Gaming Benchmarks: Quake3 Arena
Settings look as follows: 32-bit texture color and frame-buffer depths, maximum amount of textures and objects, tri-linear filtering is on, texture compression is off.
The results in 800x600 and 1024x768 resolutions are greatly limited by the CPU performance as well as the whole system. But in higher resolutions the difference appears. To the disadvantage of ATI RADEON 9700 PRO.
Quake3 Arena uses multi-texturing and most surfaces have only two texture layers: the base texture and lighting map. As we have already learned earlier in this article, the flexible structure of NVIDIA GeForce FX chooses in this case a scheme with four pixel “pipelines”, each of which has two texturing units. Thus, the graphics chip can render two textures and process four pixels per clock.
ATI RADEON 9700 PRO has only one texturing unit per pixel pipeline and thus has to spend two clock-cycles to draw a pixel when rendering two textures. Overall, with its eight pixel pipelines, the ATI’s graphics chip draws eight pixels in two clock-cycles.
This way both graphics cards are in equal conditions in Quake3 Arena: each draws eight pixels in two clocks. But GeForce FX has higher chip frequency (500MHz against 325MHz by RADEON 9700 PRO) and this helps it to fill up the scene faster. And as the fill-rate parameter is most crucial for graphics cards performance in Quake3 Arena, NVIDIA GeForce FX outruns ATI RADEON 9700 PRO quite naturally. But the gap between the two cards is not proportional to the difference between their graphics chip frequencies, because Quake3 Arena doesn’t use two textures everywhere and there are also other factors interfering, like the graphics memory bus bandwidth.
When 4x anti-aliasing is on, it is exactly the graphics memory bandwidth that mostly affects the overall result. So, NVIDIA GeForce FX 5800 Ultra proves slower here than ATI RADEON 9700 PRO.
Only in the “Aggressive” mode, which reduces computational workload on the graphics chip and the amount of texture data transferred through the memory bus to the minimum, NVIDIA GeForce FX 5800 Ultra can show higher results than ATI RADEON 9700 PRO. But it has to pay a lot for this boost: the image quality degrades considerably.
We have already counted out our reserve of complements to the fast anisotropic filtering method from NVIDIA. We can only repeat once again: at last, NVIDIA offers the option of “fast” or “quality” anisotropic filtering modes. And NVIDIA GeForce FX performs faster than ATI RADEON 9700 PRO in the both cases: when the cards work at highest quality settings and when they work in the “fast” modes.
At “heaviest” settings, NVIDIA GeForce FX 5800 Ultra fell behind RADEON 9700 PRO. The lower graphics memory bus bandwidth of GeForce FX mattered here.