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Raffle Square—continued
Here's how the GeForce GTX 650 Ti 1GB and Radeon HD 7790 fare when we lower the detail level from "Ultra" to "Very high."


Aah, much better. BioShock Infinite is a lot more playable on these cards at this preset.

Now, which card is the quickest? The Radeon pulls off the highest frame rates, and it spends less time at each of our "badness" thresholds (50 ms, 33.3 ms, and 16.7 ms). The exception is our 99th-percentile rankings, where the Radeon falls behind the GeForce by a couple of milliseconds. Our percentile plot shows both cards spike at almost the same point, though, and the Radeon maintains lower frame times overall.

It's a close call, but I'd say the 7790 wins this one.

Image quality comparisons
Compromising on image quality to keep performance high is a fact of life with lower-priced cards. The big question, of course, is how much of a compromise is needed.

  Very high Ultra
Antialiasing On On
Texture detail High Ultra
Texture filtering Ultra Ultra
Dynamic shadows Very high Ultra
Postprocessing Normal Normal
Light shafts On On
Ambient occlusion High Ultra
Object level of detail High Ultra

In BioShock Infinite, dropping the detail level from "Ultra" to "Very high" only affects texture detail, dynamic shadow quality, ambient occlusion fidelity, and object LOD, according to the in-game menu, which shows you the variables modified by each preset if you briefly switch to the "custom" quality mode.

Here are screenshots from a couple of scenes that show in-game differences between the "Ultra" and "Very high" presets. You can click the buttons under each image to toggle between the presets.



In both scenes, shadow detail is noticeably lower with the "Very high" preset. Both character and object shadows suffer. As the second scene shows, the difference is particularly stark with long, continuous shadows, which are sharp up close and suddenly fuzzy at a distance.

Character detail is also worse at the "Very high" preset. The difference is subtle, but the gentleman above loses some facial features: his ears become flat, his eyes turn into smooth-looking grooves, and his mouth seems to pucker up for no reason. The effect isn't noticeable up close when the game shows you the highest geometry detail, but the reduced LODs are noticeable at a distance.

Those differences aside, I didn't notice a degradation in texture resolution or ambient occlusion detail, even when looking at objects up close or staring closely at the dark corners of levels. Maybe playing at a higher resolution (2560x1440, say) would highlight more discrepancies, but I was testing on a 24" monitor that only goes as high as 1920x1200.