This year has given fans of virtual racing a few excellent car simulators. This is a continuation of the famous DiRT rally series and the lesser known WRC series, which is the official game of the world rally championship. The second part of the hardcore simulator Project CARS 2 has been released. And along with Xbox One, the game Forza Motorsport 7 has arrived on PC. In this article, we will talk about performance in all these games. Let’s compare AMD and NVIDIA video cards in different modes, identify the optimal models for Full HD and higher resolutions.

Car simulators vs graphics cards

The testing will involve solutions from the top, middle and budget segments, including new generation models and old video cards.

The list of participants is as follows:

All video adapters were brought to standard frequencies in order to match the reference solutions of their series as much as possible. The Radeon RX Vega 64 was only tested with stock BIOS in normal balanced mode (default settings). The Radeon R9 270X replaces the predecessor Radeon HD 7870. All members tested at nominal and overclocked. Some exceptions to overclocked tests are made in Forza Motorsport 7. The older GeForce GTX 1080 and Radeon RX Vega 64 were overclocked only at high resolutions, in 1920×1080 mode they were tested only at standard frequencies.

The test bench configuration is as follows:

  • processor: Intel Core i7-6950X (3.0@4.1 GHz);
  • cooler: Noctua NH-D15 (two NF-A15 PWM fans, 140 mm, 1300 rpm);
  • motherboard: MSI X99S MPower (Intel X99);
  • memory: G.Skill F4-3200C14Q-32GTZ (4×8 GB, DDR4-3200, CL14-14-14-35);
  • system drive: Kingston SSDNow KC400 (256 GB, SATA 6Gb/s);
  • secondary drive: Hitachi HDS721010CLA332 (1 TB, SATA 3Gb/s, 7200 rpm);
  • power supply: Seasonic SS-750KM (750 W);
  • monitor: ASUS PB278Q (2560×1440, 27″);
  • operating system: Windows 10 Pro x64;
  • GeForce driver: NVIDIA GeForce 387.92;
  • Radeon Driver: AMD Crimson Edition 17.9.3.

Briefly about the testing methodology below. The games are listed in the order in which they were released.

DiRT 4

The famous series of rally races from Codemasters. The new part offers a wide variety of off-road racing and paved tracks. Fine difficulty settings allow you to balance between a serious car simulator and simple races with a number of simplifications and conventions for beginners. DiRT 4 is based on the EGO 4.0 engine, which was developed specifically for racing games. Visually, everything looks great. DiRT 4 demonstrates large detailed spaces and realistic lighting, realistic weather effects. DirectX 11 API supported.

Testing was conducted during the first race replay of the Dirt Fish Championship (Liske Forest, Michigan). This is a track in a forested area with bright lighting, these conditions create a high load. Rain effects are not as performance critical as in other games we tested.

Up to seven repetitions were performed for a more accurate average result. Testing was carried out with the Ultra-quality profile selected with maximum anisotropic filtering, CMAA anti-aliasing is active. All participants are tested at 1920×1080 resolution, older models are additionally tested at 2560×1440 and 3840×2160 resolutions.

Note that the game has already featured in a special test of mid-range and budget video cards, but with a slightly different combination of settings and anti-aliasing. Drivers have also been updated, which could improve performance. Therefore, it will be interesting to look at the confrontation of video cards in the new conditions.


The official game of the FIA ​​World Rally Championship. WRC 7 FIA World Rally Championship offers 13 competitions with a variety of tracks — from races on winding serpentine in the steppe regions to rides in mud or slippery snow in the winter forest. A variety of tracks and good physics make the game interesting, although in terms of overall performance it is inferior to DiRT 4. There is also the possibility of wide settings for difficulty and control, which allows WRC 7 to be adapted for both a novice and an experienced virtual driver. Developers from Kylotonn Racing Games use their own engine, which is updated a bit with each new game in the series, but in terms of technology it looks rather weak. The game demonstrates good detail, but in all respects it is inferior to the graphics of DiRT 4.

Lacks quality smoothing. Only the FXAA method is used, and in this case it gives some blurring, reducing the clarity of fine details. Disabling FXAA improves the perception of the picture, but ladders will be visible on the outlines of the car.

The effects of rain on wet surfaces have a noticeable effect on performance. Therefore, for the test run, the Hafren track was chosen with abundant vegetation and a rainy regime.

At least six repetitions were performed. Maximum graphics settings. All participants are tested at 1920×1080 resolution, older models are additionally tested at 2560×1440 and 3840×2160 resolutions.

Project CARS 2

Famous simulator from Slightly Mad Studios for motorsport fans. The second part has acquired a full-fledged campaign and retained a high complexity in the physics of cars. A wide fleet of vehicles, many nuances and conditions that affect the behavior of cars. A large variety of competitions. Even more settings for control and calibration of controllers. This is not a game for lovers of fun arcades in the spirit of Need For Speed. The high complexity of Project CARS 2, elaborate physics with many nuances and the individuality of each car require a steering wheel controller. The game is based on its own MADNESS Engine. The picture pleases the eye with excellent detailing of cars and the world around. Realistic weather effects have been recreated, driving in the rain or in a storm with dense downpours and water spray looks incredibly atmospheric and authentic.

The game has the ability to run race replays, but in this mode, unstable performance is observed and overall fps is lower than in a real game. Therefore, it was decided to test by repeating a certain race. It is difficult to cope with the keyboard, especially on wet pavement, and for a more comfortable passage of the test segment, not the fastest, but well-controlled car was chosen. California Highway Full, 15 opponents set, weather set to rain. The latter hits hard on performance due to splashes, reflections and abundant water flows on the case.

At least six repetitions were performed, older video cards had to be tested in two sets with the same number of repetitions to achieve a stable average result. The maximum quality of all parameters is set, medium level SMAA smoothing is active. Higher graphics accelerators are additionally tested at MSAA and higher resolutions.

Forza Motorsport 7 (Demo)

New car simulator from Turn 10 Studios and Microsoft Studios. The Forza series has long been exclusive to Xbox consoles, but in the current generation, these games are being adapted for PC under the Windows 10 platform. The game focuses on the competition of high-speed sports cars on race tracks, although it also includes, for example, races on large trucks. The full version of the game was released in October, for testing, a public demo version was used, which is equipped with a built-in benchmark. The game uses the ForzaTech engine and the game is very reminiscent of Forza Horizon 3, but without the large open spaces and rugged undergrowth. The nature of the competition leads to a simpler design of the environment, so Motorsport 7 works a little faster than Horizon 3. The picture is highly realistic. Forza Motorsport 7 is optimized for DirectX 12.

Car simulators vs graphics cardsCar simulators vs graphics cards

For testing, the built-in performance benchmark was used, which recreates a short drive with many rivals in heavy rain.

The upper performance bar is limited to 60 fps. This eliminates the differences between graphics cards when this level of performance is reached. Therefore, some models are tested only in high resolutions. In total, three modes are involved: 1920×1080, 2560×1440 and 3840×2160 with maximum Ultra graphics quality with MSAA 4x anti-aliasing.

Explanations require graphics settings. The game defaults to adaptive parameter adjustment mode, but in Custom mode the settings of the selected profile should be applied. For reliability, we manually fixed the maximum value for each parameter in the advanced settings.