Red Alert 3 shows a dislike of Nvidia’s solutions including such an advanced one as the GeForce GTX 280 SLI. None of them can provide an average frame rate of 30fps. We rechecked the results by running the test scene on a different configuration (Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600 and Nvidia GeForce GTX 280) but to the same effect. The game would slow down noticeably during massive combats. It did not get totally unplayable, yet the control over the virtual armies was disturbingly less accurate then.
Of course, the game is much less fun to play when it is slow. Perhaps the speed will be increased by means of Nvidia’s driver updates or game patches, but right now we can’t recommend you any of Nvidia’s off-the-shelf graphics cards, including the flagship GeForce GTX 280, for playing Command & Conquer.
AMD’s top solutions are, on the contrary, very fast at every resolution including 2560x1600. Multi-GPU technologies do not work here, except for the Radeon HD 4870 X2 which is in fact a dual-processor CrossFireX subsystem.
Thus, it is all clear in the Premium category. The Radeon HD 4870 X2 is the best choice for playing this game. Nvidia users have to reduce the level of detail to achieve the same level of comfort or must wait for any improvements in the future. Or maybe it is time for them to switch their allegiance?
It’s all quiet clear in the performance-mainstream category, too. None of Nvidia’s GPUs can deliver an acceptable speed at the Ultra High settings with 4x MSAA. And while the more advanced GeForce GTX 260 can be used to play at 1280x1024, the GeForce 9800 GTX+ is just hopelessly slow.
The ATI products, especially the Radeon HD 4870 1GB, feel much better. The Radeon HD 4850 is slower as it doesn’t have ultra-fast GDDR5 memory. Although it delivers 30fps at 1280x1024, its frame rate varies too wildly, affecting the smoothness of gameplay. You cannot play comfortably at the higher resolutions, at least with 4x MSAA, but you can try to get a higher speed by lowering the level of detail and disabling full-screen antialiasing as we will show shortly.
Thus, ATI’s solutions are the best choice in the performance-mainstream category, too. The Radeon HD 4870 looks especially enticing after the price cut by AMD. The card with 512 megabytes of GDDR5 now comes at an official price of a mere $199 while the 1GB version costs only $239.
The Radeon HD 4830 is the best affordable gaming card as it delivers good performance at a resolution of 1280x1024. However, you may want to disable 4x FSAA and, perhaps, lower the level of detail to achieve a more comfortable speed (we will examine the influence of these settings on performance shortly).
The other products of the mainstream category can’t give you even 20fps. Of course, the game is virtually unplayable at such a low speed. Thus, this category offers but one solution for playing the game, the Radeon HD 4830, unless Nvidia does something about the low speed of its products soon.