Testbed Configuration and Testing Methodology
All participating graphics cards were tested with the following testbed configuration:
- Mainboard: Intel Siler DX79SI (Intel X79 Express, LGA 2011, BIOS 0537 from 23/07/2012);
- CPU: Intel Core i7-3960X Extreme Edition, 3.3 GHz, 1.2 V, 6 x 256 KB L2, 15 MB L3 (Sandy Bridge-E, C1, 32 nm);
- CPU cooler: Phanteks PH-TC14PE (2 x 135 mm fans at 900 RPM);
- Thermal interface: ARCTIC MX-4;
- System memory: DDR3 4 x 4GB Mushkin Redline (2133 MHz / 9-10-10-28 / 1.65 V);
- Graphics cards:
- EVGA GeForce GTX 660 Ti Super Clocked 2GB (256-bit GDDR5, 915/980/6008 MHz);
- Zotac GeForce GTX 660 2GB (192-bit GDDR5, 993/1059/6008 MHz, 1083/1149/6668 MHz);
- Sapphire Radeon HD 7870 OC Dual-X 2GB (256-bit GDDR5, 1000/4800 MHz and 1240/6080 MHz);
- 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 a 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: default 200 mm fan at 400 RPM);
- Control and monitoring panel: Zalman ZM-MFC3;
- Power supply: Seasonic SS-1000XP Active PFC F3 (1000 watts, 120 mm fan);
- Monitor: 27” Samsung S27A850D (DVI-I, 2560x1440, 60 Hz).
The first competitor to the new Zotac GeForce 660 is the EVGA GeForce GTX 660 Ti Super Clocked whose clock rates are set to match those of the reference GTX 660 Ti.
Thus, we’ll be able to see the difference between the two GTX 66x series cards.
AMD is represented by the Sapphire Radeon HD 7870 OC Dual-X 2GB whose clock rates are set to match those of the reference Radeon HD 7870 GHz Edition:
So, the two market opponents will clash face to face. The Sapphire is additionally benchmarked at 1240/6080 MHz.
In order to lower the dependence of the graphics cards performance on the overall platform speed, we overclocked our 32 nm six-core CPU with the multiplier set at 37x, BCLK frequency set at 125 MHz and “Load-Line Calibration” enabled to 4.625 GHz. The processor Vcore was increased to 1.49 V in the mainboard’s BIOS:
Hyper-Threading technology was enabled. 16 GB of system DDR3 memory worked at 2 GHz frequency with 9-11-10-28 timings and 1.65V voltage.
The test session started on September 8, 2012. 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 188.8.131.520 WHQL from 27/07/2012 for the mainboard chipset;
- DirectX End-User Runtimes from November 30, 2010;
- AMD Catalyst 12.8 (8.982.0.0) driver from 15/08/2012 + Catalyst Application Profiles 12.8 (CAP2);
- Nvidia GeForce 306.23 beta driver from 27/08/2012 for Nvidia based graphics cards.
We ran our tests in the following two resolutions: 1920x1080 and 2560x1440 pixels. 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 4(8)x” with enabled 16x anisotropic filtering and full screen 4x or 8x antialiasing if the average frame rate was 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.
The list of games and applications used in this test session includes two popular semi-synthetic benchmarking suites, one technical demo and 15 games of various genres with all updates installed as of the beginning of the test session date:
- 3DMark Vantage (DirectX 10) – version 184.108.40.206, Performance and Extreme profiles (only basic tests);
- 3DMark 2011 (DirectX 11) – version 220.127.116.11, Performance and Extreme profiles;
- Unigine Heaven Demo (DirectX 11) – version 3.0, maximum graphics quality settings, tessellation at “extreme”, AF16x, 1280x1024 resolution with MSAA and 1920x1080 with MSAA 8x;
- S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Call of Pripyat (DirectX 11) – version 1.6.02, Enhanced Dynamic DX11 Lighting profile with all parameters manually set at their maximums, we used our custom cop03 demo on the Backwater map;
- Metro 2033: The Last Refuge (DirectX 10/11) - version 1.2, official benchmark, “Very High” image quality settings; tessellation, DOF enabled, AAA antialiasing enabled, two consecutive runs of the “Frontline” scene;
- Just Cause 2 (DirectX 11) - version 18.104.22.168, maximum quality settings, Background Blur and GPU Water Simulation disabled, two consecutive runs of the “Dark Tower” demo;
- Aliens vs. Predator (2010) (DirectX 11) – Texture Quality “Very High”, Shadow Quality “High”, SSAO enabled, two test runs in each resolution;
- Lost Planet 2 (DirectX 11) – version 1.0, maximum graphics quality settings, motion blur enabled, performance test “B”;
- Sid Meier’s Civilization V (DirectX 11) – version 22.214.171.1248, maximum graphics quality settings, two runs of the “diplomatic” benchmark including five heaviest scenes;
- Total War: Shogun 2 (DirectX 11) – version 2.0, built-in benchmark (Sekigahara battle) at maximum graphics quality settings (and 4x MSAA in one mode);
- Crysis 2 (DirectX 11) – version 1.9, we used Adrenaline Crysis 2 Benchmark Tool v.126.96.36.199 BETA with “Ultra High” graphics quality profile and activated HD textures, two runs of a demo recorded on “Times Square” level;
- Hard Reset Demo (DirectX 9) – benchmark built into the demo version with Ultra image quality settings, one test run;
- Batman: Arkham City (DirectX 11) – version 1.2, maximum graphics quality settings, physics disabled, two sequential runs of the benchmark built into the game.
- 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;
- Nexuiz (DirectX 11) – version 1.0, Ultra settings, a double run of the in-built benchmark with High and Ultra profiles.
- DiRT Showdown (DirectX 11) – version 1.0, built-in benchmark at maximum graphics quality settings (“Ultra” preset) on the “Nevada” track.
- Sniper Elite V2 Benchmark (DirectX 11) – version 1.05, we used Adrenaline Sniper Elite V2 Benchmark Tool v188.8.131.52 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 1.0, built-in benchmark, maximum graphics quality settings, Hi-Res Textures Pack installed, FPS Limiter and V-Sync disabled, a double run of the benchmark with antialiasing at the Normal and Extreme levels.
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.