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Testbed and Methods

We used a testbed configured like follows:

  • Intel Core 2 Extreme X6800 processor (3.0GHz, FSB 1333MHz x 9)
  • DFI LANParty UT ICFX3200-T2R/G (ATI CrossFire Xpress 3200 chipset) for ATI Radeon based graphics cards
  • ASUS P5N32-E SLI mainboard (Nvidia nForce 680i SLI chipset) for Nvidia GeForce based graphics cards
  • Corsair TWIN2X2048-8500C5 (2x1GB, 1066MHz, 5-5-5-15, 2T)
  • Maxtor MaXLine III 7B250S0 HDD (250GB, Serial ATA-150, 16MB bufferr
  • Enermax Galaxy DXX EGX1000EWL 1000W power supply
  • Dell 3007WFP monitor (30", 2560x1600@60Hz max display mode
  • Microsoft Windows Vista Ultimate 32-bit
  • ATI Catalyst 8.3 for Radeon HD
  • Nvidia ForceWare 169.25 WHQL for GeForce 8800
  • Nvidia ForceWare 174.74 WHQL for GeForce 9800/9600

According to our testing methodology, the drivers were set up to provide the highest possible quality of texture filtering and to minimize the effect of software optimizations used by default by both AMD/ATI and Nvidia. Also, to ensure maximum image quality, we enabled transparent texture filtering, Adaptive Anti-Aliasing/Multi-sampling in ATI Catalyst and Antialiasing – Transparency: Multisampling in Nvidia ForceWare. As a result, our ATI and Nvidia driver settings were as follows

ATI Catalyst settings:

  • Catalyst AI: standard
  • Mipmap Detail Level: High Quality
  • High Quality AF: On
  • Wait for vertical refresh: Always Off
  • Enable Adaptive Anti-Aliasing: On/Quality
  • Method: Multi-sampling
  • Temporal Anti-Aliasing: Off
  • Other settings: default

Nvidia ForceWare:

  • Texture filtering - Quality: High quality
  • Texture filtering - Trilinear optimization: Off
  • Texture filtering – Anisotropic sample optimization: Off
  • Vertical sync: Force off
  • Antialiasing - Gamma correction: On
  • Antialiasing - Transparency: Multisampling
  • Other settings: default

For our tests we used the following games and benchmarks:

First-Person 3D Shooters:

- Battlefield 2142
- BioShock
- Call of Juarez
- Call of Duty 4
- Crysis
- Enemy Territory: Quake Wars
- Half-Life 2: Episode Two
- S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl

Third-Person 3D Shooters:
- Lost Planet: Extreme Condition
- Tomb Raider: Legend

RPG

- Hellgate: London
- The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion

Strategies

- Company of Heroes: Opposing Fronts
- Command & Conquer 3: Tiberium Wars
- World in Conflict

Synthetic Benchmarks

- Futuremark 3DMark05
- Futuremark 3DMark06

We selected the highest possible level of detail in each game using standard tools provided by the game itself from the gaming menu. The games’ configuration files weren’t modified in any way. The only exception was Enemy Territory: Quake Wars game where we disabled the built-in fps rate limitation locked at 30fps. Games supporting DirectX 10 were tested in DirectX 10 mode.
The tests were performed at resolutions of 1280x1024/960, 1600x1200 and 1920x1200 pixels. If the game didn’t support 16:10 display format, we set the last resolution to 1920x1440.

We used “eye candy” mode everywhere, where it was possible without disabling the HDR/Shader Model 3.0/Shader Model 4.0. Namely, we ran the tests with enabled anisotropic filtering 16x as well as MSAA 4x antialiasing. We enabled them from the game’s menu. If this was not possible, we forced them using the appropriate driver settings of ATI Catalyst and Nvidia ForceWare drivers

Performance was measured with the games’ own tools and the original demos were recorded if possible. Otherwise, the performance was measured manually with Fraps utility version 2.9.1. We measured not only the average speed, but also the minimum speed of the cards where possible.

For the sake of more illustrative analysis we included the following graphics cards to participate in this test session:

  • Nvidia GeForce 9800 GTX (G92, 675/1688/2200MHz, 128sp, 32tmu, 16rop, 256-bit, 512MB GDDR3)
  • Nvidia GeForce 8800 GTS 512MB (G92, 650/1620/1940MHz, 128sp, 32tmu, 16rop, 256-bit, 512MB GDDR3)
  • ATI Radeon HD 3870 X2 (2xRV670, 825/825/1800MHz, 640sp, 32tmu, 32rop, 2x256-bit, 2x512MB GDDR3)
  • ATI Radeon HD 3870 (RV670, 775/2250MHz, 320sp, 16tmu, 16rop, 256-bit, 512MB GDDR4)

We took an ASUS EN9600GT TOP for a SLI partner to the Gigabyte GV-NX96T512H-B. This card is based on the reference PCB design as well. Being a pre-overclocked product, we lowered its clock rates to the standard values.

 
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