Ascend GPU & CPU Efficiency Check

Most of our gaming performance reviews feature triple-A blockbusters, but we'll change the pace for this article as we examine Tribes: Ascend, a free shooter released by Hi-Rez Studios on April 12th. The Tribes franchise has deep roots in the history of multiplayer shooters, with Star Victories: Tribes making waves in the late 90s and two more PC entries following in 2001 and 2004. The series has been dormant since then, but Hi-Rez hopes to revive the classic shooter with a 21st century monetization scheme.

Tribes: Ascend is considered the successor to Tribes 2 and embraces its legacy by incorporating the same fast-paced combat, tons of maps, weapons, vehicles and unique traversing mechanics. At the same time, a new class-based system will be added. There are nine classes, divided into three armor levels (light, medium and heavy) and have switchable charges with different equipment and uses. Players can either unlock weapons and the like through in-game experience or buy them directly with real money.

Despite the freemium additions, reviews from users and critics seem overwhelmingly positive – even glowing. The title has positively received feedback on Metacritic and our own Product Finder


. We imagine nostalgic old school gamers in love wrote some of the reviews, but they can't all be wrong. Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments, but we'll focus on the game's performance from now on.

Tribes: Ascend is based on a modified Unreal Engine 3 and, interestingly, has some similarities with UT3. For example, there is no built-in voice communication, although players can give each other audible commands. Anyway, back on the topic: the game only supports DirectX 9 graphics, but the recommended specs are relatively high and require a GeForce GTX 560 or Radeon HD 6950 with a quad-core processor. Given these requirements, we hope that the game of our test hardware provides a good workout …

Test methodology

We'll save you the trouble of counting the following list: We are testing 24 AMD and Nvidia graphics cards in all price ranges. The latest official drivers have been used for each. We installed an overclocked Intel Core i7-2600K in our test field to remove CPU bottlenecks that could affect the high-end GPU values.

We used Fraps to measure the frame rates during one minute of the game of Tribes: Ascend Training, Target Practice mode. This ensured easily reproducible results compared to tests in an actual multiplayer game that would not stay the same when testing two dozen graphics cards at three resolutions.

Test system specifications

  • AMD Radeon HD 7970 (3072 MB)
  • Gigabyte Radeon HD 7950 (3072 MB)
  • AMD Radeon HD 7870 (2048 MB)
  • AMD Radeon HD 7850 (2048 MB)
  • HIS Radeon HD 7770 (1024 MB)
  • HIS Radeon HD 7750 (1024 MB)
  • HIS Radeon HD 6970 (2048 MB)
  • HIS Radeon HD 6950 (2048 MB)
  • HIS Radeon HD 6870 (1024 MB)
  • HIS Radeon HD 6850 (1024 MB)
  • HIS Radeon HD 6790 (1024 MB)
  • HIS Radeon HD 6770 (1024 MB)
  • HIS Radeon HD 6750 (1024 MB)
  • HIS Radeon HD 6670 (1024 MB)
  • AMD Radeon HD 5870 (2048 MB)
  • AMD Radeon HD 5830 (1024 MB)
  • HIS Radeon HD 5670 (1024 MB)
  • Gigabyte GeForce GTX 580 (1536 MB)
  • Gigabyte GeForce GTX 570 (1280 MB)
  • Gigabyte GeForce GTX 560 Ti (1024 MB)
  • Gigabyte GeForce GTX 560 (1024 MB)
  • Nvidia GeForce GTX 480 (1536 MB)
  • Gigabyte GeForce GTX 460 (1024 MB)
  • Gigabyte GeForce GTX 550 Ti (1024 MB)
  • Intel Core i7-2600K @ (3.90 GHz)
  • x4 4 GB G.Skill DDR3-1600 (CAS 8-8-8-20)
  • Gigabyte G1 Assassin2 (Intel X79)
  • OCZ ZX series (1250 W)
  • Crucial m4 512 GB (SATA 6 Gbit / s)
  • Microsoft Windows 7 Ultimate SP1 64-bit
  • Nvidia Forceware 296.10
  • AMD catalyst 12.3

Stems: Ascend is very customizable if you want to turn knobs and flip switches, but there are also five quality presets: minimal, low, medium, high, and very high. We ran all tests with very high quality settings. Finally, we tested three common resolutions: 1680 x 1050, 1920 x 1200, and 2560 x 1600.

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