Testbed Configuration and Testing Methodology
All participating graphics cards were tested in a system with the following configuration:
- Mainboard: Intel Siler DX79SI (Intel X79 Express, LGA 2011, BIOS 0559 from 03/05/2013);
- CPU: Intel Core i7-3970X Extreme Edition, 3.5/4.0 GHz (Sandy Bridge-E, C2, 1.1 V, 2 x 256 KB L2, 15 MB L3);
- CPU cooler: Phanteks PH-TC14PE (2 x Corsair AF140 fans at 900 RPM);
- Thermal interface: ARCTIC MX-4;
- Graphics cards:
- System memory: DDR3 4 x 4GB Mushkin Redline (Spec: 2133 MHz / 9-11-10-28 / 1.65 V);
- System drive: Crucial m4 256 GB SSD (SATA-III,CT256M4SSD2, BIOS v0009);
- Drive for programs and games: Western Digital VelociRaptor (300GB, SATA-II, 10000 RPM, 16MB cache, NCQ) inside Scythe Quiet Drive 3.5” HDD silencer and cooler;
- Backup drive: Samsung Ecogreen F4 HD204UI (SATA-II, 2 TB, 5400 RPM, 32 MB, NCQ);
- System 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: standard 200 mm fan at 400 RPM);
- Control and monitoring panel: Zalman ZM-MFC3;
- Power supply: Corsair AX1200i 1200 W (with a default 120 mm fan);
- Monitor: 27” Samsung S27A850D (DVI-I, 2560x1440, 60 Hz).
Let me remind you what the today’s opponents of the Asus ROG MATRIX 7970 look like:
In order to lower the dependence of the graphics cards performance on the overall platform speed, I overclocked our 32 nm six-core CPU with the multiplier set at 48x, BCLK frequency set at 100 MHz and “Load-Line Calibration” enabled to 4.8 GHz. The processor Vcore was increased to 1.38 V in the mainboard BIOS:
Hyper-Threading technology was enabled. 16 GB of system DDR3 memory worked at 2.133 GHz frequency with 9-11-10-28 timings and 1.65V voltage.
The test session started on May 16, 2013. All tests were performed in Microsoft Windows 7 Ultimate x64 SP1 with all critical updates as of that date and the following drivers:
- Intel Chipset Drivers 220.127.116.117 WHQL from 03/27/2013 for the mainboard chipset;
- DirectX End-User Runtimes libraries from November 30, 2010;
- AMD Catalyst 13.4 driver from 04/24/2013 + Catalyst Application Profiles 13.4 (CAP1) for AMD based graphics cards;
- Nvidia GeForce 320.14 driver from 05/13/2013 for Nvidia based graphics cards.
We tested the graphics cards performance in two resolutions: 1920x1080 and 2560x1440. The tests were performed in two image quality modes: “Quality+AF16x” – default texturing quality in the drivers with enabled 16x anisotropic filtering and “Quality+ AF16x+MSAA 4x(8x)” with enabled 16x anisotropic filtering and full screen 4x or 8x antialiasing, in those cases when the average fps rate remained high enough for comfortable gaming experience. We enabled anisotropic filtering and full-screen anti-aliasing from the game settings. If the corresponding options were missing, we changed these settings in the Control Panels of Catalyst and GeForce drivers. We also disabled Vsync there. There were no other changes in the driver settings.
Since we have already tested all the graphics cards participating in our today’s review, we used a shorter list of benchmarks today. We only ran the most resource-consuming contemporary benchmarks and games and also included anew game called Metro: Last Light. As a result, our benchmarking suite includes two popular semi-synthetic benchmarks and 10 resource-consuming games of various genres:
- 3DMark 2013 (DirectX 9/11) – version 1.0, benchmarks in “Cloud Gate”, “Fire Strike” and “Fire Strike Extreme” scenes;
- Unigine Valley Bench (DirectX 11) – version 1.0, maximum image quality settings, AF16x and(or) MSAA 4x, 1980x1080 resolution;
- Metro 2033: The Last Refuge (DirectX 10/11) - version 1.2, maximum graphics quality settings, official benchmark, “High” image quality settings; tesselation, DOF and MSAA4x disabled; AAA aliasing enabled, two consecutive runs of the “Frontline” scene;
- Total War: Shogun 2: Fall of the Samurai (DirectX 11) – version 1.1.0, built-in benchmark (Sekigahara battle) at maximum graphics quality settings and enabled MSAA 8x in one of the test modes;
- Battlefield 3 (DirectX 11) – version 1.4, all image quality settings set to “Ultra”, two successive runs of a scripted scene from the beginning of the “Going Hunting” mission 110 seconds long;
- Sniper Elite V2 Benchmark (DirectX 11) – version 1.05, we used Adrenaline Sniper Elite V2 Benchmark Tool v18.104.22.168 BETA with maximum graphics quality settings (“Ultra” profile), Advanced Shadows: HIGH, Ambient Occlusion: ON, Stereo 3D: OFF, two sequential test runs;
- Sleeping Dogs (DirectX 11) – version 1.5, we used Adrenaline Sleeping Dogs Benchmark Tool v22.214.171.124 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 1.0.446.0, built-in test with Ultra image quality settings, with enabled tessellation, FXAA and global lighting;
- Crysis 3 (DirectX 11) – version 126.96.36.199, all graphics quality settings at maximum, Motion Blur amount – Medium, lens flares – on, FXAA and MSAA4x modes enabled, two consecutive runs of a scripted scene from the beginning of the “Swamp” mission 110 seconds long;
- Tomb Raider (2013) (DirectX 11) – version 1.1.743.0, 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 benchmark built into the game;
- BioShock Infinite (DirectX 11) – version 188.8.131.52939, we used Adrenaline Action Benchmark Tool v184.108.40.206, two consecutive runs of the built-in benchmark with “Ultra” and “Ultra+DOF” quality settings.
- Metro: Last Light (DirectX 11) – version 1.0.2, we used built-in benchmark for two consecutive runs of the D6 scene. All image quality and tessellation settings were at “Very High”, “Advanced PhysX technology was enabled, we tested with and without SSAA antialiasing.
If the game allowed recording the minimal fps readings, they were also added to the charts. We ran each game test or benchmark twice and took the best result for the diagrams, but only if the difference between them didn’t exceed 1%. If it did exceed 1%, we ran the tests at least one more time to achieve repeatability of results.