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Testbed and Methods

Since we had two GeForce 7900 GTX and two GeForce 7900 GT graphics cards at our disposal, we decided to also investigate the performance of the corresponding SLI-tandems and compare the results against those of the ATI Radeon X1900 XT CrossFire and GeForce 7800 GTX SLI. We used the following mainboards as a basis for our test platforms:

The remaining components were the same for both test platforms:

  • AMD Athlon 64 FX-60 (2x2.60GHz, 2 x 1MB L2 cache)
  • OCZ PC3200 Platinum EL DDR SDRAM (2 x 1GB, CL2-3-2-5)
  • Samsung SpinPoint SP1213C (Serial ATA-150, 8MB buffer) and Maxtor MaXLine III 7B250S0 (Serial ATA-150, 16MB buffer) hard disk drives
  • Creative SoundBlaster Audigy 2 sound card
  • Enermax Liberty 620W power supply (ELT620AWT)
  • Dell P1130 and Dell P1110 monitors (21”, 1800x1440@75Hz max display mode)
  • Microsoft Windows XP Pro SP2 with DirectX 9.0c
  • ATI Catalyst 6.3
  • Nvidia ForceWare 84.21

We selected the highest graphics quality settings in each game, the same for ATI’s and Nvidia’s solutions, except for the Pacific Fighters flight simulator which requires vertex texturing support to enable its Shader Model 3.0 mode. The Radeon X1000 family doesn’t support this feature and runs the game in the Shader Model 2.0 mode. We did not edit the games’ configuration files. If possible, we used the games’ built-in benchmarking tools and if not, we measured the frame rate with the FRAPS utility. We measured minimal fps rates 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. Instead, we added two new modes to our traditional “eye candy” settings (4x FSAA + 16x anisotropic filtering). These were the resource-hungry aliasing modes, such as Super AA/SLI AA 8x + AF 16x and Super AA 14x/SLI AA 16x + AF 16x. We turned on the 4x FSAA + 16x AF mode from the game’s own menu if it was possible. Otherwise, we forced the necessary mode from the ATI Catalyst and Nvidia ForceWare driver. The drivers were configured as follows:

ATI Catalyst :

  • 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

Nvidia ForceWare:

  • 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

These games and applications were used as performance benchmarks:

First-Person 3D Shooters

  • Battlefield 2
  • The Chronicles of Riddick
  • Call of Duty 2
  • Doom III
  • Far Cry
  • F.E.A.R.
  • Half-Life 2
  • Half-Life 2: Lost Coast
  • Project Snowblind
  • Quake 4
  • Serious Sam 2
  • The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion

Third-Person 3D Shooters

  • Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory

Simulators

  • Pacific Fighters
  • X3: Reunion

Strategies

  • Age of Empires 3
  • Warhammer 40000: Dawn of War

Semi-synthetic benchmarks

  • Aquamark 3

Synthetic benchmarks

  • Futuremark 3DMark05 build 120
  • Futuremark 3DMark06 build 120
 
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