In case you haven’t noticed, the latest shooter from DICE/EA looks amazing, and for the same reason it’s also very demanding. Because the game’s “Frostbite 2” engine only works with DirectX 11/DX10, the game will not run at all on Windows XP. In other words a copious amount of older computers are immediately disqualified. For laptop gamers this is probably not such a major issue though, since anyone with a mobile GPU capable of running the game at all are most likely running Windows 7 or at the very least Vista.
As always with mobile GPUs, you cannot go by the model names specified in the system requirements, as the mobile versions are always less powerful (and less power-consuming) versions of their similarly-named desktop counterparts. For example, the mobile GTX 580M is similar to a GTX 560, whereas the GTX 560M is more like a desktop GTX 550 and so on.
To give you a rough idea of what to expect from running Battlefield 3 on a laptop, we will be looking at three widely available mobile GPUs from different segments here: the Nvidia GTX 580M from the EON 15-S, the GTX 560M (128-bit) from the G53SX, and finally the upper mid-range AMD Radeon HD 7690M from the Envy 17 (also present in the HP dv6t/dv7t Quad). The 7690M is almost identical to the HD 6770M except for a higher memory clock.
The test is as simple as it gets; half a minute of the first single player mission “Semper Fidelis” running in all the four different presets – Ultra, High, Medium and Low. All of the GPU clocks are running at stock speeds and the game settings have not been altered in any way from the presets and the resolution is always 1920×1080, which is the native resolution on all the tested displays.
One factor that varies is the CPU, although the difference is small enough to be largely meaningless compared to the difference between the GPUs. The EON 15-S is ahead with a Core i7-2760QM, followed by the Envy 17 with a Core i7-2670QM and finally the G53SX with a Core i7-2630QM–all quad-core CPUs and not bottlenecks in this situation. But let’s get to the point:
GeForce GTX 580M
The GTX 580M is the only GPU of the trio that can run Battlefield 3 at the Ultra preset. This is quite impressive in itself, since the mobile 580M is a derivative of the desktop GTX 560. Nevertheless, the GTX 580M is Nvidia’s fastest mobile GPU at this writing, and it’s good to know that you don’t need SLI to make use of the Frostbite 2 engine’s full potential.
GeForce GTX 560M
Since the GTX 560M has only half the number of CUDA cores you would be correct to assume that it is considerably slower than the GTX 580M. However, the 560M has clock speeds that are out of bounds for the 580M, which evens out the results to some extent. This is the 128-bit (2 GB) version of the 560M found in the Asus G53SX; the 192-bit (3 GB or 1.5 GB) version should perform slightly better. The 560M produces playable frame rates with the medium preset. If you wonder why the graph looks strange, it’s because vertical sync kicked in to limit the frame rate at 30 FPS, which is odd as it was forcefully disabled both in Battlefield 3 and in the Nvidia control panel. It doesn’t really matter though, since it runs fine at a higher preset.
Radeon HD 7690M
The HD 7690M (XT) is a renamed HD 6770M with a higher memory clock. These numbers come from a HP Envy 17 3D (stereoscopic 3D not enabled) and should be similar to other laptops with the HD 7690M or HD 6770M, such as the HP dv6t and dv7t or the MacBook Pro. This is a relatively powerful laptop GPU in the upper end of the mid-range segment, but it’s also where Battlefield 3 shows that it won’t run well on just any system. Only the low or possibly medium presets are playable at 1920×1080. To get higher frame rates you would have to overclock the GPU or lower the resolution.