We tested Battlefield 3 by playing through the start of the Kaffarov mission, right after the player lands. Our 90-second runs involved walking through the woods and getting into a firefight with a group of hostiles, who fired and lobbed grenades at us.
We tested at 1440x900 using the game's "Medium" detail preset.
We should preface the results below with a little primer on our testing methods. Along with measuring average frames per second, we delve inside the second to look at frame rendering times. Studying the time taken to render each frame gives us a better sense of playability, because it highlights issues like stuttering that can occur—and be felt by the player—within the span of one second. Charting frame times shows these issues clear as day, while charting average frames per second obscures them.
To get a sense of how frame times correspond to FPS rates, check the table on the right.
We're going to start by charting frame times over the totality of a representative run for each system. (That run is usually the middle one out of the five we ran for each GPU.) These plots should give us an at-a-glance impression of overall playability, warts and all.
Right off the bat, we can see the 8790M is doing quite a bit better than its predecessor. Both solutions exhibit occasional latency spikes, though.
We can slice and dice our raw frame-time data in other ways to show different facets of the performance picture. Let's start with something we're all familiar with: average frames per second. While this metric doesn't account for irregularities in frame latencies, it does give us some sense of overall performance. We can also demarcate the threshold below which 99% of frames are rendered, which offers a sense of overall frame latency, excluding fringe cases. (The lower the threshold, the more fluid the game.)
We're looking at a 58% increase in average frame rates and a 59% drop in 99th-percentile frame times. That's a pretty impressive improvement from one generation to the next.
Now, the 99th percentile result only captures a single point along the latency curve. We can show you that whole curve, as well. With single-GPU configs like these, the right hand-side of the graph—and especially the last 5% or so—is where you'll want to look. That section tends to be where the best and worst solutions diverge.
Finally, we can rank solutions based on how long they spent working on frames that took longer than a certain number of milliseconds to render. Simply put, this metric is a measure of "badness." It tells us about the scope of delays in frame delivery during the test scenario. Here, you can click the buttons below the graph to switch between different millisecond thresholds.
The 8790M isn't just faster on average. It also spends a lot less time working on high-latency frames, which makes for more fluid, stutter-free animations and smoother gameplay.
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