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PCI Express 3.0: impact on performance
by Guillaume Louel
Published on February 24, 2012

Battlefield 3, Crysis 2, Civilization V

Games mainly transfer data from the CPU to the GPU. Let’s see what impact PCI-E 3.0 has! We carried out our tests at 1920 x 1200.

Battlefield 3

Battlefield 3 uses one of the most advanced graphics engines currently in use, Frostbite 2. We tested it at Ultra and recorded performance with Fraps, over a well defined route.

The differences are extremely slim here to the point where there’s only any significant reduction in performance in PCI-E 1.0 x16. Interestingly, PCI-E 3.0 x4 manages better. The small gain in latency afforded by the higher transfer rate is probably a factor here.

With CrossFire, at the same theoretical bandwidth, PCI-E 3.0 always comes out on top.

Crysis 2

A development of the Crysis Warhead engine is used for Crysis 2. We used version 1.9 with the DirectX 11 patch and the additional textures. We tested it in Ultra mode with Fraps on a predefined route.

Once again with a single card at identical bandwidth PCI Express 3.0 has the advantage. PCI Express 1.0 is less affected than in Battlefield 3 and the differences are still tiny.

With CrossFire on, the gaps are a little bit bigger with the 3.0 solutions still having the advantage.

Civilization V

Civilization V uses quite a successful DirectX 11 engine. We used the built-in benchmark with all settings pushed to a maximum with shadows and reflections. We used MSAA 8x.

While version x16 of PCI Express 3.0 dominates, for the first time in games there's a slight advantage for PCI Express 2.0 x16 over PCI-E 3.0 x8 and this is true both with a single card and in CrossFire, something that possibly results from a different usage of PCI-E for this relatively high load benchmark. Remember, PCI-E 2.0 x16 had a very slight advantage over PCI-E 3.0 8x in our theoretical bandwidth readings.

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