1920 x 1080 Benchmarks
We'll start with AMD's Radeon lineup, and specifically the R9 270X 2GB. We chose to include this card not because we think it's the ideal match for this game, but because it's in the same class as the HD 7850 2GB and GTX 660 2GB, which are the minimum recommended video cards for this game according to EA. Keeping in mind that we're running at Ultra settings here, we think you can just get by with this level of card if you dial down the quality a bit. It cannot run Ultra.
Every other card in our lineup easily handles 1080p/Ultra in this game. The R9 290, which likely still resides in a huge number of gaming machines worldwide, is a great match for 1080p in this game. For gamers on G-Sync monitors, the GTX 980 is right in the sweet spot, but of course the newer GTX 1070 is even better. Note that the GTX 1080, 1080 SLI, and Titan X Pascal are actually CPU-limited at this resolution, even with a massively-overclocked eight-core processor.
By the way, for those ready to dismiss SLI out of hand based on these 1080p results, please be patient and read to the bottom of the page before you jump to any conclusions. Yes, GTX 1080 SLI is absolutely the wrong solution for running this game at 1920 x 1080, but that does not mean that SLI cannot scale adequately and help 1080 SLI outperform the Titan X Pascal under appropriate game conditions.
2560 x 1440 Benchmarks
At this resolution, the R9 270X becomes unplayable, but that's to be expected of a card of its caliber. The R9 290 still puts up respectable numbers, and the R9 Fury essentially draws even with the GTX 980. Both can easily hold 60fps minimum in this game, although owners of high-refresh rate monitors will want to look to the GTX 980 Ti at a minimum. The Titan X Pascal is simply awe-inspiring here, performing 55% faster than the popular GTX 1070, making it ideal for twitch gamers seeking maximum G-Sync or ULMB performance. Note that at this resolution, the GTX 1080 is now pulling 24% ahead of the GTX 1070, which is in line with the delta we've seen between these cards in nearly every other game. The Titan is another 25% ahead of the GTX 1080, but we'd reckon it's a bit bottlenecked here too, as is GTX 1080 SLI, clearly.
We've dropped the R9 270X from this graph, as it could not provide playable framerates, making accurate multi-player benchmarking impossible. In fact, we'd consider anything below the GTX 980 Ti incapable of providing a good gaming experience at 4K. In fact, despite being nearly a year and a half old, the GTX 980 Ti actually pulls just barely ahead of the GTX 1070 at 4K, showing that its tremendous memory bandwidth still plays a role when pushing serious resolutions. But gamers seeking ultra-smooth rendering will want to move up a notch. It takes a GTX 1080 to average around 60fps, which is the highest framerate you'll achieve on any 4K monitor on the market today. We'd therefore suggest that the 1080 is what you'd want to be using for a 4K monitor. Now, if you're going for bragging rights, the Titan's performance here is pretty impressive, producing framerates well above what any 4K monitor can output, and an impressive 29% higher than a single GTX 1080.
But the biggest story at 4K is that the GTX 1080 SLI solution finally gets its moment to shine. You can't give it a better platform (it's using a full 32 PCIe lanes and EVGA's high-bandwidth SLI bridge), and it harnesses all of this bandwidth to push 19% ahead of the Titan X Pascal, at a retail cost of just $100 more. It's probably still a bit CPU bottlenecked in this multi-player benchmark, but a 19% boost is still a pretty good payback on investment. Remember, 4K monitors top out at 60Hz, so whether dual 1080 cards are the best use of this impressive firepower is debateable. We'd actually suggest gamers looking for the best gaming experience consider an ultra-wide 3440 x 1440 monitor like the Acer Predator X34, which runs at up to 100Hz. Combined with BF1's resolution scaling options, which super-sample the output to provide better visual fidelity, this setup will drop plenty of jaws.
Overall Thoughts on GPU Performance
A few things are clear based on our testing. First, this game runs extremely well given its graphical prowess. DICE knows how to make a well-optimized game. We could practically run 1080p/Ultra on the Radeon R9 270X, which is the equivalent of a $100 card today. In fact, BF1 appears to run at least as well as 2013's Battlefield 4, which is amazing given that additional graphical features have been added to this game (notably, much more advanced lighting and destruction). In fact, we'd go as far as to say that it actually benchmarks faster than BF4. If your card ran BF4 to your satisfaction, you absolutely do not need to upgrade for 2016's most anticipated title!
Now for the bad news. You can't just throw more GPU power at this game and expect performance to increase linearly. After we originally published this article, we had some readers ask us to test the CPUs at stock speed. While we couldn't go back and retest everything, we've put together some results showing what happens when you run an eight-core CPU at stock speed (3.5GHz with a full load) versus overclocked (4.3GHz in our tests). Here they are:
Note that at 4K, all our results were identical, meaning they weren't CPU bottlenecked, so we didn't include them here. But at 1440p, the CPU bottleneck for an SLI setup is significant, and at 1080p it's severe for both a single GTX 1080 and GTX 1080 SLI. Note how the GTX 1080 SLI setup on a stock eight-core processor actually underperforms a single GTX 1080 on the overclocked processor? That, friends, is why people running ultra-high-end setups really have to come to grips with the concept of CPU bottlenecking.
To demonstrate exactly what's happening to our stock eight-core CPU, we've included the Windows core activity graph for a single GTX 1080 running on a stock Core i7-6900K. As you can see, several of the CPU's cores are essentially maxed out, unable to feed even a single GTX 1080 all the data it could use at 1920 x 1080. We have a feeling that DX12 will help resolve this issue, making better use of multiple cores, but testing of that API will have to wait until the bugs are worked out.
Finally, it pains us to say this, but AMD cards are generally at a disadvantage in this game, which is surprising given that this is an AMD-sponsored title. While the R9 Fury will eat the GTX 980's lunch in just about any game based on our prior testing, it does not do so well here. Given that it's the best air-cooled Radeon on the market, we're a bit sorry to see that it's not closer to a GTX 980 Ti or GTX 1070. And while we didn't test it here, we're fairly confident that the GeForce GTX 1060 6GB will at least match it, despite costing quite a bit less and using about half the power.