OnePlus 5T Review

In the past year, flagship phone prices have soared to very uncomfortable heights. A few years ago, the idea of a $1,000 US phone sounded absurd; today, it’s standard fare for the best of the best in mobile tech. Google’s Nexus program, which paired high-end phones with affordable prices, has been discontinued. You’d be hard-pressed to find a similar option today, if it wasn’t for one growingly-popular company called OnePlus.

OnePlus’s latest offering is the 5T, which—despite being a full-on flagship phone—retails for only $499.

I have spent 4 months with my OnePlus 5T, and I can confidently say that not only is it still the best phone I could have bought this year, but that it’s also the best smartphone I’ve ever had. Read on to find out why.

My OnePlus 5T (with original glass screen protector)

The Hardware

In terms of specs, the OnePlus 5T is a 2017/2018 flagship in every sense: it has a 6-inch, 1080p AMOLED display, Snapdragon 835 SoC, 6/8 GB memory, 64/128 GB of storage, dual-cameras, fingerprint and face unlock, NFC, a USB Type-C connector, and even a headphone jack.

Its industrial design hits a sweet-spot in size: the 6-inch screen has very small bezels around it, so you get a lot more screen compared to the size of the phone you’re holding. It’s quite usable with one hand, but you’ll have to occasionally switch to 2 hands if you need to do something more complicated. The metal body looks and feels good.

Unique to OnePlus among Android phones is an alert slider on the side of the phone, which lets you switch between Normal, Do Not Disturb, and Silent alert profiles. You can configure the Do Not Disturb mode to allow and disallow different types of alerts, such as calls or notifications. Unfortunately, the existence of this hardware toggle means that you don’t get the software toggle that’s usually built-into Android, which can automatically switch profiles based on the time of day. I personally prefer having the hardware switch—when walking into a meeting, I can blindly silence my phone from inside my pocket (on other Android phones you have to unlock, pull the notification shade, and select the relevant quick toggle).

The power and volume buttons and the alert slider all feel crisp and satisfying, with no mushiness. The single loudspeaker is loud and clear, but it is bottom-firing, which means and a finger might inadvertently block the audio sometimes. Phones with front-firing speakers don’t have this issue.

You have two options for unlocking the phone: face and fingerprint. Both are very fast—so fast, in fact, that it’s hard to believe they’re actually authenticating you before unlocking the screen. The face unlock setup process simply involves facing your phone for about 5 seconds. After that, any time you press the power button or double-tap the screen (depending on your settings), the phone will unlock in a split second. The fingerprint sensor is optimally positioned in the upper middle of the back of the phone, and it too is lightning fast. You’ll never skip a beat unlocking this phone throughout the day.

The 6 inch display of the OnePlus 5T is excellent. Everyone I’ve shown it to enjoys the picture on it. Photos and videos look great, and I’ve spent many hours watching Netflix movies and YouTube videos on it. The 1080p resolution is lower than the 1440p on most high-end phones, but in my opinion, this is the right resolution for a smartphone screen: even at an inch away from your face you can’t see the pixels. The only benefit I can think of for those 1440p screens is for VR applications like Google Cardboard and Daydream, which most people nowadays don’t really care about.

The display is quite high in brightness, and is easily viewable under bright sunlight. Colours are vibrant and feel accurate—not over or under saturated. The settings even let you switch between 5 colour profiles, letting you tweak the screen image to your preference. You get two additional settings when it comes to the screen: Reading Mode and Night Mode. While both are intended to help with eye fatigue, Reading Mode desaturates the screen and gives it the look and contrast of newspaper, saving battery power and reducing distractions for long reading sessions. Night Mode is a blue light filter, which can be configured to turn on automatically based on the time of day to help with sleep readiness. Both can be toggled from the quick settings panel.

The Camera

I’ve taken some great and memorable photos with my OnePlus 5T, both in daylight and indoors. Viewed at full size, the photos from this 16MP shooter look good. The photos have good contrast, color saturation, and they’re not over or under sharpened. Zoomed in or cropped, however, the images don’t have great detail. The colour and edge details exhibit an “oil-paint” effect, as if they were ran through a Photoshop filter.

As a dual camera setup, the OnePlus 5T relegates low-light shots to the secondary, 20MP camera. This camera is supposed to be optimized to gather more light and use image processing to get clearer and brighter low-light photos. In practice, this camera only triggers in very, very dark conditions—places where my own eyes can barely make out the objects in front of me. But the photos it does capture show a bit more detail than my eye could see, which is good. But considering how rarely this camera will be useful, I can’t help but wonder if its resources couldn’t have been better spent on just improving the main camera, such as with a superior sensor or optics, or optical image stabilization.

Like most other recent flagships, the OnePlus 5T camera also has a “portrait” mode, which creates a depth of field effect to make portraits pop. In my experience, this works very, very well. In fact, photos taken in portrait mode look much higher quality than the standard photos. The details of these photos even lack most of the aforementioned detail problems—they just look plain good! The masking that the software uses to separate the blurred and non-blurred portion of image is very well executed, and doesn’t have the “hard edge” issues you find with some other portrait mode phones.

I’m also very happy with the quality of video capture. Videos are stabilized in software and shakiness is smoothed out. Available video modes are 720p, 1080p, 4k, and my personal favourite: 1080p 60fps, because I love smooth video (file sizes are doubled in this mode, however, so it’s wise to use it sparingly). Other camera features include a beautification mode, slow motion video, and a Pro Mode which lets you adjust every camera setting manually, including the option to save RAW files.

My verdict on the OnePlus 5T camera is that it’s overall a good, serviceable shooter that will do the job of capturing your memories. It will often even delight you. The pictures it produces are not as good as the latest Pixel, iPhone, or Galaxy, but it’s worth noting that those phones have only recently set that bar extremely high, and that a step below them isn’t necessarily bad.

The Experience

I have found that I use my OnePlus 5T much more than previous phones, and I think it’s simply because it’s such an all-round great phone. The software is smooth, lag free, and consistent—no skipping or slowdowns occur when swiping homescreens, scrolling webpages, or pretty much doing anything. The speedy processor and optimized software make sure to keep all actions fast. The ambient light sensor always keeps the screen at the perfect brightness, no matter what the lighting conditions I’m in, so I never have to reach for the brightness slider as I frequently had to do on previous phones. Multitasking, such as switching back and forth between several apps to find and fill out information, is always as fast as I expect it to be. Split screen works just as well, and I frequently watch a YouTube video on the top half of my screen while WhatsApp chatting with people on the bottom (not all apps work in split screen though).

Charging is done with the included USB-C to USB-A cable and OnePlus’s proprietary Dash wall charger. From what I’ve read, Dash charging is the fastest of the fast charging technologies available in the industry. From my experience, I don’t doubt that claim at all. OnePlus actually encourages users to stop plugging in their phones overnight. And it makes sense—why keep your phone tethered all night, when a short plug-in at one point in the day will suffice to charge it? I have personally taken to only charging my phone in the period between waking up in the morning until I finish getting ready. This short plug-in time usually brings my phone up to 85%, which is much more battery percentage than I need for a day’s use, as you’ll find in this next paragraph about: battery life!

I almost feel like writing poetry when trying to express how I feel about the battery life on my OnePlus 5T. It’s amazing! After all these years—after almost a decade of being a smartphone user—I can finally just use my phone without worrying about how much I can use it! Where I used to get a maximum of 3.5 hours of screen-on-time (SOT) with previous phones, I can get over 7 hours of SOT with this phone. The battery capacity specification isn’t even that large—it’s only 3300mah. My Nexus 6P had a 3450mah battery, yet could rarely last me to the evening without a mid-day charge. This phone, on the other hand, often finishes the day at 50%. The wizards at OnePlus have really done something special; something that Google themselves were unable to do despite being the makers of Android and having 8 tries with the Nexus program.

Old habits die hard, but in the past few months I have very slowly unlearned the habit of worrying about battery life throughout the day. I now just use the phone as much as I want, and I rarely glance at the battery percentage. It’s liberating. It’s fun. I watch multiple movies and play games on a long-haul flight and still have battery to take me to bedtime.

In regards to software, if you like stock Android—the version of Android that’s designed by Google and shipped on the Pixel and Nexus phones—you will also like Android on this phone. It’s a customized version of Android called OxygenOS; but don’t let the “customized” adjective scare you: this isn’t custom in the sense of Samsung and LG phones. Rather, it’s stock Android but with additional, *optional* customizations built-in, should you choose to use them. Here is a list of all these additional features I could find:

  • Customize the Navigation bar, such as swapping the Back and Recents buttons, or add a toggle to hide the bar and call it back up with a swipe. Or, get rid of the navigation bar entirely and use gestures to perform Home, Back, and Recents actions.
  • Assign a customizable long press and/or double tap action to each of the Back, Home, and Recents buttons.
  • Option to swipe the fingerprint sensor to open the notification shade, or long press it to take a photo.
  • Other gesture options such as flip the phone to mute, use three fingers to take a screenshot, double-tap the screen to wake it, and control music by drawing screen-off gestures.
  • On the status bar, you can choose between two battery icon styles; show or hide the battery percentage; and even choose to hide any of the individual icons that usually show in the status bar.
  • A customizable night mode, a reading mode, option to make selected apps full screen by default; Ambient display to show screen-off information when you lift the phone; dark and light themes; disallow individual apps from using the notification LED.
  • A built-in audio equalizer.
  • Parallel Apps, which lets you have multiple installs of an app on your phone at the same time (for example, to have separate work and personal versions of an app).
  • App locker, which lets you lock certain apps behind your lockscreen password or fingerprint, for an additional layer of security.
  • Gaming Do Not Disturb mode, to prevent notification popups when you’re using certain apps, and optionally route incoming calls through the loudspeaker, disable auto brightness, and reduce phone performance to save battery power.
  • The built-in launcher lets you use icon packs.
  • Phone reboot option.

As a smartphone power user, these additions are a godsend to me. I personally dislike having unnecessary icons such as Bluetooth and NFC cluttering the statusbar, and now I can hide them. And, like many iPhone users I know, I like to preserve my hardware buttons and not press them if I can avoid it—so I have customized a long press on the back button to lock the screen. When listening to music, I love that I can pause and skip songs by drawing a screen off gesture. And I really appreciate the audio equalizer, which I have tuned for great sound on my headphones. These are all features I would miss if I was using a Pixel phone.

One problematic issue that needs to be mentioned though is that the OnePlus 5T can’t play HD videos from Netflix and other copy-protected streaming sites. It was an oversight on OnePlus’s part—they simply forgot to check this point before shipping the phones. They eventually announced their solution to fix this problem, but it involves mailing the phone to the factory, which could have a one-week or more turnaround time. This is a long time to be away from one’s smartphone. I personally watch a lot of Netflix videos on my phone, and I notice the lack of quality, and it’s annoying. But the process of backing up my phone, wiping it, mailing it in, configuring and setting up my backup phone for the meanwhile, and then doing it all again when the 5T returns—it’s all just too much time and energy. The lack of HD quality on my Netflix viewing is just not worth that ordeal.

But all else aside, I have to say that my favourite thing about using this phone has been its consistency. Every smartphone I have owned until this point has had a disappointing lifecyle: the week you unbox it, it’s fresh, fast, and fun, but it grows slow and starts showing problems with every passing week. That great first-week battery life dips down to half or less of its original runtime. Animations that once were smooth become stuttery and laggy. A glitch somewhere in the system will produce random reboots or freezes. Every additional app you download makes the phone feel slower and slower. Regular reboots are required to make the phone feel temporarily normal again.

The above listed issues are the bane of my smartphone experience. I have experienced them all with all my previous smartphones, and my friends often complain about similar issues with their phones.

The OnePlus 5T is my first smartphone that hasn’t degraded in this way. It works the same today as the day I unboxed it. I have added way more apps than I dared to on previous phones, the the speed and battery life have remained the same. I don’t reboot it for long periods of time—like over a month—and there’s no difference in performance. And the battery lasts as long today as it did originally. This level of consistency is something I’ve never experienced before, and really grounds my confidence in this phone.

Conclusion

You may be wondering, if the OnePlus phone is as good as I’m claiming it is, then why isn’t it more popular? The only answer I can give is that OnePlus just doesn’t have the marketing and distribution network in the West the way Samsung, LG, and Google do. OnePlus phones are not on store shelves or sold by phone carriers, so you have to buy it from their website. They are a smartphone lovers’ brand—and you’d normally only hear about it if you read about and research smartphones.

Those of us who have heard about them and chose to buy their latest phone are rewarded by having to spend as little as half the price of the competition, while getting a similar or even better product. The OnePlus 5T is the perfect device for me: it has a large and wonderful screen housed in a comfortable size body, speedy internals and optimized software that keep it consistent, a nice camera, lots of customization options in the software, use-till-you-drop battery life, and none of the annoyances that have plagued my previous smartphone experiences.

Like I said in the beginning of this review, I still consider the OnePlus 5T to be the best smartphone I could have bought this year. I look forward to seeing what OnePlus offers in the future.

The Next Smartphones

The iPhone has changed a lot over the past 10 years since the first model, but the front face of the smartphone has stayed relatively unchanged. This conservative development of the design has held up very well over the years, and the latest iPhone models remain some of the most beautiful smartphones around.

But this will not hold up any longer.

The latest trend in smartphone design is going “bezel-less”—removing as much from the front of the phone that isn’t screen. This has a very important impact on the design of the device: for one, a device that’s “all screen” looks incredibly futuristic, and secondly, it greatly reduces the size of the phone while keeping a bigger screen. To put that second point in perspective: imaging holding a regular iPhone in your hand, but this one has a screen the size of the iPhone Plus. You get all the benefits of having a big screen, yet retain all the benefits of having a smaller phone (more portability, pocketability, easy one-handed use, etc).

Smartphone manufacturers, in their unending quest to add new features and benefits, have made it clear that the next design trend is to remove as much bezel as possible and increase the size of the screen relative to the device. And no one has achieved this better than Samsung in yesterday’s unveiling of the Galaxy S8.

To be clear: I have never liked Samsung as a smartphone manufacturer. As far as Android phones go, their phones have always been the most unoriginal, generic plastic devices to unfortunately be everywhere and in the hands of everyone who didn’t know better. I can only attribute their success to the fact that their marketing and distribution teams are much more innovative than their product development team.

But with the Galaxy S6 this started to change, and Wednesday’s unveiling of the S8 obliterated any question that Samsung is now a completely original hardware designer. The design language of the S8 hardware is unquestionably unique, and it’s beautiful.

In contrast, iPhone has a huge amount of wasted space on that never-changing front face: it has a large round home button with space all around it, creating a large bottom bezel, and for the sake of symmetry the top bezel mirrors the size of the bottom one. It also has bezels along the sides of the display. This design aesthetic has served the world’s most popular phone well for its first decade, but this cannot continue. The iPhone 8 will, without a doubt, have a new front face: it will get rid of the physical home button, and reduce or eliminate the bezels.

If Apple waits out a generation with a iPhone 7″S” iteration, this delay in updating the design will might actually hurt their sales numbers for the first time. The iPhone will very quickly look dated, old, and possibly ugly now that consumers have seen the future of smartphones.

Smartphone Displays and Resolutions 2015

My first smartphone was a very high-resolution phone: the Nexus One had a 800×600 display that made every other phone—especially the iPhone—look awful. This was the thrown glove that drove Apple to take ownership of high-resolution displays and name-brand the idea with the “Retina” moniker. The iPhone 4’s 330 ppi was a small but important leapfrog over the competition, and it cemented the importance of display pixel density for the industry.

The competition didn’t take this threat lightly, and their newest flagships run at 6× the resolution—and almost double the ppi—of that Apple phone.

In 2015, pixel densities have reached the point of absurdity. Today’s bleeding-edge resolution du jour is Quad HD, or 2560×1440. This resolution is so incredibly high, it would take a 9″ screen for this resolution’s pixel density to reduce to the iPhone 5 & 6’s. These <6″ phones have a higher resolution than the 10″ retina iPad, and are almost 10× the resolution of my old Nexus One.

What’s the point of pixel density past 300ppi, which is where Apple claims the human eye can no longer see pixels? Many of us have been asking this question for the past couple years. 1080p on its own was crazy high, so Quad HD has left many of us scratching our heads. HTC seems to agree, as they have kept their line of One phones at the same resolution through the years.

Incredible pixel densities are not completely without their use. In 2012, Oculus demonstrated that a lens held in front of a mobile display can wrap images around our field of view, immersing the viewer in the image and creating a true VR experience. Warping an image blows up the pixels, spacing them out and exponentially reducing the pixel density for the viewer. Early prototypes of the Oculus Rift used a 1280×800 display, which must have produced a very blurry image. But thanks to the obsessive small-screen resolution increase on the part of Samsung, LG, Sharp, and JDI, virtual reality kits will soon be able to produce a life-like image to the viewer. According to one Valve engineer, realism may require a display somewhere near 8K resolution.

I would say 8K (7680×4320) resolution on a mobile display sounds impossible. But then again, back in 2011 I wouldn’t have believed 1080p would be possible, much less passé today.

smartphone-2015

All ppi calculations were done using online tools such as this one. Open the source image to view the full-size, pixel equivalent on your screen.

Tags: phone resolutions, phone screen resolutions, smartphone displays, mobile displays, mobile screens, smartphone resolutions, smartphone screens, mobile resolutions, phone screens, phone resolutions, phone ppi, phone displays, mobile ppi, smartphone ppi, pixel densities, device resolutions, device screens.

Smartphone Displays and Resolutions (2013)

There have been some major changes in the smartphone landscape since my previous post about smartphone displays, so here is an updated graphic on the current state of consumer handheld screens.

Click on the image to see the full-size, pixel equivalent on your screen

All ppi calculations were done using online tools such as this one.

The RAZR Reborn as a Smartphone

As far as dumbphones went, the Motorola RAZR was the ultimate device. Its industrial design was unprecedented: it had dual colour screens, a camera, bluetooth, and EDGE data for web browsing—all in an unbelievably thin package. It was so thin, in fact, that Moto had to design the keypad out of a single sheet of thin metal, instead of using normal buttons. I used my Gunmetal Grey V3i model for over 4 years—a long time in cellphone years—and I never grew tired of it. In fact, if smartphones never caught on, it would have remained a great phone even at the end.

The RAZR brand, to me, represents a phone whose industrial design, build quality, and features are so fantastic, the device will last you a long, long time. It’s for these reasons that I was apprehensive at the news of the revival of the RAZR brand. Verizon and Moto have announced the imminent unveiling of the Droid RAZR, and they’ve set up a teaser site with a countdown and video. The countdown points to a few hours before the Google-Samsung event.

Despite its secretive nature, someone has managed to grab an unpublished image off of the teaser site:

The teaser image looks nice, but in this brave new world of smartphones, specs are everything. I can only hope—for the sake of the RAZR name—that Verizon and Motorola thought out this phone through-and-through. We’ll find out within the next 24 hours.

On a related note, I’ve recently learned that the Google-Samsung event (scheduled for 10pm EDT) is being livecast on http://www.youtube.com/android; no need to read liveblogs (although I still will!). Samsung Canada has apparently told Canadian fans to pay attention to tomorrows news, as they’ll  be bringing the “coolest Samsung phone” to Canada within weeks. Translation: Nexus Prime will be released in Canada at launch!

On Smartphone Displays and Resolutions

(Update: updated graphics for 2013 and 2015 are available)

You might say I’m a bit overenthusiastic about technology and gadgets sometimes. When the joint Google-Samsung event which was scheduled for today was cancelled, it probably hit me harder than most people you know. I’ve had the day marked on my calendar, with reminders to follow multiple liveblogs, etc. All the same, the cancellation was understandable and it was a very classy display of respect for Steve jobs, who passed away last Wednesday, October 5th.

The long-awaited Nexus Prime is rumoured to be unveiled at this Google-Samsung event. As a Nexus One owner—the original Google phone—I’ve been really looking forward to Google’s newest development. The Nexus line have generally set the standard that Google expects all its Android partners to rise up to. For example, prior to the Nexus One, few phones had a combination of a high-resolution display, fast 1Ghz processor, good camera, etc. (for the time). Now, it’s rumoured that the Nexus Prime (or Galaxy Nexus, or Droid Prime) will raise that bar again, and this time bring the screen resolution to an insane 720p HD (1280×720).

I had to visualize this for myself, so I made this graphic:

(All ppi calculations were done using online tools such as this one)
 

The next generation of Android flagship phones are undoubtedly going to feature massive, pixel-dense displays like the Nexus Prime’s. These phones are going to be a joy to use—imagine having the screen resolution of most standard laptops in the palm of your hand. You could navigate websites in full, desktop mode, and you could even read the sharp text if you hold the phone close enough. To further illustrate the point, a 720p screen has 17% more pixels than the iPad. It’s crazy to think that my next phone is going to have 2.4× the resolution my current phone has. Such a large number of pixels requires a graphics chip that can drive them—which in turn requires considerable added (electrical) power, taking a toll on battery life.

The Samsung Galaxy Note (which is gradually being released in various markets) has a gargantuan 5.3″ display which packs so many pixels, it’s like holding a current high-end Android phone in landscape, and stacking 2.6 screens above each other to make another portrait screen. This phone actually comes with a stylus (like PDA’s of yore), and is meant for pressure-sensitive sketching and note-taking, plus regular touch. It’s a great evolution of touchscreen technology.

Platform makes an important difference as well. The HTC Titan is a new Windows Phone Mango device with a very large 4.7″ Super-LCD screen. Those of you who’ve been paying attention will remember that Windows Phone has a restriction on resolution: all devices must be 800×480—no more, no less. At this massive size, this respectable resolution would yeld a pixel density of 198.5ppi, which is about as detailed as current mid/entry-level phones on their smaller screens.

This next stage in display size and resolution is a great opportunity for Android to get ahead and stand out. iPhone, with it’s “retina” display, will continue to be stuck with a relatively small 3.5 inch screen. You get a lot of fantastic things with Apple’s star product—such as a great camera, best-of-class apps, and unrivalled battery life—but you’ll never get a large screen on which to really enjoy the content you’re watching. Once consumers see the plethora of stunning large displays lining cellphone kiosks, they will undoubtedly look at Android devices with a new level of envy.

Update: the Google-Samsung event has now been scheduled for October 19th in Hong Kong, at 10AM (In North America, October 18th, 10PM EST).

MSI Radeon HD 4830 1GB CrossFire Benchmarks

msi_box4

Image from MSI’s product page

In August of 2009 I tried my hand at benchmarking and running a dual-card setup on my own machine. I had recently purchased an ATI Radeon HD 4830, which was a lower-midrange video card at the time but had really good value in terms of performance for its price. So I bought a second, identical card (which I later returned), and ran them in crossfire to map out their benefits in real-world game tests. It was a fun experiment and I enjoyed the process of testing hardware.

Test Rig
Processor i7 920 @ 2.6 (Turbo Boost off)
Motherboard Intel DX58SO
Memory Mushkin 998659 3x2GB @1066, 8-8-8-19
Hard Drive Western Digital Black 640GB
Cooling Cooler Master Hyper 212 Plus
Case Cooler Master Storm Scout
Power Supply Antec EarthWatts 500
Monitors Samsung SyncMaster 216BW and Sharp Aquos 42D64
Operating System Windows 7 RTM

 

Tom Clancy’s H.A.W.X Demo

There is a built-in test run in HAWX called “Test Performance” under Video Settings. Although this utility outputs an Average and Max FPS, the Max results were always way too high to be accurate. I therefore I used FRAPS to capture FPS stats.

Hawx

Refresh Rate: 60Hz; AA: 8x; VSync: Off; View Distance: High; Forest: High; Environment: High; Texture Quality: High; HDR: On; Engine Heat: On; DOF: On

F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin Demo

Fear 2 Demo had no benching system that I could find, neither built-in or 3rd party. Worse, the game doesn’t keep my saved checkpoint after I quit the game. So for each benchmarking set, I had to sit through the intro and play up to the point where I fight a bunch of guys in a cafeteria. I did multiple runs for each test, using FRAPS to capture stats, and averaged out each set of runs.

Fear 2

Effects Detail: Maximum; Particle Bouncing: Maximum; Shell Casings: On; World Detail: Maximum; Corpse Detail: Maximum; Sound Quality Limit: Medium; Water Resolution: Maximum; FSAA: 4x; Texture Level of Detail: Maximum; Enable Shadows: On; Texture Filtering: Anisotropic 16x; Light Detail: Maximum; Shadow Detail: Maximum; Vertical Sync: Off; HDR: On: Model Decals: Maximum; Motion Blur: On; Reflections and Displays: Maximum; Ambient Occlusion: On

Half Life 2 Episode 2

I used two different time demos for Half Life2 Episode 2. PortalStorm is a 25-second, physics-intensive scene from the first few minutes of the game where the citadel’s super portal releases a portal storm, flinging debris and nearby objects into the air, and causing an overhanging bridge to collapse. DriveToBase is a 36-second race with Dog from a river to the base at White Forrest, and is more representative of the majority of the gameplay in this game.

Demos were very easy to record and play back using Source’s command console. Stats were captured using FRAPS, and three runs were averaged for each set of tests.

HL2ep2 1680

Model Detail: High; Texture detail: Very High; Shader Detail: High; Water Detail: Reflect all; Shadow Detail: High; Color Correction: Enabled; MSAA: 8x; AF: 16x; VSync: disabled; Motion Blur: Enabled; Field of View: 90.00; Multicore Rendering: unavailable; High Dynamic Range: Full; Use ‘bloom’ effect when available: unavailable.

HL2ep2 1920

Model Detail: High; Texture detail: Very High; Shader Detail: High; Water Detail: Reflect all; Shadow Detail: High; Color Correction: Enabled; MSAA: 8x; AF: 16x; VSync: disabled; Motion Blur: Enabled; Field of View: 90.00; Multicore Rendering: unavailable; High Dynamic Range: Full; Use ‘bloom’ effect when available: unavailable.

Far Cry 2

I’d like to salute the makers of Far Cry 2 for making the easiest benchmarking system out of all. All you have to do to start the built-in utility is right-click on the game’s icon in the Start Menu and select “Benchmark”. THAT’S IT. At the end of a test you’re presented with a results page that not only gives you detailed stats, but actually automatically averages all the runs for you.

I ran the “ranch small” time demo in DX10, 3 loops per set.

Far Cry 2

2xAA; VSync off; DX10; Fire: Very High; Physics: Very High; Real Trees: Very High; Vegetation: Very High; Shading Ultra High; Terrain: Ultra High; Geometry: Ultra High; Post FX: High; Texture: Ultra High; Shadow: Ultra High; Ambient: High; HDR on; Bloom on

Crysis SP Demo

I used the popular Crysis Benchmarking Tool for this test. Unfortunately, DX10 and 64bit wouldn’t work for some reason, so I stuck to DX9 (according to talk online, there isn’t much difference in performance). I ran the “benchmark_gpu” timedemo, 3 loops per set, and had the time of day set at the default 9AM.

This game demo had a problem in CrossFire mode, where various objects in the game (random trees, shrubs, rocks, etc) would rapidly flicker. I’m guessing CrossFire was rendering each frame using alternate GPUs, and some objects were somehow loaded into one card but not the other. Since this demo is the prerelease demo, this and other problems in the game were probably fixed in later patches. Unfortunately, Crytek did not provide any updated demo to this game, nor a demo to their follow-up game Crysis Warhead.

Crysis

Quality Settings: Overall Quality High; 2xAA; DX9

Fallout 3

Unfortunately, VSync cannot be disabled in this game so there was no point benchmarking it. Even on a single 4830 on the highest settings, the framerate stayed generally at the 60fps ceiling. TweakGuides suggests a hack to this limitation, but unfortunately it did not work for me.

Update: I’ve been asked to clarify why I didn’t benchmark Fallout 3. There is a phenomenon in every animated 3d game and environment called screen tearing, where the image on screen looks sliced at various parts during rapid panning (such as when you look left or right in a first person game). This can be jarring and it removes from the realism of the scene. VSync is a feature that can be included/enabled in most games which solves this problem, eliminating these jaggies during panning. But one byproduct of VSync is that it prevents the game’s framerate from going any higher than 60fps (which is the monitor’s refresh rate).

When I tried benchmarking Fallout 3, even at the most taxing configuration (highest graphics settings, highest resolution, single video card) the framerate was stuck at 60fps, and this was because VSync was enabled in the game. It also couldn’t be disabled. So, were I to benchmark it, I would simply get a whole graph showing 60fps across the board. So suffice it to say, the 4830 has power to spare for playing Fallout 3. It just can’t be benchmarked.

All Content © 2009 Bagha Shams
(Video Card photo © Micro-Star Int’l Co.,Ltd.)