Meet the Testbeds and Methods
Unfortunately, we did not have enough time with the hardware at hands to test all the settings and all the games that we typically use. Therefore, we would consider this article as a preview of the technology with full review coming out at a later date.
In order to test the GeForce 7900 quad SLI configuration along with its competitors – GeForce 7900 GTX SLI and Radeon X1900 XT CrossFire – we took two systems from an authorized computer builder based on the Radeon X1900 XT CrossFire and the GeForce 7900 quad SLI and configured just like our typical testbeds. The systems were built using high-quality CoolerMaster CMStacker cases which are big enough to install the long boards and which also provide very advanced cooling: up to four 12cm fans may be installed into the side window and one more sits in the backside.
The GeForce 7900 quad SLI-based system was built by a system integrator, just like Nvidia recommends, and used the drivers that the actual consumers get when they acquire a machine featuring four GeForce 7900-based graphics cards.
We used our hard drives for the appropriate platforms with all the drives and games pre-installed in order to save time on installation procedures, but we had to use a new Nvidia ForceWare driver that is shipping with quad SLI systems.
At the end, we’ve got the following testing platform:
- AMD Athlon 64 FX-60 CPU (2.60GHz, 2x1MB L2 cache)
- ASUS A8N32-SLI Deluxe mainboard (Nvidia nForce4 SLI X16 chipset) for Nvidia GeForce cards
- ASUS A8R32-MVP Deluxe mainboard (ATI CrossFire Xpress 3200 chipset) for ATI Radeon cards
- OCZ PC3200 Platinum EL DDR SDRAM (2 x 1GB, CL2-3-2-5)
- Maxtor MaXLine III 7B250S0 hard disk drive (Serial ATA-150, 16MB buffer)
- Creative SoundBlaster Audigy 2 sound card
- Enermax 660W power supply unit
- Apple Cinema HD 30” display (30”, 2560x1600@75Hz max display mode)
- Microsoft Windows XP Pro SP2 with DirectX 9.0c
- ATI Catalyst 6.3/6.4
- Nvidia ForceWare 87.24
We set up the ATI and Nvidia drivers in the same way as always:
- Catalyst A.I.: Standard
- Mipmap Detail Level: Quality
- Wait for vertical refresh: Always off
- Adaptive antialiasing: Off
- Temporal antialiasing: Off
- Quality AF: Off
- Other settings: default
- Image Settings: Quality
- Vertical sync: Off
- Trilinear optimization: On
- Anisotropic mip filter optimization: Off
- Anisotropic sample optimization: On
- Gamma correct antialiasing: On
- Transparency antialiasing: Off
- Other settings: default
We select the highest graphics quality settings in each game, identical for graphics cards from ATI and Nvidia. We did not edit the configuration files of the games, but sometimes we used console commands to get higher resolutions than the game offers. To measure the performance we either used the integrated tools of the games we tested in, or if there were none available, resorted to Fraps utility. If it was possible, we measured minimal performance as well.
To load the video subsystem to the full extent and to minimize the influence of the CPU speed on the performance results we didn’t test the systems in the “pure speed” mode. We only ran the tests in “eye candy” mode with full-screen anti-aliasing and anisotropic filtering as well as in “extreme eye candy mode” with SLI AA or Super AA.
We turned on full-screen antialiasing and anisotropic filtering from the game’s own menu if possible. Otherwise we forced the necessary mode from the ATI Catalyst and Nvidia ForceWare graphics card driver. We didn’t test anything in overclocked mode, because of the lack of time. We didn’t test certain settings due to time constraints as well.