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Testbed and Methods

We ran all our tests on the following platform:

  • AMD Athlon 64 FX-60 CPU (2x2.60GHz, 2x1MB L2 cache)
  • ASUS A8N32-SLI Deluxe mainboard (Nvidia nForce4 SLI X16 chipset) for Nvidia GeForce graphics cards
  • ASUS A8R32-MVP Deluxe mainboard (ATI CrossFire Xpress 3200 chipset) for ATI Radeon graphics cards
  • OCZ PC-3200 Platinum EL DDR SDRAM (2 x 1GB, CL2-3-2-5)
  • Maxtor MaXLine III 7B250S0 hard disk drive (Serial ATA-150, 16MB buffer)
  • Creative SoundBlaster Audigy 2 sound card
  • Enermax Liberty 620W power supply (ELT620AWT, 620W)
  • Samsung SyncMaster 244T monitor (24”, 1920x1200@75Hz max display mode)
  • Microsoft Windows XP Pro SP2 with DirectX 9.0c
  • ATI Catalyst 6.6
  • Nvidia ForceWare 91.31

We set up the ATI and Nvidia drivers as follows:

ATI Catalyst:

  • Catalyst A.I.: Standard
  • Mipmap Detail Level: Quality
  • Wait for vertical refresh: Always off
  • Adaptive antialiasing: Off
  • Temporal antialiasing: Off
  • Quality AF: Off
  • Other settings: default

Nvidia ForceWare:

  • Image Settings: Quality
  • Vertical sync: Off
  • Trilinear optimization: On
  • Anisotropic mip filter optimization: Off
  • Anisotropic sample optimization: On
  • Gamma correct antialiasing: On
  • Transparency antialiasing: Off
  • Other settings: default

We selected the highest graphics quality settings in each game. To measure the performance we either used the integrated tools of the games we tested in, or if there were none available, resorted to FRAPS utility. If it was possible, we measured minimal performance as well.

We tested the entry-level and mainstream solutions in two modes: pure speed mode with enabled anisotropic filtering (AF) and for maximum image quality mode with enabled full-screen anti-aliasing (FSAA). More expensive solutions were tested only in “eye candy” mode, because they boast much higher performance. Moreover, when the user is buying an expensive solution like that he initially expects to receive corresponding image quality in games.

We enabled FSAA and AF from the game if possible. Otherwise we forced the necessary mode from the ATI Catalyst and Nvidia ForceWare graphics card driver.

We are constantly adjusting out testing methodology taking into account our readers’ requests and the changes in the graphics card market. Since widescreen monitors get more and more common these days and besides more users switch to large monitors in general, we decided to give up the outdated 1024x768 resolution and add 1920x1200 instead.

Here is the list of our today’s testing participants:

Premium Class

  • ATI Radeon X1900 XT CrossFire
  • ATI Radeon X1900 XTX
  • Nvidia GeForce 7900 GTX SLI
  • Nvidia GeForce 7950 GX2
  • Nvidia GeForce 7900 GTX

High-End Class

  • ATI Radeon X1900 XT
  • ATI Radeon X1900 GT
  • ATI Radeon X1800 XT
  • Nvidia GeForce 7900 GTX
  • Nvidia GeForce 7900 GT

Performance-Mainstream Class

  • ATI Radeon X1900 GT
  • ATI Radeon X1800 XL
  • ATI Radeon X1800 GTO
  • Nvidia GeForce 7900 GT
  • Nvidia GeForce 7600 GT

Mainstream/Entry-Level Class

  • ATI Radeon X1600 XT
  • ATI Radeon X1600 Pro
  • Nvidia GeForce 7600 GT
  • Nvidia GeForce 7600 GS

We ran the tests in the following contemporary games:

  • Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion
  • Half-Life 2: Episode One
  • Hitman: Blood Money
  • Rise of Nations: Rise of Legends
  • Prey
  • Titan Quest
  • Tomb Raider: Legend
 
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