Today's Hard|Forum Post
Today's Hard|Forum Post

PCI Express 2.0 vs 3.0 GPU Gaming Performance Review

Wondering about upgrading to the new Ivy Bridge CPU and PCI Express 3.0 platform? Curious to know if you'll be gaining or losing performance? We compare single, dual-GPU, triple-GPU, single, and multiple display configurations on Ivy Bridge PCIe 3.0 and Sandy Bridge on PCIe 2.0 platforms.

continued...

Highest Playable Settings - GeForce GTX 680

All of the settings below are what we found as the highest playable and best overall settings for a single GeForce GTX 680 on Sandy Bridge PCIe 2.0 and Ivy Bridge PCIe 3.0.


Max Payne 3

Article Image

Article Image

(Click Graph for Larger Image)

In Max Payne 3 we were able to play at 2560x1600 on both GTX 680 PCIe 2.0 and 3.0 systems. We were able to have all the in-game quality settings at "Very High" including tessellation and the highest level of ambient occlusion. We also were able to use FXAA at its highest setting. When we turned on 2X MSAA on either system performance was not playable with a single GeForce GTX 680 video card. Therefore, our highest playable settings were identical between both systems giving us and apples to apples comparison.

While our gameplay experience was the same, there was a technical framerate difference that slightly favored the Ivy Bridge PCIe 3.0 system. On Sandy Bridge PCIe 2.0 we were averaging 66.2 FPS, and with PCIe 3.0 it went up to an average of 69.0 FPS. Technically that is a 2.79 FPS performance difference or a 4.23% increase in framerate with PCIe 3.0 over PCIe 2.0. Certainly nothing to get excited about and surely within the margin of error considering we are doing real world gaming tests. Also we need to keep in mind the slight processor IPC advantage the Ivy Bridge system has over the Sandy Bridge system. While performance on PCIe 3.0 was technically faster, it wasn't perceivable while playing the game and made no difference to the actual gaming experience.


Battlefield 3

Article Image

Article Image

(Click Graph for Larger Image)

With Battlefield 3 we were also able to play at the exact same settings between both systems with the GeForce GTX 680. We found that 2560x1600 was playable with all "Ultra" in-game quality settings. We were able to have FXAA turned on as well as 2X MSAA with the GTX 680.

Unlike Max Payne 3, performance was identical between the Sandy Bridge PCIe 2.0 and Ivy Bridge PCIe 3.0 systems. We recorded the exact same average framerates in Battlefield 3, which in itself if tremdously interesting. Our minimum and maximum framerate data was very close as well.


Batman Arkham City

Article Image

Article Image

(Click Graph for Larger Image)

In Batman: Arkham City we again found that the GTX 680 was able to play this game at the same quality settings on both systems. We found that 2560x1600 played well with MVSAA, HBAO, and high tessellation turned on. We were also able to have "Normal" PhysX enabled as long as we used FXAA.

Performance-wise, just like BF3 this game had nearly identical performance between the PCIe 2.0 and PCIe 3.0 systems. The minimum and maximum framerates are also very close. There was no detectible advantage on the PCIe 3.0 platform with a single GTX 680 in this game.


Skyrim

Article Image

Article Image

(Click Graph for Larger Image)

With Skyrim we found that this game also achieved the same playable settings on a single GTX 680 between both systems. We were able to play at 2560x1600 with 8X MSAA plus FXAA plus 4X TR SSAA enabled on both systems. While the gameplay experience was the same, there was a more pronounced statistical performance difference though than we saw in Max Payne 3 previously.

In this case we found that on the Ivy Bridge PCIe 3.0 system the GTX 680 gave us 67.4 average FPS, while the Sandy Bridge PCIe 2.0 system logged 61.7 average FPS. This means the PCIe 3.0 platform gave the GTX 680 a 9.238% performance increase compared to PCIe 2.0. This is a bit higher than we might have expected given IB vs. SB IPC differences.

Even with a 9.238% performance increase one will not be able to tell the difference when you are talking framerates that are in the 60 FPS range to begin with. If you play with VSYNC enabled, both will sync to 60 FPS anyway. The gameplay experience was the same between both systems even given the raw 9.238% framerate performance bump.


The Witcher 2

Article Image

Article Image

(Click Graph for Larger Image)

In The Witcher 2 we were once again able to play at the same settings with the GTX 680 on both systems. We found that 2560x1600 at Ultra settings with AA enabled was playable.

Similar to most of the games on this page, there wasn't an actual gameplay advantage going to the PCIe 3.0 system. We are seeing a mere 1.728% framerate increase, which is in the realm of margin of error for running a real-time real-world run-through.


Summary

In summary, there were two games that intrigued us as far as performance advantage. In Max Payne 3 we received a 4.23% increase in framerate performance with the PCIe 3.0 system which is very likely contributable to the Ivy Bridge IPC advantage. In Skyrim we netted a 9.238% increase in framerate with the PCIe 3.0 system. Again we have to mention that the Ivy Bridge system does have a better IPC, somewhere in the neighborhood of 4% to 7% by our calculations, than the Sandy Bridge system, but plainly neither IPC nor PCIe differences netted us any advantages in actual gameplay scenarios.