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

Dirt 4 Real Gameplay Video Card Performance Review

Let’s find out how well the new game Dirt 4 performs across seven GPUs. We put a heavy focus on MSAA performance, CMAA performance and EQAA performance across every GPU to find which is more efficient at AA at high resolutions.


Dirt 4 was recently released this summer, on June 6th of 2017. Dirt 4 is developed and published by Codemasters. It is a rally-themed racing game and the twelfth game in the Colin McRae Rally series and the sixth title to carry the Dirt name. New for this version it is running on the Ego Engine 4.0. The previous game, Dirt 3, for example was based on Ego Engine 2.0. Therefore, this one has some pretty major graphics engine upgrades. Other Ego Engine 4.0 games are F1 2015, 2016 and 2017.

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In our evaluation, today we are not only going to find out what is playable in Dirt 4 across seven current generation video cards, but also put a heavy focus on traditional multi-sampling anti-aliasing (MSAA) performance. We can do this because Dirt 4 supports traditional MSAA modes, 2X, 4X, 8X MSAA. It also supports a shader based CMAA mode. On AMD video cards, it also supports four distinct EQAA modes. We are going to explore the performance of each of these AA modes and find out how each video card handles AA performance.

Graphics Settings

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Dirt 4 has five built in quality presets. Enabling the highest level "Ultra" will enable every single setting at the highest possible level. There are no extra hidden quality settings. Setting "Ultra" quality will "max out" the game. If "Ultra" performance doesn’t work out for you trying lowering the setting to "High" or lower. We have a feeling you won’t have to however because this game performs very well at "Ultra" settings on every video card. The main setting we had to manipulate while gaming was the AA option depending on the resolution.

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Under NVIDIA and AMD GPUs the game supports a CMAA AA mode. This is the fastest AA method, it is shader based, think of it like SMAA. CMAA stands for Conservative Morphological Anti-Aliasing. It is a morphological AA method that looks as good as 4X MSAA, but at a cost lower than 2X MSAA. CMAA will work on both AMD and NVIDIA GPUs.

Dirt 4 also supports traditional MSAA, 2X, 4X and 8X MSAA. MSAA works on both AMD and NVIDIA GPUs.

Dirt 4 also supports EQAA, only on AMD GPUs. EQAA stands for Enhanced Quality Anti-Aliasing and was created by AMD. EQAA is by no means a new technology, it was first introduced on the ATI Radeon HD 6900 series way back in 2010. You can read more about how it works in this PDF from ATI/AMD. EQAA modes supported in this game are 8f16x EQAA, 4f16x EQAA, 4f8x EQAA, and 2f4x EQAA. EQAA only works on AMD GPUs.

It is not often we come across a game with traditional 2X, 4X and 8X MSAA support these days. The trend to go with simpler, faster shader based Anti-Aliasing techniques is growing. After all, traditional MSAA can drastically alter performance and with a game "maxed out" on graphics settings typically you can’t have a high MSAA setting in addition.

With that trend, we’ve sort of moved away from learning how well current generation GPUs actually perform with MSAA. Are they efficient? Can they handle 4X and 8X MSAA at high resolutions like 1440p and 4K? Which is more efficient at traditional MSAA, AMD’s Polaris GPU architecture or NVIDIA’s Pascal architecture? We’ve never delved into this before.

With Dirt 4 we have a unique opportunity to be able to test and compare MSAA performance on GPUs with this game since it performs so well, even at 4K.

Therefore, that is our goal today. While we will find out what’s playable in this game naturally, we are going to put a bigger focus on finding out how efficient MSAA performance is across GPUs. We will answer those above questions and find out what GPU is better these days at accelerating high levels of MSAA at high resolutions. We are using no less than seven video cards today for this task. We will be using a GeForce GTX 1080 Ti, GeForce GTX 1080, GeForce GTX 1070, GeForce GTX 1060, GeForce GTX 1050 Ti. From AMD we’ll be using an AMD Radeon RX 580 and AMD Radeon RX 570, all at reference clock.