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There are five quality presets: lowest, low, medium, high and very high. Very high doesn't actually apply the maximum quality settings as features such as shadow quality, sun soft shadows and Pure Hair can all be turned up another notch. That said, few gamers are going to have the required hardware to harness these quality settings as we are about to demonstrate with the very high preset at 1080p.
As you can see, using the very high preset at 1080p yields pretty low numbers on the R9 390 and GTX 970 – both were well south of 60fps with frame dips around 30fps. Still, for the most part performance was smooth so these frame rates are acceptable in Rise of the Tomb Raider. Interestingly, the Nano and Fury X ran into frame buffer issues and as a result minimums dropped below 20fps, oddly this didn't impact the GTX 970. It would appear that Nvidia's optimized drivers are working well here so we hope AMD can work similar magic with its high-end Nano and Fury graphics cards.
Due to the extreme demands of the very high preset we have conducted the majority of our testing using high instead and it has to be said the IQ difference is almost indistinguishable. Features such as tessellation and Pure Hair are still enabled. The biggest performance difference comes from the ambient occlusion mode which has been changed from HBAO+ to 'on' which enables Crystal Dynamics' own in-house SSAO technique dubbed 'Broad Temporal Ambient Obscurance' (BTAO).
Even with the slightly dialed down quality settings, Rise of the Tomb Raider is still extremely demanding and mid-range to low-end graphs cards really struggle. For a minimum frame rate of 30fps gamers will require an R9 380 or GTX 770 at 1080p. For an average of 60fps, you're looking at a R9 390X or GTX 970!
Turning Pure Hair off only affords graphics cards such as the R9 380 an extra 3fps on average which equates to an 8% performance boost. However, if we look at the minimum frame rates they are much improved as the R9 380 is now 14% faster.
Disabling Pure Hair will buy those with lower-end hardware a small but much needed performance boost, though this rendering feature looks so impressive that I would be more inclined to look for performance gains elsewhere.