Clearly if you intend on playing Company of Heroes with graphics details set to the absolute max, something considerably more powerful than an Athlon64 3800+ with a GeForce 7900GT is going to be required. That said, this kind of setup can still play the game very well with extremely impressive visual quality settings enabled. Throughout the testing for this article I played around with a combination of settings to determine what had the biggest impact on performance.
As was to be expected, shadows were one setting that really killed performance, particularly high detail shadows. By disabling high quality shadows you can expect to receive a ~30% performance boost, which is obviously quite substantial. The in-game anti-aliasing did not appear to have a huge impact on performance, which would suggest that it's only a very low anti-aliasing setting being used. The low quality settings were only necessary for those running anything equal to or less than a Radeon X1300 or GeForce 7300GS graphics card.
Surprisingly the GeForce 7600GT was more than capable of producing playable performance at 1280x1024 with medium quality settings. The GeForce 7300GT on the other hand was able to provide playable frame rates at 1600x1200, which was very impressive. The Radeon X1600XT and X850 Pro produced similar performance and using the medium quality settings, both were very playable at 1280x1024 and just barely playable at 1600x1200. The high quality visuals were a bit too much for our test system, as even the X1900XT and 7950GT cards were unable to deliver playable performance at resolutions greater than 1024x768.
When comparing ATI and Nvidia graphics cards, it appeared that those with mid-range Nvidia solutions will enjoy much better performance in Company of Heroes. The 7600GT destroyed the X1600XT with ease as it delivered much better performance. The X1300 Pro was simply no match for the 7300GT as it walked all over the Radeon. However, in the affordable high-end arena, ATI did have the upper hand as the X1900XT was slightly faster than the 7950GT. Had the processor been a little more powerful, I feel the Radeon X1900XT would have been even faster than the 7950GT.
While being an extremely demanding game, Company of Heroes can still be played quite well on average computer systems. Even with low quality visuals settings the game looks good from a RTS perspective, the gameplay is very enjoyable, and we are sure gamers will love the experience. But then again, playing with all the various visual treatments enabled, Company of Heroes comes into a league of its own.