Fallout 3 Hardware Performance Guide

Fallout 3's radioactive wastelands look fantastic, but they do sap your computer's performance. Find out what you need to do to get the game to look and run great.

by

The post-apocalyptic world of Fallout 3 makes the current state of the worldwide economy look about as pleasant as apple pie. Bethesda rendered the bleakness of a nuclear bomb-ravaged Washington DC with the perfect amount of despair and, given the nature of the franchise, humor. From the moment you step out of Vault 101, you want to explore every single bombed-out shack and collapsed building. The radioactive wasteland is filled with incredible detail, and the long draw distances practically beg you to wander around by giving you so many landmarks to march towards. Fallout 3 is based on the Oblivion graphics engine, but runs much better than Oblivion and with greater detail. However, even with the engine performance improvements, you'll most likely need to upgrade a system component or two if you want the game to run at maximum quality settings.

We tested Fallout 3 by running through the area outside of the Jefferson Memorial and Rivet City. The region has long draw distances, nearby water reflections, and plenty of action from supermutants. Our final result was the average of three 40-second runs.

Settings

Fallout 3 has a ton of settings but none that single-handedly destroy performance. Each setting takes an almost imperceptible bite, but when combined the game slows to a crawl. Think of it as the death by a thousand pixels.

Video Cards

Long draw distances, copious amounts of antialiasing, and high resolutions make Fallout 3 look amazing. Of course, you're going to need a decent amount of pixel-pushing power to get Fallout 3 running maxed out. We went through almost 20 video cards to help you determine what's enough.

CPU

To put Fallout 3 to the test, we pulled out all our chips, ranging from quad cores down to Pentium 4s, to see how the game scales. As it turns out, as long as you have any Core 2-based CPU, you're going to be fine. Anything less and you might want to consider upgrading.

Memory

Fallout 3 requires 1GB of RAM to run in Windows XP and 2GB to run in Windows Vista. We loaded up our system with 1, 2, and 3GB of RAM to determine the sweet spot.

Systems

Fallout 3's minimum requirements call for a 2.4GHz Pentium 4, 1GBof RAM, and a GeForce 6800-class video card. We were able to get the game to run on the aforementioned system, but performance wasn't great. The game becomes unplayable as soon as you venture outside of the lowest image-quality and resolution settings. If you want to actually play the game, you might want to get something a bit more powerful. The recommended system, a Core 2 Duo 2.4GHz CPU with a GeForce 8800 GT and 2GB of RAM, ran the game perfectly at high resolutions and with high image-quality settings. Our custom high-end system packed with a 3.2GHz quad core and a Radeon 4870X2 didn't have any problems at all either.

System Setup:

High-End System: Intel Core2 QX9650, eVGA 780i, 2GB Corsair XMS Memory (1GBx2), 750GB Seagate 7200.11 SATA Hard Disk Drive, Windows Vista 32-bit SP1. Graphics Card: Radeon 4870X2, beta Catalyst HotFix 70517.

Recommended System: Intel Core2 Duo E6600 2.4GHz, eVGA 680i, 2GB Corsair XMS Memory (1GBx2), 750GB Seagate 7200.11 SATA Hard Disk Drive, Windows Vista 32-bit SP1. Graphics Card: GeForce 8800 GT, beta Nvidia ForceWare 180.42.

Minimum System: Intel Pentium 4 2.4GHz, Asus P4C800, 1GB Corsair XMS Memory, Seagate 160GB 7200.7 SATA Hard Disk Drive, Windows XP Professional SP2. Graphics Card: GeForce 6800, Nvidia Forceware 180.42.

Settings

Fallout 3's settings proved quite difficult to test. Outside of the preset quality settings, our usual testing strategy where we go through and enable each setting one by one failed to find any single setting that destroyed performance. We recommend starting with a preset quality setting and tweaking it until you get a decent balance between performance and image quality. In general, you can disable antialiasing and lower the resolution to recoup frames on high and ultra image-quality settings.

We've provided image-quality comparisons on the following page to help you determine which settings you can live without. However, if at all possible, try to keep transparency multisampling enabled. Fallout 3 has a tremendous number of wires, trees, shrubs, and broken piping that need to be cleaned up. Even distant buildings look better with the setting enabled.

System Setup: Intel Core 2 QX9770, eVGA 680i, 2GB Corsair XMS Memory (1GB x 2), 750GB Seagate 7200.11 SATA Hard Disk Drive, Windows Vista SP1. Graphics Card: GeForce 9800 GTX, Nvidia ForceWare 180.42.

Graphics Comparison

Quality Settings

Ultra High Medium Low

Textures

High Medium Low

Shadows

High Medium Low

Transparency Multisampling

Enabled Disabled

More Graphics Comparisons

View Distance

100% 75% 50% 25% 0%

Distant LOD

100% 50% 0%

Water Reflection (W.R.) Settings

W.R. Max W.R. Disabled Full Detail Reflec. Disabled Full Scene Reflec. Disabled Soft Reflec. Disabled W.R. Low

Video Cards

As taxing as Fallout 3 is, the game runs well on quite a few older video cards. More GPU power gets you more frames, but you don't need a $300 card to get decent performance. Midrange cards like the Radeon 4850 manage to run the game at high resolutions and with high image-quality settings. Older cards like the GeForce 7900 GS fair decently with moderate resolutions and medium image-quality settings.

System Setup: Intel Core2 QX9770, eVGA 680i SLI, 2GB Corsair XMS Memory (1GBx2), 750GB Seagate 7200.11 SATA Hard Disk Drive, Windows Vista 32-bit SP1. Graphics Cards: GeForce 280 GTX, GeForce 260 GTX, GeForce 260 GTX Core 216, GeForce 9800 GTX 512MB, GeForce 9600 GT 256MB, GeForce 8800 GT 512MB, GeForce 8600 GTS 256MB, GeForce 7900 GS 256MB, GeForce 7600 GT 256MB, Radeon HD 4870 X2, Radeon HD 4870, Radeon HD 4850, Radeon HD 4670, Radeon HD 3870 X2, Radeon HD 3870 512MB, Radeon HD 3850 512MB, Radeon HD 2900 XT 512MB, Radeon HD 2600 Pro 256MB, Radeon X1950 Pro 256MB. Graphics Drivers: beta Nvidia ForceWare 180.42, beta ATI Catalyst 70517.

CPU

As long as you have a Core 2 Duo, Fallout 3 doesn't care how many cores you have or how fast your CPU is. Our 2.4GHz Core 2 Duo ran the game very well. Adding more cores and increasing the clock speed only brought marginal returns.

System Setup: Intel Core 2 QX9770, Intel Core 2 X6800, Intel Core 2 Duo E6600, Intel Core2 E6320, Intel Pentium 4 3.8GHz, AMD Phenom X4 9600, AMD Phenom X3 8750, eVGA 680I, Gigabyte GA-MA78GM-S2H, 2GB Corsair XMS Memory (1GB x 2), 750GB Seagate 7200.11 SATA Hard Disk Drive, Windows Vista 32-bit SP1. Graphics Card: GeForce 9800 GTX, Nvidia ForceWare 180.42


Memory

Fallout 3 requires 2GB of RAM to run on Windows Vista. We found that the game runs with no problems with 2GB or more RAM. Amazingly, the game even runs well with 1GB of RAM. It hitches at times, but is still pretty playable.

System Setup: Intel Core 2 QX9770, eVGA 680i SLI, 3GB Corsair XMS Memory (2GBx2), 2GB Corsair XMS Memory (1GBx2), 1GB Corsair XMS Memory (512MBx2), 750GB Seagate 7200.11 SATA Hard Disk Drive, Windows Vista 32-bit SP1. Graphics Card: GeForce 9800 GTX, Nvidia ForceWare 180.42.

Discussion

223 comments
tejveerify
tejveerify

i just played the game running fine

Prettin
Prettin

Great was looking for this, ran in some trouble with finetuning this game. Thkz. :D

Noobslayer365
Noobslayer365

I can run Cod4 on high setting on my laptop. Anyone think I can run this?

demonhunters98
demonhunters98

would it work on my la[top, SPECS: intel celeron,intel graphics media accelerater 4500m,4gb memory plz reply

rennik_l
rennik_l

Try having the game set to ultra, but having the game stiff you and give you no water reflections, despite ultra being what the game auto set itself to based on your hardware..

tntgrunge5
tntgrunge5

it009x9281 : since obvlivion indoors usses even higher details than activated. im sure nu patch suchs too, but the game is great

it009x9281
it009x9281

Strange thing is for me i had this running at max settings but after the final patch the game is just horrible to play now and indoor areas crash now

icepop4who
icepop4who

@game_overdose54 At low settings, there is no water reflection and no HDR. Distant objects are also disabled which will pose an gameplay disadvantage, i.e. people shooting at you but you can't see them or missing loot. The textures are muddier and there is no vegetation. The water does not blend with the environment, but is instead cut off sharply.

STR33TFiR3
STR33TFiR3

GTA IV still beats crysis when it comes to minimum system requirements!

Chris_53
Chris_53

Running this on AMD Athlon 5600+, 2GB RAM, Geforce 9800GTX+ and Windows XP, and the game runs ok at high settings with decent fps, however sometimes the fps does sometimes drop and theres occational stuttering. This is most likely due to my AMD processor. Its a shame that games these days are requiring expensive Intel core 2 duos

syafiqjabar
syafiqjabar

My laptop is 2.26Ghz dual-core, 3Gb RAM and GeforceM 9300 with 512Mb Mb RAM. It runs Fallout 3 at all high settings pretty well.

game_overdose54
game_overdose54

What's the difference betweenLow and other settings? Low is EXACTLY the same as High and Medium, but the lighting is lower.

Pixy64
Pixy64

Looks like crysis still request better hardware than other games

shani_boy101
shani_boy101

can we have a tweak guide like the one for Oblivion now???

asian_man
asian_man

why does no games run good on phenoms? (jumps off a cliff) P.S I have two 4830s crossfired so graphics isn't the bottolneck

will952
will952

Devil may Cry is not a very graphically demanding game- most GPU's could run that. But a 8500gt is very outdated, and it is not a gaming card. You might be able to play it on low settings at 1024x768 but I would recommend something a little more powerful, say, a 9600gt or ATI 4670 if you're strapped for cash.

hash94
hash94

i think my computer will be able to run this game on low or medium because i ran devil may cry 4 on high settings and got 40-45fps. intel core 2 duo 2.0 Ghz,1 gb ram(hope so i will get it 2gb before i buy) and nvidia geforce 8500GT 512MB and my resolution is only 1024x768 any idea???

hedgy1
hedgy1

for people wondering if they could play it well: I could play it fine on medium @ 1280 x 800 with a P4 3.0, ATI X 1650, and 1.25 gigs of RAM

killik_123
killik_123

wow never knew how old the fallout series was

trastamad03
trastamad03

Anyone here with a X2 6000+, 3GB DDR2 800, 8800GT 512MB and Vista Ultimate x64 suffering from constant stutters and hiccups from time to time playing on any setting? Low and Ultra have the same effect, only happening in Fallout 3 :/ If anyone has a solution, would be awesome to hear it :D

will952
will952

Evil Assasin- Yeah u should be able to play it with med/high settings if you lower the resolution to around 1280*1024. Possibly lower but you should be able to play it smoothly

snake15545
snake15545

Hey guys, im just wondering, would i be able to play Fallout 3? my current rig is : Processor = AMD athlon 64 3700+, Memory = 1gb, and my Graphics card = ati radeon hd 3650 with 1gb of memory

shaunwongwk
shaunwongwk

yeah you should be able to play it on mid to high

Evil-Assassinz
Evil-Assassinz

I just got a new laptop and im thinking about getting this game to play on it but I dont know if it can play it. Here are the specs message me if you know if i can play it: Intel 2 Duo with 2.50 ghz, 4gb DDR, and a 256MB Nvidia GeForce 8600 GT.

Bluestreamz
Bluestreamz

I just got a fairly powerful custom rig: a Core2Quad Q6600, 3Gb DDR2, a 500Gb Samsung HDD, a Biostar P35 (the weakest link...), a 580W Eurotech PSU, a ATI Radeon HD4850 1Gb DDR3, a Creative X-Fi sound card, a Trust 5.1 speakers kit and all those small details (SATA DVD-RW drive, a wi-fi usb pen, wireless keyboard+mouse, memory card reader, a Toshiba MCE Remote Control, TV card, etc...), and I got it all for about \\$600... I tried several games, like GTA IV, Tomb Raider Underworld, COD 4 and 5, Civ 4, among others, and I can play them all with no problems... Well, for that amount, I can only get a PS3, a spare sixaxis and a couple of games... So, it's not that expensive to get a good gaming rig. I admit consoles might have some advantages (most games don't require installation and there's no minimum hardware requirements), but, besides that, if you don't have $600 or so to get a decent computer, don't blame it on software houses... I usually don't spend much money on computers, but the prices for components are so low now that if you can't buy some to build your own computer and play, stick to firefox and excel...

PSgeek
PSgeek

I wonder how it runs with 512 RAM

NiclasKennel
NiclasKennel

Hey don't know why people can't run this game.....works fine on my P4 3.2 GHz, with 2 GB ram and x1600 Radeon GPU (It's 4 years old with a 3 yo gfx), I can enable HDR, texture maxed and rest on medium (no AA).....worst fps I get is 19-20 So people shoúld run it well with much more new computers!

Kleeyook
Kleeyook

I just bought Fallout 3 today. But I haven't played it yet. My laptop has 1.9GHz AMD TURION and GeForce 8400GS but I'm not sure it can handle this game. I believe I can play it fine with low system.

shaunwongwk
shaunwongwk

This is definitely one heck of a great game. The only problem im facing is that my in game performance keeps dropping... (i read somewhere its due to a memory leak). I have to alt tab the game every minute or so to improve my performance..... Really dont understand, im running this game on a 8800gt with 2 gigs of ram and an e6300... shouldn't have much of a trouble running it... anyways, anyone here knows how i can rectify this problem? its really getting on my nerves...

dork351
dork351

i have a e 6550 with 4 gigs ram and 8600 gt, on an evga 650 i ultra. It took a while to piece it together ( as I could afford it) it runs most games, at a decent res. I'm looking forward to playing fallout 3. I have tried to play console games, but have trouble with the game pads and cut down version of ports. I also like to upgrade piece meal and one cant do that with a console. But, if someone just likes to play and is not interested in upgrading rigs, i say consoles are great for them.

mspranav
mspranav

this game is awesome. i've quad Q6600,2*2 GB RAM ,550w smps , 500 gb Harddisk,8800 GT,CRT Game runs per fect @ 1280x1024

jman2k7live
jman2k7live

This game is awsome, i have a dell xps 1530 with and intel core 2 duo T9300 @ 2.5 ghz 4 gigs of ram and a Nvidia 8600m gt graphics card. I play the game at high settings with AA x4 on 1280x800 res. I average about 45-55 fps inside cities and 35-50 when outside. This game is not as demanding as I thought It would be.

ShroudedEagle
ShroudedEagle

Mine would probably run it... but with huge amounts of performance issues... It runs Oblivion on Ultra High no problem though. Iranon: It could be your RAM or your processor. I used to have the same problem with Oblivion when I had 512 mb RAM then I brought 2 gb of it and the problem stopped. I know it's nothing to with your sound card because I have crappy on board sound, lol.

Hanass
Hanass

@ dogmavskarma you are a genuine retarded primate. How about you put orange juice in your car's gas tank then blame the manufacturer for not making the car explode because it was not "compatible" enough. Not anybody's fault but yours if you 1950 calculator can't run a 21st century game...

Iranon
Iranon

I have some issues with the game. Whenever a new music track starts the game freezes for about 10 to 20 seconds. For example If am sneaking around somewhere and an enemy suddenly detects me this problem occurs. It runs smoothly before and after that however. I had the same problem with Oblivion but it stopped when I uppgraded my videocard. For this game I uppgraded the videocard once more and also the soundcard, but still....

Armaan8014
Armaan8014

The game runs great on my comp, at ultra settings. Fallout 3 rocks!

Ardiendo_1
Ardiendo_1

@ dogmavskarma How can you blame Bethesda for that? Why should they keep making games for super low end systems? You can outperform the 360 version of this game on a PC that only costs only slightly more than a Premium 360; it is a complete myth that you need to spend loads in order to play games on your PC.

dogmavskarma
dogmavskarma

i have two computers in my household that qualify on the "low end" and this game plays on neither. the game won't even boot a big capital F and two middle fingers to bethesda...

jeff80632
jeff80632

Does any one know if fallout 3 live for the pc, will play stand alone, or is it a completely internet based game. Or if there are different versions for the pc, that will play stand alone..

sirelfblood
sirelfblood

See, this is why I stick with console gaming. No fannying around with loads of components that cost ya a bucket and make ya feel like you're dismantling the megaton bomb itself. PC gaming will end up costing you ridiculous amounts if you want to play new games every year. Why not stick with Captain Convenience - a console that lets you boot up a game in 30 seconds, as opposed to a PC's total boot-up time, modding time and install time of around an hour.

raza_rizvi_002
raza_rizvi_002

i have 8800 gts 320 mb intel quad core 2.4 ghz and 2x2 gb kingston 667 mhz RAM 500 GB hard disk 500 WATT cooler master i want to play it in 1650x1200 at ultra high quality can i play? wat fps will i get? OR i will play it on high quality? wat fps?????? plz smart computer ppl help

dawsonboy07
dawsonboy07

The graphics are fine when I play it. It's just the gameplay and movement is staggering and jumpy.

dawsonboy07
dawsonboy07

I know that my comp has more than the required to run Fallout 3 on the highest setting ( Very High i think ) but it still seems to be slightly jumpy and not so smooth. Is there anything I have to do to get the max settings on my omputer to work or something ? :S plz help lol

Gabez_R
Gabez_R

Will a WinFast A180 work for this? OR a Asus A9550ge/td?