Group testing of 43 video cards in Horizon Zero Dawn / Video cards

Group testing of 43 video cards in Horizon Zero Dawn / Video cards


The start of sales of the PlayStation 5 is approaching, and with it the galaxy of new games that will show the advanced hardware in all its glory. PlayStation 4 has outlived its age, even though the current stage of development of game consoles turned out to be the longest in their entire history. In the meantime, Sony is gradually phasing out the list of games that until recently were considered exclusive offers for PS4. Last month we welcomed Death Stranding to PC, now it’s time for another iconic game. Horizon Zero Dawn was launched as the flagship project for the PlayStation 4 Pro, think three and a half years ago (even GTA V didn’t have such a gap between the release on consoles and PC). During this time, its developer, Guerilla Games, was simply obliged to catch up with technological progress and turn one of the most impressive console games into a masterpiece of PC graphics. Let’s see if we managed to do this and on which video cards Horizon Zero Dawn works best.

⇡ #Graphics quality settings

For a game that comes to personal computers from a game console, Horizon Zero Dawn has an impressive repertoire of graphics settings that obey a common quality switch. In the Original profile, which is active by default, the parameters are set so that the image is as close as possible to the picture on the PlayStation 4. But the PC version allows you to adjust the rendering complexity both up and down. Most noticeable is the movement from medium to low quality graphics, while at the upper levels of detail, inaccessible to the PlayStation 4, secondary effects are enhanced, each of which is difficult to distinguish from the crowd with the naked eye in dynamics. Nevertheless, the screenshots show that Horizon Zero Dawn has greatly improved in at least three important aspects: the clarity of shadows, Ambient Occlusion algorithms and, most importantly, the range of detail.

Graphics quality settings
Favor Performance Original Favor Quality Ultimate Quality
Textures Low Medium High Ultra
Model Quality Low Medium High Ultra
Anisotropic Filter Low Medium High Ultra
Shadows Low Medium High Ultra
Reflections Low Medium High Ultra
Clouds Medium Medium High Ultra
Anti-aliasing FXAA Camera based TAA TAA
Motion blur Off On On On
Ambient Occlusion Off Medium High Ultra

However, it is worth noting – and this applies not only to Horizon Zero Dawn, but also to most of the games in which we have conducted comparative tests over the past couple of years – that the transition from medium to high quality graphics disproportionately increases the load on the hardware. The frame rate in the Original profile is almost one and a half times higher than at maximum speed, but we did not find any significant difference between the Original and the most sparing settings. As a result, we decided to limit the video card tests to these two settings – Original and Ultimate, dropping the lower and intermediate positions.

In addition, Horizon Zero Dawn distinguished itself with unprecedentedly high requirements for GPU RAM. With the minimum quality of graphics in the modes 1920 × 1080 and 2560 × 1440, 6 GB of VRAM is enough for it, but with an average (which, we recall, approximately corresponds to the picture on the PlayStation 4), the game easily eats up and more if the video card provides such an opportunity. Fortunately, this does not mean that the owners of any accelerators, except for the Radeon VII and GeForce RTX 2080 Ti, will not be able to run it at maximum speed, but when the video memory is less than 6 GB, texture defects appear or, worse, the engine refuses to load part of the scene geometry … In addition to this, Horizon Zero Dawn does not spare the computer’s system memory. The game itself consumes up to 11 GB of RAM, and if we take into account the Windows system processes and a couple of applications running in the background, it turns out that 16 GB for a gaming PC is now only end-to-end.

VRAM consumption, MB
Graphics quality 1920 × 1080 2560 × 1440 3840 × 2160
Low 3570 3852 4528
Ultra 5892 6207 6954
Ultra nightmare 7430 7741 8488

Finally, the developers were clearly in a hurry to fit into the schedule before the release of the PlayStation 5. This is noticeable by the general instability, minor interface flaws, and annoying engine bugs such as the broken anisotropic filtering option (it just doesn’t work in the release version of the game). Perhaps those who have been waiting since 2017 to play Horizon Zero Dawn on PC should wait a little longer while Guerilla Games sorts out all the problems of the apparently raw port.

⇡ #Test stand, testing methodology

Test stand
CPU Intel Core i9-9900K (4.9GHz, 4.8GHz in AVX, Fixed Frequency)
Motherboard ASUS MAXIMUS XI APEX
RAM G.Skill Trident Z RGB F4-3200C14D-16GTZR, 2 × 8 GB (3200 MHz, CL14)
ROM Intel SSD 760p, 1024 GB
Power Supply Corsair AX1200i 1200W
CPU cooling system Corsair Hydro Series H115i
Housing CoolerMaster Test Bench V1.0
Monitor NEC EA244UHD
operating system Windows 10 Pro x64
AMD GPU Software
All graphics cards AMD Radeon Software Adrenalin 2020 Edition 20.8.1
NVIDIA GPU Software
All graphics cards NVIDIA GeForce Game Ready Driver 451.67

Performance testing performed using the built-in Horizon Zero Dawn benchmark and OCAT software. The average and minimum frame rates are derived from an array of individual frame render times that OCAT writes to the result file.

The average frame rate in the charts is the reciprocal of the average frame render time. To estimate the minimum frame rate, the number of frames formed in each second of the test is calculated. From this array of numbers, the value corresponding to the 1st percentile of the distribution is taken.

⇡ #Test participants

  • AMD Radeon RX 5700 XT (1605/1905 MHz, 14000 Mbps, 8 GB);
  • AMD Radeon RX 5700 (1465/1725 MHz, 14000 Mbps, 8 GB);
  • AMD Radeon RX 5600 XT OC (1420/1750 MHz, 14000 Mbps, 6 GB);
  • AMD Radeon RX 5600 XT (1235/1620 MHz, 12000 Mbps, 6 GB);
  • AMD Radeon RX 5500 XT (1607/1845 MHz, 14000 Mbps, 8 GB);
  • AMD Radeon RX 5500 XT (1607/1845 MHz, 14000 Mbps, 4 GB);
  • AMD Radeon VII (1400/1750 MHz, 2000 Mbps, 16 GB);
  • AMD Radeon RX Vega 64 LC (1406/1677 MHz, 1890 Mbps, 8 GB);
  • AMD Radeon RX Vega 64 (1247/1546 MHz, 1890 Mbps, 8 GB);
  • AMD Radeon RX Vega 56 (1156/1471 MHz, 1600 Mbps, 8 GB);
  • AMD Radeon RX 590 (1469/1545 MHz, 8000 Mbps, 8 GB);
  • AMD Radeon RX 580 (1257/1340 MHz, 8000 Mbps, 8 GB);
  • AMD Radeon RX 570 (1168/1244 MHz, 7000 Mbps, 4 GB);
  • AMD Radeon RX 560 16 CU (1175/1275 MHz, 7000 Mbps, 4 GB);
  • AMD Radeon RX 560 14 CU (1090/1175 MHz, 7000 Mbps, 4 GB);
  • AMD Radeon R9 Fury X (- / 1050 MHz, 1000 Mbps, 4 GB);
  • AMD Radeon R9 Fury (- / 1000 MHz, 1000 Mbps, 4 GB);
  • AMD Radeon R9 390X (- / 1050 MHz, 6000 Mbps, 8 GB);
  • AMD Radeon R9 390 (- / 1000 MHz, 6000 Mbps, 8 GB);
  • AMD Radeon R9 380X (- / 970 MHz, 5700 Mbps, 4 GB);
  • AMD Radeon R7 370 (- / 975 MHz, 5600 Mbps, 4 GB);
  • NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2080 Ti Founders Edition (1350/1635 MHz, 14000 Mbps, 11 GB);
  • NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2080 SUPER (1650/1815 MHz, 15500 Mbps, 8 GB);
  • NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2080 Founders Edition (1515/1800 MHz, 14000 Mbps, 8 GB);
  • NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2070 SUPER (1605/1770 MHz, 14000 Mbps, 8 GB);
  • NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2070 Founders Edition (1410/1710 MHz, 14000 Mbps, 8 GB);
  • NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2060 SUPER (1470/1650 MHz, 14000 Mbps, 8 GB);
  • NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2060 (1365/1680 MHz, 14000 Mbps, 6 GB);
  • NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1660 Ti (1500/1800 MHz, 12000 Mbps, 6 GB);
  • NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1660 SUPER (1530/1830 MHz, 14000 Mbps, 6 GB);
  • NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1660 (1530/1785 MHz, 8000 Mbps, 6 GB);
  • NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1650 SUPER (1530/1770 MHz, 8000 Mbps, 4 GB);
  • NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1650 (1485/1725 MHz, 8000 Mbps, 4 GB);
  • NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080 Ti (1480/1582 MHz, 11000 Mbps, 11 GB);
  • NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080 (1607/1733 MHz, 10000 Mbps, 8 GB);
  • NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1070 Ti (1607/1683 MHz, 8008 Mbps, 8 GB);
  • NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1070 (1506/1683 MHz, 8008 Mbps, 8 GB);
  • NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1060 (1506/1708 MHz, 9000 Mbps, 6 GB);
  • NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1060 (1506/1708 MHz, 8000 Mbps, 3 GB);
  • NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1050 Ti (1290/1392 MHz, 7008 Mbps, 4 GB);

Approx. The base and boost frequencies according to the specifications of each device are indicated in brackets after the names of video cards. Video cards of non-reference design are brought in accordance with the reference parameters (or close to the latter), provided that this can be done without manual editing of the clock frequency curve. Otherwise (accelerators of the GeForce 16 series, as well as GeForce RTX Founders Edition), the manufacturer’s settings are used.

As in previous mass tests of graphics cards, we have grouped the measurement results according to screen resolution and graphics detail. In each of the three modes (1920 × 1080, 2560 × 1440, 3840 × 2160), a test was performed with medium (Original profile) and maximum quality settings (Ultimate Quality profile).

If any video card is missing from the diagram at a certain resolution, it means that a) with a higher graphics quality, the device provides an average frame rate of 60 FPS and higher; b) the device did not reach 30 FPS with this combination of resolution and detail. Thus, for each video card taken, the range of settings between “barely pulls” and “quality reduction is not required” is determined.

⇡ #1920 × 1080

Horizon Zero Dawn (like Death Stranding, another game based on the Decima engine) scales poorly when changing graphics settings, and this applies not only to image quality, but also to performance. Moreover, in this case the situation is aggravated by high demands on the volume of the accelerator’s RAM. As a consequence, none of the devices in our 2GB VRAM test pool meet the most liberal frame rate criteria at medium graphics levels (which matches the original on the PlayStation 4), and even switching to low settings could not help them.

Fortunately, Horizon Zero Dawn is still not the most difficult project by current standards, and the video card that is closest to the PS4 characteristics (Radeon R7 370) demonstrated exactly 30 FPS in the benchmark with a small margin. But among more modern models, you will have to raise the bar to the level of the GeForce GTX 1050 Ti and Radeon RX 560. If you focus on a more comfortable frame rate of 60 FPS, the game still does not require heavy-duty hardware with console (Original profile) graphics quality. Such popular devices of the past generation as the Radeon RX 580 and GeForce GTX 1060 with 6 GB VRAM, or modern budget solutions (GeForce GTX 1650 SUPER and Radeon RX 5500 XT) will do the job. Big problems in Horizon Zero Dawn arose only in old NVIDIA video cards of the GeForce 900 family. While their contemporaries on “red” chips (from Radeon R9 390 to Fury X) conquer the 60 FPS bar, there are still quite powerful accelerators GeForce GTX 970, GTX The 980 and GTX 980 Ti remained locked in the 30-60 hallway.

Video cards that are capable of squeezing 60 FPS out of Horizon Zero Dawn with medium graphics settings will also master it at maximum speeds, but with a reduced frame rate – about 30 FPS. The border goes through the Radeon RX 570, the 3GB GeForce GTX 1060 and the latest budget cards (Radeon RX 5500 XT and GeForce GTX 1650). The old pre-top models also kept afloat – GeForce GTX 980, Radeon R9 390.

If you say that Horizon Zero Dawn is a “red” game, you will be partly right. The owners of accelerators based on Navi chips were very lucky, because here the Radeon RX 5700 XT confidently outperforms the GeForce RTX 2070 SUPER in frame rate, and the overclocked version of the Radeon RX 5600 XT is not inferior to the RTX 2060 SUPER. But the Decima engine is very selective about formally outdated GCN chips. We are already accustomed to the fact that the Radeon RX 580 has outgrown the GeForce GTX 1060 in most new games, but we did not expect that the Vega 64, even under a liquid cooling system, will be faster than the GeForce GTX 1070 Ti.

⇡ #2560 × 1440

At 1440p, Horizon Zero Dawn takes up up to 5.5 GB of GPU RAM, even at low levels – despite the fact that modern budget graphics cards and a significant part of legacy devices are limited to 4 GB VRAM. But the local memory deficit manifests itself in different ways depending on the GPU manufacturer and the specific board. So, we had to remove the results of Radeon Fury and Fury X from the graphs at any detail settings, although the Fiji chip could easily master the game in 1440p mode at least at medium settings. In such conditions, Fury simply does not load any geometry of the test scene, except for the landscape, which deprives the benchmark of any practical sense. The rest of the 4 GB accelerators (including the “red” ones) do not have such serious problems, but the engine is forced to lower the texture resolution every now and then. So the system requirements of Horizon Zero Dawn for playing on a 2K screen, which we have identified empirically, should not be taken too optimistically.

Be that as it may, if we close our eyes to possible image defects associated with a shortage of VRAM, many of those devices that coped with the novelty on a 1080p screen will work for 1440p with console graphics settings. Among the models of the past and before last generation, 30 FPS were scored by GeForce GTX 1050 Ti, Radeon RX 570, as well as GeForce GTX 970 and Radeon R9 380X. With the same success, you can use the weakest of modern NVIDIA cards – GeForce GTX 1650. Even at maximum speed, Horizon Zero Dawn will be satisfied with quite democratic hardware (Radeon RX 580, GeForce GTX 1070, Radeon RX 5500 XT and GeForce GTX 1650 SUPER) – provided that the gamer is not satisfied with the console graphics quality, but the 30 FPS frame rate typical for consoles is acceptable for him.

It’s a completely different matter to play with an eye on a stable frame rate above 60 FPS. Here, Horizon Zero Dawn’s GPU performance requirements are finally catching up with its VRAM requirements. Any GeForce 900 series and Radeon 300 series models along with Radeon Fury were dropped from the list of suitable video cards. And from the last generation of devices from both manufacturers, only the most powerful ones remained in the ranks: Radeon RX Vega 64 or GeForce GTX 1070 (or higher) for medium graphics settings, and for maximum – Radeon VII and GeForce GTX 1080 Ti. Modern mid-range offerings – the GeForce GTX 1660 SUPER and Radeon RX 5600 XT – also deliver at least 60 FPS average frame rates with PlayStation 4 image quality, while the GeForce RTX 2070 SUPER and Radeon RX 5700 XT are at maximum speeds. Yes, yes, the advantage of AMD accelerators on Navi chips in Horizon Zero Dawn is gradually disappearing along with the increase in screen resolution, but it is still striking.

⇡ #3840 × 2160

It is easiest to recommend a suitable hardware for playing modern AAA projects on a 4K screen, because very few video cards have the necessary performance even to master the minimum acceptable frame rate of 30 FPS. Horizon Zero Dawn is no exception, with its appetite for local GPU memory. The two accelerators on the final list – the 6GB GeForce GTX 1660 and the Radeon RX 5600 XT – have far less VRAM than what a 4K game claims to be, and this is causing familiar image artifacts. But the 8 GB that the Radeon RX Vega 56 and GeForce GTX 1070 have in practice turned out to be quite enough to avoid gross defects in textures and geometry.

The owners of the flagship models of the previous generation – Radeon VII and GeForce GTX 1080 Ti – will have a choice: to play 4K with a frame rate of about 60 FPS, but with graphics like on the PlayStation 4, or get used to light brakes, but at maximum speed. None of the consumer graphics cards, including the GeForce GTX 2080 Ti, have yet to combine uncompromising graphics quality and smooth frame rates at this resolution.

⇡ #conclusions

After exploring the recent PC port of Death Stranding, we expected Horizon Zero Dawn to demonstrate an equally high level of optimization. After all, these games are built on the same graphics engine, Decima, and Sony had plenty of time to properly adapt the project to the PCs. In fact, everything turned out to be quite different. Unlike the lightweight Death Stranding, Horizon Zero Dawn does not stand out from a number of high-profile novelties that appeared on the PC this year, in terms of its requirements for the speed of iron, but it is distinguished by abnormally high requests for RAM. This also applies to system RAM (it will need at least 16 GB to cover the needs of Windows 10 and the game itself), and the local memory of the video card.

In order to completely eliminate such artifacts as loading geometry in parts in front of an amazed gamer and a forced reduction in the clarity of textures when playing at maximum speed, it is better even at 1920 × 1080 resolution immediately focus on accelerators with 6 GB of VRAM or more, and at 2560 × 1440 – at least 8 GB. At the same time, the GPU itself must be powerful enough if you do not want to put up with the 30 FPS frame rate typical for consoles. In 1920 × 1080 mode, the list of test finalists is opened by GeForce RTX 2060 and Radeon RX 5600 XT, and in 2560 × 1440 – by GeForce RTX 2070 SUPER, GTX 1080 Ti and Radeon RX 5700 XT. Well, playing on a 4K screen without compromises in graphics quality will most likely have to be postponed until the next generation video cards appear, which, according to rumors, will happen very soon. Any of the frame scaling technologies available on the “red” and “green” chips – DLSS or FidelityFX CAS – would have come into play here, but the game developers (at least at the time of release), alas, did not take care of this.

Original
1920 × 1080 2560 × 1440 3840 × 2160
≥ 30 FPS ≥ 60 FPS ≥ 30 FPS ≥ 60 FPS ≥ 30 FPS ≥ 60 FPS
AMD Radeon 300 AMD Radeon R7 370 (4GB) AMD Radeon R9 390 (8 GB) AMD Radeon R9 380X (4GB)
AMD Radeon 500 / AMD Radeon RX Vega / AMD Radeon VII AMD Radeon RX 560 14 CU (4GB) AMD Radeon RX 580 (8GB) AMD Radeon RX 570 (4GB) AMD Radeon RX Vega 64 (8GB) AMD Radeon RX Vega 56 (8GB) AMD Radeon VII (16 GB)
AMD Radeon RX 5000 AMD Radeon RX 5500 XT (4GB) AMD Radeon RX 5500 XT (4GB) AMD Radeon RX 5600 XT (6GB) AMD Radeon RX 5600 XT (6GB)
NVIDIA GeForce 900 NVIDIA GeForce GTX 970 (4GB) NVIDIA GeForce GTX 970 (4GB)
NVIDIA GeForce 10 NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1050 Ti (4 GB) NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1060 (6GB, 9Gb / s) NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1050 Ti (4 GB) NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1070 (8GB) NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1070 (8GB)
NVIDIA GeForce 16/20 NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1650 (4GB) NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1650 SUPER (4GB) NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1650 (4GB) NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1660 SUPER (6GB) NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1660 (6GB) NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2080 SUPER (8 GB)
Ultimate Quality
1920 × 1080 2560 × 1440 3840 × 2160
≥ 30 FPS ≥ 60 FPS ≥ 30 FPS ≥ 60 FPS ≥ 30 FPS ≥ 60 FPS
AMD Radeon 300 AMD Radeon R9 390 (8 GB)
AMD Radeon 500 / AMD Radeon RX Vega / AMD Radeon VII AMD Radeon RX 570 (4GB) AMD Radeon VII (16 GB) AMD Radeon RX 580 (8GB) AMD Radeon VII (16 GB) AMD Radeon VII (16 GB)
AMD Radeon RX 5000 AMD Radeon RX 5500 XT (4 Гбайт) AMD Radeon RX 5600 XT (6 Гбайт) AMD Radeon RX 5500 XT (4 Гбайт) AMD Radeon RX 5700 XT (8 Гбайт) AMD Radeon RX 5700 (8 Гбайт)
NVIDIA GeForce 900 NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980 (4 Гбайт)
NVIDIA GeForce 10 NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1060 (3 Гбайт) NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080 (8 Гбайт, 10 Гбит/с) NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1070 (8 Гбайт) NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080 Ti (11 Гбайт) NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080 Ti (11 Гбайт)
NVIDIA GeForce 16/20 NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1650 (4 Гбайт) NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2060 (6 Гбайт) NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1650 SUPER (4 Гбайт) NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2070 SUPER (8 Гбайт) NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2060 SUPER (8 Гбайт)

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