Best Video Card for Battlefield 3

If you’re reading this, then you’ve decided to play Battlefield 3 on PC — congratulations for making the correct choice in gaming platforms. Unfortunately, you may need to invest in a solid gaming rig to truly appreciate what BF3 has to offer — those glorious graphics don’t come free.

While a solid processor and sufficient RAM are an integral part of running any game, for today’s purposes, we’re considering the gamer who is looking to upgrade his video card. Just remember — a top-of-the-line video card will have its performance bottle-necked by an ancient processor.

Battlefield 3 is the debut game of the Frostbite 2 engine, which means we have no currently-released games to base benchmarking assessments on. However, we know Frostbite 2 will take full advantage of DirectX 11 API and 64-bit processors, and that it will not support DirectX 9. We also have Battlefield 3′s system requirements, which we will use as a baseline for our analysis.

Minimum:

GRAPHICS CARD (AMD): DIRECTX 10.1 COMPATIBLE WITH 512 MB RAM (ATI RADEON 3000, 4000, 5000 OR 6000 SERIES, WITH ATI RADEON 3870 OR HIGHER PERFORMANCE)
GRAPHICS CARD (NVIDIA): DIRECTX 10.0 COMPATIBLE WITH 512 MB RAM (NVIDIA GEFORCE 8, 9, 200, 300, 400 OR 500 SERIES WITH NVIDIA GEFORCE 8800 GT OR HIGHER PERFORMANCE)

Recommended:

GRAPHICS CARD: DIRECTX 11 COMPATIBLE WITH 1024 MB RAM (NVIDIA GEFORCE GTX 560 OR ATI RADEON 6950)

We’re looking for the best video card for Battlefield 3 — but what does that mean? The card that will perform the best? The card that will run BF3 for the cheapest price? For our purposes, we’re looking for the best bang for your buck — great performance at a reasonable price.

That said, we’ll examine cards with two criteria in mind: DirectX 11 compatibility, and at least 1 GB of on-board RAM. We’ll be using Newegg.com as a pricing point.

$100-$200 Option

While the recommended GeForce GTX 560 is a fine card at $180, benchmarks have shown that you can get slightly better performance out of a Radeon HD 6870 for $170.

$200-$300 Option

The GeForce GTX 560 Ti outperforms the HD 6870, but at $230, there are more cost-effective cards, like the Radeon HD 6950. Although it costs $10 more, the HD 6950 is the slightly more powerful card, and a version with 2 GB of RAM is available for $260.

$300-$400 Option

The most powerful card we’ll recommend is the GeForce GTX 570 at $320. It’s performance-to-price ratio isn’t up to par with the less expensive cards, and anything more expensive will result in diminishing returns on your investment.

Which to buy?

Which card you select will depend on what you value more. If you’re looking for power, opt for the GeForce GTX 570. If you’re looking for the best performance for your dollar, the Radeon HD 6870 is for you. The HD 6950 serves as a middle ground for those who don’t want to spend over $300 but want something more powerful than the 6870.

Note: We have not run full benchmarks on these cards or reviewed them separately in an official capacity. This article is intended as a consumer’s guide to help make a purchasing decision easier. Prices can change on a daily basis, and we recommend consumers do their research before making a purchase.

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33 Comments on Best Video Card for Battlefield 3

Phil Owen

On September 21, 2011 at 4:45 pm

Here’s hoping my 6950 will be able to pull this off beautifully.

Grant

On September 21, 2011 at 5:46 pm

i think a hd5850 will work. if not im getting the hd6990! been saving for that beast.

Darkraidor

On September 21, 2011 at 5:58 pm

and for the rest of the world….
best $100-$120 would be ati radeon 6770 (5770 is the same card but 6770 is an updated version with the same performance)

and best under $110 would be GTS 450.

Bob

On September 21, 2011 at 7:15 pm

This is the worse article I’ve ever read about graphic cards I’ve ever read.
First you compare a GTX 560 to a HD6870 and for proof you link to a site that only compares the specs which doesn’t prove anything. If you actually look at reviews done by people that know what they are doing, which clearly you are not, the HD6870 does do slightly better than the GTX 560 with some games and vise versa.

Then you tried to compare a GTX 560 Ti to HD 6950 but then you screw up even more by linking to the same stupid site but this time to a comparison of the GTX 550 Ti not the 560 Ti. Now when you do it correctly and select the 560 Ti vs HD 6950 then the 560 comes out on top.

I think this is just to show you have no idea what you’re talking about or what you’re doing and that you’re a AMD/ATI fan.

Bob

On September 21, 2011 at 7:18 pm

And yes I know I screwed up by having “I’ve ever read” twice like that. I was too ticked off by the crappy journalism that I lost my train of thought at the beginning

derpadir

On September 21, 2011 at 7:29 pm

Wonder if they consider resolution or just assume 1080p? I can only get 1680×1050 so wonder if a 6850 is good enough. Either way i may get another card since the price went down and xfire.

CJ Miozzi

On September 21, 2011 at 8:03 pm

@Bob: You’re right; I linked to the wrong GTX Ti to compare to the 6950. Thanks for pointing it out; I fixed the link.

My assessment, however, remains the same. Based on the benchmarks and analyses I’ve seen from different sources, the 6950 slightly outperforms the 560 Ti. Some sources say the 560 Ti is more powerful, but from what I’ve seen, the average favors the 6950. You’re entitled to a different opinion.

While I feel that, overall, AMD/ATI cards are currently doing better than NVidia cards, I feel that NVidia is winning at the highest end of the spectrum, and that they are due for a comeback.

I’m by no means an AMD/ATI fan. Most of the video cards I’ve owned have been NVidia cards. I still remember drooling over my GeForce 4 back in 2002.

Also, I don’t understand the point you’re making about the 560 vs. the 6870. Even if their performance is equal, the 6870 is the cheaper card.

Ekythump3

On September 21, 2011 at 8:37 pm

I actually played in the Alpha release and I used a comp. with a dual core 3.0ghz. and an Nvidia 550ti card and it worked smooth as butter.

Size anyone?

On September 21, 2011 at 8:45 pm

Please don’t forget the fact that some of those more powerful cards are also a bit bigger than the mainstream ones.

Make sure your cases can handle the size of the videocard that you are buying. You really don’t want to spend 300 bucks only to find out that you must spend another 50-100 dollars just for a case.

Also with new videocards you should invest in a fan (anywhere from 3-10 dollars) to bring more air into the case. Lowering the overall temperature inside the case of your pc is a great idea, even if it only goes down a few degrees.

Graphic Card Setup

On September 22, 2011 at 2:21 am

Good options available but it depends on what is your requiremtn and how much you are ready to spend over it..GeForce GTX 570 seems a good option

S.T.A.L.K.E.R.

On September 22, 2011 at 9:11 am

I have dual 6950′s (BIOS modded to unlock the extra shaders) running in Crossfire.

I hope I can run it at least medium @ 6048×1200 (Eyefinity)

They can run BC2 at that res on mostly maxed (HBAO and AA tuned down though) and maintain 60 FPS

misha

On September 22, 2011 at 10:07 am

I’ve got asus gtx580 so it doesn’t matter for me ;

woot

On September 22, 2011 at 10:26 am

I have 2 gtx 470 cards in SLI, so I think I’m covered since it pretty much outperforms a 580 in every test. Except it gets REALLY hot in my case

Steve

On September 22, 2011 at 10:53 am

The issue with multi-GPU solutions is while it definitely raises the average and max framerates, it doesn’t so much for the minimum. Most benchmark sites don’t even consider minimum, much less bench it.

While GTX470s in SLI undoubtedly have a better average and max framerates across the board than even the fastest single GPU solution, they don’t necessarily have a better minimum framerate. So there is good argument that by going single GPU, such as the GTX580, you are getting less variance in framerate, less dips, less micro-stutter, etc.

Having a more steady/fluid framerate is obviously a big plus to the gaming experience.

With a GTX580 (or HD6970 for that matter), you’re actually paying a premium for more consistent framerate. Of course, if you’re not doing a good enough average, then it’s pretty much moot anyway. There are always pros and cons.

Which is why I fail to understand why more benchmark sites don’t do time runs via FRAPs and what-not, generating a fps vs time log. Those are easy to make into line graphs. Bar graphs with some singular value don’t really tell you the whole story.

If you want to see what I’m talking about, look at how [H]ardOCP benchmarks its video cards.

Andrew

On September 22, 2011 at 11:49 am

i have a gaming laptop and i was wondering if you guys think it could pull this game off decently enough.

i7 720qm
8gb RAM
ati mobility radeon 5870

is tha enough to run this game on my laptop?

Collision

On September 22, 2011 at 12:06 pm

OMG Why not on 32-bit systems !
there are many issues with 64-bit systems !

Steve

On September 22, 2011 at 12:07 pm

I say you won’t know how it performs until the game comes out and/or people are readily benching it. Plus, I’m sure BF:BC3 will come with all sorts of graphical settings sliders and toggles. So it all comes down resolution, settings, and what framerates are acceptable to you.

It’s all speculation until we get a demo or the real deal. The recommended/min specs are BS as we’ve seen with Crysis/Metro 2033. Who’s to say BF:BC3 at max settings isn’t going to bring even the fastest PC to its knees?

Also, I didn’t see this mentioned, but it’s generally implied anyway: BF:BC3 will run on non-DX11 hardware (i.e. 8800s). Those GPUs will just have DX11 specific features disabled.

Steve

On September 22, 2011 at 12:12 pm

@Collision

Look at the sys req. linked in the article. It specifically says 32-bit Vista/Win7 are supported as a minimum. It’s a good guess you’ll get access to more graphical features with a 64-bit OS though.

brice

On September 22, 2011 at 12:26 pm

Although I would LOVE to say that my system would run BF3 on “Ultra” settings with all DX 11 features turned up at 1920X1080, I really dont think it will….

My system to this day runs Crysis around 50fps maxed, Crysis 2 around 45-50 maxed with DX 11 features on, and Metro 2033 on Highest settings with DX 11 features on at 30-40 fps, all at 1920×1080.

This is why I highly doubt my system will handle BF3 like this article reads. I think I will be lucky to hit the 40fps mark on BF3. I think the spot to be would be an sli rig, or a 6990 or 590 at 60+ at 1920×1080.

I pray im wrong, but im doubtful!

My system:
Core i5 2500k @ 4.4ghz
16 GB Corsair Vengeance 1600
EVGA GTX 570 Super Clocked
Corsair 850 watt power supply
2×500 GB WD Black Sata III 6.0gbps

scott

On September 22, 2011 at 6:12 pm

my system:
Amd phenom II X4 955 3.2 ghz
8gb of ram
68-bit win 7
Radeon HD 6870

can i run it on highest setting?

SFC GORBY

On September 23, 2011 at 5:03 pm

I am not worried about FPS with this system I built just for this game!
I5 2500K of 4.5ghz
Asus P67 Sabertooth
16gb Mushkin XMP unlocked RAM
Corsair 250 SSD
Barracuda 2tb 64mb cache
MSI GTX 580 3gb Lightning Xtreme X2 SLI clocks set at 950/1900/2400
1500w Thermatake
It chews up and spits out anything that I have thrown at it so far!

Phil Owen

On September 23, 2011 at 8:53 pm

Like holy , dude. Can we be friends?

misha

On September 24, 2011 at 11:45 am

16gb ram ? Only idiots buying that amount, 8gb is far to much :D

i5 2500k
asus p8p67 deluxe r3
g.skill 8gb
asus gtx580 1.5gb
seasonic x-850

who want to be my e-friend ? lolz

Teddy

On September 27, 2011 at 4:31 am

“16gb ram ? Only idiots buying that amount, 8gb is far to much..” -Misha 2011

“640K ought to be enough for anybody..” – Bill Gates 1981

You can never have too much RAM.

misha

On September 27, 2011 at 9:03 am

Yeah, that’s why 8gb for next 5 (min) years will be enough.

Mr.B

On October 26, 2011 at 6:13 pm

HD6670 1GB, 4GB RAM, QUAD: Battlefield 3 – ULTRA SETTINGS

Mr.B

On October 26, 2011 at 6:14 pm

…at 1920×1080 (24″)

Lbrwnie

On November 3, 2011 at 3:18 am

CPU:AMD Phenom II x4BE
GPU: ATI HD6950 2GB
RAM: 4GB DDR3 1333MHz

I’ve played and it gets 40fps on medium. WTF I’ve met all the requirements

Nathan

On November 5, 2011 at 8:00 am

I am running 24GB of very fast RAM and for some things that I do it is barely enough. For those of you that say 8GB is all you ever need, you have never had a 64-bit machine powerful enough to show you the difference.

susith

On November 6, 2011 at 1:38 am

my VGA card is ASUS EN210 1 gb .3 gb ram,core 2quad
but battlefiled 3 doesn’t support plz help me

kerry

On January 5, 2012 at 11:43 am

So, if I have a Radeon X1950 Crossfire with 512 mb, running DirectX 11 and Battlefield 3 wont start…stating that I have a DirectX creation error….is the x1950 Crossfire not compatible?

Monti

On January 10, 2012 at 7:50 pm

I am running Window 7 64 bit. 8 GB RAM. NVIDIA GeForce GTX 590. No problem. Game’s on!!!!

omarashka

On April 15, 2013 at 7:07 pm

which card performance better 5970 or gtx 660ti ??