Notebookcheck

Watch Dogs 2 Notebook and Desktop Benchmarks

Florian Glaser, Klaus Hinum (translated by Bernie Pechlaner), 12/08/2016

Impressive performance. Despite the fact that Watch Dogs 2 is quite demanding on the hardware, its engine appears to be well-engineered and stable. Which graphics card and what settings are best suited to allow the user to ascend to the hacker-throne is the subject of our review. Update: we've now tested 16+ graphics cards.

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Graphics

For the original German article, see here.

Since the release of the successful predecessor in 2014, Ubisoft has substantially improved upon the technical framework of the open-world series. Watch Dogs 2 not only features sharper textures, but also better lighting, which makes the outside environment in particular much more believable. The more colorful ambiance (Watch Dogs 1 was slightly more subdued and serious) is a matter of personal taste.

Kudos to the creators for the vast amounts of details. No matter if one ventures into the city or through the more rural districts: the game contains a plethora of smaller and larger objects ranging from decorative elements to grass and bushes. Thanks to the comprehensive interior design and the lavish vegetation, Watch Dogs 2 features plenty of atmosphere. The interplay of dusk and dawn, the many passerby and the lively traffic simulations ensures a great ambiance. The reflections, water and the visibility range are also state-of-the-art. In short, it's easy to see the expenditure and effort which went into creating this title.

Watch Dogs 2
Watch Dogs 2
Watch Dogs 2
Watch Dogs 2
Watch Dogs 2
Watch Dogs 2

The number of available options is also quite extensive. The video menu - which features a pleasant "old school" design - clearly shows that Ubisoft put in lots of effort and didn't neglect the PC platform. This begins with the display menu, which allows changing the mode, the resolution, the display frequency, the vertical synchronization, the field of view, and the head-up display (HUD). The setting "pixel density" allows up and downscaling, if so desired.

Most of the options are in the quality menu which - as the name indicates - deals with the general graphics quality. In addition to the post-processing anti-aliasing methods SMAA and FXAA, which only have a moderate effect and "soften" the look somewhat, Watch Dogs 2 features also the more hardware-intensive MSAA and TXAA (TAA is also available, but we wouldn't recommend it).

Watch Dogs 2
Watch Dogs 2
Watch Dogs 2
Watch Dogs 2
Watch Dogs 2
Watch Dogs 2

For the visually most pleasing experience, the user not only needs to download the "High Res Texture Pack" - which takes up 6 GB and is available free of charge via Uplay - but also has to tweak the existing presets. The reason: even the ultra preset doesn't move all sliders to their respective maximum - extra details, anti-aliasing, shadows, and ambient occlusion are all affected.   

Note: some of the features are exclusive to Nvidia. At full details, AMD GPUs do well in the graphics department though - about as well as Nvidia systems - and Watch Dogs 2 clearly measures up to other open-world games like GTA V and The Witcher 3. The title even compares well to other Ubisoft Triple-A games from 2015 and 2016 (Assassin’s Creed SyndicateFar Cry Primal & The Division).

Watch Dogs 2
Watch Dogs 2
Watch Dogs 2
Watch Dogs 2
Watch Dogs 2
Watch Dogs 2

The Disrupt engine has matured and works surprisingly well (the same engine still had some teething problems in the predecessor of the game). During our review, we didn't encounter any crashes, graphics mishaps or other bugs. "Popping", which is typical for open-world titles and can get quite annoying, is also almost absent at higher settings.

The video menu doesn't abandon complete newbies and inexperienced users, either - despite the plethora of options. Since the settings feature a text box with explanations and changes are executed immediately (save for the texture quality, which requires reverting back to the main menu), Watch Dogs 2 is easy to operate. General navigation is very intuitive and doesn't require a long adjustment period.

Watch Dogs 2
Watch Dogs 2
Watch Dogs 2
Watch Dogs 2
Watch Dogs 2
Watch Dogs 2

We only find two areas to criticize. Analogous to our experience with the title's predecessor, the driveability of the different vehicles is just simply strange at times. ATVs and motorcycles are hypersensitive and the steering isn't very precise. The other drawback is that Watch Dogs 2 requires lots and lots of video RAM: Full-HD and the "ultra" setting require about 5 GB of VRAM. Less RAM will likely cause stutters during gameplay.   

From a technical viewpoint, the hacker-saga is significantly ahead of games like Mafia 3 or Dishonored 2, which can be hardly optimized or not optimized at all. Yes, Watch Dogs 2 has rather stringent hardware requirements - but the game is visually very pleasing and doesn't suffer from needless strange performance issues.

Watch Dogs 2
Watch Dogs 2
Watch Dogs 2
Watch Dogs 2
Watch Dogs 2
Watch Dogs 2

The load times are also very decent. On laptops equipped with SSDs, loading a mission or jumping within the game just takes a few seconds. With the "High Res Texture Pack" installed, the game takes up about 30 GB of space - quite moderate, considering how some games (Battlefield 1Call of Duty Infinite WarfareDeus Ex Mankind DividedDoom) take up 40-50 GB.

Benchmark

In order to ensure constant and comparable results, we use a motocross race, the "Oakland Open", which is available soon after the tutorial and always takes place during daylight hours in the east section of the gaming world. As shown in the video below, we race our ATV through ten gates, which takes about 50 seconds. We use the tool Fraps to record the average and the minimum frame rate. Systems which achieve above 45 fps should handle the rest of the game quite easily.

Results

Before we take a look at the results, we want to talk briefly about the presets. While there's not much of a difference between the ultra, very high and high settings except for the shadows (which get increasingly worse), the graphics deteriorate quite noticeable at medium details (weaker textures, jagged edges,...). At the lowest settings, the quality deteriorates further in all areas, but we would never call the result "ugly".

Note: a warning pops up should the GPU driver be too old. We weren't successful when we tried to install the brand-new Nvidia driver version 376.09 on our Pascal notebooks Asus G752VS and MSI GT62VR ("no compatible hardware found"), so we had to use ForceWare 375.95 - released a few days earlier - instead. The install went without a hitch though and we didn't experience any problems. 

Low Preset
Low Preset
Medium Preset
Medium Preset
High Preset
High Preset
Ultra Preset
Ultra Preset
Low Preset
Low Preset
Medium Preset
Medium Preset
High Preset
High Preset
Ultra Preset
Ultra Preset

Even though the CPU can be a limiting factor as well, the overall performance of Watch Dogs 2 hinges more on the type of graphics card - at least at higher settings. Owners of 4K displays should use at least a GeForce GTX 1080 (and a GTX 1070 for 3K). 1920 x 1080 pixels require a GTX 1060 or GTX 980 (ultra), a GTX 980M (high) or the GTX 970M (medium), although true gaming aficionados are likely not satisfied with 40-50 fps.   

Older and/or weaker high-end GPUs like the GTX 960M can handle normal settings at a maximum of 1366 x 768 or 1600 x 900 pixels. Middle-class GPUs equivalent to a GTX 950M might handle a resolution of 1280 x 720 Pixel and the preset low. Business notebooks and multimedia laptops equipped with low-end or integrated GPUs (Intel HD Graphics xyz, GeForce 920MGeForce 940M, ...) don't offer enough performance for fluent gameplay.

Watch Dogs 2
    3840x2160 High Preset     1920x1080 Ultra Preset     1920x1080 High Preset     1920x1080 Medium Preset     1366x768 Medium Preset     1280x720 Low Preset
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080 (Desktop), 4790K
MSI Gaming X GeForce GTX 1080 Desktop PC
46.7 (min: 42) fps ∼62%
73.5 (min: 58) fps ∼72%
110 (min: 87) fps ∼93%
140 (min: 87) fps ∼100%
148 (min: 92) fps ∼100%
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1070 (Desktop), 4790K
MSI Gaming Z GeForce GTX 1070 OC Bios Desktop PC
37.1 (min: 33) fps ∼49%
63.3 (min: 51) fps ∼62%
95.3 (min: 77) fps ∼81%
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1070 (Laptop), 6820HK
Asus G752VS
34.6 (min: 31) fps ∼46%
61.4 (min: 50) fps ∼60%
90.2 (min: 68) fps ∼76%
107 (min: 70) fps ∼100%
108 (min: 71) fps ∼77%
118 (min: 79) fps ∼80%
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980 Ti, 4790K
Asus Strix GTX 980 Ti Desktop PC
33.9 (min: 31) fps ∼45%
55.5 (min: 46) fps ∼54%
AMD Radeon R9 Fury, 4790K
XFX Radeon R9 Fury Pro
27.9 (min: 25) fps ∼37%
43.4 (min: 35) fps ∼43%
68.5 (min: 54) fps ∼58%
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980, 6700K
Desktop PC
26.4 (min: 23) fps ∼35%
45.2 (min: 36) fps ∼44%
72.1 (min: 61) fps ∼61%
97.3 (min: 82) fps ∼91%
127 (min: 90) fps ∼91%
143 (min: 94) fps ∼97%
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1060 (Desktop), 6700K
Desktop PC
25.1 (min: 23) fps ∼33%
45.7 (min: 36) fps ∼45%
71.7 (min: 61) fps ∼61%
97.7 (min: 82) fps ∼91%
130 (min: 88) fps ∼93%
147 (min: 93) fps ∼99%
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1060 (Laptop), 6820HK
MSI GT62VR
22.4 (min: 19) fps ∼30%
42.3 (min: 32) fps ∼41%
66 (min: 56) fps ∼56%
87.8 (min: 63) fps ∼82%
94.2 (min: 64) fps ∼67%
104 (min: 70) fps ∼70%
AMD Radeon RX 480 (Desktop), 4790K
AMD Radeon RX 480 8 GB Reference
23.4 (min: 20) fps ∼31%
40.6 (min: 32) fps ∼40%
66.1 (min: 56) fps ∼56%
108 (min: 74) fps ∼77%
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 970, 4790K
MSI Gaming Z GeForce GTX 970 Desktop PC
23.3 (min: 21) fps ∼31%
34.8 (min: 28) fps ∼34%
65.5 (min: 56) fps ∼56%
AMD Radeon RX 470 (Desktop), 4790K
MSI RX 470 Gaming X 4GB
22 (min: 19) fps ∼29%
37.4 (min: 29) fps ∼37%
61.2 (min: 51) fps ∼52%
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980M, 4700MQ
Schenker W504
18.9 (min: 17) fps ∼25%
30 (min: 23) fps ∼29%
45.5 (min: 34) fps ∼39%
69.1 (min: 50) fps ∼65%
77.6 (min: 51) fps ∼55%
86.5 (min: 56) fps ∼58%
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 970M, 4700MQ
Schenker W504
14.3 (min: 12) fps ∼19%
24.6 (min: 19) fps ∼24%
36.8 (min: 27) fps ∼31%
51.1 (min: 38) fps ∼48%
74.2 (min: 50) fps ∼53%
85.1 (min: 55) fps ∼58%
AMD Radeon RX 460 (Desktop), 4790K
XFX RX-460P4DFG5 Double Dissipation 4 GB
10.6 (min: 8) fps ∼14%
19.2 (min: 14) fps ∼19%
33.1 (min: 28) fps ∼28%
71.4 (min: 60) fps ∼51%
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 965M, 6700HQ
MSI GE72 965M Ti
17.1 (min: 12) fps ∼17%
35.4 (min: 31) fps ∼30%
68 (min: 50) fps ∼49%
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 960M, 4720HQ
Schenker XMG A505
14.8 (min: 10) fps ∼15%
25.6 (min: 23) fps ∼22%
36.2 (min: 30) fps ∼34%
53.2 (min: 43) fps ∼38%
63.6 (min: 48) fps ∼43%
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 950M, 6700HQ
MSI PE60 2QD
21.4 (min: 18) fps ∼18%
45.2 (min: 37) fps ∼32%
53.1 (min: 43) fps ∼36%
NVIDIA GeForce 940MX, 6700HQ
MSI CX72 6QD
11.2 (min: 10) fps ∼9%
26 (min: 22) fps ∼19%
32 (min: 26) fps ∼22%
NVIDIA GeForce 940M, 5700HQ
MSI GP62 2QD
25.4 (min: 21) fps ∼18%
31.3 (min: 26) fps ∼21%
AMD Radeon R9 M280X, FX-7600P
Asus N551ZU-CN007H
28.2 (min: 17) fps ∼19%
Intel HD Graphics 530, 6700HQ
MSI CX72 6QD
15.9 (min: 13) fps ∼11%
NVIDIA GeForce GT 720M, 4200M
MSI CX61-i572M
12.1 fps ∼9%
14.7 fps ∼10%
Intel HD Graphics 4600, 4700MQ
Schenker W504
0 fps ∼0%
0 fps ∼0%

Overview

Show Restrictions
Pos      Model                                     Watch Dogs 2
 Watch Dogs 2 (2016)
low
1280x720
Low Preset
med.
1366x768
Medium Preset
high
1920x1080
High Preset
ultra
1920x1080
Ultra Preset
4k
3840x2160
High Preset
 1NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080 Ti (Desktop)
93
56.1
 2NVIDIA Titan X Pascal
125
121
111
91
50
 3NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080 SLI (Laptop)
118
102
75.6
 5NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080 (Desktop)
148
140
110
73.5
46.7
 6NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080 (Laptop)
1053
75.93
41.43
 9NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1070 (Desktop)
95.3
63.3
37.1
 10NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1070 (Laptop)
118
108
86.74
62.154
34.6
 13NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980 Ti
55.5
33.9
 15AMD Radeon R9 Fury
68.5
43.4
27.9
 17NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980
143
127
72.1
45.2
26.4
 23NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1060 (Desktop)
144.22
128.552
70.852
47.852
24.82
 25AMD Radeon RX 480 (Desktop)
108
66.1
40.6
23.4
 27NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1060 (Laptop)
106.552
94.552
63.154
42.554
22.4
 30NVIDIA GeForce GTX 970
65.5
34.8
23.3
 33AMD Radeon RX 470 (Desktop)
61.2
37.4
22
 42AMD Radeon HD 8970M Crossfire
81.4
72.9
58.2
37.4
 45NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980M
86.5
77.6
45.5
30
18.9
 50NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1050 Ti (Notebook)
82.5
74.3
43.452
292
14.4
 51NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1050 Ti (Desktop)
45.4
28.5
15.2
Pos      Model                                     Watch Dogs 2
lowmed.highultra4k
 52NVIDIA GeForce GTX 970M
85.1
74.2
36.8
24.6
14.3
 63NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1050 (Desktop)
78
35.4
20
 64NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1050 (Notebook)
72
61.2
32
19.8
 77AMD Radeon RX 460 (Desktop)
71.4
33.1
19.2
10.6
 81NVIDIA GeForce GTX 965M
68
35.4
17.1
 85AMD Radeon HD 8970M
73.8
63.5
33
20.8
 99NVIDIA GeForce GTX 960M
63.6
53.2
25.6
14.8
 106NVIDIA GeForce GT 1030 (Desktop)
55.4
47.3
21.7
14.8
6.2
 111*AMD Radeon Pro 555
53.9
19.8
 112*AMD Radeon Pro 455
54.4
20.7
 123*AMD Radeon Pro 450
47.4
17.6
 124NVIDIA GeForce GTX 950M
53.1
45.2
21.4
 130AMD Radeon R9 M280X
28.2
 200NVIDIA GeForce 940MX
32.62
27.32
12.52
8.5
 202NVIDIA GeForce 940M
31.3
25.4
 208AMD Radeon R7 M445
30.2
24.1
11.5
 226*Intel Iris Graphics 550
23.4
19.9
 262AMD Radeon R7 (Kaveri)
17.8
 273AMD Radeon R7 M440
18.7
13.6
 282Intel HD Graphics 630
17.3
Pos      Model                                     Watch Dogs 2
lowmed.highultra4k
 284Intel HD Graphics 530
15.9
 290*Intel HD Graphics 620
13.8
11.7
 322Intel HD Graphics 5600
14.9
12.3
 357*AMD Radeon R5 M430
15.8
12.5
 359AMD Radeon R5 M255
18.2
15.3
 365NVIDIA GeForce GT 720M
14.7
12.1
 384Intel HD Graphics 4600
4.952
4.152
 432Intel HD Graphics 4400
8.4
* 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.

Test Systems

Desktop PCs Plattform I Plattform II
Mainboard Asus Z170-A Asus Z97-Deluxe
Processor Intel Core i7-6700K (Skylake) Intel Core i7-4790K (Haswell)
GPU Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 (6 GB GDDR5)
Nvidia GeForce GTX 980 (4 GB GDDR5)
Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080 (8 GB GDDR5X)
Asus GeForce GTX 980 Ti (6 GB GDDR5)
XFX Radeon R9 Fury (4 GB HBM)
Sapphire Radeon R9 290X (4 GB GDDR5)
Sapphire Radeon R9 280X (3 GB GDDR5)
MSI Radeon R7 370 (2 GB GDDR5)
RAM 2 x 8 GB DDR4-2133 2 x 4 GB DDR3-1600
Mass Storage Crucial MX100 SSD (256 GB)
Crucial M500 SSD (480 GB)
OCZ Trion 100 SSD (480 GB)
OCZ Trion 150 SSD (960 GB)
Intel SSD 530 (240 GB)
OCZ Trion 100 SSD (480 GB)
OS Windows 10 Pro 64 Bit Windows 10 Home 64 Bit
Schenker Notebooks Schenker W504 Schenker XMG A505 Schenker S413
Mainboard Intel HM87 Intel HM87 Intel HM87
Processor Intel Core i7-4700MQ (Haswell) Intel Core i7-4720HQ (Haswell) Intel Core i7-4750HQ (Haswell)
GPU Nvidia GeForce GTX 980M (8 GB GDDR5)
GTX 970M (6 GB GDDR5)
GTX 880M (8 GB GDDR5)
GTX 870M (6 GB GDDR5)
GTX 860M Kepler (4 GB GDDR5)
Nvidia GeForce GTX 960M (2 GB GDDR5) Intel Iris Pro Graphics 5200
RAM 2x 4 GB DDR3-1600 2x 4 GB DDR3-1600 2x 8 GB DDR3-1600
Mass Storage Samsung SSD 840 EVO (250 GB) Micron M600 SSD (128 GB)
HGST Travelstar 7K1000 HDD (1.000 GB)
Intel SSD
OS Windows 10 Pro 64 Bit Windows 10 Home 64 Bit Windows 10 Home 64 Bit
MSI Notebooks MSI GT62VR MSI GE72 MSI PE60 MSI GP62 MSI CX61 MSI CX61
Mainboard Intel HM170 Intel HM170 Intel HM170 Intel HM86 Intel HM86 Intel HM86
Processor Intel Core i7-6820HK (Skylake) Intel Core i7-6700HQ (Skylake) Intel Core i7-6700HQ (Skylake) Intel Core i7-5700HQ (Broadwell) Intel Celeron 2970M (Haswell) Intel Core i5-4200M (Haswell)
GPU Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 (6 GB GDDR5) Nvidia GeForce GTX 965M 2016 (2 GB GDDR5) Nvidia GeForce GTX 950M (2 GB GDDR5) Nvidia GeForce 940M (2 GB DDR3) Nvidia GeForce 920M (2 GB DDR3) Nvidia GeForce GT 720M (2 GB DDR3)
RAM 4 x 8 GB DDR4-2133 1 x 8 GB DDR4-2133 2 x 4 GB DDR4-2133 1 x 8 GB DDR3-1600 1 x 8 GB DDR3-1600 1 x 8 GB DDR3-1600
Mass Storage Samsung NVMe MZVPV128 SSD (128 GB) Toshiba THNSNJ128G8NU SSD (128 GB)
WDC WD10JPVX HDD (1.000 GB)
OCZ Trion 100 SSD (480 GB)
Toshiba MQ01ABF050 HDD (500 GB) WDC Scorpio Blue HDD (1.000 GB)
OS Windows 10 Pro 64 Bit Windows 10 Home 64 Bit Windows 10 Windows 10 Windows 10 Windows 7 Home Premium 64 Bit
Asus Notebooks Asus G752VS Asus N551ZU
Mainboard Intel CM236 AMD K15.1
Processor Intel Core i7-6820HK (Skylake) AMD FX-7600P (Kaveri)
GPU Nvidia GeForce GTX 1070 (8 GB GDDR5) AMD Radeon R9 M280X (4 GB GDDR5)
RAM 4 x 16 GB DDR4-2400 2 x 4 GB DDR3-1600
Mass Storage Toshiba NVMe THNSN5512GPU7 SSD (512 GB) Samsung SSD 830 (256 GB)
OS Windows 10 Pro 64 Bit Windows 10 64 Bit
4K Monitor Nvidia Driver AMD Driver Intel Driver
2 x Asus PB287Q ForceWare 376.09 Crimson 16.11.5 15.40.28.4501
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> Notebook / Laptop Reviews and News > Reviews > Watch Dogs 2 Notebook and Desktop Benchmarks
Florian Glaser, Klaus Hinum, 2016-12- 8 (Update: 2017-02-23)
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 ;-).