Lots of us will look longingly at the latest top tier GPUs, listening as a lucky few people tell us what wonderful frame rates they can get with the latest and greatest in gaming tech. Our Pixel Perfection series is going to transcend the barriers of gaming and help everyone find their way to achieving the best visuals that their current rig can reach.
Our first Pixel Perfection articles will be giving us a look at the top end of hardware, as we need to understand the ceiling of Pixel Perfection and hopefully better decide for ourselves what price we are willing to put on ultra graphics for today's games. This article will answer our questions about whether you can buy a top end GPU and guarantee Ultra graphics across any game you play today.
Because, let's face it, if you are buying a behemoth rig or GPU, like the MSI GTX 980 Ti Gaming 6G that we are benchmarking games with in this article, then that's kind of what you want to know, right?
Can I really play any game and turn it up to full Ultra graphics visuals and still get an enjoyable, stable gameplay performance every time, if I just buy a top end GPU?
So the question I put back to each and every one of you is, are you in need of 60FPS+ or can you enjoyably play a game at 30FPS+ or perhaps you see that playing over 80 FPS+ is the only real way to enjoy ultra smooth gameplay?
There is no wrong answer here, it is down to personal preference, but the answer you give me will definitely influence your acceptance of spending £550/$880 for a top end GPU in order to get Ultra graphics on any game.
Right let's take a look at the game benchmark videos to see how well certain games run at Ultra using our current test rig, with an Intel i7-5820K, MSI GTX 980 ti Gaming 6G, 16GB Memory. We also use a G-Sync 144hz 27" monitor, but we move the screen resolution from 2560x1440 through to 5120x2880 in some cases. All are run at Ultra graphics settings. Sometimes I add some comparison screen resolutions into the video to help show a variety of performance possibilities, hopefully giving you even more comprehension of what can be achieved by these top end hardware components if you want to push them. (Quick note - if I watch these YT videos on a lesser machine then they stutter due to my PC, not because the game stuttered on the test rig.) Lastly, always look for the FPS counter in the corner of all our benchmark videos. The counter will always be there.
Check out our other Pixel Perfection articles as well
- Pixel Perfection - Is 4K Screen Res Gaming Good Enough On A Single GPU
- Pixel Perfection - UBER Fidelity Mod Tries To Get The Witcher 3 Looking Even Better
Right, first up we have
Tomb Raider - 3620x2036 screen resolution - Ultra Graphics Setting
- 48.7 AVERAGE FPS
- 36.9 MINIMUM FPS
- 58.4 MAXIMUM FPS
Tomb Raider is a good looking and fun adventure title with plenty of action and puzzles thrown in. You really don't need to play it at 4K but the frame rate return on the MSI GTX 980 ti Gaming 6G is plenty for stable gameplay if you choose to. However, you will not be getting 60FPS+ at the 4K res marker so if that is your bag then pop it down to 1440p and you will be absolutely great and the game still looks lovely on Ultra at 1440p.
The next one is a big hitter. This latest Total War title pulls down mighty cards if you even think about Ultra graphics settings, so let's see how our test rig with the GTX 980 ti looks and runs at 1440p
Total War Attila - 2560x1440 Screen Resolution - Ultra Graphics
- 34.7 AVERAGE FPS
- 25 MINIMUM FPS
- 46 MAXIMUM FPS
Eek, so as I said, this title is still quite a beast even for the GTX 980 ti. You will notice that we even ran the benchmark with no anti-aliasing turned on, but everything else pushed to maximum quality (basically ultra). If you want to get more frames per second from Total War Attila, then adjust your graphics options down to the setting called Quality and you will see something in the region of a 50% performance gain in Total War Attila. The new Warscape Engine is designed to last The Creative Assembly into the future GPUs and any card that has a low VRAM will certainly suffer from trying to run it maxed out. Obviously the 6G GTX 980 Ti has 6GB of VRAM and so that can really open some gaming doors.
Speaking of which, let's take a look at Shadow Of Mordor on Ultra with the HD pack installed. The Ultra HD Texture Pack doesnt normally become an option for anyone with less than 8GB system memory and 6GB video card RAM.
Shadow Of Mordor - 3840x2160 Screen Resolution - Ultra HD Graphics
Shadow of Mordor 4K Ultra
- 43.1 AVERAGE FPS
- 34.0 MINIMUM FPS
- 52.1 MAXIMUM FPS
Shadow of Mordor 4K HD Ultra
- 41.8 AVERAGE FPS
- 31.7 MINIMUM FPS
- 51.3 MAXIMUM FPS
So with the MSI GTX 980 ti Gaming 6G version you get 6GB VRAM, which means you get access to the HD Ultra content of Shadow of Mordor, and it costs you nothing but a couple of FPS to turn it on and run it. Visually the HD Ultra content pack for Shadow of Mordor made it look pretty. I was personally never a massive fan of the dingy graphics in this title (although the graphics on the whole are passable and the game itself is amazing fun) and so I certainly thought the HD enhancement was a nice improvement, but seemingly only available for the absolute top-end graphic enthusiasts. However, I know a bunch of people also loved the "dark look" of Shadow of Mordor, so perhaps the graphics are ok before the HD Ultra graphics content pack.
Here is another comparison video for Shadow of Mordor. No HD content pack and comparison between 1440p and 4K
Right, on to Far Cry 4
Far Cry 4 - 3620x2036 Screen Resolution - Ultra HD Graphics
- 42.6 AVERAGE FPS
- 34.8 MINIMUM FPS
- 50.1 MAXIMUM FPS
Far Cry 4 on the GTX 980 ti 6G at 4K runs great. If you're wondering why occasionally 4K is deemed to be 3620x2036 and then sometimes it is recorded at 3840x2160, this is because of some weird quirk where we have a 1440p native res monitor. It doesn't make sense why these different screen res options are given to us from one game to the next, but it's because of the 2560x1440 resolution of the monitor. It doesn't happen on a 1080p monitor.
Right, what's one of the most notoriously "optimised" PC titles of the past 12 months? Hello, AC Unity, you're up. Lets see what that has to offer in the way of frame rates on the MSI GTX 980 ti Gaming 6G test rig.
Assassin's Creed Unity - 2560x1440 Screen Resolution - Ultra HD Graphics
- 37.3 AVERAGE FPS
- 30.4 MINIMUM FPS
- 58.4 MAXIMUM FPS
Well AC Unity on the top tier GPU looks good and runs above the 30FPS+ threshold. I haven't really got a lot to say about this one as it will likely just focus the discussions below solely on Unity not really looking that great considering the FPS achieved at Ultra. I am inclined to agree, and also very interested to see what happens with the next Assassin's Creed later this year. But anyway, moving swiftly on.
It's time for this year's monster games, GTA V and The Witcher 3
Grand Theft Auto 5 - 2560x1440 | 3620x2036 | 5120x2880 Screen Resolution
- 2560x1440 - 81.1 FPS
- 3620x2036 - 45.3 FPS
- 5120x2880 - 29.8 FPS
GTA V is an easy one to get running on most modern hardware. Very forgiving (unlike its predecessor GTA IV). If you get a hankering to mod the single player version of GTA 5 then some of the mods can really put a strain on your hardware. This top end stuff can help at that point.
The Witcher 3 - 2560x1440 | 3620x2036 Screen Resolution - Ultra Graphics
- 2560x1440 - 51 FPS
- 3620x2036 - 32 FPS
The Witcher 3 is a good looking game. Run at 1440p you can comfortably enjoy Ultra graphics visuals. We tried modding this recently to get The Witcher 3 looking even more beautiful, check out our report to see why you should or shouldnt bother.
Do you want more vids on this? Well I might as well give you the full compliment then.
Wolfenstein The Old Blood - 2560x1440 Screen Resolution - Ultra Graphics
- 48 AVERAGE FPS
Alien Isolation - 2560x1440 | 5120x2880 Screen Resolution - Ultra Graphics
- 2560x1440 - 110 FPS
- 5120x2880 - 42 FPS
Bioshock Infinite - 3620x2036 Screen Resolution - Ultra Graphics
- 61 AVERAGE FPS
F1 2015 - 2560x1440 Screen Resolution - Ultra Graphics
- 96.3 AVERAGE FPS
- 78.3 MINIMUM FPS
- 112.6 MAXIMUM FPS
The beauty of a big hitting GPU like a MSI GTX 980 Ti Gaming 6G is that whatever happens, all games will play and you always have options. This allows you to customise your gaming experience whichever way you want. So no matter how demanding a game is today, with a GPU powerhouse, Ultra graphics settings are always achievable. You may, in rare situations, have to tweak a couple of graphics settings or accept 30+FPS instead of 100FPS. But as I said, that's not usually the case. A lot of people also say they don't really notice the difference between Very High graphics settings and Ultra. Finally, you can always adjust screen resolution as well to help you get the combination of FPS and visuals that you are happy to game at.
Another way to look at things when working out the longevity of these GPU investments is: a MSI GTX 980 Ti Gaming 6G is the sorts of graphics card that top end devs are using next month to begin making AAA games that we will see released in 12-24 months time. So you can expect to be playing games with Ultra graphics setting confidence for quite a while yet, if you front up the big bucks today. Would I spend £550/$800 dollars on one of these GPUs? Well, I think I would answer how every gamer would, if I could afford to I would in flash, but there are other GPU deals that fit more in my price range, like the GTX 970.
Right, let's get a feeling about what you guys expect from a top end GPU. Take a look at the poll below. If you spend your money on a MSI GTX 980 Ti do you expect all games should be running at Ultra, or do you think that some games will always need a little tweaking?
Finally, I just want to let you guys know that we will be doing tonnes of Pixel Perfection articles and gaming videos like these across all sorts of hardware over the coming months. We even have the brand new GTX 950 scheduled for a complete review (gaming videos, FPS counters and all), this coming release week.