Battlefield 3 has high system requirements indeed. We've got the most expensive graphics cards in this category but even they find it difficult to run the game really fast. The numbers shown by the Radeon HD 6990 and GeForce GTX 590 in our test provoke some apprehensions. What can we expect from affordable products if these luxurious dual-GPU cards can barely notch 60 fps in the Full-HD mode and cannot cope with the game at 2560x1600?
This means the first thing you may want to do when you launch the game is enter its graphics quality settings and disable FSAA, even if you’ve got such a top-end product as Radeon HD 6970 or GeForce GTX 580. These graphics cards can only deliver a playable frame rate at 1600x900. You won’t be able to make up for the defects of the non-antialiased image by stepping up its resolution because the frame rate is far lower than the desired 60 fps at 2560x1600.
The performance-mainstream products are having a hard time on the battlefield. The highest resolution of 2560x1600 pixels is of course unavailable for comfortable play, as you may have guessed after the results of the premium-class products above. The GeForce GTX 570 routs its AMD opponents in this category. It is followed by the Radeon HD 6950 which in its turn is competing with the GeForce GTX 560 Titanium. The latter two cards make it clear that the graphics engine is actively pumping data across the PCI Express interface. The GTX 560 Ti falls behind the AMD solution as the resolution grows up along with the amount of data to be transferred via PCIe.
The outdated GPU architecture of the Radeon HD 6870 and HD 6850 cards prevents them from being competitive in this test. On the other hand, they seem to be gaining on their opponents at high loads, so the VLIW5 architecture may be not so hopeless after all. Anyway, you will have to lower your visual quality settings if you plan on pursuing the career of a sniper or just want to shoot accurately. With auto aiming turned off, it is very hard to shoot a moving enemy in the head even at 45 fps, let alone at lower frame rates.
If you want to play Battlefield 3 on a mainstream graphics card, you may have to wait for the next generation of such products to arrive. Confirming the trend we’ve noticed above, Nvidia's solutions feel somewhat better than their AMD counterparts in this game, the GeForce GTX 550 Ti being in the lead. The Radeon HD 6770 and HD 6750 are good, considering their rather old architecture, but not good enough to outperform the GeForce GT 545 DDR3.
None of the entry-level graphics cards can deliver a playable frame rate in Battlefield 3. It is only through severely reducing your visual quality settings that you can try playing the game on a Radeon HD 6670 or GeForce GT 530.