Watch Dogs Benchmarked
Hardware giant. The outburst of the community was big when Ubisoft announced the official system requirements for Watch Dogs. The open-world title not only requires a potent graphics chip but also a very fast processor. We have tested several notebooks and desktops with various settings.
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It is currently greatly debated if the graphics quality touches the first presentation videos of the publisher. For a 2014 game Watch Dogs looks good without a doubt, but it is no real graphics stunner. On the one hand the third person title excels with neat reflections and superb light and shadow effects at night and during rain, on the other hand the light in the daytime is not very convincing. Outdoors, the environment seems somewhat too bright and too little graded.
Nonetheless, Watch Dogs is able to create a coherent atmosphere, partly due to the high amount of vegetation and people. The characters appear realistic thanks to the credible animations and good character models. Another advantage of the Disrupt engine, which was specifically built for Watch Dogs, turns out to be the excellent display of water, which is definitely first-grade.
Furthermore, the game offers quite sharp textures - when using high or ultra-high graphics settings. Another fact that deserves praise is that objects only rarely pop up and "jump into the picture" when driving. In addition to that, Havok's eponymous physics software guarantees harmonious physical behavior. We were particularly impressed by the simulation of fabric (clothes etc.).
But it is not all roses. After only a few minutes into the game it becomes apparent that Ubisoft somewhat neglected the PC version. Besides the bad drivability (the control of vehicles feels vague via mouse and keyboard) there are also the many performance drops. Watch Dogs likes to crash despite brand new (beta) drivers from time to time.
Ubisoft ought to have foreseen that its online platform Uplay, which is necessary for the installation of the game, would not be able to handle the run of customers and thus will work inadequately after release (login not possible, error messages regarding the cloud data, etc.).
Start issues aside: The graphics menu is, for a PC game, decent by all means. The display tab allows changing the resolution, the screen mode, the anti-aliasing and other standard options. The graphics quality tab offers four presets (overall quality) and eight individual options ranging from A for ambient occlusion to W for water.
Since Watch Dogs is part of Nvidia's TWIMTBP program it not only offers FXAA, SMAA and MSAA but also TXAA for anti-aliasing. All settings can be changed during the game apart from the texture quality (3 GB VRAM should suffice for ultra settings).
We tested the performance of the Triple A title with the help of a car race. As soon as the protagonist, Aiden, has fled the stadium and escaped the police after the prolog, there is a so-called fixer contract (= side mission) close to his hideout.
As can be seen in our video we raced from the first to the sixth checkpoint and recorded the average frame rate. The entire sequence is about 40 seconds long and is exemplary for the hardware demand. Due to the high speed of the game and the mentioned performance drops, we expected a benchmark result of at least 35 fps. Otherwise there would be annoying stutters once in a while.
Although the graphics card is the limiting factor for most systems, the processor is also of significance. At low or medium settings the performance follows the CPU (at least in high-end notebooks and/or devices based on AMD). Speaking of AMD: The graphics chips of the Nvidia competitor come off reproducibly worse at moderate settings (see R9 280X and HD 8970M). The minimum fps is also lower according to our experience.
The hardware demand of Watch Dogs is quite high when adding up all benchmark scores. Entry-level GPUs, as known from inexpensive office notebooks, do not meet the requirements. Intel's popular processor chip HD Graphics 4600 struggles heavily even with 1024x768 pixels and low settings. It did not go any higher than 24 fps in the benchmark (Iris Pro 5200: ~33fps). A multimedia GPU like the GeForce GT 740M (~40 fps @1024x768, low settings) is at least necessary to play Watch Dogs fluently. For medium details and 1366x768 pixels we recommend a GeForce GT 750M or higher.
Those who want to play the game with high settings, 1920x1080 pixels and 2x MSAA anti-aliasing require a super-strong high-end model like the Radeon HD 8970M, the GeForce GTX 780M or the GeForce GTX 870M. The frame rate increases by almost 35% without anti-aliasing (+30% FXAA vs. 2x MSAA), allowing a GeForce GTX 770M or a GTX 860M to be used. There is currently no single-chip notebook able to display the game at maximum settings: 1920x1080 pixels and 4x MSAA without stuttering. Only the GeForce GTX 880M scratches 35 fps.
|Radeon R9 280X, 3770K|
34.6 (min: 25) fps ∼46%
46.4 (min: 32) fps ∼55%
60.6 (min: 47) fps ∼52%
73.6 (min: 58) fps ∼57%
|GeForce GTX 880M, 4700MQ|
32.9 (min: 28) fps ∼44%
44.4 (min: 39) fps ∼52%
74.3 (min: 59) fps ∼64%
88.1 (min: 71) fps ∼68%
|GeForce GTX 660 Ti, 3770K|
31.7 (min: 26) fps ∼43%
43.4 (min: 38) fps ∼51%
76 (min: 61) fps ∼65%
87.3 (min: 70) fps ∼68%
|GeForce GTX 780M, 4700MQ|
30.4 (min: 25) fps ∼41%
40.9 (min: 35) fps ∼48%
72.1 (min: 57) fps ∼62%
83 (min: 67) fps ∼64%
|GeForce GTX 870M, 4700MQ|
26.8 (min: 22) fps ∼36%
37.4 (min: 33) fps ∼44%
73.8 (min: 60) fps ∼63%
85.7 (min: 65) fps ∼66%
|Radeon HD 8970M, 4700MQ|
26.3 (min: 21) fps ∼35%
35 (min: 28) fps ∼41%
53.5 (min: 39) fps ∼46%
65.4 (min: 50) fps ∼51%
|GeForce GTX 770M, 4700MQ|
19.8 (min: 14) fps ∼27%
27.7 (min: 23) fps ∼33%
66.1 (min: 58) fps ∼56%
80.7 (min: 64) fps ∼63%
|GeForce GTX 860M, 4700MQ|
18.9 (min: 14) fps ∼25%
27 (min: 24) fps ∼32%
68.6 (min: 58) fps ∼59%
81.7 (min: 66) fps ∼63%
|GeForce GTX 765M, 4700MQ|
21.1 (min: 19) fps ∼25%
56.9 (min: 51) fps ∼49%
81.3 (min: 67) fps ∼63%
|GeForce GTX 850M, 4340M|
20.7 (min: 18) fps ∼24%
51.8 (min: 41) fps ∼44%
60.4 (min: 47) fps ∼47%
|GeForce GT 750M, 4702MQ|
12.2 (min: 10) fps ∼14%
35.2 (min: 30) fps ∼30%
57.2 (min: 51) fps ∼44%
|GeForce GT 740M, 4200M|
HP Envy 15-j011sg
8.1 (min: 6) fps ∼10%
25 (min: 21) fps ∼21%
40.1 (min: 33) fps ∼31%
|Radeon R7 512 Cores (Kaveri Desktop), A10-7850K, Samsung SSD 470 Series MZ-5PA256/EU|
A10-7850K Asus A88-XM-PLUS
8.1 (min: 5) fps ∼10%
25.8 (min: 22) fps ∼22%
36.6 (min: 28) fps ∼28%
|GeForce GT 720M, 4200M, WDC Scorpio Blue WD10JPVX-22JC3T0|
6.2 fps ∼7%
19.7 fps ∼17%
33.5 fps ∼26%
|Iris Pro Graphics 5200, 4750HQ, Intel SSD 525 Series SSDMCEAC180B3|
6.1 (min: 4) fps ∼7%
21.9 (min: 18) fps ∼19%
33.1 (min: 24) fps ∼26%
|Radeon HD 8650G, A10-5750M, Samsung SSD 470 Series MZ-5PA256/EU|
Pumori Test Platform (A10-5750M)
15.8 (min: 10) fps ∼14%
22.1 (min: 16) fps ∼17%
|HD Graphics 4600, 4700MQ|
3.6 (min: 2) fps ∼4%
14.1 (min: 12) fps ∼12%
24.4 (min: 22) fps ∼19%
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Processor Performance Benchmarks
We paired an Nvidia GeForce GTX 680 desktop graphics card with four different CPUs to evaluate the impact of differently powerful processors. Not even at minimum settings does the slow A4-5300 with a Piledriver module (2 integer, 1 FP core) reach smooth frame rates.
Furthermore, we concluded from the results of the octa-core FX-8650 (4 Piledriver modules) that the additional cores are used in comparison to the Kaveri quad-core. The Intel architecture, however, suits Watch Dogs best, as can be seen from the results of the older Sandy Bridge top model.
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)
- W503 (Core i7-4700MQ, 8 GB DDR3, GeForce GTX 765M, GTX 770M, GTX 780M, Radeon HD 8970M)
- M504 (Core i5-4340M, 8 GB DDR3, GeForce GTX 850M)
- M503 (Core i7-4702MQ, 8 GB DDR3, GeForce GT 750M)
The 64-bit edition of Windows 7 is installed on each of these notebooks. Thanks to Micron for the 480 GB Crucial M500.
Another test device is courtesy of Nvidia:
- HP Envy 15-j011sg (Core i5-4200M, 12 GB DDR3, GeForce GT 740M)
GPU drivers used: Nvidia 337.88, AMD 14.6 Beta, Intel 126.96.36.199.3496
Furthermore, we used benchmarks of other notebooks with possibly different drivers.