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 1920x1080 using the game's "High" detail preset, which offered the best compromise between image quality and smoothness on the GTX 650 Ti.
We should preface the results below with a little primer on our testing methodology. 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 card.) These plots should give us an at-a-glance impression of overall playability, warts and all. You can click the buttons below the graph to compare our protagonist to its different competitors.
The GTX 650 Ti AMP! is off to a somewhat rocky start in Battlefield 3. While it suffers from fewer latency spikes than the GeForce GTX 560, it still doesn't achieve terribly great consistency. Our two Radeon HD 7850 variants both produced thinner plots, with fewer high-latency frame times and thus greater perceived smoothness in-game. Only the Radeon HD 7770 Black Edition seems to be markedly worse than the GTX 650 Ti AMP!.
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 typical 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.)
Looking at average FPS alone, you might think the GTX 650 Ti AMP! and the Radeon HD 7850 1GB are about neck and neck. As the 99th-percentile results demonstrate, however, that's not quite the case. 99% of the 7850 1GB's frames are rendered in less than 22.8 ms, which works out to a threshold of 44 FPS—very reasonable, in other words. On the Zotac card, the threshold is 31.5 ms, equivalent to only 32 FPS.
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.
Graphing percentile data makes it pretty obvious that the two 7850 variants maintain the lowest and most consistent latencies of the bunch. The GTX 560 starts to spike around the 95% mark, and the GTX 650 Ti AMP! keeps steady until about 97%, but the 7850s manage consistently low frame times until they get right up to the 99% mark.
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 milisecond thresholds.
The GTX 650 Ti AMP! doesn't spend much time beyond 50 ms, which means the latency spikes from which it suffers aren't too dramatic. It does, however, spend more time above 33 ms than we'd like, especially compared to the two 7850 cards.