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Assassin's Creed Unity Benchmarked

Florian Glaser, Stefanie Voigt (translated by Bernie Pechlaner), 11/23/2014

Fun or an imposition? Assassin's Creed Unity is yet another entry in the never-ending list of unfinished games. High demands on the hardware combined with technical bugs are a constant source of aggravation. We'll try to determine just how powerful a notebook has to be to handle this game.

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Assassin's Creed Unity Logo

For the original German article, see here.

Graphics

Visually, Assassin's Creed Unity is definitely one of the best-looking titles for PCs we have come across in recent years. While some FPS games like Crysis 3, Battlefield 4 or Metro: Last Light have textures that are sharper still, Unity does look impressive for a third-person shooter game. One of the positive aspects is the richness of the details, as hardly any other current game is based on such an affectionately constructed and believable world. In almost any corner, there are nice decorative items (plants, furniture, etc.). Really impressive, for example, is the population density of virtual Paris. Because of all the fellow citizens, it never feels like you are stuck in a sterile "quarantine zone", which is an issue with some games. The visibility range of the new offshoot, combined with the freedom of movement inherent to the series, makes for a very satisfying ambiance.

Assassin's Creed Unity
Assassin's Creed Unity
Assassin's Creed Unity
Assassin's Creed Unity
Assassin's Creed Unity
Assassin's Creed Unity

Unfortunately, the game is still plagued by technical issues which mar the overall experience. One of the main problems, in our opinion, are the demands on the hardware. Even the official requirements allude to the fact that Assassin's Creed Unity needs plenty of CPU and GPU power:  according to Ubisoft, it should be a potent quad-core CPU and a high-end GPU alongside 6-8 GB of RAM, 40 GB of hard drive space and 64-bit Windows with DirectX 11 support.

From a technical standpoint, it's an "all clear" for Intel CPUs: as long as the notebook in question contains at least a dual-core or quad-core processor with Turbo Boost and Hyper-Threading, the GPU and not the CPU is the limiting factor. A main point of criticism: Unity just doesn't seem like it's been optimized well. Even with a top-of-the-line GPU, the frame rates sometimes unexpectedly (and inexplicably) drop and game play stutters as a result. The performance, of course, depends on many factors: depending on the time of day (light and shadows), the toll on the GPU varies greatly. We were unable to achieve more than 100 fps, no matter which graphics card we tried.

At this time, AMD-equipped notebooks - see Assassin's Creed III – are heavily disadvantaged. Even in version 1.2.0 of the game, equivalent Nvidia GPUs are simply faster, especially at moderate settings (example: R9 M290X vs. GTX 870M). Not really surprising, given the fact that Unity was co-developed by Nvidia. The game does have a few interesting features like HBAO+ (ambient occlusion), PCSS+ (soft shadows) and TXAA (anti-aliasing), which also partially work with "foreign" hardware.

Assassin's Creed Unity
Assassin's Creed Unity
Assassin's Creed Unity
Assassin's Creed Unity
Assassin's Creed Unity
Assassin's Creed Unity

Let's revisit the performance one more time: Ubisoft is supposedly working on patches which will address the hardware requirements. This of course would mean that future benchmark results are not going to be comparable to our results here. We hope that Ubisoft will also fix the stability issues at the same time, since Unity crashed every once in a while on a few of our test systems.

The graphics menu, on the other hand, is without faults. Even though there are only a handful of options in the »Advanced« section, these options do have a profound effect on the quality. For our benchmarks we use the presets »Low«, »Medium«, »High« and »Ultra High«, which all require a restart of the game. A tip for those who don't like to play at the native resolution, but find that the game won't use the entire desktop: in this case, switching to windowed mode and then back to full screen rectifies the situation. Game load times are a mixed bag: the main menu takes a while to appear, but during the game play itself  we didn't experience any significant delays.

Assassin's Creed Unity
Assassin's Creed Unity
Assassin's Creed Unity
Assassin's Creed Unity
Assassin's Creed Unity
Assassin's Creed Unity

Benchmark

To determine the frame rate, we use our own benchmark sequence. After the main character gets his watch back following a chase conducted at breakneck speeds, we are able to freely wander around Paris for the first time. Not just because of the sheer number of characters, the 50-second run through the city (see the video) is pretty demanding, although some scenes require even more processing power.

Results

To get the most out of Assassin's Creed Unity, an absolute high-end system is required. None of the notebook systems we tested with allowed for a stutter-free game play when we used a resolution of 1920 x 1080 pixels, ultra-high details and 4x MSAA. It will probably take a GeForce GTX 970M or GTX 980M to achieve frame rates above 25 fps. A resolution of 1920 x 1080 pixels with the settings on »High« (2x MSAA) is still quite demanding - we would recommend at least a GeForce GTX 870M or the GTX 780M.NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980M

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

A true gaming notebook is required even for medium details and a resolution of 1366 x 768 pixels, as it takes at least a GeForce GTX 850M or GTX 765M to approach 30 fps. Owners of less powerful multimeda notebooks have to choose the preset »Low«. Graphics cards under the level of a GT 750M are simply not usable at all at any of the settings. Once Ubisoft has done some work optimizing the game, we expect Unity to run even on more entry-level notebooks.

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Assassin's Creed Unity
    1920x1080 Ultra High Graphics Quality AA:4x MS     1920x1080 High Graphics Quality AA:2x MS     1366x768 Medium Graphics Quality AA:FX     1024x768 Low Graphics Quality
GeForce GTX 980, 3770K
Desktop-PC
43.6 (min: 39) fps ∼79%
52.8 (min: 46) fps ∼63%
70 (min: 60) fps ∼60%
78.4 (min: 67) fps ∼55%
Radeon R9 290X, 4790K, Intel SSD 530 Series SSDSC2BW240A
Sapphire Radeon R9 290X Tri-X OC
31.9 (min: 28) fps ∼58%
46 (min: 40) fps ∼55%
67 (min: 53) fps ∼58%
68 (min: 55) fps ∼48%
GeForce GTX 880M, 4700MQ
Schenker W504
23.9 (min: 21) fps ∼43%
32.2 (min: 28) fps ∼39%
58.3 (min: 51) fps ∼50%
70.3 (min: 60) fps ∼50%
Radeon R9 280X, 3770K
Desktop-PC
23.8 (min: 18) fps ∼43%
31.3 (min: 23) fps ∼37%
43.6 (min: 32) fps ∼38%
49.3 (min: 36) fps ∼35%
GeForce GTX 780M, 4700MQ
Schenker W503
21.1 (min: 18) fps ∼38%
28.4 (min: 24) fps ∼34%
52.5 (min: 44) fps ∼45%
65.7 (min: 54) fps ∼46%
GeForce GTX 870M, 4700MQ
Schenker W504
18.8 (min: 16) fps ∼34%
26.2 (min: 23) fps ∼31%
51.3 (min: 46) fps ∼44%
64.4 (min: 56) fps ∼45%
Radeon R9 M290X, 4700MQ
Schenker W504
18.1 (min: 15) fps ∼33%
24.4 (min: 20) fps ∼29%
39 (min: 32) fps ∼34%
44.7 (min: 35) fps ∼31%
GeForce GTX 770M, 4700MQ
Schenker W503
14.3 (min: 9) fps ∼26%
19.1 (min: 16) fps ∼23%
36.1 (min: 31) fps ∼31%
48.8 (min: 42) fps ∼34%
GeForce GTX 860M, 4700MQ
Schenker W504
13.1 (min: 11) fps ∼24%
18.3 (min: 15) fps ∼22%
36.2 (min: 32) fps ∼31%
50.1 (min: 42) fps ∼35%
GeForce GTX 850M, 4340M
Schenker M504
9.6 (min: 7) fps ∼17%
15 (min: 11) fps ∼18%
31.1 (min: 28) fps ∼27%
44.7 (min: 39) fps ∼31%
GeForce GTX 765M, 4700MQ
Schenker W503
8.8 (min: 4) fps ∼16%
14.4 (min: 12) fps ∼17%
28.8 (min: 24) fps ∼25%
41.8 (min: 36) fps ∼29%
GeForce GT 750M, 4702MQ
Schenker M503
5.7 (min: 4) fps ∼10%
8.7 (min: 7) fps ∼10%
19.4 (min: 17) fps ∼17%
27.4 (min: 23) fps ∼19%
Radeon R7 512 Cores (Kaveri Desktop), A10-7850K, Samsung SSD 470 Series MZ-5PA256/EU
A10-7850K Asus A88-XM-PLUS
16.9 (min: 14) fps ∼15%
24.3 (min: 19) fps ∼17%
GeForce GT 740M, 4200M
HP Envy 15-j011sg
3.9 (min: 2) fps ∼7%
5.8 (min: 4) fps ∼7%
13.4 (min: 12) fps ∼12%
20.1 (min: 17) fps ∼14%
GeForce GT 640M, 2637M, Lite-On LMT-256M3M
Acer Aspire M3-581TG
9.1 (min: 4) fps ∼6%
GeForce GT 720M, 4200M, WDC Scorpio Blue WD10JPVX-22JC3T0
MSI CX61-i572M
10.1 fps ∼9%
14.3 fps ∼10%
HD Graphics 4600, 4700MQ
Schenker W503
5.4 (min: 2) fps ∼5%
8.5 (min: 6) fps ∼6%
Iris Pro Graphics 5200, 4750HQ, Intel SSD 525 Series SSDMCEAC180B3
Schenker S413
8 (min: 4) fps ∼6%
Radeon HD 8650G, A10-5750M, Samsung SSD 470 Series MZ-5PA256/EU
Pumori Test Platform (A10-5750M)
14.2 (min: 10) fps ∼10%
GeForce GT 630M, 3720QM, Seagate Momentus 7200.5 ST9750420AS
Asus N56VM
11.6 (min: 3) fps ∼8%

Test Systems

Four of our review notebooks are courtesy of Schenker Technologies:

  • 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 these notebooks feature Windows 7 64-bit.

Nvidia supplied the following systems:

One notebook is courtesy of Intel:

  • Schenker S413 (Core i7-4750HQ, 8 GB DDR3, Iris Pro Graphics 5200)

The desktop systems come with CPUs/APUs from Intel and AMD,  Micron, Intel, and Samsung SSDs, motherboards from Intel and Asus, as well as GPUs from Nvidia and AMD.

GPU drivers: Nvidia 344.65, AMD 14.11.1 Beta, Intel 10.18.10.3960

Overview

Show Restrictions
      Model
Assassin's Creed Unity
 Assassin's Creed Unity (2014)
low
1024x768
Low Graphics Quality
med.
1366x768
Medium Graphics Quality
FXAA
high
1920x1080
High Graphics Quality
2x MSAA
ultra
1920x1080
Ultra High Graphics Quality
4x MSAA
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980
78.4
70
51.9n4
38.8n4
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980 (Laptop)
140.7n2
115.55n2
79n2
43.05n2
AMD Radeon R9 290X
68
67
46
31.9
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980M
77n3
63.3n3
42.1n3
30.85n4
AMD Radeon R9 280X
49.3
43.6
31.3
23.8
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 960
97.1
75.8
47.4
21.3
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 970M
67.1n2
55.5n2
38.4n4
22.8n4
AMD Radeon R9 M295X
35.1
32.7
26.6
15.6
AMD Radeon R7 370
73.45
55.65
28.28
19.47
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 880M
70.3
58.3
32.2
23.9
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 950
99.8
68.3
41.2
18
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780M
65.7
52.5
28.4
21.1
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 965M
27.45n2
21.2n2
14.75n2
13.7n3
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 870M
64.4
51.3
26.2
18.8
AMD Radeon R9 M290X
44.7
39
24.4
18.1
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 960M
50.8n3
39.2n3
26.1n3
11.3n3
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 770M
48.8
36.1
19.1
14.3
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 860M
40.95n2
32.6n2
19.75n2
10.25n2
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 950M
44.05n2
30.6n2
16.05n2
8.4
      Model
Assassin's Creed Unity
lowmed.highultra
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 850M
41.8n3
31.1n3
17.2n3
9.6n3
AMD Radeon R9 M280X
22.7
20.6
14.7
NVIDIA GeForce 945M
44.8
30.1
18.1
12.4
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 765M
41.8
28.8
14.4
8.8
AMD Radeon R9 M265X
30.1
21
11.4
NVIDIA GeForce GT 750M
27.4
19.4
8.7
5.7
NVIDIA GeForce 940MX
29.4
17.9
12.1
8.3
NVIDIA GeForce 940M
28.3n3
17.3n3
11
7.8
AMD Radeon R9 M375
28.5
NVIDIA GeForce 840M
26.9n2
18n2
9.3n2
5.7
AMD Radeon R7 512 Cores (Kaveri Desktop)
24.3
16.9
Intel Iris Pro Graphics 5200
8
NVIDIA GeForce GT 740M
20.1
13.4
5.8
3.9
NVIDIA GeForce 930M
24.45n2
NVIDIA GeForce 830M
24.7
15.9
9.6
3.1
AMD Radeon R7 M260X
11.7
8.7
AMD Radeon R7 M265
17.3
12.9
8
NVIDIA GeForce GT 640M
9.1
AMD Radeon R7 M360
20
13.3
8.1
5.4
NVIDIA GeForce 920M
19.5
12.6
6.1
3.9
      Model
Assassin's Creed Unity
lowmed.highultra
AMD Radeon R7 M260
19.2
12
7.8
AMD Radeon HD 8650G
14.2
NVIDIA GeForce GT 630M
11.6
AMD Radeon R5 M330
16.5
10.8
AMD Radeon R5 M255
8.3
6.1
NVIDIA GeForce 820M
15.1
9.7
NVIDIA GeForce GT 720M
14.3
10.1
AMD Radeon R5 M240
18.2
12
Intel HD Graphics 4600
7.75n2
5n2
Intel HD Graphics 5500
8.4n2
6.05n2
3.05n2
1.1
Intel HD Graphics 5000
5.4
Intel HD Graphics 4400
6.3n2
3.9
Intel HD Graphics 4000
3
AMD Radeon R4 (Beema)
7.1
4.6
AMD Radeon R3 (Mullins/Beema)
8
5.3
Intel HD Graphics 4200
3.3
Intel HD Graphics (Bay Trail)
4.3
2.4
(-) * Smaller values are better. / n123 Number of benchmarks for this median value / * Approximate position

 

Legend
5Stutters – This game is very likely to stutter and have poor frame rates. Based on all known benchmarks using the specified graphical settings, average frame rates are expected to fall below 25fps
May Stutter – This graphics card has not been explicitly tested on this game. Based on interpolated information from surrounding graphics cards of similar performance levels, stutters and poor frame rates are expected.
30Fluent – Based on all known benchmarks using the specified graphical settings, this game should run at or above 25fps
40Fluent – Based on all known benchmarks using the specified graphical settings, this game should run at or above 35fps
May Run Fluently – This graphics card has not been explicitly tested on this game. Based on interpolated information from surrounding graphics cards of similar performance levels, fluent frame rates are expected.
123Uncertain – This graphics card experienced unexpected performance issues during testing for this game. A slower card may be able to achieve better and more consistent frame rates than this particular GPU running the same benchmark scene.
Uncertain – This graphics card has not been explicitly tested on this game and no reliable interpolation can be made based on the performances of surrounding cards of the same class or family.
The value in the fields displays the average frame rate of all values in the database. Move your cursor over the value to see individual results.
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> Notebook / Laptop Reviews and News > Reviews > Archive of our own reviews > Assassin's Creed Unity Benchmarked
Florian Glaser, 2014-11-23 (Update: 2014-11-23)
Bernhard Pechlaner
Bernhard Pechlaner - Review Editor
Ended up in the IT sector in the 90s more or less accidentally and have remained in the industry (as a sysadmin) ever since. Always been interested in laptops - first purchase was - if memory serves correctly - a Toshiba Satellite T2115CS with DX4-75 processor, 4 MB of RAM and 350 MB hard disk drive (and Windows 3.1). To this day, laptops appeal to me - much to the chagrin of my wife, who doesn’t seem understand why we need 5-10 of them at any given time ;-).