Testbed and Methods
It’s time we moved on to the practical part of the review. We decided to expand our benchmarking toolset to 35 names to get a more comprehensive picture of performance of modern top-end and mainstream graphics cards. These are “gaming” products since junior models like the RADEON 9200 or the GeForce FX 5200 suit but slightly for playing modern games. Cards on GPUs like RADEON 9600 and GeForce FX 5600 can also be put into this category (we don’t even mention various “mutants” with a 64-bit memory bus) – there are ever more really hard games in the market that can become a real burden even for a most advanced graphics card! Here’s the full list of our benchmarks:
First Person 3D Shooters:
- Call of Duty;
; Enemy Territory
- Star Trek: Elite Force 2;
- Unreal Tournament 2004;
- Halo: Combat Evolved;
- Deus Ex: Invisible War;
- Far Cry;
- Tron 2.0;
; ’s Army 2 America
- Highly Anticipated DX9 Game 1;
- Highly Anticipated DX9 Game 2.
Third Person 3D Shooters:
- Star Wars: Knights of the
Old Republic ;
- Splinter Cell: Pandora Tomorrow;
- Tomb Raider: Angel of Darkness;
- Prince of
: Sands of Time; Persia
- Max Payne 2: The Fall of Max Payne;
- Lord Of The Rings: Return Of The King;
- Thief: Deadly Shadows;
- Hitman: Contracts;
- IL-2 Sturmovik: Aces In The Sky;
- Lock On;
- Microsoft Flight Simulator 2004;
- X2: The Threat;
- F1 Challenge 99-02;
- Colin McRae Rally 04.
We’ve added several new games – their names a given in bold in the list above. The 3D strategy game called Perimeter is maybe of a highest interest among them, since it uses an absolutely original and unusual engine. In this game the battlefield is not only three-dimensional, but also fully interactive: it can be destroyed, deformed, and terraformed by means of special units. The secret is simple: the landscapes of Perimeter are realized with a technology similar to voxel graphics - it seems like each landscape in the game is a three-dimensional texture. Regrettably, there’s a price for all those beautiful things you see in Perimeter: at its maximum graphics quality settings the game is only playable with comfort on a system with a powerful CPU and a graphics adapter of the latest generation like the RADEON X800 or GeForce 6800 Ultra.
The rest of the new games, highlighted in our list, are rather traditional, although are good representatives of their respective genres.
All new games not equipped with an inbuilt benchmark were tested with the help of Fraps utility and we now post the minimal as well as average fps rate for a more exact representation of the game process. We are going to do our benchmarking this way in the future, too.
The testbed hasn’t changed since our last report:
- AMD Athlon 64 3400+ CPU (2.20GHz, 1MB L1 cache);
- ASUS K8V Deluxe mainboard;
- OCZ PC-3200 Platinum EB DDR SDRAM (2x512MB, CL2.5-3-2-8);
- Seagate 7200.7 HDD (SerialATA-150, 8MB buffer);
- Creative SoundBlaster Audigy 2 audio card;
- Microsoft Windows XP SP1, DirectX 9.0b, NVIDIA ForceWare 61.34 (60.82 for 3DMark03), ATI CATALYST 4.6.
It is a kind of our tradition already to test each game at the maximum possible graphics quality settings in three resolutions and in two modes: “pure speed” and “eye candy” (the latter mode features full-screen anti-aliasing and anisotropic filtering). We used the latest version of the driver for the cards of the new generation (GeForce 6800/GT/Ultra and RADEON X800 Pro/XT). For older cards we used the latest official version of the driver.
We include the results of the GeForce 6800 Ultra overclocked to 435/1150MHz frequencies for the comparison’s sake. Since the GeForce 6800 Ultra Extreme Edition hasn’t been officially announced, these numbers are of pure theoretical interest. On the other hand, some graphics card manufacturers may come up with overclocked versions of the 6800 Ultra to sell them at a higher price. In this case, these results may help you determine if such a product is worthy the extra money you are invited to pay for it.
All in all, the following graphics cards were used for testing:
- NVIDIA GeForce 6800 Ultra 256MB (435MHz/1150);
- NVIDIA GeForce 6800 Ultra 256MB (400MHz/1100);
- NVIDIA GeForce 6800 GT 256 MB (350/1000 MHz);
- NVIDIA GeForce 6800 128 MB (325/700 MHz);
- NVIDIA GeForce FX 5950 Ultra 256 MB (475/950 MHz);
- NVIDIA GeForce FX 5900 256 MB (400/850 MHz);
- NVIDIA GeForce FX 5900 XT 256 MB (400/700 MHz);
- NVIDIA GeForce FX 5700 Ultra 128 MB (475/900 MHz);
- ATI RADEON X800 XT 256 MB (520/1120 MHz);
- ATI RADEON X800 PRO 256 MB (475/900 MHz);
- ATI RADEON 9800 XT 256 MB (412/730 MHz);
- ATI RADEON 9800 PRO 256 MB (380/680 MHz);
- ATI RADEON 9600 XT 128 MB (500/600 MHz).