Tag Archives: AMD

Budget Gaming PC, April 2015

The concept of a "Gaming PC" often gets a bad rap. You'll get a lot of people looking at the cost of a top-of-the-line $2000 pre-built system (or just an overpriced gaming system) and wondering, "Who on earth would spend that much money on a system that's just for playing games!?" Obviously, the idea that a gaming PC is just for playing games is ludicrous -- any modern PC that can play games can inherently do all of the other PC-centric tasks equally well, if not better than the average non-gaming PC.

And since most homes in developed countries already have at least one PC, the true cost of a "gaming PC" is often the price of a graphics card. We already discussed the subject of graphics cards in our previous post, so today we're going to flesh things out with a look at what to use when putting together a complete budget gaming PC. Our goal is to have a system that can handle all the latest games at reasonable quality setting, priced at less than $750.

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Best Video Cards, April 2015

After half a year of discussing gaming performance, it's time for some specific video card recommendations. Almost everyone these days has access to a PC, but what if you'd like to turn that PC into a bona fide gaming rig? This is something I've often felt is a critical factor in the gaming consoles vs. gaming PCs debate: you can do much, much more with a PC than with a console. So take any moderate PC -- all you really need is 8GB RAM and a Core i3/Athlon X4 or higher to get started, though a Core i5 or AMD FX would have more legs -- and add in a video card and you now have the equivalent or in many cases a superior gaming system compared to the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, or Nintendo Wii U. But what sort of performance can you expect from the current generation of video cards, and which GPUs are the best buys right now? (Side note: I'll use the terms "video card" and "GPU" largely interchangeably, though technically the GPU refers more to the chip on the video card than the card itself.)
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Dragon Age Inquisition: The Highs and Lows of AMD’s Mantle

The latest game in the Dragon Age series launched last year to critical and popular acclaim. Dragon Age Inquisition from developers BioWare and published by Electronic Arts won plenty of awards for 2014, even though it came out towards the end of November, and it is undoubtedly one of the best RPGs of recent history. With a current Metacritic rating of 85%, it's by no means perfect, but if you're a fan of the genre or series picking the latest release up is a no-brainer.
Except you might be wondering if you actually have enough graphics power to handle the game in all its glory. BioWare also updated the engine from their own Lycium/Eclipse engine used in the earlier titles to DICE's FrostBite 3 engine, of Battlefield 4 fame. Besides supporting advanced rendering features, FrostBite 3 is one of the few engines to fully support AMD's Mantle API, and that means most games that use the engine will by default support Mantle. So how much does Mantle help with performance, and what sort of hardware do you need to run Dragon Age Inquisition? The answers end up being a bit more complex than you might suspect.
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Crysis 3 Performance: Can Your New PC Handle It?

"Sure your system is fast, but can it run Crysis?" When Crytek first launched Crysis back in 2007, it was so demanding that not even the fastest systems were able to handle running the game without turning down some of the features. It ended up becoming something of a joke, trotted out for every new hardware release over the coming years, for everything from graphics cards to super computers and even smartphones and tablets. And as with all things related to computers, eventually we actually did have systems capable of running the original Crysis at frame rates well above 60 FPS.
Of course by then we had Crysis Warhead and then Crysis 2 to help reset the performance scale, and thus the joke has continued. As the latest game in the series, Crysis 3 ups the ante yet again for computing hardware... though these days there are plenty of other games that can give it a run for the money in terms of being the most demanding game. Regardless of age (Crysis 3 is now nearly two years old -- happy birthday!), including Crysis 3 in our list of benchmarks was something I've been meaning to do, and I've now taken the time to benchmark it on our current collection of GPUs.
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Lichdom Battlemage Performance

Lichdom Battlemage is an interesting title as it uses Cry Engine 3, the same engine that powers Crysis 3 -- which happens to be one of those games that can still kill just about any system at maximum quality. Combine a swords and sorcery story with the run and gun gameplay of an FPS, and then give it some often times laughable American voiceovers and you get Lichdom Battlemage. Reviews for the game are decidedly average, but with a price of under $15 now it's at least affordable; what about system requirements?
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Civilization Beyond Earth Performance

Civilization Beyond Earth is interesting in that not only is it one of first games to use AMD's Mantle API, but it also uses it in a new way. Most games these days use Alternate Frame Rendering if you have more than one GPU, but with Mantle developers are free to pursue other options. In the case of Civilization Beyond Earth, developers Firaxis have created a custom Split Frame Rendering (SFR) solution that should improve both average frame rate as well as minimum frame rates. Note that it's still possible to use regular DX11 AFR mode with multi-GPU configurations, but as we'll see the result is often less compelling.
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Alien Isolation Performance

So I sort of fell behind on posting things here, though I did add some new benchmarks. Rather than trying to do full posts for every game I've currently tested, I'm going to start by just getting a skeleton article into place. With that said, here are the results for Alien Isolation, using the built-in benchmark but with FRAPS to find real performance figured.
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Sleeping Dogs Performance

I know, you're wondering why I'm digging up yet another older title. The thing is, last fall we had a bunch of games launch, and this fall there will be a ton more... but in between things are a bit quieter. Okay, granted, Sleeping Dogs actually launched back in August 2012, so it's from the year before, but it has a decent benchmark mode and it's another "oldie but goodie". Besides, it's a well known test that others can use as a baseline to see if my numbers are off the wall (not that such a thing would ever happen...). The Sleeping Dogs Definitive Edition is also coming, so why not revisit the game? Like several other games in our current list, Sleeping Dogs is an AMD Gaming Evolved title that has been in and out of AMD's Never Settle GPU bundles. This time, performance does seem to slightly favor AMD's latest GPUs, but not by a larger margin. As with BioShock Infinite, let's skip straight to the chase and look at the benchmarks.
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BioShock Infinite Performance

Another "oldie but goodie" game that's worth including in our initial batch of benchmarks is last year's hit BioShock Infinite, the sequel of sorts to BioShock and BioShock 2. Set in the skies and with full support for DirectX 11 hardware, BioShock Infinite is one of AMD's Gaming Evolved titles, and it has also been available as a free game in the past with various AMD GPUs. Despite that connection, however, the performance of BioShock Infinite is largely GPU vendor agnostic. Given this game is already a year old, I'm going to skip straight to the point: performance.
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Sniper Elite 3 Performance – Now with Mantle

This past week AMD had some interesting news with the release of an update to Sniper Elite 3 ($49.99). While it's not the first game to get support for AMD's Mantle API, it's the most recent game to receive such treatment and number four in the list of Mantle enabled games. For the record, the first three Mantle enabled games are Battlefield 4, Thief, and Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare. That last game uses the same Frostbite engine as Battlefield 4, which is why it has Mantle support; going forward, there are quite a few upcoming games that also use the Frostbite engine, so we'll start seeing even more games that use AMD's Mantle API.
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