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Testbed Configuration and Testing Methodology

All participating graphics cards were tested in a system with the following configuration:

  • Mainboard: Intel Siler DX79SI (Intel X79 Express, LGA 2011, BIOS 0537 from 7/23/2012);
  • 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 140 mm Corsair AF140 Quiet Edition fans at 900 RPM);
  • Thermal interface: ARCTIC MX-4;
  • System memory: DDR3 4 x 4GB Mushkin Redline (Spec: 2133 MHz / 9-10-10-28 / 1.65 V);
  • Graphics cards:
    • NVIDIA GeForce GTX 690 2x2 GB 256 bit GDDR5, 915/6008 MHz;
    • Gigabyte GeForce GTX 680 SOC WindForce 5X 2 GB 256 bit GDDR5, 1137/6200 and 1202/7320 MHz;
    • ASUS GeForce GTX 680 DirectCU II TOP 2 GB 256 bit GDDR5, 1137/6008 MHz;
    • Sapphire Radeon HD 7970 OC Dual-X 3 GB 384 bit GDDR5, 1050/6000 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 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: standard 200 mm fan at 400 RPM);
  • Control and monitoring panel: Zalman ZM-MFC3;
  • Power supply: Seasonic SS-1000XP Active PFC F3 1000 W (with a default 120 mm fan);
  • Monitor: 27” Samsung S27A850D (DVI-I, 2560x1440, 60 Hz).

We are going to compare the performance of Gigabyte graphics card against that of a very fast Asus GeForce GTX 680 DirectCU II TOP at its nominal frequencies and of Sapphire Radeon HD 7970 OC Dual-X overclocked to the level of GHz Edition graphics accelerator:

 

 

Moreover, we also included the reference Nvidia GeForce GTX 690 at its nominal frequencies as a point of reference in our comparison:

In order to lower the dependence of the graphics cards performance on the overall platform speed, I 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 BIOS:

Hyper-Threading technology was enabled. 16 GB of system DDR3 memory worked at 2 GHz frequency with 9-10-10-28 timings and 1.65V voltage.

The test session started on November 3, 2012. All tests were performed in Microsoft Windows 7 Ultimate x64 SP1 with all critical updates as of that date and the following drivers:

We ran our tests in the following two resolutions: 1920x1080 and 2560x1440. 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 framerate 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.

Since we have already tested GeForce GTX 680 based graphics cards and the competitors previously, the today’s benchmarking list will be cut down to one popular semi-synthetic benchmark and 8 most resource-demanding games of various genres with all updates installed as of the beginning of the test session date:

  • 3DMark 2011 (DirectX 11) – version 1.0.3.0, Performance and Extreme profiles;
  • Metro 2033: The Last Refuge (DirectX 10/11) - version 1.2, maximum graphics quality settings, official benchmark, “High” image quality settings; tesselation, DOF and MSAA4x disabled; AAA aliasing enabled, two consecutive runs of the “Frontline” scene;
  • Total War: Shogun 2 – Fall of the Samurai (DirectX 11) – version 1.1.0, built in benchmark (Sekigahara battle) at maximum graphics quality settings and the use of MSAA 4x in one of the test modes;
  • Crysis 2 (DirectX 11) – version 1.9, we used Adrenaline Crysis 2 Benchmark Tool v.1.0.1.14. BETA with “Ultra High” graphics quality profile and activated HD textures, two runs of a demo recorded on “Times Square” level;
  • 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;
  • Sniper Elite V2 Benchmark (DirectX 11) – version 1.05, we used Adrenaline Sniper Elite V2 Benchmark Tool v1.0.0.2 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 1.5, we used Adrenaline Sleeping Dogs Benchmark Tool v1.0.0.3 BETA with maximum image quality settings, Hi-Res Textures pack installed, FPS Limiter and V-Sync disabled, two consecutive runs of the built-in benchmark with quality antialiasing at Normal and Extreme levels;
  • F1 2012 (DirectX 11) – update 9, we used Adrenaline Racing Benchmark Tool v1.0.0.13  with “Ultra” image quality settings during two laps on Brazilian “Interlagos” race track with 24 other cars and a drizzling rain; we also used “Bonnet” camera mode;
  • Borderlands 2 (DirectX 11) – version 1.1.3, built-in benchmark with maximum image quality settings and maximum PhysX level, FXAA enabled.

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.

 
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