The last time I really played current games on a PC there were no GPUs and they ran on DOS which required a degree of patience and often a degree in Computer Science to get working. The year was 1996 and the game was Geoff Crammond’s GP2 which ate a large chunk of my life. The Pentium was quite new still and a half decent 8mb ram PC with 14″ monitor would cost about a Grand. To be honest that was one of the few games I ever played much on a PC. i have always preferred consoles and arcade games (and still do) but fast forward 17 years and computer graphics have come so far and gotten so cheap now that I have just aquired the latest £90 Sapphire Radeon 7790 last night to go with my Pentium G840 system. This is basically an upgrade on the Digital Foundry £300 Gaming PC spec. I just wanted something capable of playing Elite: Dangerous better than my Intel Graphics and let the kids play Minecraft and Superhero Squad Online. According to Digital Foundry this is basically a faster version of the graphics chip in the new Xbox One so I figured that has to be worth £90? I shall update this post over the next couple if weeks as I try out different things but I did install it last night and here are my original thoughts…..
I don’t have a lot of PC games so I ran Passmark on it and got 3256 which is above the average on the Passmark site for this GPU. I also ran 3D Mark 06 and got 16174. 3D Mark Vantage gave me 12871 and the 3D Mark 11 result was 4367. (I presume these scores are not directly comparable.) My overall impression watching all these benchmarks was that it is indeed at least 10 times faster than the integrated graphics were and somewhere between PS3 and PS4 performance wise. Running an old favourite like Burnout Paradise is now identical to the PS3 version and probably better but not so much so because I think it’s DX9. Running the DX11 benchmarks show the potential of vastly improved graphical quality with similar performance over DX9 which bodes well for Elite and other newer games. I bought the EA Humble Bundle so I shall try out Dead Space 3 and Battlefield 3 tonight to get a better idea of what it is truly capable of but I think Elite will look great on it based on all the space scenes in the Futuremark Benchmarks.
My initial impression is that for £90 if you have an integrated graphics PC this is definitely recommended as a budget buy. It is currently topping the price/performance lists at Passmark and rightly so. I still prefer the simplicity of the console experience and I am still getting a PS4 but this will be good for games like Elite that might not make it to that platform.
So I spent a second night playing around with various benchmarks and Steam games, Google Earth and the WesterosCraft server and came to the conclusion that I am very happy with this card for what I paid for it. I will play some stuff on it, it’s an excellent general upgrade and the kids will have great fun with it. The biggest thrill I got from it was the realisation that the leap from PS3 to PS4 will not be so much about resolution or frames/second but the vast difference in image quality between the DX9 hardware and DX11. I was not expecting that so given roughly 10 times more performance over the RSX chip I think I am going to be spending most of my gaming time on the PS4. It’ll be interesting to see how much the PS4 outperforms the 7790 without the overhead of Windows.