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Testbed and Methods

We are going to check out the performance of the new ATI Catalyst driver version 9.3 using the following testbed:

  • Intel Core i7-965 Extreme Edition processor (3.2GHz, 6.4 GT/s QPI);  
  • Asus P6T Deluxe mainboard (Intel X58 Express chipset);
  • Corsair XMS3-12800C9 (3x2GB, 1333MHz, 9-9-9-24, 2T);
  • Maxtor MaXLine III 7B250S0 HDD (250GB, Serial ATA-150, 16MB buffer);
  • Enermax Galaxy DXX EGX1000EWL 1000W power supply;
  • Dell 3007WFP monitor (30", 2560x1600@60Hz max display resolution);
  • Microsoft Windows Vista Ultimate SP1 64-bit;
  • ATI Catalyst 9.2;
  • ATI Catalyst 9.3.

Both versions of ATI Catalyst driver were configured to provide the highest possible quality of texture filtering with minimal effect from default software optimizations. We enabled transparent texture filtering. As a result, our driver settings looked as follows:

  • Smoothvision HD: Anti-Aliasing: Use application settings/Box Filter
  • Catalyst A.I.: Standard
  • Mipmap Detail Level: High Quality
  • Wait for vertical refresh: Always Off
  • Enable Adaptive Anti-Aliasing: On/Quality
  • Other settings: default

This time we used the following games for our performance tests:

  • Enemy Territory: Quake Wars
  • Fallout 3
  • Crysis Warhead
  • F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin
  • Lost Planet: Colonies
  • World in Conflict
  • Futuremark 3DMark Vantage

We selected the highest possible level of detail in each game using standard tools provided by the game itself from the gaming menu. We didn’t use any non-standard settings, except a few situations, described separately later in the article.

For our tests we chose two most significant representatives of ATI Radeon HD 4800 family:

  • ATI Radeon HD 4870 X2 (2xRV770, 750/750/3600MHz, 1600sp, 80tmu, 32rbe, 2x256-bit, 2x1024MB GDDR5)
  • ATI Radeon HD 4870 1GB (RV770, 750/750/3600MHz, 800sp, 40tmu, 16rbe, 256-bit, 1024MB GDDR5)

This choice was determined by our intention to study the peculiarities of the new driver version with classical single-GPU architecture, as well as with a dual-processor solution based on CrossFireX technology.

We ran our tests in the following resolutions: 1280x1024, 1680x1050, 1920x1200 and 2560x1600. We added MSAA 4x antialiasing to the standard anisotropic filtering 16x in all tests. We enabled antialiasing from the game’s menu. If this was not possible, we forced it using the appropriate ATI Catalyst driver settings.

Performance was measured with the games’ own tools using the original demos. We measured not only the average speed, but also the minimum speed of the cards if possible. If there were no appropriate tools available in the game itself, we used Fraps utility version 2.9.8 to record our performance measurements in this game. In the latter case we ran the test three times and took the average of the three readings for the performance charts.

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