Technically, a game must show about 40-45 FPS to be perceived as fluid. However, pc gamers got used to lower frame rates and agreed on 25-30 FPS avarage as playable because often it is not very easy to run recent games in high details on 45 FPS.
In our graphic we determined the passing score ao 20 FPS and "Game Sticks" shows you the points where you get 20 FPS in various settings.
What we have actually done?
We have tested the following games:
GTA IV, FarCry2, Crysis, Prince of Persia, COD: World At War, Dead Space, Track Mania Nations Forever, NFS : Undercover, Left 4 Dead
with the following laptop graphic cards (GPU's):
HD3870, 9650M GT, 9600M GT, 9600M GS, HD 3650, 8600M GT, HD 3450, 9300M GS, HD 3200, 8400M GS, 4500MHD, X3100
in the 3 different settings: high medium and low.
In the graph we draw a line for each game. The height stands for the different graphics cards (ordered by performance, see our comprehensive benchmark list for details). The different colored points are the different settings with which the game is playable (low = green, medium = yellow, high = red).
How to read and understand the Graph?
The minimum settings for FarCry 2 are for example near the ATI Mobility Radeon HD 3200. This means you will get frame rates lower then 20 with weaker graphic cards. This way you can see how a GPU performs in various settings. If your GPU is between High and Medium (somewhere between a yellow and red point, e.g. the HD 3650 in COD5), you will be able to play on semi-high settings with 20 fps. Furthermore, you can see the "playing range" of current games. Longer sticks mean that the game can be adjusted to run with many different graphic cards.
Note: if your GPU is higher then maximum point of the game stick, you will definitely get more then 20 fps.
We noticed that the visual quality in some games differ in the same settings on different graphics cards. For example, Trackmania Nations Forever can be played on a low-end intel GMA950 with medium settings without a problem. But with the same medium settings, it looks much more better on a 9600M GT.
Furthermore, some games are not playable at all even if you get 20 FPS. Far Cry 2 and Crysis look in minimum details like a old game released in 2001-2002 in minimum settings. These are some of the realities that cannot be shown in the graph.
If you want to play most modern games in medium to high details, you should at least get a GeForce 9600M GT or better (GTA 4 is an exception as it has incredible high performance needs).
Note: Performance can be a slightly higher or lower depending to other variables like CPU, Operating System and DirectX Version. Tests were performed on Windows XP SP2.
Gaming Performance of recent laptop graphic cards
Update: We have now created a frequently updated list of many games and how they run on each graphics card for notebooks.
Have you ever wonder how your notebook going to perform on GTA IV? Or do you think your notebook will be able to run Crysis on Medium settings? We have tested popular GPU's with recent popular games and put the result together in the following graph. A detailled description on how to read the visualization is provided below.