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Instantaneous Speed and Image Quality

Our test results indicate quite clearly that Call of Duty: World at War prefers Nvidia’s GPUs, probably due to the high clock rates of their execution and texture-mapping subunits. Perhaps the amount of raster back-ends also affects the speed of this game although this parameter is usually unimportant for modern graphics cards in modern games.

To reveal any aberrations in the behavior of ATI’s and Nvidia’s architectures we performed a small additional test with two popular mainstream cards: ATI Radeon HD 4850 and Nvidia GeForce 9800 GTX+. We also benchmarked the cards with a less advanced CPU. It was a Core i7 920, the junior model of Intel’s new series, clocked at 2.66GHz and with a somewhat slower QPI (4.8GT/s against 6.8GT/s of the senior model of the series). Officially priced at below $300, this CPU is a good choice for a modern gaming platform with modest cost, so you may want to learn if the use of Intel’s flagship CPU has a practical effect in CoD: World at War. And if it does, will it be worth the $700 difference in price between the Core i7 920 and Core i7 965 Extreme Edition?

We used the resolution of 1680x1050 for this test (the most widespread resolution among PC gamers today), recording instantaneous speed in the test scene for one minute. There were five different graphics quality profiles:

Besides writing down the performance data we also used Fraps 2.9.6 to capture a few screenshots. They will help us evaluate the difference in graphics quality between the mentioned profiles. So, here are the data we obtained:

 

Neither card is limited by the CPU at the highest graphics quality settings including 4x MSAA: there is no difference between the Core i7 965 Extreme Edition and the Core i7 920. The slump at 50 seconds on the Core i7 920 based system must be accidental. Moreover, the frame rate is never lower than 37fps, which is far above the minimum comfortable level.

We can also see the Nvidia solution enjoy a large advantage over its opponent. You could see this above when we tested performance-mainstream graphics cards. The visual quality is the highest in this mode thanks to full-screen antialiasing.

 

When we turn 4x MSAA off, the GeForce 9800 GTX+ is still far ahead but there is a limit of speed at about 91-93fps. Interestingly, this ceiling is not due to the system’s CPU because it is the same irrespective of the CPU model. There must be some fundamental limitations imposed by the game engine. As we have already found out, no graphics subsystem, including GeForce GTX 280 SLI and Radeon HD 4870 3-way CrossFireX, can deliver a frame rate higher than this limit.

The image quality is the same as in the previous mode save for micro-geometry such as wires, thin branches, etc. Such details of the scene look worse without full-screen antialiasing but the difference isn’t huge. We’d recommend this mode for playing the game on a Radeon HD 4850. Turning 4x MSAA off on this card helps raise the bottom speed from 30-31 to 45-50fps to ensure a reserve of speed for the action-heavy scenes the game abounds in.

 

When the game uses less detailed textures, the GeForce 9800 GTX+ hits against the mentioned performance ceiling throughout the entire test, so there is no point in switching to such graphics quality settings on this or more advanced card from Nvidia. We can also see the CPU affecting the frame rate for the first time here: the Core i7 920 system has wider fluctuations of speed, even though it never sinks below 54fps. The Radeon HD 4850 touches the ceiling occasionally and is never slower than 50fps.

The lower-quality textures in our High profile do not make the game look ugly. It is small details that suffer the most, particularly the relief created by means of normal maps which can be perfectly seen in the screenshots with the rifle. There is no point in using such settings on a Radeon HD 4850 or better graphics card, though.

 

The Normal profile aims to achieve an acceptable quality of textures while turning off all the additional special effects. The result is not very eye-pleasing, though. It doesn’t make sense in terms of performance, either. The tested cards both reach the performance ceiling and are not slower than 90fps overall. There is no significant difference between the junior and senior Core i7 processors just like in the previous cases.

 

As expected, the Low profile looks awful even in comparison with Normal. The game is no fun with such visuals. You may only want to use such settings if you want to run the game on an integrated graphics core.

So, our test data suggest that the speed of Call of Duty: World at War is not limited by the CPU, at least if you use a good enough CPU. The flagship Core i7 model doesn’t seem to be worth the money asked for it because the junior model is just as good. As for image quality settings, you may want to use our High settings for entry-level cards such as Radeon HD 4670 or GeForce 9600 GT, but there is no point in choosing settings lower than Ultra for more advanced graphics solutions.

 
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