Articles: Graphics

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Image Quality and Speed in 3DMark 2006

First of all I should tell you that this section is just a supplement to the main article and does not claim to be a thorough investigation. Here I will measure the performance hit of the GeForce GTX 260 (216SP) in 3DMark06 depending on image quality mode and will try to evaluate that quality. I ran 3DMark06 a few times, changing the image quality setting from High Performance to High Quality in the GeForce driver’s Control Panel. Then, I enabled anisotropic filtering and three levels of full-screen antialiasing (2x, 4x, 8x) using 3DMark06’s settings. Te remind you, 3DMark06 is indifferent to the FSAA setting of the GeForce driver’s Control Panel, so I didn’t test the other types of multisampling.

By the way, I chose 3DMark06 because of its virtually unique ability to capture a screenshot of a specific frame just as I needed.

These tests were performed with the GeForce 180.48 driver. The next diagram shows how the performance changes depending on image quality mode:

You can see that the quality mode you can select in the driver does not affect the speed at all because 3DMark produces about the same score. But when I turned on anisotropic filtering and FSAA, the speed dropped heavily.

Next, let’s check out the effective image quality depending on what quality mode you select in the GeForce driver. I selected Frame 1350 from the Canyon Flight scene at a resolution of 1920x1200 pixels.

High Performance



High Quality

To examine the details, it is easier to download all the screenshots and switch between them in some image viewer like ACDSee). The first two screenshots, captured in High Performance and Performance modes, do not differ at all. At least, I can’t find any difference. The screenshots captured in Quality and High Quality modes do not differ between each other but differ from the screenshots of the previous pair. The picture is darker in Quality and High Quality modes and the background doesn’t look as whitish as on the first pair of screenshots.

Now let’s see if anisotropic filtering and full-screen antialiasing can affect the image quality much.

HQ + AF16x

HQ + AF16x + AA2x

HQ + AF16x + AA4x

HQ + AF16x + AA8x

Well, 16x anisotropic filtering has a tremendous effect on the image! Textures appear on the body of the sea monster and on the cliffs. You can now see the planks of the rudder and the vessel’s keel. The surface of the balloon and its empennage look more realistic and natural. So, you should never disable anisotropic filtering unless you don’t care at all about image quality.

In the other three screenshots full-screen antialiasing increases image quality to maximum. The smoothed-out ropes, edges of the vessel, propeller screw, and wings of the balloon are all the result of multisampling. There is a very visible difference between 4x and 2x FSAA, but the transition from 4x to 8x FSAA doesn’t have such a huge effect.

I had wanted to perform a similar test in Crysis Warhead, but failed. The HardwareOC Crysis Warhead Bench tool can capture a screenshot of a specified frame, but the screenshots were fuzzy at the edges and could hardly be compared in terms of image quality. I tried every one of the 13 integrated demos but had fuzzy screenshots in each of them. The screenshots were not sharp, either, when I tried to make them after loading a save. That’s why I had to limit myself to checking the performance of the graphic card depending on the image quality mode.

In Crysis WARHEAD anisotropic filtering doesn’t affect the frame rate of the game on the GeForce GTX 260 card (a rather low frame rate, by the way). And you have almost the same performance irrespective of the FSAA level.

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