Nearly 2 years have gone by from the initial Kickstarter funding of Elite: Dangerous. I could of benchmarked the initial testing phases but, wanted to give a better view of performance after the game has been officially released.

The Elite series started out in 1984 on the BBC Micro , then a sequel Frontier was released in 1993. Fast forward 20 years later with 25,681 people and a total amount of £1,578,316 pledged through Kickstarter, we finally have the first person space combat and trading MMO Elite: Dangerous. The game was designed by David Braben and developed by Frontier Developments on the Cobra multiplatform engine.

I won’t be going into much detail about gameplay as I only put in a few hours and, as a mass multiplayer online game that would be unfair. Official SLI and Crossfire support is not available so our benchmark results will cover single GPUs on the 1920×1080 , 2560×1440 and 4K resolutions.

 

Benchmark Components

Elite Dangerous Benchmark System

CPU i7 3930K
Motherboard Asus P9X79 Deluxe
RAM Kingston Hyper-X 16GB 1600mhz
HDD/SSD Crucial M550 256GB
GPU Galax GTX970 EXOC 4GB , MSI R9-290 Gaming 4S
Monitor Asus PB287Q 28″ 4K 60Hz 1MS
PSU Corsair AX1200W
OS Windows 8.1
Drivers Nvidia: 347.09 WHQL Beta, AMD: Catalyst Omega 14.12

 

Testing Methodology

To test out how Elite: Dangerous performs I went with a custom 60 second run. There’s no built-in benchmark tool available.

I took a simple tutorial dog fight mission where earth is visible and 2 other friendly ships. You can see the exact run below in the video.

I used the High preset for all resolutions which is the highest available quality setting. The Anti-Aliasing method used in High is SMAA, I disabled Bloom and prompted for a slightly higher FOV value than the preset.

 

Elite Dangerous Graphics Options

Elite Dangerous High Preset Options

Elite: Dangerous 1920×1080 Benchmark

Elite Dangerous Benchmark 1920x1080

 

The GTX970 and R9-290 perform close to 160 FPS on average at 1080p. The game runs extremely well with no strange frame drops.  For those of you that have a 120Hz or 144Hz monitor with a powerful single GPU, you will easily be able to run your monitors refresh rate.

 

Elite Dangerous HD ScreenshotHD Screenshot

 

2560×1440 Benchmark

Elite Dangerous Benchmark 2560x1440

 

At 1440p the GTX970 drops to 94 FPS average while the R9-290 is over 105 FPS. Minimums are 76 and 81 frames per second respectively for the graphics cards. Yet again there is no visible frame drops or big fluctuations for min and averages.

 

Elite Dangerous 2560x1440 Screenshot2560×1440 Screenshot

 

Elite: Dangerous 4K Benchmark

Elite Dangerous 4K benchmarks

 

At 4K we see a drastic fall to under 51 FPS average on both GPUs. The GTX970 seems to cope slightly better at 4K than the R9-290, while at 1440p it was performing 15% slower. Minimums are in the 40 FPS range but the game doesn’t feel sluggish on either cards.

 

Elite Dangerous 4K Screenshot4K Screenshot

 

CPU Usage

CPU USAGE ELITE DANGEROUS

 

To test CPU usage I ran the game at 640×480 at the highest preset possible. The game seems to utilize all cores as well as hyperthreading. On my 6-Core Intel we see utilization of all 12 threads ranging from 10-40%.

 

VRAM Usage

Elite Dangerous VRAM Usage

 

At the highest of settings the 1920×1080 and 2560×1440 resolutions are just below 2Gb VRAM usage. When going up to 4K we see usage hit 2.4Gb. The game isn’t very VRAM hungry with the use of SMAA (Enhanced Subpixel Morphological Antialiasing).

 

 

RAM Usage

Elite Dangerous Total System RAM Usage

 

Total memory usage with Windows 8.1 is roughly 2Gb-2.2Gb across all the benchmark resolutions. Most modern laptops and desktop rigs have 3Gb or more RAM. For most gamers memory usage shouldn’t be a factor.

 

Conclusion

The game performs extraordinary well even with a high-end single GPU at 4K , that thanks to the well optimized Cobra engine. The effects are beautiful but image quality seems to lean towards a minimal art design, something that is a standard in flying or space simulators. You might think I’m overly critizing the game developers but, overall the visuals do blend well.

Something I found interesting was the learning curve. With a mouse and keyboard you’re going to have a hard time, for space simulator fans you probably already have your flight sticks ready for action anyway.

Elite: Dangerous is massive , a 1 to 1 recreation of the Milky Way (400 billion star systems) it’s all the freedom you could ever ask for. How it compares to EVE: Online or the upcoming Star Citizen we will have to wait and see.

Flight Sticks For Elite Dangerous

If you have any questions about the benchmark please ask in the comment section below and I will be glad to answer.

About The Author

"Overclock and benchmark freak"