Testbed and Methods
As always, let me start with a few words about the hardware that we used during this test session. All graphics cards were benchmarked in a closed system case with the following configuration:
- Mainboard: ASUS P6T Deluxe (Intel X58 Express), LGA 1366, BIOS 1804;
- CPU: Intel Core i7-920, 2.67 GHz, 1.25 V, L2 4 x 256 KB, L3 8 MB (Bloomfield, C0);
- CPU cooler: Noctua NH-D14 (two Noctua NF-P14fans at 970 RPM);
- Thermal interface: Tuniq TX-2;
- System memory: DDR3 PC3-12800 3 x 2GB OCZ Platinum Low-Voltage Triple Channel (Spec: 1600 MHz / 7-7-7-24 / 1.65 V);
- System HDD: Western Digital VelociRaptor (300GB, SATA-II, 10000 RPM, 16MB cache, NCQ) inside Scythe Quiet Drive 3.5” HDD silencer and cooler;
- Backup HDD: Western Digital Caviar Green WD10EADS (SATA-II, 1000 GB, 5400 RPM, 32 MB, NCQ);
- Optical drive: Samsung SH-S183L DVD-burner;
- System case: Antec Twelve Hundred (front panel: two Noiseblocker NB-Multiframe S-Series MF12-S1 fans at 900 RPM and Scythe Gentle Typhoon fan at 900 RPM; back panel: two Scythe SlipStream 120 fans at 900 RPM; top panel: standard 200 mm fan at 400 RPM);
- Control and monitoring panel: Zalman ZM-MFC2
- Power supply: Zalman ZM1000-HP 1000 W (with a default 140 mm fan).
To minimize the processor influence on the performance of the tested graphics cards in certain operational modes and gaming applications I overclocked our 45 nm quad-core CPU with the multiplier set at 21x and “Load-Line Calibration” enabled to 4.1GHz. The processor Vcore was increased to 1.3825V in the mainboard BIOS:
The system memory worked at 1.56 GHz frequency with 7-7-7-14_1T timings and 1.62V voltage:
All other parameters available in the mainboard BIOS and connected with CPU or memory overclocking remained unchanged (set to Auto).
We are going to use reference ATI Radeon HD 5850 and HD 5870 working at their nominal frequencies:
Besides that, we will also include the results for HIS Radeon HD 4770 512 MB working at the nominal frequencies as well as ZOTAC GeForce GTX 260 AMP2! Edition 896 MB brought down to nominal frequencies:
We added the first graphics card to be able to compare it against the success – Radeon HD 5770. As for GeForce GTX 260, we also included it to compare against Radeon HD 5770, because they are currently retailing at almost the same price. All graphics cards were tested at their nominal frequencies. As for the results of Radeon HD 5770 and HD 5750 overclocking, you can check them out in one of our earlier articles.
Now let’s move on to software and benchmarking tools that we used. The tests started on November 30th and were performed under the new Windows 7 Ultimate RTM x64 operating system with the following drivers:
- Intel Chipset Drivers 126.96.36.1990 WHQL for the mainboard chipset;
- DirectX End-User Runtimes from August 2009;
- Catalyst 9.11 graphics card drivers for ATI based graphics solutions;
- GeForce/ION Driver 195.62 WHQL graphics card drivers for Nvidia based graphics solutions;
- Nvidia PhysX System Software 9.09.1112 driver for physics effects acceleration.
The graphics cards were tested in two resolutions: 1280x1024 and1920x1200. We decided to eliminate the tests in 1680x1050, because according to our previous reviews, the difference between the results in this resolution and in 1920x1200 is about 6-8%, while you need to perform 33% more tests. Our monitor didn’t support resolutions above 1920x1200, but it is a minor issue, because very few gamers use higher screen resolutions anyway and the tested graphics cards cannot provide sufficient performance to ensure comfortable gaming experience in 2560x1600 resolution.
The tests were performed in two image quality modes: “High Quality” without any image quality enhancements and “HQ+ AF16x+AA4/8x” with enabled 16x anisotropic filtering and 4x full screen anti-aliasing (or 8x FSAA if the average framerate was high enough for comfortable gaming experience). We enabled anisotropic filtering and full-screen anti-aliasing from the game settings or configuration files. If the corresponding options were missing, we changed these settings in the Control Panel. Vertical sync was always off in driver control panels.
All games were updated with the latest patches available at the time of tests. So, the complete list of test applications included two popular semi-synthetic benchmarking suites and 16 games of various genres, including such new titles as Borderlands and Left 4 Dead 2. Here is the complete list of tests used with the settings (all games listed in their release order):
- 3DMark 2006 (Direct3D 9/10) – build 1.1.0, default settings and 1920x1200+AF16x+AA8x;
- 3DMark Vantage (Direct3D 10) – v188.8.131.52, Performance and Extreme profiles (basic tests only);
- Unigine Heaven Demo (Direct3D 11) – version 1.0, maximum graphics quality settings including shadows, activated tessellation;
- World in Conflict (Direct3D 10) – version 184.108.40.206 (b34), “Very High” graphics quality profile, UI texture quality = Compressed; Water reflection size = 512, other settings – by default;
- Crysis (Direct3D 10) – game version 1.2.1, “Very High” settings profile, two runs of “Assault harbor” test from Crysis Benchmark Tool version 220.127.116.11;
- Unreal Tournament 3 (Direct3D 9) – version 2.1, highest graphics quality settings (level 5), Motion Blur and Hardware Physics enabled, a FlyBy of the “DM-ShangriLa” map (two consecutive cycles) using HardwareOC UT3 Bench v18.104.22.168;
- Lost Planet Extreme Condition Colonies Edition (Direct3D 10) – version 1.0, Maximum Quality settings, DX10 HDR Rendering, integrated benchmark including two scenes, but the results are provided from the first scene only (ARENA 1);
- S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Clear Sky (Direct3D 10.1) – game version 1.5.10, Improved Full DX10 Lighting profile plus 16x anisotropic filtering and other maximum graphics quality settings, my own s04 demo record (a triple run of the test) on the first gaming level;
- Far Cry 2 (Direct3D 10) – version 1.03, Ultra High settings profile, two runs of the Ranch Small test from Far Cry 2 Benchmark Tool (v22.214.171.124);
- Call of Duty 5: World at War (Direct3D 9) – version 1.6, graphics and textures are set at “Extra” level, Breach demo from the same-name level;
- Left 4 Dead (Direct3D 9) – version 126.96.36.199 b3939, maximum quality, new d6 demo (two runs) on “Lighthouse” map in “Survival” game mode;
- Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War II (Direct3D 10.1) – version 188.8.131.5234, image quality settings set to Ultra level in the game menu, two runs of built-in benchmark;
- BattleForge (Direct3D 11) – version 1.1, maximum image quality settings, shadows enabled, SSAO technology disabled, two runs of the built-in benchmark;
- Stormrise (Direct3D 10.1) – version 184.108.40.206, maximum effects and shadows quality, Ambient Occlusion disabled, two runs of the “$mn_sp05” mission demo scene;
- Tom Clancy’s H.A.W.X. (Direct3D 9) – version 1.03, maximum graphics quality settings; HDR, DOF and Ambient Occlusion enabled, two runs of the built-in benchmark;
- Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood (Direct3D 10.1) – version 220.127.116.11, maximum graphics quality settings, Shadow map size = 1024, 100-second demo in the beginning of “Miners Massacre” level;
- Wolfenstein (OpenGL 2.0) – version 1.2, maximum graphics quality settings, own d1 demo recording on Facility level;
- Resident Evil 5 (DirectX 10.1) – variable benchmark with maximum graphics quality settings without motion blur, we took AVG values from the third scene for further analysis, because it was the most resource hungry;
- Borderlands (DirectX 9) – version 18.104.22.168, timedemo1_p with maximum graphics quality settings;
- Left 4 Dead 2 (DirectX 9) – version 22.214.171.124, maximum graphics quality settings, d3 demo (two runs) on “Swamp Fever” map of the Swamp level.
Here I’d like to add that 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.
Now let’s talk about the actual benchmarks.