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Testbed and Methods

Unfortunately, we had pretty limited time to prepare this review. As a result, we decided not to publish results of synthetic benchmarks and skip image quality and media playback investigation. Brief overview of image quality in several games showed that the GeForce 8600 GTS has similar image quality as the GeForce 8800 GTS/GTX, which means that it is the best available today. However, this was only a brief investigation and in future articles we may offer a more detailed image quality analysis.

During our comparative testing of the four GeForce 8800 GTX graphics cards we used the following hardware platforms:

  • AMD Athlon 64 FX-60 CPU (2.60GHz, 2x1MB L2)
  • Abit AN8 32X mainboard (nForce4 SLI X16) for Nvidia GeForce cards
  • Asus A8R32-MVP Deluxe mainboard (ATI CrossFire Xpress 3200) for ATI Radeon cards
  • OCZ PC-3200 Platinum EL DDR SDRAM (2x1GB, CL2-3-2-5)
  • Maxtor MaXLine III 7B250S0 (Serial ATA-150, 16MB buffer)
  • Creative SoundBlaster Audigy 2 sound card
  • Enermax Liberty 620W power supply (ELT620AWT)
  • Dell 3007WFP monitor (30”, 2560x1600 max display resolution)
  • Microsoft Windows XP Pro SP2, DirectX 9.0c
  • ATI Catalyst 7.3
  • Nvidia ForceWare 97.92 for GeForce 8800-series graphics cards
  • Nvidia ForceWare 101.02 for GeForce 8600 GTS
  • Nvidia ForceWare 93.71 for GeForce 7-series graphics cards

Since we believe that the use of tri-linear and anisotropic filtering optimizations is not justified in this case, the graphics card drivers were set up in standard way to provide the highest possible quality of texture filtering.

ATI Catalyst:

  • Catalyst A.I.: Standard
  • Mipmap Detail Level: High Quality
  • Wait for vertical refresh: Always off
  • Adaptive antialiasing: Off
  • Temporal antialiasing: Off
  • High Quality AF: On
  • Other settings: by default

Nvidia ForceWare:

  • Texture Filtering: High quality
  • Vertical sync: Off
  • Trilinear optimization: Off
  • Anisotropic optimization: Off
  • Anisotropic sample optimization: Off
  • Gamma correct antialiasing: On
  • Transparency antialiasing: Off
  • Other settings: by default

We selected the highest possible graphics quality level in each game. We didn’t modify the games’ configuration files. Performance was measured with the games’ own tools or, if not available, manually with Fraps utility. We also measured the minimum speed of the cards where possible.

Since initially the GeForce 8600 GTS will cost $199 - $229, we decided to test it with FSAA 4x and anisotropic filtering 16x enabled. We used 1280x1024/960, 1600x1200 and 1920x1200 resolutions as wide-screen displays with 24” or 27” panel are becoming more and more affordable and widespread. We used “eye candy” mode everywhere, where it was possible without disabling the HDR or Shader Model 3.0 increasing the image quality. We enabled FSAA and anisotropic filtering from the game’s menu. If this was not possible, we forced them using the appropriate driver settings of ATI Catalyst and Nvidia ForceWare. Since some games do not allow simultaneous use of FSAA and HDR, we benchmarked with HDR and without antialiasing.

Besides the Asus EN8600 GTS 256MB, the following graphics cards participated in our review:

  • ATI Radeon X1900 XT 512MB (R580, 625/1450MHz, 48pp, 8vp, 16tmu, 16rop, 256-bit)
  • ATI Radeon X1950 Pro 256MB (RV570, 575/1380MHz, 36pp, 8vp, 12tmu, 12rop, 256-bit)
  • Nvidia GeForce 8800 GTS 320MB (G80, 513/1188/1600MHz, 96sp, 24tmu, 20rop, 320-bit)
  • Nvidia GeForce 7950 GT 256MB (G71, 550/1400MHz, 24pp, 8vp, 24tmu, 16rop, 256-bit)
  • Nvidia GeForce 7900 GS 256MB (G71, 450/1320MHz, 20pp, 7vp, 20tmu, 16rop, 256-bit)

For our tests we used the following games and benchmarks:

First Person 3D Shooters

  • Battlefield 2142
  • Call of Juarez
  • Far Cry
  • Far Cry HDR
  • F.E.A.R. Extraction Point
  • Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter
  • Half-Life 2: Episode One
  • Prey
  • S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl

Performance in Third-Person 3D Shooters

  • Hitman: Blood Money
  • Tomb Raider: Legend

Performance in RPG

  • Gothic 3
  • Neverwinter Nights 2
  • The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion

Performance in Simulators

  • X3: Reunion

Performance in Strategies

  • Command & Conquer3: Tiberium Wars
  • Company of Heroes
  • Supreme Commander

Performance in Synthetic Benchmarks

  • Futuremark 3DMark05
  • Futuremark 3DMark06
 
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