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Day 2. Half-Life 2 – Episode One

Do you know anything better than a good first-person 3D shooter on a summer evening? Valve put much effort into making Half-Life 2: Episode One look fresh and effective even in 2006. This game is a sequel to Half-Life 2 and picks up when the Citadel’s main reactor explodes. Episode One uses an improved Source engine that is known to our readers by the tech demo Half-Life 2: Lost Coast. A HDR method with integers (INT16), different from the one employed in Far Cry, is implemented here. This method is less precise in comparison with Far Cry’s but allows using full-screen antialiasing on all GPUs and works on all graphics cards that support Shader Model 2.0.

 

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Half-Life 2: Episode One is not a very heavy trial for modern graphics cards. The GeForce 7900 GTX SLI and the Radeon X1900 XT CrossFire both deliver a frame rate of over 100fps in any resolution. Surely that’s enough even for the most demanding user.

Having more pixel processors and featuring a ring-bus memory controller, the Radeon X1900 XTX still cannot outpace the GeForce 7900 GTX and is always one step behind this solution from Nvidia.

The dual-GPU GeForce 7950 GX2 graphics card is an unrivalled leader among single cards in Half-Life 2: Episode One. With a huge number of TMUs, this dual-chip monster from Nvidia is the best of all at filling the scene up with complex textures in high display resolutions. However, this graphics card cannot challenge the dual-card subsystems ATI CrossFire and Nvidia SLI.

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The GeForce 7900 GTX goes through this test at a slightly higher speed than the Radeon X1900 XTX. The latter is slower even in 1920x1200 resolution where its ring-bus memory controller should have given it an advantage. We guess the Radeon X1900 XT is limited by its having fewer TMUs than the GeForce 7900 GTX has. This supposition is confirmed by the results of the Radeon X1900 GT (12 TMUs) that is always slower not only than the GeForce 7900 GT (24 TMUs) but also than the Radeon X1800 XT (16 TMUs). The latter two solutions have similar speeds because the higher core clock rate of the Radeon X1800 XT makes up for its having fewer TMUs.

We don’t have any information about the minimum performance of the graphics cards in Episode One – the integrated benchmark doesn’t provide it – so we can only base our judgments on the average frame rates. From this point of view, the Radeon X1900 XT and the GeForce 7900 GTX are roughly equals, even though the latter wins their particular struggle by a small margin. Both these cards can give you 60fps and more in 1920x1200 with enabled full-screen antialiasing and anisotropic filtering, and so they can easily provide comfortable gaming conditions in the lower resolutions. The choice is also simple among the less powerful solutions: you can take a Radeon X1800 XT or a GeForce 7900 GT depending on your personal preferences. You shouldn’t buy a Radeon X1900 GT if you are planning to use resolutions above 1280x1024 because its 12 TMUs will not cope with the increased textural load.

 
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