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Testbed and Methods

To test the performance of graphics cards in Half-Life 2: Episode Two we assembled the following standard test platform:

  • Intel Core 2 Extreme X6800 processor (3.0GHz, FSB 333MHz x 9);
  • DFI LanParty UT ICFX3200-T2R/G mainboard (AMD RD600 chipset) for ATI Radeon graphics cards;
  • Asus P5N32-E SLI mainboard (Nvidia nForce 680i SLI chipset) for Nvidia GeForce graphics cards;
  • Corsair TWIN2X2048-8500C5 (2x1GB, 1066MHz, 5-5-5-15, 2T);
  • Maxtor MaXLine III 7B250S0 HDD (250GB, Serial ATA-150, 16MB buffer);
  • Enermax Galaxy DXX EGX1000EWL 1000W power supply;
  • Dell 3007WFP monitor (30", 2560x1600@60Hz max display resolution);
  • Microsoft Windows Vista Ultimate 32-bit;
  • Nvidia ForceWare 163.69;
  • ATI Catalyst 7.9.

We used standard driver settings for AMD Catalyst and Nvidia ForceWare drivers:

ATI Catalyst:

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

The game was set to maximum possible graphics quality:

  • Model detail: High
  • Texture detail: Very High
  • Shader detail: High
  • Water detail: Reflect all
  • Shadow detail: High
  • Color Correction: Enabled
  • High Dynamic Range: Full
  • Motion Blur: Enabled
  • Use “bloom” effect: Off

Since Half-Life 2 features built-in testing tools, we used them in our test session and recorded a 60-second demo movie in real gaming situation any player would come across in Half-Life 2: Episode Two. BY playing the demo using “timedemo demo_name” console command we obtained the data about the average graphics accelerator performance.

We tested the following graphics cards split in three groups depending on the provided performance level:

High-End:

  • ATI Radeon HD 2900 XT 1GB
  • ATI Radeon HD 2900 XT 512MB
  • ATI Radeon HD 2900 Pro 512MB
  • Nvidia GeForce 8800 GTX
  • Nvidia GeForce 8800 GTS 640MB
  • Nvidia GeForce 8800 GTS 320MB

Mainstream:

  • ATI Radeon HD 2900 Pro 512MB
  • ATI Radeon HD 2600 XT GDDR4
  • Nvidia GeForce 8800 GTS 320MB
  • Nvidia GeForce 8600 GTS

Entry Level:

  • ATI Radeon HD 2600 Pro
  • ATI Radeon HD 2400 XT
  • Nvidia GeForce 8600 GT
  • Nvidia GeForce 8500 GT

Since we know that Half-Life 2 doesn’t require much, we tested all graphics cards in standard resolutions of 1280x1024, 1600x1200 and 1920x1200 with 16x anisotropic filtering only as well as with 16x anisotropic filtering and MSAA 4x. The only exceptions were the low-end resolutions in FSAA 4x + Aniso 16x mode: we only tested in 1280x1024 here.

 
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