Lappy Doom 3!!!!

After attending Quakecon 2004 and meeting some dedicated readers we found that one of the most asked questions at Quakecon 2004 was: "How well does Doom 3 play on laptops?". We had our laptop there, but honestly had never installed Doom 3. We got back home and installed Doom 3 on our ASUS M6N notebook that we had built and started benchmarking to see how the hardware hungry game does.

The first choice we had to make was what video card driver to use on our notebook that contained discrete graphics via the ATI Mobility 9600 64mb chip. We couldn't make up our minds so we went ahead and used four different drivers to see which worked best. We went with the official ASUS V8.01 (this is officially the correct and latest driver for the ASUS M6N notebook). We then modded ATI CATALYST Drivers version 4.7, 4.8, and 4.9 Beta for use on our notebook.

ASUS Version 8.01
ASUS Version 8.01

ATI Catalyst 4.8

If you are wondering how we installed CATALYST drivers on our notebook you will need to download a simple program called DH Mod tool V2.0b. Without the mod program when you try to install a CATALYST driver onto a notebook it will give you an error prompt saying INF not found. That's where the mod tool comes in. Simply run the mod tool and point it to the install files and it will modify them to install on your notebook. The above screen shot shows the video card properties with the original ASUS driver on the left and the just released ATI CATALYST 4.8 driver on the right after we installed them via the mod tool.

Our Test System

Test Settings

It should be noted that the first time demo run was ignored so the game could be cached. We then took the average of the 2nd to 4th runs to get the numbers shown in the graphs.

So what is better for DOOM 3 & how well does DOOM 3 run on our notebook? Let's take a look at some benchmarks and see!

Benchmarking @ 640 x 480

With the lowest resolution, quality level, and detail level we saw over a seven frame per second increase by using the ATI CATALYST 4.9 Beta drivers on our notebook. Is Doom 3 playable on a notebook? This chart shows that it clearly is! Lets see what low quality with high details runs like.

The scores are a bit tighter here with only 3.3 frames per second between the ASUS V8.01 and ATI 4.9 Beta drivers. High detail looks much better than low detail and by far is the way to run the game when you are playing it. At these settings the game runs smoothly and our gaming expierence was as we expected.

You guys would flame me alive if I didn't turn AA on, so for this chart I kicked in 2x AA (anti -aliasing) and ran the game in high detail at low quality. There was hardly any difference between the driver performance when configured like this and none of the drivers could break the 30 frames per second threshold. The corners looked a bit crisper, but at low quality 2x AA seemed to be a waste of FPS.

Benchmarking @ 800x600

There was a 19 FPS performance decrease shown due to moving from 640x480 to 800x600. The ATI CATALYST 4.8 & 4.9 drivers still proved to be the dominate drivers and gameplay was pretty smooth at low detail settings.

When we kicked the eye candy on high we dropped back down below the magical number of 30 frames per second (although not by much). We saw more than a 10% performance increase by moving up to the ATI CATALYST 4.8 & 4.9 drivers and that's what we wanted to know! It is clear by now that gamers looking for the most performance from discrete ATI graphics in their notebooks should be running modded CATALYST drivers.

Benchmarking @ 1024x768

Moving along to a resolution of 1024x768 we hit right at 30 frames per second in low detail. The performance differences are starting to become even since the CPU and GPU are becoming the bottleneck in performance.

With high detail enabled at 1024x768 the FPS dropped below 19 making the game stutter and not run smoothly. The game can be played at this resolution and settings, but you will not get the full DOOM 3 expierence at these settings.


Nathan Kirsch's Thoughts:

It is clear that DOOM 3 can be played at 640x480 with hardly any issues at all when set at low quality settings. Newer notebooks have entered the market since we picked up our ASUS M6N, but that only means your performance will be better than shown here! One thing we didn't do for this review was overclocking on the video card. As always this can be done, but we wanted to focus more on the drivers than overclocking for this article.

Something else that wasn't shown in the article was notebook memory. We benchmarked the entire review with 512mb of Kingston PC-2700 200-Pin SO-DIMM memory installed and the system worked fine. We added an additional 512mb of memory to the system to see if we could get any performance gains and did get a small gain -- 0.1 FPS at 640x480. Not much, but every little bit helps, right?

We should also note that the optimal drivers for use on our particular notebook were the just released ATI CATALYST 4.8 drivers. They supported the correct screen resolutions for our wide screen 15.4" notebook. The beta 4.9 (Doom 3) drivers didn't allow us to go above 1024x768 on our notebook. The CATALYST 4.9 Beta drivers also yielded little, if any gain, over the Cat 4.8's as seen in the testing.

If you are expecting to play at 1600x1200 on a notebook and get killer performance you are mistaken. On the other hand if you are a dedicated die hard gamer and are willing to play at lower screen resolutions (640x480 at low quality) then games like DOOM 3 can be played when using discrete graphics such as the ATI Mobility 9600 or an equivalent video solution from nVIDIA.

Legit Bottom Line:

Who said DOOM 3 can't be played on notebooks? If you are running discrete ATI graphics you have the ability to mod the latest CATALYST series drivers and boost your notebook performance levels for better game play.