Borderlands 2 GPU & CPU Performance Test

By on September 20, 2012, 9:41 PM

Although it was somewhat of an underdog when it arrived in October 2009, Borderlands quickly became a hit among PC and console gamers alike, selling over 4.5 million copies and propelling Gearbox Software to new heights. Despite complaints about repetitive gameplay and finicky menus, fans loved the title's unique comic-like art style and its seamless mashup of the first-person shooter and role-playing genres.

Considering the success of its first entry, it came as no surprise when Gearbox revealed plans to produce a sequel that would address Borderlands' shortcomings while expanding on its strengths.

Built on a highly modified version of Unreal Engine 3, the game only uses DirectX 9, opting to exclude the engine's DirectX 11 support. It's worth mentioning that Borderlands 2 is a "The Way It's Meant to be Played" title, supporting many Nvidia features such as PhysX and 3D Vision Surround.

Borderlands 2 succeeds at building on the foundation laid three years ago, delivering an improved menu system, revamped skill trees, new characters, more weapons, smarter foes, and the same addictive loot-driven co-op first-person shooter action. As exciting as all of that may be, we're more interested in seeing how the game runs on the finest PC hardware from Intel, AMD and Nvidia. Let's get down to business...

Read the complete article.




User Comments: 57

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1 person liked this | dividebyzero dividebyzero, trainee n00b, said:

Thanks for another comprehensive review Steve.

You must have been up burning the midnight oil to get a review out as quickly as this.

2 people like this |
Staff
Julio Franco Julio Franco, TechSpot Editor, said:

Steve won't reveal his secrets, not even to the rest of us

lawfer, TechSpot Paladin, said:

As expected, another quality review.

Reading this review confirms my first assumption; this game is CPU dependent, so most people can play it fine I guess. Having not played a properly modified Unreal Engine since Arkham Asylum (Arkham City was fine), I noticed one thing I truly hate about it: Unreal Engine 3's signature texture reformatting. Whenever you access another area or get into a cut-scence, most times texture initially appears blurry but then gradually adjusts to the native resolution. Hated it then, hate it still.

It's a fun game though.

Darth Shiv Darth Shiv said:

Great review... scary CPU dependency for this one! Running pretty light in the CPU department myself.

1 person liked this | likedamaster said:

Great performance test. I knew I frequent this site for a reason.

With that said, I think I need to upgrade my cpu.

Guest said:

Hello.

What additional card was used for Hybrid PhysX on HD7970?

?r with Hybrid Physx mod HD7970 can compute PhysX on it's own?

BallBuster said:

Hello.

What additional card was used for Hybrid PhysX on HD7970?

?r with Hybrid Physx mod HD7970 can compute PhysX on it's own?

Maybe if you read the PhysX Perfomance text, instead of only looking at the charts, you would find an aswer. But only maybe.

Guest said:

Thing is the Hybrid Physx website clearly states you need an nVidia card in addition to the Radeon to get Physx to work. There is no mention of this in the article. I'm interested to know how they achieved the Physx to process directly on the 7970.

Guest said:

BallBuster

And you can, definitely, tell me which additional card was used?

The fifth page mentions only three cards - GTX 680, HD7970 and GTX 560.

tomkaten tomkaten said:

My "old" i5 2500 is still a beast, it seems, so no worries there. And the GTX 460 still does the job nicely, so I'm set.

BallBuster said:

Ok, my fault then. If that's the case, I'm also interested to know how they have done it.

Guest said:

You dont need a Nvidia card, for AMD cards the CPU handles it. Most have enabled PhysX without the mod, they just edit the engine.ini file.

Guest said:

Nice testing, but why no Core i3?

DanUK DanUK said:

Nice review. That CPU scaling is insane! The sort of thing you'd expect to see in a strategy game with 100's of units on the screen.. wouldnt have expected it from an FPS though. Glad to see my old i7 920 still chugging along though

Ultraman1966 said:

As the others have said, just what Nvidia card was paired with the 7970 to achieve that Physx on performance?

Staff
Steve Steve said:

You don't need a Nvidia graphics card to use PhysX in Borderlands 2.

First open the Borderlands 2 folder -> WillowGame -> Config folders.

(Path should be something like: "C:\Users\\Documents\My Games\Borderlands 2\WillowGame\Config"

Then find and open the WillowEngine.ini file.

Then find the line that reads "PhysXLevel="

(It probably says PhysXLevel=0)

And finally set the PhysX level to either 1 or 2 if you want to enable it on AMD cards, PhysXLevel=1 is Medium and PhysXLevel=2 is High.

As far as I can tell the Radeon HD 7970 and GeForce GTX 680 look the same with PhysX set to high but I have not played a huge amount of the game and I have only use a few guns. However the cloth effects and rock debris effects from shooting stuff with the Gearbox Rifle look the same.

It would be great if other Radeon users could try this and report their findings.

Thanks for another comprehensive review Steve.

You must have been up burning the midnight oil to get a review out as quickly as this.

Yeah thanks, I didn't get much sleep

Guest said:

GenL PhysX physX does not work for borderlands 0% GPU load if the reviewer even checked?

Hydribiz is the name of the new patch as stated on http://physxinfo.com

Uses modified files from GenL Mod and some .dlls manipulation, should work with latest GPU and PSS drivers.

Guest said:

Please read, you confusion CPU or GPU physX, and how to actually get this hydrid patch to work proper.

[link]

tabish said:

Please add some i3 performances

Lurker101 said:

I suppose hoping to find out how a GTX 295 performs was a bit too much to hope for

ghasmanjr ghasmanjr said:

I have an i5 2500k @ 4.8ghz and an Evga 680 SC at stock settings. I play this game on the highest settings (physX at high as well) and I am seeing framerates in the high 70s when I turn off Vsync. I don't think PhysX is taking as huge of a hit as this article states. However, great review Steve. I was having a debate just an hour prior to you posting this as to whether or not Borderlands 2 is harder to run than Borderlands 1.

Guest said:

Just a small note on the PhysX tests, the AMD cards using the High PhysX setting is way too optimistic. Obviously PhysX must be performed on the CPU with AMD cards, and it appears that the reviewer did not use a proper benchmark location. Shooting bullets on the ground or fighting Bullymongs is not good testing for PhysX.

A good test section for PhysX is the BoomBewm boss fight. There is a massive difference in the number of rigid bodies and physics calculations here compared to regular gameplay. Even with an i7 2600k watercooled to 5.0Ghz, the framerate gets crushed into mid 20fps with a HD7970. A GTX680 on the other hand will maintain that 60fps.

Guest said:

Hello Steve,

I saw your article over at Anandtech and had questions about your Hybrid PhysX Results. As someone who's been working on getting improved results with this setup, the fact that you didn't use a second GPU to offload makes me wonder if you properly tested PhysX for your review.

Here are three screen shots of me testing with PhysX Hybrid

System: Intel i5 2500k @ 4.4ghz/GPU1: Radeon HD 7970 @ 1125/1525/GPU2: GeForce 9800 GTX+

Settings: Max/No FXAA/PhysX High

Pic 1: Notice the blood (a PhysX effect) and my FPS with zero GPU2 load (GenL Mod doesn't work, this was me testing with his)

http://I.imgur.com/kLtNP.jpg

Pic 2: Same as above, except the blood cleared, FPS doubled:

http://I.imgur.com/gcXDz.jpg

Pic 3: This is using a different Hybrid PhysX Mod (found at ngohq.com) and this time you see GPU2 has load, and my FPS has increased with blood on the screen:

http://I.imgur.com/1ReMV.jpg

I've since switched my aging 9800 GTX+ to a GTX 460 and only now am I getting 60+ FPS with PhysX effects. I don't see how you got your results WITHOUT a second GPU for offloading. Did you test blood on your end?

Thanks for your time.

Guest said:

No i3 again?! or maybe G series intel 2 core CPU's

i3 is matching with FX x4 and phenom x4 with price :(

amstech amstech, TechSpot Enthusiast, said:

Techspot was surprised the 3770k was outclassed by the 3960X? It's happened in several games including Tribes and Skyrim.

And this is another game that shows you get what you pay for with those Radeons... PhysX is a very obvious advantage and the gaming experience with a GTX is once again the best available on the planet. Period.

l2ez4m l2ez4m said:

Could you please include at least one of so popular SB or IVB - i3, Pentium cpus. :S

dividebyzero dividebyzero, trainee n00b, said:

Please add some i3 performances

We aim to please. From GameGPU.

[Source]

champmanfan said:

Good article. I've found that this game on maximum detail + FXAA drags down to 55fps on GTX680-SLI 19x12 with a 2700K@4.7GHz. Latest drivers too so any tips to improve this I may have missed?

Do you also know that that the line PhysXLevel=2 for "WillowEngine.cfg" is located ... Documents\My Games\Borderlands 2\WillowGame\Config\LauncherConfig

It generates this on saving the changes in the game menu, simply change that value on exiting the game normally.

Sarcasm Sarcasm said:

Good article. I've found that this game on maximum detail + FXAA drags down to 55fps on GTX680-SLI 19x12 with a 2700K@4.7GHz. Latest drivers too so any tips to improve this I may have missed?

Do you also know that that the line PhysXLevel=2 for "WillowEngine.cfg" is located ... Documents\My Games\Borderlands 2\WillowGame\Config\LauncherConfig

It generates this on saving the changes in the game menu, simply change that value on exiting the game normally.

What do you mean 19x12?

LNCPapa LNCPapa said:

99.99% sure that means 1920x1200

champmanfan said:

What do you mean 19x12?

1920x1200 as LNCPapa rightly said... gives me more vertical height that normal 16:9 displays lack. Vital for a mainly FPS gamer.

I was also wondering how many others were playing with all ingame sliders to the max and what your average framerate was (use Afterburner, Fraps, Xfire, etc).

I still have the feeling this game needs patching to sort performance on this port despite the recent mini-patch on release. I used to use 2K textures for Borderlands and I dread trying that for B2 which still uses 1024. I remember the same laggy feeling with BF3 on Ultra but my GTX680-SLI manages that with ease at 125fps average. Maybe I have it all wrong and these 'Ultra' options are for future GPUs, not current ones. Trouble with that theory is by Q2 next year this game will have be played to death and we'll have grown bored of playing it umpteen times - despite being as amazing as it is

LNCPapa LNCPapa said:

I have all the in-game options maxed and currently play at 1920x1080 w/vsync and I've never seen it drop below 60. I have a similar setup to you.

Guest said:

Regarding AMD FX performance:

What happens if you disable every other "core" (the interger half of it) and rerun the game test ? Since FX-4170 is doing quite well in comparison with the FX-8150 this means the game mostlikely isn't using more than 4 threads at any given time so running on 4 real cores (as opposed to 2 cores + 2 gimped integer clusters) should produce even better results.

While you are at it, why not post the Task Manager screenshot showing CPU usage in game like some other review sites do ? This was you can easily tell how many CPU-heavy threads the program is using ...

hahahanoobs hahahanoobs said:

LOL @ 3x7970's for gaming @ 19x12 and bitcoin mining.

amstech amstech, TechSpot Enthusiast, said:

Wow, maybe I should have read the article before posting. The Radeons perform quite well with PhsyX on after the chop mod. Still, its Nvidia's technology.

Guest said:

Can someone notify the author or site that their methodology is wrong and are spreading misinformation. There have been a few comments already addressing their flawed method.

This article should be yanked or marked with a giant disclaimer. Not all PhysX effects will work properly with just a Radeon, had the author bothered to check he'd have realized this.

Shoddy article. NeoGAF/Anandtech already caught on to the misleading conclusions, don't be fooled.

Guest said:

I did some PhysX testing with my i3 in case anyone is interested...

[video embed]

venomblade said:

I still don't understand how AMD GPUs can use PhysX just by editing an .ini, when PhysX requires CUDA cores which AMD GPUs physically don't have...

1 person liked this | dividebyzero dividebyzero, trainee n00b, said:

You bitcoin mined $1600 in less than a year? I'd hate to have your electric bill after one year of running tri-crossfire 7970s.

Must be a "Back to the Future" class power usage...

which has made them free over the last 10 months.

...since HD 7970 time in the marketplace is 8.5 months.

Retail launch 9 January, 2012

red1776 red1776, Omnipotent Ruler of the Universe, said:

I'm running 3X 7970's and I can't figure how you come out on top with the electric bill 'bitcoining' either. as Chef was eluding to, it's close to a 1.21 jigowatt deal during BF3

Guest said:

Look at the i3 video up there, it works... but the physx work is all done by the CPU in this case...

Sarcasm Sarcasm said:

I still don't understand how AMD GPUs can use PhysX just by editing an .ini, when PhysX requires CUDA cores which AMD GPUs physically don't have...

Supposedly it gets offset to the CPU to do the work. Some of the hardcore AMD fans are swearing that it makes no difference but I honestly don't believe the CPU can keep up with some of the heavier gameplay sections with tons of physics going on at once. I could be wrong though.

Sarcasm Sarcasm said:

@ hahahanoobs,

No, you game and bitcoin mine separately. You don't game 24 hours a day, right? Let's say you game for 2-3 hours a day, what happens when you go to work or sleep? NV GPUs just sit there doing nothing and AMD cards make $. That's what my point was.

------

Interesting that you can run PhysX in this game with a powerful enough CPU. I actually expected far more extensive use of PhysX effects in this game after the amount of marketing NV did for this game.

What more can they do exactly? All the cloth, particles, and liquid physics looks great. It's just something you don't really notice unless you pay attention. See the borderlands 2 physx video comparison on youtube.

Blue Falcon said:

Bitcoin mining doesn't require memory bandwidth. Dropping memory speed to 300mhz, and maintaining 1150mhz overclocks at 1.08V average (1.175V peak) results in a GPU power usage of ~170W per card. Also, the value of each bitcoin has increased from $5-6 to $12 since January. The electricity cost for me varies from 6.5 /kWh Lowest Price (Off-peak), 10.0 /kWh Mid Price (Mid-peak) to 11.7 /kWh Highest Price (On-peak).

Gaming 2-3 hours a day, mining 20-21 hours a day for almost a year.

Each 7970 @1150mhz generates ~ $80 bitcoins a month. 3 such GPUs then earn $240 a month, every month for 10 months so far.

That's ~$2,400 in bitcoins earned - $520 in electricity costs (510W for the 3 cards + 150W system @ highest electricity rate of 12 /kWh for the worst case scenario x 21 hours a day x 310 days = ).

So ya, it's more than $1,600 in profits so far.

Dividebyzero,

retail launch 9 January, 2012 ---> it's been almost 10 months. Jan 9 to Sept 23 is not 8.5 months, but 9.5 months. Keep in mind, every month the 3x 7970s continue to make $240 in bitcoins, so another $240 in October, $240 in November too. They have already paid for themselves off fully.

Blue Falcon said:

Ya, my math has failed, it's 8.5 month. However, my conclusion doesn't change. You guys can check this yourself. Even now 3x 7970s would make $195 a month after electricity costs:

http://bitcoinx.com/profit/index.php

Hash Rate for 3 is: 2040

Electricity Rate: $0.12

Power consumption: 660W

Timeframe: 1 month

Cost of mining hardware: 0

Net profit per month: $198 @ peak rate

The mining difficulty has increased since January so more coins were generated during the first half of the year. My electricity rate < 12 cents though, so I put in the worst case scenario.

Guest said:

At least the people running Borderlands 2 with an AMD CPU didn't spend as much as the Intel guys, right? That's a good thing right? Right?!

ThePicard ThePicard said:

Just wanted to report that an "old" Core i7-920, OC'd to 3.8 Ghz and with a GTX 670, with max settings in BL2 at 1920x1200, does a super-smooth 60 fps. I don't dispute that it's been around for a little while, but don't count out a great chip!

Very enjoyable read. For anyone in the market for a new GPU, the GTX 670 is fantastic so far and a free copy of Borderlands 2 is just icing on the cake.

Guest said:

This is correct. I'm using an i7-2600k @ 4.8GHz with 2xHD7970s @ 1920x1200 and with PhysX set to High (=2 in .INI file, same as setting via game menu... no need to pretend it's a "hack," gaming journalists, just select the option like a normal person) the game runs great until you get into a heavy firefight with grenades, shotguns and rockets. FPS will tank to 14-15 during these scenarios until the particles fade away. Setting PhysX to medium helps a lot, and setting to low obviously results in 60FPS 100% of the time on this rig.

Whatever test they used for this benchmark was obviously not actual gameplay, or they didn't actually enable high level PhysX effects.

Also of note, even with PhysX set to high, my CPU loading never exceeds 40%, and GPU loading never exceeds 60%. Reeeeal efficient.

Fun game, though.

Guest said:

In the review, Steve mentioned that AsRock motherboards needed a BIOS update to avoid crashing on startup. Can anyone point me in the direction of this fix? I'll even accept a mean-spirited LMGTFY response.

red1776 red1776, Omnipotent Ruler of the Universe, said:

In the review, Steve mentioned that AsRock motherboards needed a BIOS update to avoid crashing on startup. Can anyone point me in the direction of this fix? I'll even accept a mean-spirited LMGTFY response.

http://www.asrock.com/mb/index.us.asp

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