Civilization V GPU & CPU Performance Review

By on October 1, 2010, 5:26 AM
The fifth installment of Firaxis' popular turn-based strategy series was launched last Friday, September 24, and we've decided to greet the title with a battery of tests. Published by 2K Games, Sid Meier's Civilization V is a classic example of what many like to call a "4X" game, as players manage an empire where they "explore, expand, exploit, and exterminate." 4X games are noted for their complex gameplay, with emphasis placed on economic and technological development, as well as a range of non-militaristic paths to supremacy. Although admittedly turn-based strategy games are not our cup of tea, we will be focusing on how the game performs when using a wide range of GPUs and CPUs.
So far, Civilization V has received positive reviews. Gametrailers.com gave it 9.4 out of 10, while G4TV awarded the title a 5 out of 5 rating, dubbing it a "fantastic turn-based strategy game." IGN gave it an "Outstanding 9.0," saying it's "the first Civilization for PC that is worth just about every person's time." Read the complete article.




User Comments: 42

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Johny47 said:

Another good in depth comparison, well done techspot. It's just a shame it's 'turn based RTS' I really don't like that, I'd honestly prefer to play chess =/

gwailo247, TechSpot Chancellor, said:

I'm running it at max settings with pretty good performance except an occasional flicker on a single tile that goes away when I zoom in/out. But admittedly I haven't gotten past 1500 AD on any of the games that I played.

Guest said:

Has anyone else had trouble even getting the game to run at 2560x1600? I'm using a GTX 280, and even just starting a new game, at that resolution the terrain is not drawn (being entirely black) and there is corruption and trails for dialog boxes etc...

Any resolution less than this is fine. I also tried dropping the detail down to medium, but that made no difference.

grvalderrama said:

Incredibly heavy for this kind of game. Thanks, TS!

myrmidonks myrmidonks said:

Glad I have a 5870...

Omnislip said:

@myrmidonks Glad I have a GTX 460 for almost half the price :-p

TomSEA TomSEA, TechSpot Chancellor, said:

Excellent comparison review as always. I just installed the game last night and looking forward to see how my GTX 460 SLI rig handles it. From this article, I believe I'll be fine.

edison5do said:

@omnislip too bad for you dont think your "GTX 460" its up to the HD 5870... soo... im happy for you but just don compare it better go for a HD 5770 for that...

TekGun TekGun said:

Awesome benchmarking guys as I am going to buy this game it will be interesting to compare your results with mine when I start playing. Any chance of doing the same with ArmA2 OA ?

Burty117 Burty117, TechSpot Chancellor, said:

edison5do said:

@omnislip too bad for you dont think your "GTX 460" its up to the HD 5870... soo... im happy for you but just don compare it better go for a HD 5770 for that...

Well not really, did you read the review?

"1920x1200 High Performance"

the GTX 460 destroys every ATI in there! and I think I can safely say thats usually the ideal Resolution that alot of gamers will be using, or lower.

So yeah, in this particular instance the GTX 460 is better than the HD5870.

But omnislip, I don't think the GTX460 will be as good at playing Crysis 2 as the HD5870

Although you could SLI it, wouldn't cost too much over a single HD5870 either.

Guest said:

Do we really need 30+ fps in a turn based strategy game?

Omnislip said:

@edison5do yeah, I know. I mean, when the non overclocked 460 beats 5850s most of the time, my Hawk really should be compared to a 5770. I wish I'd spent £100 on a HD 5870 so that It could come after a 460 in a gaming benchmark...

Guest said:

In my opinion poor ATI performance in this game is related to drivers and I should wait for new drivers or patches because I see no other reason.In my book at the same price point ATI beats NVidia in performance at every level,unless there's something fishy. But it's just my opinion...

Burty117 Burty117, TechSpot Chancellor, said:

Guest said:

In my opinion poor ATI performance in this game is related to drivers and I should wait for new drivers or patches because I see no other reason.In my book at the same price point ATI beats NVidia in performance at every level,unless there's something fishy. But it's just my opinion...

I would generally agree with you with the exception of the GTX460 1GB. it really is better value than any of the ATI products, which i'm supprised about considering the rest of Nvidia's line up is rather shocking to say the least.

Guest said:

I'm compelled to agree with you

Guest said:

I don't have a 280 but from the same generation my 4890 and q6600 @3.2ghz runs the game really well on high quality 2560x1400. The only delays I see are waiting for the other players.. I do have the occasional lower res block show up later in the game (400 turns plus) but if I zoom in and out it goes away. I think it's because I only have 4gb of ram because my 8gb system doesn't do it.

Guest said:

I'm on a i7 @ 3.6 + 4890 so this game should run well aslong as I don't pump up the AA. However I'm on a SSD and would like to have seen if that will solve the texture caching issue?

Guest said:

Burty117, the rest of Fermi lineup is shocking to you? For example, GTX470 has been available for $250-270 on many occasions, a card that's generally a hair within HD5870 on average and costs $80-100 less.

The inferior performance of ATI cards has nothing to do with the drivers. NV's architecture is superior in DX11 games (more advanced Tessellation engine, gather4 instructions, etc.):

Besides BF:BC2 and Mafia 2, there are practically no DX11 games where 5850 beats a GTX470 or HD5870 beats a GTX480:

Lost Planet 2 - http://www.legionhardware.com/articles_pages/lost_planet_2_g
u_performance_preview,6.html

Metro 2033 - http://www.hardwarecanucks.com/forum/hardware-canucks-review
/36477-gigabyte-geforce-gtx-470-super-overclock-review-12.
tml

Just Cause 2 - http://www.xbitlabs.com/articles/video/display/nvidia-geforc
-gtx-460_13.html#sect1

AvP - http://www.xbitlabs.com/articles/video/display/nvidia-geforc
-gtx-460_11.html#sect1

Then there are BattleForge, STALKER:CoP, Dirt 2, Civ5 and even Starcraft 2 (although not DX11).

While HD5000 series clearly dominates from the performance/watt perspective, ATI no longer has the better card in any price bracket. From a price/performance perspective, GTS450 > 5750, GTX460 768 > 5770, GTX460 1GB > 5850, GTX470 > 5870. The only card with no equals is the 5970.

With HD6000, ATI will come on top once again.

Guest said:

What happened with the 5970 tests? I'm interested in how it does. I'm thinking of getting one vs a 480, but it never seems to get reviews anywhere for any game.

anyone know off hand?

Omnislip said:

@edison5do Just thought Id add that I win in Starcraft 2 as well kthnxbai

Guest said:

I have a XfX5970be... Don't buy one.

Not now this close too the RLS of ATI 6xxx series

Well name change... AMD6xxx series i guess.

The 2GB ram on them are actually 1GB x2, 1gb for each gpy and not shared so

Eyefinity is better\best on a 5870 2gb if u gone try that thing.

And it performs less than 5870 in cf

And u are playing the lottery for being lucky too get a stable one or it too be stable on your sys.

U will Crash BSOD CTD a lot whit them depending the driver.

If u are buying at this price range.....

Get the GTX480 1,53gb

Or a 5870 2GB

Or wait for the AMD HD 6xxx

Guest said:

where's the 5750?

red1776 red1776, Omnipotent Ruler of the Universe, said:

Two 5870's in CF would outperform a 5970, a 5970 is a pair of 5850's

Guest said:

It would be handy to know what improvement I would get running XP.

Omnislip said:

red1776 said:

Two 5870's in CF would outperform a 5970, a 5970 is a pair of 5850's

*Facepalm* Actually its based on the 5800 series, so you cannot say it is based on one card. It might be clocked to 5850, but this can be changed...

Staff
Steve Steve said:

First of all thanks for all the great feedback guys!

where's the 5750?

We didn't include it since the performance has been so similar to the 5770 in the last few games we have tested. We cut out quite a few cards for this review as they clutter the graphs and are not necessary. Really we saw no reason to include the 5750 when the 5770 is there. Read between the lines

It would be handy to know what improvement I would get running XP.

None, at least how we tested using DX10/DX11 which is not supported by XP and since we saw no performance gains when running the game in DX9 you stand to gain nothing.

*Facepalm* Actually its based on the 5800 series, so you cannot say it is based on one card. It might be clocked to 5850, but this can be changed...

That is true. However the 5970 is based on dual 5870 GPU's that have been underclocked. Saying that the 5970 is a pair of 5850 cards is very wrong as the core configuration is different, it is the same as the 5870.

red1776 red1776, Omnipotent Ruler of the Universe, said:

That is true. However the 5970 is based on dual 5870 GPU's that have been underclocked. Saying that the 5970 is a pair of 5850 cards is very wrong as the core configuration is different, it is the same as the 5870.

well okay, but I think that's splitting hairs. I could have been more accurate in saying that it performs as two 5850's, but you are taking the same chip and putting "restrictor plates" on them. the 5970 is clocked as a 5850, has the same ROP's,Z-stencil,mem data rate,bandwidth, and performs very close to 2x 5850's (actually gets beat more often than not.) A card such as the Ares is actually a pair of 5870's. am I wrong in thinking that a Cypress pro is a Cypress XT with a 160 SPU cluster and 8 Texture units fused? or does the XT have other architectural differences?

Staff
Steve Steve said:

well okay, but I think that's splitting hairs. I could have been more accurate in saying that it performs as two 5850's, but you are taking the same chip and putting "restrictor plates" on them. the 5970 is clocked as a 5850, has the same ROP's,Z-stencil,mem data rate,bandwidth, and performs very close to 2x 5850's (actually gets beat more often than not.) A card such as the Ares is actually a pair of 5870's. am I wrong in thinking that a Cypress pro is a Cypress XT with a 160 SPU cluster and 8 Texture units fused? or does the XT have other architectural differences?

Sorry didn't want to start an argument here. That said there is nothing to argue over. The Radeon HD 5970 features a pair of Radeon HD 5870 (Cypress XT) GPU's which have been down clocked to the Radeon HD 5850 operating frequency. Clock them back up and you have two Radeon HD 5870's, if you have the cooling to do so.

The core configuration of the Radoen HD 5870 and 5970 GPUs is 1600:80:32 while the Radeon HD 5850 is 1440:72:32. Anyway enough about that it is a pointless and off topic argument. Back to Civ 5

red1776 red1776, Omnipotent Ruler of the Universe, said:

, post: 940565"]Sorry didn't want to start an argument here. That said there is nothing to argue over. The Radeon HD 5970 features a pair of Radeon HD 5870 (Cypress XT) GPU's which have been down clocked to the Radeon HD 5850 operating frequency. Clock them back up and you have two Radeon HD 5870's, if you have the cooling to do so.

The core configuration of the Radoen HD 5870 and 5970 GPUs is 1600:80:32 while the Radeon HD 5850 is 1440:72:32. Anyway enough about that it is a pointless and off topic argument. Back to Civ 5

Hey, no argument here, I actually wanted to know if there was an architectural difference between the the two GPU's

Staff
Steve Steve said:

No same architecture as they are the same series. They differ in the core configuration and clock speeds.

Technochicken Technochicken, TechSpot Paladin, said:

The graphics in this are amazing compared to the last Civ game I've played (civ III). I was never really a fan of that game though, and I bought it thinking it was an RTS game.

Guest said:

Yeah, I'm playing at 15fps, and it's enough.

Guest said:

Just a curious question. What is so special about Civ 5 that it taxes the hardware so much?

gwailo247, TechSpot Chancellor, said:

Well, game quality steadily declined, as did my settings. Eventually with everything at low it did ok.

I'm getting flashbacks to exactly the same feelings I had when I bought Civ 4:

Wow...erm...%^%# its not working.

Now I can't even get it to run.

But then computer has been acting weird for the last week. Time for a clean install. I just have to backup my Steam games, hope I can find a hard drive big enough.

Burty117 Burty117, TechSpot Chancellor, said:

Burty117, the rest of Fermi lineup is shocking to you? For example, GTX470 has been available for $250-270 on many occasions, a card that's generally a hair within HD5870 on average and costs $80-100 less.

The inferior performance of ATI cards has nothing to do with the drivers. NV's architecture is superior in DX11 games (more advanced Tessellation engine, gather4 instructions, etc.):

Besides BF:BC2 and Mafia 2, there are practically no DX11 games where 5850 beats a GTX470 or HD5870 beats a GTX480:

Lost Planet 2 - [link]

Metro 2033 - [link]

Just Cause 2 - [link]

AvP - [link]

Then there are BattleForge, STALKER:CoP, Dirt 2, Civ5 and even Starcraft 2 (although not DX11).

While HD5000 series clearly dominates from the performance/watt perspective, ATI no longer has the better card in any price bracket. From a price/performance perspective, GTS450 > 5750, GTX460 768 > 5770, GTX460 1GB > 5850, GTX470 > 5870. The only card with no equals is the 5970.

With HD6000, ATI will come on top once again.

I think they're shocking because they take soo much power and get really hot, had nothing to do with pricing and performance since Pricing has come down that seems reasonable, but the performance (Bar the GTX460) seems to be not alot considering the power and heat generated from the others such as the GTX470 and 480.

Guest said:

The most telling benchmark in this article is the "CPU Scaling" benchmark, showing the almost perfectly linear scaling of fps with CPU clock speed on a top-tier processor (all else being equal). As stated in the article, "Clearly, Civilization V is very CPU dependent."

For some reason, this static, turn-based (i.e., not real-time) game is coded to continuously hammer the CPU throughout gameplay, even when nothing's happening. That, to me, suggests extreme inefficiency or sloppy programming. The game is complex, nuanced, and a lot of fun, however. So here's hoping they tie up some loose ends, fix some of the more glaring bugs, and optimize Civ V in future patches. It looks like there is a *lot* of room for optimization.

Guest said:

Interesting article. Finding no issues runing game on high settings past 300 turns on a I7 950 OC to 4GHz and running a Saphire 5870 vapour chill card. CPU utillisation on the G15 keyboard monitor never goes above 25% suggesting probably only using 2 cores?

Nevercheck said:

so i played civ5 on friends computer recently, as fun as the game is it has about a 80% crash/failure rate on startup. you can also only save 1 multiplayer game at a time, how crappy is that??

Wildcatter said:

there's a new bundle on tigerdirect that features a Phenom X4 9750 with 4GB of DDR2. if i go with the gts 450 and upgrade some of the parts, will i be ok or would it just completely melt?

64lincoln said:

2 GTX 460s in SLI, updated drivers, updated SLI profile and I still get massive corruption and issues when I enable SLI. Runs fairly decent on just one card, but that's not why I have SLI... it's not new technology so I don't understand why they can't get it working correctly.

compu4 said:

I'm actually playing this quite well with my Athlon X4 630 and GTS 250 @ 1080p with 2xAA. The frame rate is in the mid 30s (so long as you don't zoom all the way out), but you don't need a high frame rate in a turn based strategy game.

TomSEA TomSEA, TechSpot Chancellor, said:

OK, having played this game now for a number of hours on my i7-930, GTX 460 1GB SLI rig at max settings (and I mean max everything - resolution, AA, etc.), the only "bumps" I run into are late into the game when it's processing all the moves of the literally dozens (sometimes over a hundred) of individual units across several continents and oceans. Graphically, it continues to look great no matter how far I am into the game - framerate isn't an issue. But it takes longer and longer in-between turns for the game to set itself up for the next round. Nothing traumatic - 10-20 seconds between rounds at the very end of a lengthy game as opposed to zero delay at the beginning. Definitely not a deal breaker.

So I find this review is spot on, especially in regards to CPU usage.

As far as the game itself, I give it a 9 out of 10 score. Beautiful graphics and animations along with off-the-charts addicting play. Don't know if I've every played a game that gives you that "one more move-itis" addiction like this one does. I never tire of watching the various units engage in their activities, especially battle skirmishes. Dropped a nuclear bomb for the first time and it was gorgeous. Highly recommended no matter what type of gaming genre you prefer.

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