Testbed and Methods
Here is the list of components we use in our testbed.
- Mainboard: Intel Siler DX79SR (Intel X79 Express, LGA 2011, BIOS 0594 dated 06.08.2013)
- CPU: Intel Core i7-3970X Extreme Edition 3.5/4.0 GHz (Sandy Bridge-E, C2, 1.1 V, 6x256KB L2 cache, 15MB L3 cache)
- CPU cooler: Phanteks PH-TC14PЕ (2xCorsair AF140 fans, 900 RPM)
- Thermal grease: ARCTIC MX-4
- Graphics cards:
- Nvidia GeForce GTX 780 Ti (3GB, 876-928/7000 MHz)
- AMD Radeon R9 290X (4GB, 1000/5000 MHz)
- MSI GeForce GTX 780 Lightning (3GB, 980-1033/6008 MHz)
- ASUS Radeon R9 290 DirectCU II (4GB, 1000/5040 MHz)
- AMD Radeon R9 290 (4GB, 947/5000 MHz)
- System memory: DDR3 4x8GB G.SKILL TridentX F3-2133C9Q-32GTX (XMP: 2133 MHz, 9-11-11-31, 1.6 volts)
- System disk: SSD 256GB Crucial m4 (SATA 6 Gbit/s, CT256M4SSD2, BIOS v0009)
- Games/software disk: Western Digital VelociRaptor (SATA-2, 300 GB, 10000 RPM, 16 MB cache, NCQ) in a Scythe Quiet Drive 3.5" enclosure
- Backup disk: Samsung Ecogreen F4 HD204UI (SATA-2, 2 TB, 5400 RPM, 32 MB cache, NCQ)
- Sound card: Auzen X-Fi HomeTheater HD
- Computer case: Antec Twelve Hundred (front panel: three Noiseblocker NB-Multiframe S-Series MF12-S2 fans at 1020 RPM; back panel: two Noiseblocker NB-BlackSilentPRO PL-1 fans at 1020 RPM; top panel: one preinstalled 200mm fan at 400 RPM)
- Control & monitoring panel: Zalman ZM-MFC3
- Power supply: Corsair AX1200i (1200 W), 120mm fan
- Monitor: 27" (DVI-I, 2560x1440, 60 Hz)
We’ll compare the original ASUS card with AMD’s reference Radeon R9 290 and R9 290X.
The graphics cards work at their default clock rates without fan speed adjustments. Thus, GPU throttling may occur in some of our tests.
The Nvidia camp is represented by a reference GeForce GTX 780 Ti (at its default clock rates) and an MSI GeForce GTX 780 Lightning (whose retail price is already comparable to that of the ASUS Radeon R9 290 DirectCU II).
We set Power Limit at its maximum on each graphics card.
In order to lower the dependence of the graphics cards’ performance on the overall platform speed, we overclocked our 32nm six-core CPU to 4.8 GHz by setting its frequency multiplier at x48 and enabling Load-Line Calibration. The CPU voltage was increased to 1.38 volts in the mainboard’s BIOS.
Hyper-Threading was turned on. We used 32 GB of system memory at 2.133 GHz with timings of 9-11-11-20_CR1 and voltage of 1.6125 volts.
The testbed ran Microsoft Windows 7 Ultimate x64 SP1 with all critical updates installed. We used the following drivers:
- Intel Chipset Drivers – 126.96.36.1996 WHQL dated 21.09.2013
- DirectX End-User Runtimes, dated 30 November 2010
- AMD Catalyst 14.2 Beta v1.3 dated 25.02.2014
- Nvidia GeForce 334.89 WHQL
We benchmarked the graphics cards’ performance at two display resolutions: 1920x1080 and 2560x1440 pixels. There were two visual quality modes: “Quality+AF16x” means the default texturing quality in the drivers + 16x anisotropic filtering whereas “Quality+ AF16x+MSAA 4x(8x)” means 16x anisotropic filtering and 4x or 8x antialiasing. In some games we use antialiasing algorithms other than MSAA as indicated below and in the diagrams. We enabled anisotropic filtering and full-screen antialiasing from the game’s menu. If the corresponding options were missing, we changed these settings in the Control Panels of the Catalyst and GeForce drivers. We also disabled Vsync there. There were no other changes in the driver settings.
The graphics cards were tested in two benchmarks and 14 games updated to the latest versions.
- 3DMark (2013) (DirectX 9/11) version 188.8.131.52: Cloud Gate, Fire Strike and Fire Strike Extreme scenes.
- Unigine Valley Bench (DirectX 11) version 1.0: Maximum visual quality settings, 16x AF and/or 4x MSAA, 1920x1080.
- Total War: SHOGUN 2 – Fall of the Samurai (DirectX 11) version 1.1.0: integrated benchmark (the Sekigahara battle) with maximum visual quality settings and 8x MSAA.
- Sniper Elite V2 Benchmark (DirectX 11) version 1.05: Adrenaline Sniper Elite V2 Benchmark Tool v184.108.40.206 BETA with maximum graphics quality settings (“Ultra” profile), Advanced Shadows: HIGH, Ambient Occlusion: ON, Stereo 3D: OFF, Supersampling: OFF, two sequential runs of the test.
- Sleeping Dogs (DirectX 11) version 1.5: Adrenaline Sleeping Dogs Benchmark Tool v220.127.116.11 with maximum image quality settings, Hi-Res Textures pack installed, FPS Limiter and V-Sync disabled, two consecutive runs of the built-in benchmark with quality antialiasing at Normal and Extreme levels.
- Hitman: Absolution (DirectX 11) version 1.0.447.0: built-in test with Ultra settings, enabled tessellation, FXAA and global lighting.
- Crysis 3 (DirectX 11) version 18.104.22.1680: maximum visual quality settings, Motion Blur – Medium, lens flares – on, FXAA and MSAA 4x, two consecutive runs of a scripted scene from the beginning of the “Swamp” mission (110 seconds long).
- Tomb Raider (2013) (DirectX 11) version 1.1.748.0: we used Adrenaline Benchmark Tool, all image quality settings set to “Ultra”, V-Sync disabled, FXAA and 2x SSAA antialiasing enabled, TessFX technology activated, two consecutive runs of the in-game benchmark.
- BioShock Infinite (DirectX 11) version 22.214.171.12418: we used Adrenaline Action Benchmark Tool with “Ultra” and “Ultra+DOF” quality settings, two consecutive runs of the in-game benchmark.
- Metro: Last Light (DirectX 11) version 126.96.36.199: we used the built-in benchmark for two consecutive runs of the D6 scene. All image quality and tessellation settings were at “Very High”, Advanced PhysX technology enabled, with and without SSAA antialiasing.
- GRID 2 (DirectX 11) version 188.8.131.5279: we used the built-in benchmark, the visual quality settings were all at their maximums, the tests were run with and without MSAA 8x antialiasing with eight cars on the Chicago track.
- Company of Heroes 2 (DirectX 11) version 184.108.40.20681: two consecutive runs of the integrated benchmark at maximum image quality and physics effects settings.
- Total War: Rome II (DirectX 11) version 1.9.0 build 9414.489846: Extreme quality, V-Sync disabled, SSAA enabled, two consecutive runs of the integrated benchmark.
- Batman: Arkham Origins (DirectX 11) version 1.0 update 8: Ultra visual quality, V-Sync disabled, all the effects enabled, all DX11 Enhanced features enabled, Hardware Accelerated PhysX = Normal, two consecutive runs of the in-game benchmark.
- Battlefield 4 (DirectX 11) version 220.127.116.11788 update 8: Ultra settings, two successive runs of a scripted scene from the beginning of the Tashgar mission (110 seconds long).
- Thief (DirectX 11) version 1.1 build 4110.1: Maximum visual quality settings, Parallax Occlusion Mapping and Tessellation enabled, a double run of the in-game benchmark.
We publish the bottom frame rate for games that report it. Each test was run twice, the final result being the best of the two if they differed by less than 1%. If we had a larger difference, we reran the test at least once again to get repeatable results.