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The Best Graphics Card for Call of Duty: Black Ops

Which Graphics card is best for Call of Duty: Black Ops?

With the release of Treyarch’s latest multiplayer man-shoot, we were curious to see how our ageing (and not so ageing) graphics cards fared in comparison to the latest pixel pushing behemoths such as the GeForce GTX 580 1.5GB.

A few days spent swapping cards in and out of our graphics test rigs and we had our answer; surprisingly well. Hit the next page to check out the graphs, but needless to say BLOPs doesn’t seem to be that demanding at all when it comes to PC hardware; not too much of a surprise when you consider the game engine is little different from that used in the original Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, four years ago.

*The best graphics card for Call of Duty: Black Ops What's the best graphics card for Call of Duty: Black Ops?
Just give me the GTX 580's and no one gets hurt!

At 1,680 x 1,050 with 0xAA it’s the high end ATI cards that lead with mighty minimum frame rates of up to 85fps, with the GeForce GTX 580 1.5GB, 480 1.5GB and 470 1.3GB all apparently capped at an average frame rate of around 110 and a minimum of 78fps. Add some anti aliasing and the result changes dramatically though, as the ATI cards drop away sharply to leave the heavy hitting Fermi GPU based cards top of the heap.

Even at 1,920 x 1,200 with 0xAA the HD 5870 1GB remains top, and there are surprises elsewhere too. We also tested a GTX 260 768MB and found that it performed very similarly to a GTX 460 768MB at 1,920 x 1,200 with 0xAA, despite the big difference in theoretical GPU processing power; clearly BLOPs, when AA is disabled at least, is a memory hungry game first and foremost.

*The best graphics card for Call of Duty: Black Ops What's the best graphics card for Call of Duty: Black Ops?
GPU Overload!

Enabling 4xAA at 1,920 x 1,200, saw a more typical spread, with the GTX 580 on top. Particularly surprising was the performance of an ageing GTX 280 1GB, a 2.5 year old card, which was able to deliver a minimum and average frame rate of 53fps and 79 respectively. Even the GTX 260 768MB managed a perfectly playable minimum of 44fps. Again though, we saw the ATI cards fall down the pecking order considerably when AA was enabled, with an HD 6870 1GB barely faster than a GTX 460 1GB. BLOP’s engine just doesn’t seem to do ATI hardware any favours when you try and up the image quality.

Conclusion

What’s clear is that not only is BLOPs not the most demanding game we’ve ever tested, but that even two year old mid-range cards should have no problem delivering playable performance even at 1,920 x 1,200 with 4xAA. The best bang for buck card that's on sale right now though looks to be the GeForce GTX 460 1GB, which manages great anti-aliasing performance at 1,920 x 1,200 with 4xAA, and with prices starting from £140.

Games that are "easy" to run are a growing issue for hardware vendors thanks to the low hanging fruit of the console market encouraging developers to code for the lowest console-denominator; the Xbox 360 is over five years old now, so any game that can run on it should be, and typically is, very easy to run on PC. That’s not to say it can’t look great (just look at Mass Effect 2’s stunning visuals) but in the case of BLOPs at least, any mid-range card of the last two years does the trick. Perhaps you don't need that GTX 580 1.5GB just yet...