to blur.

April 30, 2013 | 04:35 PM - Posted by DeadOfKnight

These "you can't tell the difference" comments gotta go. If you can't tell the difference then just say "I can't tell the difference" so we can all point at you and laugh, and then frown at our empty wallets.

April 30, 2013 | 04:10 PM - Posted by RuffeDK

Great article! I'm excited about the upcoming 4K displays :)

April 30, 2013 | 04:29 PM - Posted by rpdmatt (not verified)

Very awesome. I'm looking forward to seeing results from newer cards based on these resolutions. Are you guys ever going to do a less impromptu review of that TV or is the un-boxing all we get?

April 30, 2013 | 05:08 PM - Posted by Ryan Shrout

Honestly, that's probably going to be it for us.  We are not TV reviewers and I'll leave that to those that can do much better.  Check out HD Nation's information: http://revision3.com/hdnation/seiki-cheap-4k-tv

April 30, 2013 | 05:00 PM - Posted by w_km (not verified)

Can the current non-$999 GPUs run windows or surf the web smoothly (i.e. upscale 720p or 1080p, display website text smooth while scrolling, etc...)??? If not at 30 or 60fps, when would you expect to see sub-$500 cards capable of running office/non-gaming tasks at 4K?

May 1, 2013 | 08:35 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Office apps etc and other 2D graphics take practically no effort at all for a graphics card. Thats already been true for years. Even a basic graphics card can already do it easily. Maybe movies in full-screen might be a load, but if you're not gaming, thats about the only thing that would be.

April 30, 2013 | 06:42 PM - Posted by SetiroN

Sorry to be that guy, but 3840x2160 is not 4K. Having pointed out both 1080p and 2K in the diagram, you should know the difference; this standards confusion is going to be problematic for the customer and the press isn't helping.

Anyway, 30Hz is absolutely a no-no. Too bad Display Port isn't common on TVs. Or in general.

April 30, 2013 | 07:30 PM - Posted by Randomoneh

If I remember correctly, a number of TV manufacturers changed "4K" to QFHD (Quad Full HD) in fear of possible lawsuits because similar thing happened before: manufacturers were sued for false advertising for size (example: 26.7 in as "27 in and similar).

Anyway, I prefer "2160p".

May 2, 2013 | 06:42 AM - Posted by Ryrynz (not verified)

LOL. SetiroN Why did you say that? If you're not 100% sure don't say anything.. You sir got OWNED.
WIKIPEDIA
BOOM!

July 25, 2013 | 11:08 AM - Posted by Dan (not verified)

Your Wikipedia link refers to the 4K UHD marketing term not the display standard. The corresponding standard for that resolution (3840×2160) is QFHD. The 4K standard is (4096×2160).

April 30, 2013 | 07:35 PM - Posted by Nick Ben (not verified)

Excellent article Ryan!

Have you had any success using a "dual mode" displayport to HDMI adaptor to get 4K?

I know there's a new connector type 2 that will allow it in the future, wasn't sure if you had any success with any of these cards getting 4K by conversion from displayport to HDMI?

April 30, 2013 | 08:54 PM - Posted by Ryan Shrout

I have only tried direct HDMI connection right now.  Why would you want a DP connection exactly for this implementation of 4K?  You won't be able to drive more than 30 Hz to any way.

April 30, 2013 | 09:09 PM - Posted by Nick Ben (not verified)

all recent nvidia Kepler Quadro cards and laptops only have displayport on them, so while not for gaming, they would make sense for 4K content creation

April 30, 2013 | 09:12 PM - Posted by Nick Ben (not verified)

the whole reason for displayport was supporting 10 bit color for color grading at 1 billion colors, but HDMI supports it now anyway, so that's why it's useful to convert from type 2 dual mode Displayport to HDMI at 1 billion colors for content creation

April 30, 2013 | 09:00 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

How do crossfire setup perform at 4k resolutions? I have also seen that running at higher resolutions with some configuration can alleviate micro-stuttering, can you test this?

Also why no crossfire tests in Far Cry 3 when you use 3/2-way sli?

April 30, 2013 | 10:48 PM - Posted by Ryan Shrout

We have HD 7970 CrossFire results for each game...

April 30, 2013 | 09:16 PM - Posted by traumadisaster

"I think the quad-HD resolution of 4K is a sight to behold." This is your last comment, I take that as you LOVE 4k gaming? My friend watched the preview and said he didn't see anybody jumping up and down. The first HD broadcast nfl game I saw, I was shocked. The first time in crisis seeing the jungle, my jaw dropped. The first 1440p game I was like I love this. My first dvd, then Blu-ray, etc.

I interpreted your non-verbal behavior as this was a jaw dropping experience for you guys, but since there was little verbal praise I'm wondering is this awesome. I explained to him that old, crusty, grizzled, seen it all, never give praise vets do love it.

April 30, 2013 | 10:49 PM - Posted by Ryan Shrout

The first impressions weren't as good as the extended impressions, because the TV had to be tuned a bit.  Turned down sharpness, turned off de-noise, etc.

April 30, 2013 | 09:25 PM - Posted by misschief (not verified)

Now call me daft (or stupid) but if the settings in the game are only showing 1080p (or 1200p) surely that means the game itself is being rendered by the PC at that resolution and the game is then being upscaled by the display? I'm probably missing something by only looking at the pretty pictures but until I see the actual resolution being played as a 1:1 ratio then I won't fully believe that the game is being 'played' at 4K, it's only being displayed at 4k. I'm happy to be corrected though!

April 30, 2013 | 09:32 PM - Posted by traumadisaster

Good question. I also wonder if the tv does automatic upscalling or is there options to pick 1440p or others. I wouldn't mind just using it as a big 1440p monitor since my 580 won't be able to keep up anyway.

April 30, 2013 | 10:47 PM - Posted by Randomoneh

I believe it really is 3840x2160. I've downloaded the video (horribly compressed though)and captured frames for close inspection. You can also take a look at the full-sized images that come with the article. There is AA so I can't be 100% sure but I think it's rendered at 2160p.

April 30, 2013 | 10:50 PM - Posted by Ryan Shrout

The settings screenshots are just there to show you the image quality settings, not the resolution.  All tests were run at 3840x2160.

April 30, 2013 | 11:16 PM - Posted by Mangix

You guys should try bumping up the refresh rate to something like 48Hz. 60Hz is most likely out of the question but with driver patching, going above 400Hz pixel clock should be possible. See:

http://www.monitortests.com/forum/Thread-NVIDIA-Pixel-Clock-Patcher
http://www.monitortests.com/forum/Thread-AMD-ATI-Pixel-Clock-Patcher

I believe EVGA Precision also allows bumping up the pixel clock to get higher refresh rates. Otherwise, using something like CRU(found in the links above) will help with making custom timing parameters which will lower the pixel clock further.

May 1, 2013 | 12:47 AM - Posted by Tom-Seiki (not verified)

Without using the pixel clock patcher, I made a custom resolution for 3840x2160 @ 31Hz and it worked. When I tried 32 Hz, TV either showed a blue screen with message "Not support" or it would skip every other column when drawing pixels, causing the resulting image to be blurry.

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