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Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 Notebook Benchmarks

Florian Glaser (translated by Ariana Brodsky), 11/11/2015

Incomplete. While the console version received international acclaim, the PC version is causing all sorts of trouble. Performance drops here, crashes and graphics errors there: The fact is Black Ops 3 doesn't currently appear to be very well developed. Does the game degenerate into incessant stuttering on notebooks too?

Black Ops 3 Logo

For the original German article, see here.

Graphics

After the overhasty release of the graphically premature Batman: Arkham Knight, the next AAA game came onto the market on November 6th, 2015. Once again, the title gives the PC platform a bad rap. The biggest con proves to be the game's unstable performance. Even on uber-powerful hardware, some levels and game situations stutter heftily for untraceable reasons, and reducing the settings doesn't solve the problem.

Computers with graphics cards that lack VRAM are especially prone to these performance drops. For example: Even though its overall performance is higher, the desktop version of the GTX 980 stuttered worse than its notebook counterpart, the GTX 980M, which is equipped with 8 GB of video memory rather than 4. When it comes to weaker models that hit their performance limits earlier, the discrepancies aren't quite as pronounced.

Black Ops 3
Black Ops 3
Black Ops 3

Black Ops 3 seems very poorly optimized for working memory as well. When we opened the Task Manager for testing purposes, we were astonished to see that the first-person shooter was gobbling all 8 GB of our desktop PC's memory. Speaking of switching windows: On some systems the screen went completely black after settings changes or immediately after the game startup, though we could still hear the sound in the background. In such cases, briefly exiting Full-screen Mode via Alt + Enter often resolved the problem. The game occasionally froze completely, however, forcing us to kill the EXE through the Task Manager.

Yet that's not all: Over the course of our tests, we also dealt with mouse bugs (after changing the resolution on our 4K monitor), graphics errors (mostly at low and medium detail settings), and strange fluctuations in load time. While most games' load times are dependent on the system's mass storage device (SSD vs. HDD), Black Ops 3 seems to be influenced by the potency of the other hardware as well.

Black Ops 3
Black Ops 3
Black Ops 3

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Now, one could argue that a visually stunning first-person shooter is simply bound to eat up resources. But in our experience, the hardware demands and graphics quality aren't strictly related. With the exception of the detailed and well-animated characters, the game's visuals aren't especially impressive. During the campaign, the player often encounters muddy textures and second-rate effects (fire looks somewhat pathetic). True, Black Ops 3 has considerably more game physics elements than its predecessor, but overall the graphics seem somewhat antiquated. This makes the performance problems and bulky game size (almost 50 GB download) all the more irritating.

In terms of gameplay, buyers will get that familiar Call of Duty feeling: Diverse kinds of action in perfectly-tailored scenes. But under the hood, we discover that it's more about appearances than substance: The game is plagued with poorly executed AI, excessively large enemy waves and a chaotically-presented story. Nor does the game require much in the way of strategy in single-player mode, and the difficulty level is disappointing.

Black Ops 3
Black Ops 3
Black Ops 3

But back to the graphics: In some instances, the title certainly deserves praise. While we criticized Advanced Warfare for the frustrating experience of scrolling through the graphics menu, Black Ops 3's design is substantially cleaner here. The graphics settings are divided into two tabs: "Video" includes the basic options like resolution, brightness and field of view, while "Advanced" allows the user to make adjustments to the features.

Black Ops 3 utilizes numerous modern technologies like subsurface scattering and volumetric lighting. All in all, the two menus contain more than 20 options - a very broad array for a PC game. Excellent: Alongside anti-aliasing, the user can also change the maximum frame rate. The latter runs from 24 to 240. The game also offers Vsync, which prevents image tearing.

Black Ops 3
Black Ops 3
Black Ops 3

We are even more pleased to report that all settings can be applied without restarting (even while the game is running). There do appear to be some small bugs remaining, though. In our tests, some options (ex. anti-aliasing and ambient occlusion) weren't always correctly saved, forcing us to visit the graphics menu two or three separate times. It was also somewhat aggravating that the mouse speed is contingent on the general performance, and in extreme cases the menus were impossible to use. (On the plus side, it's immediately clear when a setting overloads the system.)

Black Ops 3
Black Ops 3
Black Ops 3

Shortly after the title's release, many buyers also complained about the performance of dual-core processors. Intel's Core i5 models have cropped up especially frequently in this context. However, because we ran all the benchmarks with the first patch (released on the game's launch day), we hardly encountered this problem.

Black Ops 3
Black Ops 3
Black Ops 3

Benchmark

Although Black Ops 3 needs quite some time to load a level (the videos don't stutter on weaker devices as badly as they did previously), measuring frame rates was fairly easy. Finding a fitting sequence was a more difficult task. The user is permitted to unlock all of the missions at the first startup (we wish the competition would copy the developer here), but because of the massive performance drops many levels are out of the question.

To guarantee a high degree of comparability, we also had to eliminate missions whose course is hard to reproduce. To cut a long story short: In the end, we chose the beginning of the third chapter, "In Darkness". Yes, as the video reveals, the sequence isn't particularly spectacular (no gunfight, etc.), but the performance fluctuations in other scenes were simply too vast to allow for an accurate GPU ranking.

Because the frame rate varies greatly depending on the mission and platform, the player will need some additional performance capability to fall back on when the going gets tough. That is to say: In order for a system to render Black Ops 3 reasonably fluidly, it will need to reach at least 50 or 60 fps in the benchmark sequence. Even then, over the course of the game the player is bound to be confronted with some serious stuttering now and then. As a result, the following results and assertions can only be regarded as a rough guide. The developers at Treyarch certainly have their work cut out for them. Only time will tell whether Black Ops 3 will ever run smoothly on PCs - it may very well share the same fate as Arkham Knight.

Results

Owners of budget or office notebooks can stuff their 60 Euros (~$65) back in their pockets. Low-end GPUs, like Intel's HD Graphics 4600, and older/cheaper mid-range chips, like the GeForce GT 740M, can't even run Black Ops 3 at low details and 1024x768 pixels. These low settings demand at least a GTX 850M. Normal details and 1366x768 pixels require a bona-fide gaming GPU (for instance the GTX 960M or GTX 870M).

Low Settings
Low Settings
Medium Settings
Medium Settings
High Settings
High Settings
Ultra Settings
Ultra Settings
4K Settings
4K Settings
Low Settings
Low Settings
Medium Settings
Medium Settings
High Settings
High Settings
Ultra Settings
Ultra Settings
4K Settings
4K Settings

For high detail settings and 1920x1080 pixels, a GTX 970M is the first sensible choice. The same goes for maximum settings, which are only accessible to the technological crème de la crème. 4K kicks every notebook GPU's derrière. Even the desktop GTX 980 stutters like mad at 3840x2160 pixels and the "High" setting.

Call of Duty: Black Ops 3
    3840x2160 High / On AA:FX     1920x1080 Extra / On AA:T2x SM     1920x1080 High / On AA:FX     1366x768 Medium / Off     1024x768 Low / Off
AMD Radeon R9 290X, 4790K
Sapphire Radeon R9 290X Tri-X OC
31.1 (min: 25) fps ∼30%
67 (min: 64) fps ∼44%
90 (min: 76) fps ∼59%
132 (min: 107) fps ∼73%
140 (min: 98) fps ∼74%
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980, 3770K
Desktop-PC
30.3 (min: 25) fps ∼29%
77.4 (min: 58) fps ∼51%
98.5 (min: 83) fps ∼64%
120.4 (min: 102) fps ∼67%
123 (min: 104) fps ∼65%
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980M, 4700MQ
Schenker W504
24.8 (min: 10) fps ∼24%
66.7 (min: 52) fps ∼44%
74.4 (min: 63) fps ∼49%
108.6 (min: 92) fps ∼60%
114.2 (min: 97) fps ∼60%
AMD Radeon R9 280X, 4790K
Asus Z97 Deluxe Desktop i7-4790K, R9 280X
24.2 (min: 20) fps ∼23%
45 (min: 35) fps ∼29%
68 (min: 56) fps ∼45%
125 (min: 94) fps ∼70%
136 (min: 106) fps ∼72%
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 970M, 4700MQ
Schenker W504
19.2 (min: 9) fps ∼18%
53 (min: 43) fps ∼35%
59.4 (min: 49) fps ∼39%
99.6 (min: 85) fps ∼55%
105.8 (min: 90) fps ∼56%
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 950, 3770K
Desktop-PC
14.8 (min: 12) fps ∼14%
38.2 (min: 31) fps ∼25%
50.6 (min: 41) fps ∼33%
99.9 (min: 83) fps ∼56%
122.6 (min: 104) fps ∼65%
AMD Radeon R7 370, 3960X
no name
14.6 (min: 12) fps ∼14%
30.2 (min: 24) fps ∼20%
42.6 (min: 33) fps ∼28%
91 (min: 77) fps ∼51%
129 (min: 106) fps ∼68%
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 880M, 4700MQ
Schenker W504
13.4 (min: 7) fps ∼13%
38.4 (min: 30) fps ∼25%
42.5 (min: 32) fps ∼28%
84.1 (min: 71) fps ∼47%
120.2 (min: 104) fps ∼63%
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 870M, 4700MQ
Schenker W504
10.5 (min: 7) fps ∼10%
32 (min: 24) fps ∼21%
35.9 (min: 28) fps ∼23%
69.7 (min: 57) fps ∼39%
102.6 (min: 89) fps ∼54%
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 960M, 4720HQ
Schenker XMG A505
10.4 (min: 5) fps ∼10%
29.3 (min: 23) fps ∼19%
34 (min: 24) fps ∼22%
72.2 (min: 59) fps ∼40%
113 (min: 91) fps ∼59%
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 850M, 4340M
Schenker M504
6.9 (min: 5) fps ∼7%
20.1 (min: 15) fps ∼13%
26.4 (min: 21) fps ∼17%
50 (min: 42) fps ∼28%
75.4 (min: 58) fps ∼40%
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 860M, 4700MQ
Schenker W504
5.8 (min: 2) fps ∼6%
16.5 (min: 13) fps ∼11%
24.2 (min: 20) fps ∼16%
37.9 (min: 30) fps ∼21%
61.9 (min: 51) fps ∼33%
AMD Radeon R7 512 Cores (Kaveri Desktop), A10-7850K
A10-7850K Asus A88-XM-PLUS
14.3 (min: 12) fps ∼9%
28.9 (min: 24) fps ∼16%
48 (min: 42) fps ∼25%
NVIDIA GeForce GT 750M, 4702MQ
Schenker M503
9.6 (min: 6) fps ∼6%
11.6 (min: 8) fps ∼8%
25.1 (min: 20) fps ∼14%
42.2 (min: 36) fps ∼22%
Intel Iris Pro Graphics 5200, 4750HQ
Schenker S413
22 (min: 18) fps ∼12%
38.2 (min: 34) fps ∼20%
NVIDIA GeForce GT 740M, 4200M
HP Envy 15-j011sg
7.3 (min: 1) fps ∼5%
8.9 (min: 5) fps ∼6%
19.1 (min: 13) fps ∼11%
32.3 (min: 28) fps ∼17%
NVIDIA GeForce GT 720M, 4200M
MSI CX61-i572M
6.7 fps ∼4%
14.2 fps ∼8%
26.4 fps ∼14%
Intel HD Graphics 5500, 5010U
Intel NUC Kit NUC5i3RYH
7.3 (min: 5) fps ∼5%
15.1 (min: 13) fps ∼8%
25.1 (min: 22) fps ∼13%
Intel HD Graphics 4600, 4700MQ
Schenker W504
15 (min: 10) fps ∼8%
26.1 (min: 22) fps ∼14%

Test Systems

Four of our test devices are courtesy of Schenker Technologies (mysn.de):

  • W504 (Core i7-4700MQ, 8 GB DDR3, GeForce GTX 860M, GTX 870M, GTX 880M, GTX 970M, GTX 980M)
  • A505 (Core i7-4720HQ, 8 GB DDR3, GeForce GTX 960M)
  • M504 (Core i5-4340M, 8 GB DDR3, GeForce GTX 850M)
  • M503 (Core i7-4702MQ, 8 GB DDR3, GeForce GT 750M)

Three notebooks came from Nvidia:

Intel also supplied us one:

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

The desktop computers contain CPUs/APUs from Intel and AMD, SSDs from Micron, Intel and Samsung, motherboards from Intel and Asus, and graphics cards from Nvidia and AMD. We use the Asus PB287Q as our 4K monitor.

GPU drivers used: Nvidia 358.87, AMD 15.11 Beta, Intel 20.19.15.4300 (Win 10) and Intel 10.18.14.4294 (Win 7).

Overview

Show Restrictions
Pos      Model                                     Call of Duty: Black Ops 3
 Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 (2015)
low
1024x768
Low / Off
med.
1366x768
Medium / Off
high
1920x1080
High / On
FXAA
ultra
1920x1080
Extra / On
T2x SMAA
4k
3840x2160
High / On
FXAA
 6NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080 (Desktop)
150
58
 7NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080 (Laptop)
144
140
56.9
 12NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1070 (Desktop)
1242
47.752
 13NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1070 (Laptop)
87.52
822
42.7
 15NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980 Ti
117
47.5
 19AMD Radeon R9 Fury
76
36.4
 21NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980
123
120.4
98.5
77.4
30.3
 23NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980 (Laptop)
167.92
164.252
101.252
90.52
34.952
 27AMD Radeon R9 390X
137.8
131.5
97.4
86.7
37
 29NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1060 (Desktop)
190
175
99.4
85.9
32.2
 32AMD Radeon RX 480 (Desktop)
94
35.2
 34NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1060 (Laptop)
80.6
73.2
26.6
 37NVIDIA GeForce GTX 970
29.7
 45AMD Radeon R9 290X
140
132
90
67
31.1
 52NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980M
118.452
115.43
75.63
66.13
24.12
 54AMD Radeon R9 280X
136
125
68
45
24.2
 55AMD Radeon R9 380
129.8
120.2
61.1
50.7
21.4
 56NVIDIA GeForce GTX 960
146.2
117.3
63.6
55.8
20.4
 59NVIDIA GeForce GTX 970M
102.954
98.34
59.54
52.84
19.2
Pos      Model                                     Call of Duty: Black Ops 3
lowmed.highultra4k
 71NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1050 (Notebook)
119.7
73.9
52.2
49.1
 74AMD Radeon R7 370
129
91
42.6
30.2
14.6
 76NVIDIA GeForce GTX 880M
120.2
84.1
42.5
38.4
13.4
 77NVIDIA GeForce GTX 950
122.6
99.9
50.6
38.2
14.8
 88NVIDIA GeForce GTX 965M
121.43
95.23
49.52
37.43
13.3
 90NVIDIA GeForce GTX 870M
102.6
69.7
35.9
32
10.5
 102*AMD Radeon R9 M390
123
82
40.5
29.5
13.4
 106NVIDIA GeForce GTX 960M
113
72.13
36.25
31.55
10.43
 123NVIDIA GeForce GTX 860M
61.9
37.9
24.2
16.5
5.8
 132NVIDIA GeForce GTX 950M
80.952
51.82
24.852
21.72
 134AMD Radeon R9 M385X
39.8
38.9
21.1
 135NVIDIA GeForce GTX 850M
75.4
50
26.4
20.1
6.9
 138AMD Radeon R9 M280X
36.4
35.4
23.1
20.3
 207NVIDIA GeForce GT 750M
42.2
25.1
11.6
9.6
 211NVIDIA GeForce 940MX
573
31.63
20.1
19.1
 214NVIDIA GeForce 940M
41.1
26.4
13.9
10.7
 220AMD Radeon R7 M370
44.2
28
11.4
6.5
 230AMD Radeon R7 512 Cores (Kaveri Desktop)
48
28.9
14.3
 231Intel Iris Pro Graphics 5200
38.2
22
 233NVIDIA GeForce GT 740M
32.3
19.1
8.9
7.3
Pos      Model                                     Call of Duty: Black Ops 3
lowmed.highultra4k
 235NVIDIA GeForce 930M
46.7
29.2
13.1
9.7
 240*NVIDIA GeForce 920MX
40.2
22.3
 275AMD Radeon R7 (Kaveri)
31.3
21.8
 277*AMD Radeon R7 M460
43.3
23.6
12.3
 280AMD Radeon R7 M360
28.252
18.92
7.952
 282*AMD Radeon R7 (Carrizo)
24
16.4
 283NVIDIA GeForce 920M
30.52
18.552
 293AMD Radeon R7 M340
36.5
21.2
9.8
7.4
 306*Intel HD Graphics 620
32
17.9
9.1
 307AMD Radeon R6 (Carrizo)
17.6
14.8
 338Intel HD Graphics 5600
31.2
18.5
 372AMD Radeon R5 M335
34.8
19.8
9.6
6.1
 373AMD Radeon R5 M330
30.2
17.9
 375AMD Radeon R5 M255
40.3
22.2
11
 379Intel HD Graphics 520
19.62
10.852
 380Intel Iris Graphics 6100
29.1
18.3
 381NVIDIA GeForce GT 720M
26.4
14.2
6.7
 392Intel HD Graphics 6000
24.6
16.6
 400Intel HD Graphics 4600
23.42
13.352
 402Intel HD Graphics 5500
25.1
15.1
7.3
Pos      Model                                     Call of Duty: Black Ops 3
lowmed.highultra4k
 407*Intel HD Graphics 615
8.4
 448Intel HD Graphics 515
12.4
8.1
 449Intel HD Graphics 4400
20.3
12.1
 500AMD Radeon R5 (Beema/Carrizo-L)
16.1
8.7
 503Intel HD Graphics 4200
14.9
9.3
* Smaller values are better. / * 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 > Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 Notebook Benchmarks
Florian Glaser, 2015-11-11 (Update: 2015-11-11)