Synthetic tests can be useful for evaluating features that will be common in tomorrow's games, but performance in real games is far more important. We tested five modern games that can push a modern graphics card to the limit.
Codemasters' rally racer Dirt 2, one of the first DirectX 11 games, features an excellent built-in benchmark. We use the demo version (whose benchmark track differs from the track in the retail game), so you can run the game at home and compare your results. We enabled DirectX 11 and turned all of the detail levels up to full. The Radeon HD 6850 was dramatically faster than the 5770 despite costing only about $30 more; the Radeon HD 6870, meanwhile, managed to run a few frames per second faster than the more expensive 5850.
Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X. is a graphically rich arcade flight game that uses DirectX 10.1 to enable features such as Screen Space Ambient Occlusion (SSAO), God Rays, and Soft Particles. Again, we turned all of the detail levels up to the max for our testing. The results: This was the first test where the Radeon HD 5850 actually outperformed its less-expensive successor, the Radeon HD 6870. Still, the performance numbers were very close, and both of the new cards delivered more than 60 frames per second even at 1920 by 1200 with antialiasing enabled.
World in Conflict is aging a bit, but it's still a beautiful real-time strategy game with a DirectX 10-based graphics engine that can stress all but the most powerful graphics cards when you maximize the detail levels, as we did. The new cards performed exceptionally well here: The 6850 performed on a par with the 5850, which costs about $100 more; and the 6870 cruised along about 14 percent faster.
The S.T.A.L.K.E.R. series has always been on the leading edge of graphics technology. We used the demo benchmark for the Call of Pripyat sequel with DirectX 11 lighting enabled and all detail settings maximized. The scores shown here are for the "Day" benchmark run.Again the new Radeon HD 6850 blew away the 5770 for only about $30 more; and though the Radeon HD 5850 outran the 6850, the 6870 was the fastest of all by narrow margin, even though it costs less than the 5850.
Last but not least, we used the excellent benchmark built in to Just Cause 2. We maximized graphics settings and ran the "Concrete Jungle" test, which is the most strenuous of benchmarks. Once more, the Radeon HD 6870 came out on top, followed by the more expensive 5850. The affordable Radeon HD 6850 finished just behind the 5850, but ahead of the 5770 by a wide margin.