Notebookcheck

Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor Benchmarked

Florian Glaser (translated by Martina Osztovits), 10/07/2014

GPU glutton. In Shadow of Mordor, Sauron does not aim for the ring but primarily goes for video memory. We tried to determine the hardware requirements. Do you really need a lightning fast high-end system?

Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor

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Technology

How much video memory does a graphics card require? This question is raised when buying the brand new scion of the Lord of the Rings universe. While 1 to 2 GB VRAM is sufficient for most games, 6 GB is recommended for Middle-earth. In 2014, a few other games (Watch Dogs & Wolfenstein: The New Order require 3 GB at ultra settings) also require more than 2 GB with maximum details. However, the requirements of Shadow of Mordor are definitely exorbitant.

In view of the graphics quality, you might sooner or later suspect that Monolith (F.E.A.R., Tron 2.0, Aliens vs. Predator 2, No One Lives Forever...) was a bit lazy when optimizing their LithTech Jupiter EX Engine; at least at the PC. While most of the textures are razor-sharp and the technology is better than the competition's in many aspects (simulation of cloth), this does not justify such high video memory requirements. Shadow of Mordor looks good, yet not outstanding. Apart from facial expressions, polygon count and quality of effects should also be improved in some scenes.

HD textures: step I
HD textures: step I
HD textures: step II
HD textures: step II
HD textures: step III
HD textures: step III

Let's return to the topic: If you want to enjoy Middle-earth in all its glory, you have to manually download and install the texture package via Steam first (see screenshots). If you skip this, only high textures are used with ultra settings and image errors might occur.

Our tests proved that 6 GB VRAM is not absolutely necessary for maximum graphics options, but, with less memory, you'll face stuttering and slowdowns, which have a big, negative effect on the gaming experience. Previous to the launch of the GeForce 900 generation, only the top models of the GeForce GTX 870M (6 GB) and the GeForce GTX 880M (8 GB) could meet the high memory requirements in the notebook range. This gets especially apparent in the minimum fps. Instead of 26 fps, the predecessor of the GTX 870M only reached 11 fps (GTX 770M @ 3 GB) at ultra settings. Likewise, the GTX 780M with 4 GB VRAM stuttered more than its counterpart of the 800 series. While the performance was comparable otherwise, the minimum fps were more than 50% lower (13 vs. 30 fps).

Since the texture quality at ultra settings hardly differs from high settings, we would recommend omitting the HD package and playing with the (very) high presetting if possible. In dropping ultra textures, not only the average fps will increase, but especially the minimum fps.

Not only the video memory requirements raised discussion in advance, the CPU requirements did too. According to Monolith, you'll require a quad-core CPU. Don't panic: Reasonably powerful dual-core models like the Core i5-4340M are sufficiently fast. However, a lot of storage is required. Shadow of Mordor with high-res textures (~4 GB) occupies over 40 GB on the hard drive.

Low Settings
Low Settings
Medium Settings
Medium Settings
High Settings
High Settings
Ultra Settings
Ultra Settings

Otherwise, you can hardly complain about the technical implementation. The enhanced options menu brings more than 10 options. Apart from Ambient Occlusion, the DirectX 11 engine also supports other "graphical gems" like tessellation. The video menu allows changing the resolution, configuring the display mode, and activating vertical sync. In addition, not every game allows limiting the frame rate. Unfortunately, Shadow of Mordor requires being restarted after specific changes. This would not be a problem if you could skip the intro video. It is also annoying that Monolith did not implement anti-aliasing. Jagged edges are an issue in Middle-earth - see "overhead wiring" in the video.

Low Settings
Low Settings
Medium Settings
Medium Settings
High Settings
High Settings
Ultra Settings
Ultra Settings
Low Settings
Low Settings
Medium Settings
Medium Settings
High Settings
High Settings
Ultra Settings
Ultra Settings

Furthermore, the following things are notable:

  • While Nvidia platforms deliver rather constant frame rates, they partly fluctuate extremely in AMD systems. This gets especially apparent in the diagram of the integrated benchmark.
  • In general, the minimum fps varies greatly - regardless whether run on an Nvidia or AMD platform. The minimum is usually higher in the second benchmark run.
  • Weaker AMD processors often falter.
  • Only low to medium details are possible with Intel HD Graphics 4600. The game crashes with "high" setting and above.
  • With low to very high setting, the performance is hardly different with or without HD texture package (tested with GeForce GTX 780 Ti).
  • The options menu only displays the Intel chip instead of the Radeon in AMD notebooks with Enduro graphics switch. Nevertheless, the settings can be configured as usual.
  • It seems that the integrated benchmark starts recording a few seconds too early. In any case, the maximum fps is much too high.
  • In contrast to the other options, the "graphical quality" is not changed after restarting the settings. Restarting again helps here.

Benchmark

As already mentioned, we used the integrated benchmark for our measurement, which can be directly run from the option menu. Although it is not particularly representative for the real game (frame rate reduction due to VRAM overflow), we decided to use this sequence, which takes just under 40 seconds, because of comfort and identical passes. It would also be hard to recommend hardware for specific settings based on a "real" in-game benchmark. This would require a more constant performance of the game. So, the GPUs listed below are only a rough estimation based on minimum and average fps of the benchmark.

Results

Those only owning a cheap office or multimedia notebook can save about 50 Euros (~$63) due for the game. Neither the HD Graphics 4000/4600 nor mid-range chips like the GeForce GT 740M can handle it. At least a GeForce GT 750M is required to smoothly run the game with a resolution of 1280x720 pixels and "lowest" level. Not less than a GeForce GTX 850M or GTX 765M are necessary for 1366x768 pixels and normal settings. The high presetting and 1920x1080 pixels only run adequately on a top GPU. Both the Radeon R9 M290X and the GeForce GTX 870M achieve an average of above 50 fps. You should not use the ultra presetting because of the reasons mentioned above.

Discussion
Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor
    1920x1080 Ultra Preset (HD Package)     1920x1080 High Preset     1344x756 Medium Preset     1280x720 Lowest Preset
GeForce GTX 780 Ti, 3770K
Desktop-PC
88 (min: 20) fps ∼55%
112.3 (min: 73) fps ∼60%
194.9 (min: 88) fps ∼93%
225.8 (min: 108) fps ∼84%
Radeon R9 290X, 2600K, Samsung SSD 840 Pro 256GB MZ7PD256HAFV-0Z000
Sapphire Tri-X R9 290X Desktop
78 (min: 31) fps ∼48%
113 (min: 46) fps ∼61%
Radeon R9 280X, 3770K
Desktop-PC
51.3 (min: 16) fps ∼32%
70.7 (min: 29) fps ∼38%
156.4 (min: 42) fps ∼75%
198.2 (min: 105) fps ∼74%
GeForce GTX 880M, 4700MQ
Schenker W504
48.3 (min: 30) fps ∼30%
63 (min: 38) fps ∼34%
108.9 (min: 59) fps ∼52%
177.6 (min: 80) fps ∼66%
GeForce GTX 780M, 4700MQ
Schenker W503
44.1 (min: 13) fps ∼27%
57.2 (min: 34) fps ∼31%
99.8 (min: 56) fps ∼48%
161.6 (min: 75) fps ∼60%
GeForce GTX 870M, 4700MQ
Schenker W504
38.9 (min: 26) fps ∼24%
50.2 (min: 33) fps ∼27%
84.9 (min: 52) fps ∼41%
142 (min: 70) fps ∼53%
GeForce GTX 760, 3770K
Desktop-PC
37.4 (min: 9) fps ∼23%
61.3 (min: 41) fps ∼33%
102.8 (min: 56) fps ∼49%
167.6 (min: 102) fps ∼62%
Radeon R9 M290X, 4700MQ
Schenker W504
37.1 (min: 10) fps ∼23%
50.8 (min: 30) fps ∼27%
102.8 (min: 50) fps ∼49%
151 (min: 84) fps ∼56%
GeForce GTX 770M, 4700MQ
Schenker W503
29.8 (min: 11) fps ∼19%
38.8 (min: 25) fps ∼21%
66.2 (min: 40) fps ∼32%
110.8 (min: 51) fps ∼41%
GeForce GTX 750 Ti, 3770K
Desktop-PC
29.2 (min: 8) fps ∼18%
43.4 (min: 31) fps ∼23%
76.4 (min: 46) fps ∼36%
126.4 (min: 82) fps ∼47%
GeForce GTX 860M, 4700MQ
Schenker W504
26.4 (min: 12) fps ∼16%
34.7 (min: 25) fps ∼19%
61.8 (min: 40) fps ∼30%
99.3 (min: 62) fps ∼37%
GeForce GTX 850M, 4340M
Schenker M504
17.2 (min: 4) fps ∼11%
23.5 (min: 15) fps ∼13%
54.2 (min: 27) fps ∼26%
78.4 (min: 51) fps ∼29%
GeForce GTX 765M, 4700MQ
Schenker W503
16.4 (min: 6) fps ∼10%
28.6 (min: 20) fps ∼15%
51.5 (min: 33) fps ∼25%
80.5 (min: 56) fps ∼30%
Radeon R7 512 Cores (Kaveri Desktop), A10-7850K, Samsung SSD 470 Series MZ-5PA256/EU
A10-7850K Asus A88-XM-PLUS
12.4 (min: 4) fps ∼8%
17 (min: 9) fps ∼9%
28.5 (min: 13) fps ∼14%
41 (min: 18) fps ∼15%
GeForce GT 750M, 4702MQ
Schenker M503
11.6 (min: 3) fps ∼7%
16.7 (min: 12) fps ∼9%
29.7 (min: 16) fps ∼14%
47.1 (min: 34) fps ∼18%
Iris Pro Graphics 5200, 4750HQ, Intel SSD 525 Series SSDMCEAC180B3
Schenker S413
0 fps ∼0%
16.4 (min: 6) fps ∼9%
29 (min: 14) fps ∼14%
44 (min: 22) fps ∼16%
GeForce GT 640M, 2637M, Lite-On LMT-256M3M
Acer Aspire M3-581TG
10 (min: 1) fps ∼6%
14.5 (min: 8) fps ∼8%
25 (min: 12) fps ∼12%
38.4 (min: 24) fps ∼14%
GeForce GT 740M, 4200M
HP Envy 15-j011sg
7.9 (min: 2) fps ∼5%
10.6 (min: 8) fps ∼6%
19.3 (min: 12) fps ∼9%
30.4 (min: 20) fps ∼11%
GeForce GT 720M, 4200M, WDC Scorpio Blue WD10JPVX-22JC3T0
MSI CX61-i572M
5.7 fps ∼4%
8.7 fps ∼5%
15.2 fps ∼7%
25.6 fps ∼10%
GeForce GT 630M, 3720QM, Seagate Momentus 7200.5 ST9750420AS
Asus N56VM
15 (min: 10) fps ∼7%
26 (min: 12) fps ∼10%
Iris Graphics 5100, 4258U, Apple SSD SM0256F
Apple MacBook Pro Retina 13 inch 2013-10
0 fps ∼0%
9.5 (min: 5) fps ∼5%
17.3 (min: 12) fps ∼8%
25 (min: 20) fps ∼9%
HD Graphics 4600, 4700MQ
Schenker W503
17.4 (min: 9) fps ∼8%
26.8 (min: 17) fps ∼10%
Radeon HD 8650G, A10-5750M, Samsung SSD 470 Series MZ-5PA256/EU
Pumori Test Platform (A10-5750M)
17.3 (min: 8) fps ∼6%
HD Graphics 4000, 3720QM
Asus N56VM
13 (min: 8) fps ∼5%

Test systems

Four of our test models stem from Schenker Technologies (mysn.de):

  • W504 (Core i7-4700MQ, 8 GB DDR3, GeForce GTX 860M, GTX 870M, GTX 880M, Radeon R9 M290X)
  • W503 (Core i7-4700MQ, 8 GB DDR3, GeForce GTX 765M, GTX 770M, GTX 780M)
  • M504 (Core i5-4340M, 8 GB DDR3, GeForce GTX 850M)
  • M503 (Core i7-4702MQ, 8 GB DDR3, GeForce GT 750M)

All of these used Windows 7 64-bit as operating system. Thanks to Micron for providing us with a 480 GB Crucial M500.

Nvidia provided us with another test system:

  • HP Envy 15-j011sg (Core i5-4200M, 12 GB DDR3, GeForce GT 740M)

Used GPU driver: Nvidia 344.11, AMD 14.9, Intel 10.18.10.3907

In addition, there are benchmarks from other notebooks with probably different drivers.

Overview

Show Restrictions
Pos      Model                                     Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor
 Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor (2014)
low
1280x720
Lowest Preset
med.
1344x756
Medium Preset
high
1920x1080
High Preset
ultra
1920x1080
Ultra Preset (HD Package)
 7NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980 SLI (Laptop)
227.8
203
186.1
160.9
 8NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1070 (Desktop)
1292
 9NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1070 (Laptop)
133.6
117.1
 12NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980M SLI
187.4
176.5
148
116.4
 13AMD Radeon R9 Fury
255
205
134
103
 14AMD Radeon R9 Nano
102
 15NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980
218.7
193.3
110.1
89.452
 16NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980 (Laptop)
2302
194.82
121.23
91.45
 19AMD Radeon R9 390X
209.8
144.8
94.5
 20NVIDIA GeForce GTX 970M SLI
268.9
209.4
119.352
98.22
 23AMD Radeon RX 480
116
84
 24NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1060 (Laptop)
147.5
130.9
109
85.7
 25NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780 Ti
225.8
194.9
112.3
88
 26NVIDIA GeForce GTX 970
238.4
186.9
100.8
78.452
 32AMD Radeon R9 290X
244
196
113.52
84.52
 34NVIDIA GeForce GTX 965M SLI
89.5
69.2
 39NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980M
191.24
155.254
88.79
67.79
 40NVIDIA Quadro M5000M
191.92
150.12
87.72
65.82
 41AMD Radeon R9 280X
198.2
156.4
70.7
51.3
Pos      Model                                     Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor
lowmed.highultra
 42AMD Radeon R9 380
203.9
82.8
61.6
 43NVIDIA GeForce GTX 960
194.7
131.8
71.8
48.6
 45NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1050 Ti (Desktop)
58.2
 46NVIDIA GeForce GTX 970M
1705
125.37
68.612
51.812
 55AMD Radeon R9 M295X
131.9
94.8
58
44.6
 57NVIDIA Quadro M3000M
200
125
68
54
 58NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1050 (Desktop)
44.9
 59NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1050 (Notebook)
156
102.7
59.4
45.3
 60AMD FirePro W7170M
177
126
70
52
 62AMD Radeon R7 370
181.5
111.99
64.62
47.44
 64NVIDIA GeForce GTX 880M
177.6
108.9
63
48.3
 65NVIDIA GeForce GTX 950
174.3
110
60.1
40.3
 68NVIDIA GeForce GTX 760
167.6
102.8
61.3
37.4
 69NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780M
161.6
99.8
57.2
44.1
 70NVIDIA Quadro K5100M
125.9
84.2
45.7
35.8
 72AMD Radeon RX 460 (Desktop)
41.2
 76NVIDIA GeForce GTX 965M
129.43
92.33
48.73
29.33
 77NVIDIA GeForce GTX 870M
142
84.9
50.2
38.9
 78AMD Radeon R9 M290X
151
102.8
50.8
37.1
 89*AMD Radeon R9 M390
154
92
53
39
Pos      Model                                     Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor
lowmed.highultra
 90NVIDIA GeForce GTX 750 Ti
126.4
76.4
43.4
29.2
 94NVIDIA GeForce GTX 960M
1273
79.37
41.415
28.515
 101NVIDIA GeForce GTX 770M
110.8
66.2
38.8
29.8
 102NVIDIA GeForce GTX 860M
95.852
61.552
34.952
18.052
 111NVIDIA GeForce GTX 950M
80.852
54.754
28.454
20.64
 113AMD Radeon R9 M385X
60.3
51.2
37.8
27.5
 114NVIDIA GeForce GTX 850M
76.462
53.33
23.83
18.153
 115NVIDIA Quadro M1000M
169
131
34
26
 117AMD Radeon R9 M280X
48.1
32.2
18.5
 122NVIDIA GeForce 945M
75.4
47.2
26.1
20
 123NVIDIA GeForce GTX 765M
80.5
51.5
28.6
16.4
 145NVIDIA Quadro K3100M
77.8
49.4
27.5
21.8
 154AMD FirePro W5130M
66
41
23
21
 164NVIDIA Quadro K2100M
67
34
17
16
 172NVIDIA GeForce 845M
58.4
41.2
22.4
 175AMD Radeon R9 M265X
49.5
20
14.18
 179AMD FirePro W4100
50
33
18
17
 184NVIDIA GeForce GT 750M
47.1
29.7
16.7
11.6
 187NVIDIA GeForce 940MX
37.73
24.63
16.452
12.552
 188NVIDIA Quadro K1100M
39.8
25
13.8
9.4
Pos      Model                                     Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor
lowmed.highultra
 189NVIDIA GeForce 940M
392
252
13.052
 192AMD Radeon R9 M375
36
25.5
15.5
 195AMD Radeon R7 M370
37.4
27.8
15.7
11.7
 199NVIDIA GeForce 840M
38.742
24.12
13.712
6.6
 200AMD Radeon R7 M275DX
40.7
32.4
23
10
 204*AMD Radeon R7 (Bristol Ridge)
21.7
14.7
 205AMD Radeon R7 512 Cores (Kaveri Desktop)
41
28.5
17
12.4
 206Intel Iris Pro Graphics 5200
44
29
16.4
 207AMD Radeon R7 384 Cores (Kaveri Desktop)
44
28.1
14.8
10.4
 208NVIDIA GeForce GT 740M
30.4
19.3
10.6
7.9
 209NVIDIA GeForce 930M
38.152
24.22
 211*Intel Iris Graphics 550
41.2
26.4
14.6
11.6
 212NVIDIA GeForce 830M
36.6
23.2
12.8
9.5
 213*NVIDIA GeForce 920MX
35.2
22.6
12.4
 231AMD Radeon R7 M260X
45
27.2
15.5
4.1
 240AMD Radeon R7 M270
35.052
22.252
13.12
102
 241AMD Radeon R7 M265
31.3
24.1
11.9
 245NVIDIA GeForce GT 640M
38.4
25
14.5
10
 246AMD Radeon R7 (Kaveri)
28.3
20
11.6
 247AMD Radeon R8 M365DX
36.2
26.6
15.1
Pos      Model                                     Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor
lowmed.highultra
 248*AMD Radeon R7 M460
33.3
20.9
11.1
7.3
 251AMD Radeon R7 M360
29.92
18.52
10.152
6.3
 253*AMD Radeon R7 (Carrizo)
27.72
17.752
102
7.2
 256AMD Radeon R8 M445DX
33.3
21.3
12.2
 263AMD Radeon R7 M340
29.4
19.6
10.9
8.1
 264NVIDIA GeForce 920M
29.62
18.952
10.12
6.452
 266Intel HD Graphics 630
37.7
23.9
12.6
 268Intel HD Graphics 530
32.952
22.5
112
8.5
 271AMD Radeon R7 M260
25.9
17.3
9.7
 272AMD Radeon R5 (Bristol Ridge)
34.6
18.3
 296AMD FirePro W2100
35
21
12
 306Intel HD Graphics 5600
32
19.9
10.5
8.3
 312AMD Radeon HD 8670M
23.4
15.5
8
 313AMD Radeon R6 M255DX
32.5
22.2
13.9
12
 332AMD Radeon HD 8650G
17.3
 337NVIDIA GeForce GT 630M
26
15
 340AMD Radeon R5 M335
21.5
14.5
8.1
6.3
 342AMD Radeon R5 M330
21.7
15.25
 343AMD Radeon R5 M255
30.7
19.6
10.6
 346NVIDIA GeForce 820M
26.652
17.052
8.82
6.7
Pos      Model                                     Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor
lowmed.highultra
 347Intel HD Graphics 520
29.32
18.62
9.852
 348Intel Iris Graphics 6100
27.8
18.6
10.8
8.6
 349NVIDIA GeForce GT 720M
25.6
15.2
8.7
5.7
 351AMD Radeon R5 M240
25.5
16.9
 353AMD Radeon R5 M230
19.1
13.9
6.9