Memory frequency and performance scaling with Arma III
Our own Colton Westrate, aka "drfish," is a huge fan of Bohemia Interactive's DayZ. He's long suggested that we include Bohemia's Arma III, which is powered by the same engine, in our CPU performance benchmarks because of the disproportionate demand it places on single-threaded CPU performance and memory bandwidth. We figured now was as good a time as any to give it a shot.
We didn't test Arma with every CPU on our bench because of those inherent performance characteristics and a lack of diverse DDR3 kits. Informally, though, the move from a Core i7-3770K with DDR3-1866 to the Core i7-7700K with DDR4-2133 netted us about 11 FPS more on average. Given that fact, we ran the game through its paces with the Core i7-7700K and three different memory kits: one running at DDR4-2133, the second at DDR4-3000, and the third at DDR4-3866. Our thanks to G.Skill for hooking us up with the requisite kits.
To make our Arma benchmarking repeatable, we relied on the community-created "Yet Another Arma Benchmark" scenario. This roughly two-minute test somewhat replicates what it's like to be present in a multiplayer Arma game, and it's quite demanding. We also cranked every graphics setting the game had to offer save for the full-screen anti-aliasing slider.
One thing is for certain if you're an Arma III player: sticking with good old DDR4-2133 isn't going to let you get all of the performance that's available from a Core i7-7700K in this game. The move from DDR4-2133 to DDR4-3000 nets a big increase in average frame rate and a big decrease in 99th-percentile frame times. Past that point, the benefits are somewhat more modest. Our exotic DDR4-3866 kit still offers improved performance over slower memory, but whether it's worth the $65 or so extra over a DDR4-3000 kit of a similar capacity is something that only fans of the game can judge.
Our graph of the tail end of the frame-time distribution for Arma III and our "badness" graphs offer a little more insight into just what that extra $65 buys. The biggest improvement in Arma performance still comes from the move to DDR4-3000, but stepping up to DDR4-3866 means that the game spends about five fewer seconds below 60 FPS in the Yet Another Arma Benchmark scenario. That's not nothing when even a Core i7-7700K and a GeForce GTX 1080 don't seem to be helping Arma III's performance all that much. If you're an Arma fan and already have the best CPU and graphics card that you can afford, it seems like it's worth stepping up to a reasonably fast (or even ludicrously fast) memory kit if your motherboard and CPU can handle it.