As always coming to a judgement is a complex thing to do with such a broad range of products. All the graphics cards we’ve tested have their advantages and disadvantages and all are justifiable purchases in their own right….except maybe for three graphics cards, so I will start off the proceedings by having a little moan. The first graphics card I think is a no-go for Battlefield 4 is the R7-260X. For the price its performance is weak at all resolutions in comparison to the almost identically priced GTX 650 Ti Boost, that makes a much better buy. You may even want to consider spending the extra $40 to get to the R9-270 as it is about 45-50% faster than the R7 260X yet costs just 25-30% more. The next graphics card that baffled me a bit was the GTX 660. It costs more or less the same as the R9 270 yet lags behind it by quite some margin, unless you can get a good deal on a GTX 660 the R9 270 is just a much better overall buy. The GTX 660 more broadly is just quite a disappointing graphics card and I strongly hope that Nvidia consider shaving $10-20 off its MSRP to make it more competitive. The final graphics card that appears to be lacking in the Battlefield 4 department is the GTX Titan. At $1000 you’d be crazy to buy it over the GTX 780 Ti, GTX 780, R9 290 or R9 290X. All four of those graphics cards are drastically cheaper and perform equally as well. The 6GB of frame buffer on the GTX Titan makes no difference even with triple 1080p screen gaming and the GTX Titan only really survives thanks to its unique double precision abilities and 6GB of frame buffer, as a gaming graphics card it has become increasingly unattractive with the latest wave of releases and in Battlefield 4 nothing changes – it is still overpriced.
With the moaning out of the way let’s conclude more generally about what these results show. Firstly they show that for the majority of gamers who will be using a single 1080p display, a GTX 760/R9 270X is necessary to crank everything up to the max and get playable frame rates. If you absolutely need more than 60FPS with everything maxed at 1080p then a R9 280X or GTX 770 is needed, while if you don’t mind dropping into the 40-50 range and dropping those settings a little then the GTX 660 and R9 270 will both get the job done. If you want to go higher than 1080p then you’ve got to start at the GTX 770 or R9 280X as a minimum. There are just so many great graphics cards to pick from Nvidia and AMD at the high end. GTX 770 or R9 280X? GTX 780 or R9 290? GTX 780 Ti or R9 290X? I could be swung either way and a case can easily be made for all of them. AMD’s R9 290 solutions offer amazing value for money but due to the feeble stock coolers they often end up slowing down as thermal throttling kicks in over extended gaming periods. Nvidia’s GTX 780(Ti) solutions are much more pricey but offer efficient power/thermals, stable performance and less noise. Both sets of graphics cards overclock very well too, though in the case of AMD’s R9 290 series graphics cards you’d struggle to realise those overclocked gains as much in Battlefield 4 because of the thermal throttling. As it stands the ultimate Battlefield 4 “machine” has to be based on an Nvidia GTX 780 Ti, but when those non-reference R9 290X solutions start hitting the market that could change. We still haven’t seen the potential of AMD’s upcoming Mantle technology in Battlefield 4, that is certainly another interesting consideration to add into the mix.
One final last thing to mention is the Battlefield 4 promotion AMD are running. If you purchase qualifying graphics cards from participating vendors you can get a “complimentary/free” copy of Battlefield 4. The R9 290X, R9 290, R9 280X, R9 270X and R9 270 can theoretically be part promotion but you have to make sure the particular graphics card you want is a qualifying part and is bought from a qualifying retailer. AMD’s promotion page aims to clarify all the details. So if you want a graphics card capable of running Battlefield 4, but also a copy of Battlefield 4 too, then AMD certainly have the edge in that regard.
To Battlefield or not to Battlefield? We hope this performance summary gave you a good idea of what graphics card is required. Let us know your experiences with Battlefield 4 and graphics cards in the comments below!