Dirt Rally Performance Review – GeForce GTX 970 Versus Radeon R9 390

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1. Codemasters Dirt Rally Gaming Performance Benchmarked

Colin McRae Rally and Dirt has been a popular racing franchise for Codemasters since 1998.  Since it first came out, there have been over 10 different versions of the racing game for Windows.  It has been close to 3 years since we got our first glimpse of Dirt Rally, development is taking time, but that is what is needed to make a polished game rather than rushing it out the door.  In order to get feedback from it’s core audience, Codemasters has made Dirt Rally available on Steam as an “Early Access Game”.

Codemasters Dirt Rally

Based on the EGO gaming engine that was developed by Codemasters and Sony, it allows for highly detailed damage and real world physics in large scale environments.   Dirt Rally features events both on and off road with varying weather conditions.  Currently, featuring 17 cars from the 1960’s, 1970’s, 1980’s, 2010’s, Group B and Group A.  Codemasters intends to introduce new cars, more locations and racing modes throughout the Early Access stage, with a planned release date for late 2015.

During the testing phase, we wanted to make sure we put the test cards under the highest load possible.  So we will be utilizing the Ultra graphics setting, while testing different resolutions.  In addition, we changed the Multisampling to 8x MSAA.


We will start the testing right after taking a quick look at the test system.

2. Test System

Before jumping into doing some benchmarks, let’s take a look at the test system.  All testing was done with a fresh install of Windows 8.1 Pro x64 with all patches and no additional software running.  All benchmarks are run five times with the results averaged.  Each of the benchmarks will be run with pre-configured settings at 2560×1440 resolution. We will be comparing the Sapphire Nitrio 390 and eVGA GTX 970 SC.  The drivers used in the tests are:

  • NVidia:  353.06
  • AMD:  15.2


Sapphire Tech Nitro 390




3. CPU Utilization

Taking the middle resolution of 2560 x 1440, we watched the CPU utilization.  Across the different resolutions we tested Dirt Rally at, the CPU utilization was similar.

Sapphire Nitro 390




For both video cards, the utilization was very similar.  They were both hovering in the mid-40% range.  In an attempt to get a similar CPU utilization, the sample utilization was grabbed at the 1.5 minute mark within the 3 minute benchmark.    At that specific time, the Sapphire Nitro 390 had a CPU utilization of 44%, while the eVGA GTX 970 was slightly higher at 48%.  Neither of these would raise any alarms, as they are still below 50% utilization.

Some developers optimize their games for a specific GPU chipset, while others tend to leave it open.  Codemasters Dirt Rally has been optimized towards the AMD Radeon chipset, and the optimizations that they have done, show exactly what is possible.  In a game like Dirt, you are moving so fast that the majority of the background gets motion blurred, which would allow you turn down the graphics to get the framerate you desired.  However for at higher resolutions, max details and the smoothest framerate, an AMD Radeon 390 GPU would be my recommendation for Dirt Rally.

4. Codemasters: Dirt Rally Performance Benchmark

A large portion of Dirt Rally is random, missed turns, other obstacles, speed variance, etc.  Codemasters has built-in a benchmark tool that runs through a course over 3 minutes.  This allows for an identical run each time, while analyzing the performance of those runs.

Frames Per Second



At standard 1080p resolution, the average score between the two different GPU’s was around 7FPS, which comes to just over 9% difference in performance, in the favor of the AMD based Sapphire Nitro 390.

2560 x 1440


Stepping the resolution up to 2560 x 1440, we see a little more difference between the average scores, coming close to 9FPS, or 18% difference!

3840 x 2160 (4K)


Our final resolution is at 3840 x 2160, also known as 4K.  Here we have close to 8FPS difference, which is just over 30% difference in performance!

Final Thoughts and Conclusions

Strictly speaking Frames Per Second, there’s no doubt that Codemasters has optimized Dirt Rally for the AMD Radeon GPU.  When looking at the two cards tested for Dirt Rally, at the higher resolution, there is a huge difference in performance between the two different graphic chipsets.

If you are looking forward to Codemaster’s Dirt Rally, graphically you will be impressed.  It looks and runs great at the most common resolutions, and for those of you running 4K resolution, it’ll depend on your individual configuration, and in game graphic options.  The Radeon R9 390 had no problems allowing Dirt Rally to run at over 30FPS at 4K, while the NVIDIA based GTX 970 performed under 30FPS.





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