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Testbed and Methods

We used the following components for our testbed:

  • Mainboard: Intel Siler DX79SR (Intel X79 Express, LGA 2011, BIOS 0590 dated 17.07.2013)
  • CPU: Intel Core i7-3970X Extreme Edition 3.5/4.0 GHz (Sandy Bridge-E, C2, 1.1 V, 6x256KB L2 cache, 15MB L3 cache)
  • CPU cooler: Phanteks PH-TC14PE (2xCorsair AF140 fans, 900 RPM)
  • Thermal grease: ARCTIC MX-4
  • Graphics cards:
    • EVGA GeForce GTX 780 Superclocked ACX 3GB (863/916/6008 MHz; and overclocked to 1032/1085/7348 MHz)
    • AMD Radeon R9 290X 4GB (1000/5000 MHz)
    • AMD Radeon R9 290 4GB (947/5000 MHz; and overclocked to 1115/5960 MHz)
    • MSI Radeon R9 280X Gaming 3GB (1050/6000 MHz)
  • System memory: DDR3 4x8GB G.SKILL TridentX F3-2133C9Q-32GTX (2133 MHz, 9-11-11-31, 1.6 volts)
  • System disk: SSD 256GB Crucial m4 (SATA 6 Gbit/s, CT256M4SSD2, BIOS v0009)
  • Games/software disk: Western Digital VelociRaptor (SATA-2, 300 GB, 10000 RPM, 16 MB cache, NCQ) in a Scythe Quiet Drive 3.5" enclosure
  • Backup disk: Samsung Ecogreen F4 HD204UI (SATA-2, 2 TB, 5400 RPM, 32 MB cache, NCQ)
  • Computer 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: one preinstalled 200mm fan at 400 RPM)
  • Control & monitoring panel: Zalman ZM-MFC3
  • Power supply: Corsair AX1200i (1200 W), 120mm fan
  • Monitor: 27" Samsung S27A850D (DVI-I, 2560x1440, 60 Hz)

We have the same graphics cards as in our previous review excepting the Nvidia GeForce GTX 780 Ti which is far too expensive to be compared with the Radeon R9 290. Besides the latter, the EVGA GeForce GTX 780 Superclocked ACX is tested in overclocked mode. By the way, the EVGA is comparable to the reference Radeon R9 290 in terms of price as of the time of our writing this review.

In order to lower the dependence of the graphics cards’ performance on the overall platform speed, we overclocked our 32nm six-core CPU to 4.8 GHz by setting its frequency multiplier at x48 and enabling Load-Line Calibration. The CPU voltage was increased to 1.38 volts in the mainboard’s BIOS:

Hyper-Threading was turned on. We used 32 GB of system memory at 2.133 GHz with timings of 9-11-11-20_CR1 and voltage of 1.6125 volts.

The testbed ran Microsoft Windows 7 Ultimate x64 SP1 with all critical updates installed. We used the following drivers:

  • Intel Chipset Drivers – 9.4.4.1006 WHQL dated 21.09.2013
  • DirectX End-User Runtimes, dated 30 November 2010
  • AMD Catalyst 13.12 WHQL (13.251.0.0) dated 18.12.2013
  • GeForce 331.93 Beta dated 27.11.2013

We benchmarked the graphics cards’ performance at two display resolutions: 1920x1080 and 2560x1440 pixels. There were two visual quality modes: “Quality+AF16x” means the default texturing quality in the drivers + 16x anisotropic filtering whereas “Quality+ AF16x+MSAA 4x(8x)” means 16x anisotropic filtering and 4x or 8x antialiasing. We enabled anisotropic filtering and full-screen antialiasing from the game’s menu. If the corresponding options were missing, we changed these settings in the Control Panels of the Catalyst and GeForce drivers. We also disabled Vsync there. There were no other changes in the driver settings.

The graphics cards were tested in two benchmarks and 15 games updated to the latest versions.

  • 3DMark (2013) (DirectX 9/11) version 1.2.250.0: Cloud Gate, Fire Strike and Fire Strike Extreme scenes.
  • Unigine Valley Bench (DirectX 11) version 1.0: maximum visual quality settings, 16x AF and/or 4x MSAA, 1920x1080.
  • Total War: SHOGUN 2 – Fall of the Samurai (DirectX 11) version 1.1.0: integrated benchmark (the Sekigahara battle) with maximum visual quality settings and 8x MSAA.
  • Battlefield 3 (DirectX 11) version 1.4: Ultra settings, 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: 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, Supersampling: OFF, two sequential runs of the test.
  • Sleeping Dogs (DirectX 11) version 1.5: Adrenaline Sleeping Dogs Benchmark Tool v1.0.2.1 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.
  • Hitman: Absolution (DirectX 11) version 1.0.447.0: built-in test with Ultra settings, enabled tessellation, FXAA and global lighting.
  • Crysis 3 (DirectX 11) version 1.2.0.1000: maximum visual quality settings, Motion Blur – Medium, lens flares – on, FXAA and MSAA 4x, two consecutive runs of a scripted scene from the beginning of the “Swamp” mission (110 seconds long).
  • Tomb Raider (2013) (DirectX 11) version 1.1.748.0: Adrenaline Benchmark Tool, “Ultra” image quality settings, V-Sync disabled, FXAA and 2x SSAA antialiasing enabled, TessFX technology activated, two consecutive runs of the in-game benchmark.
  • BioShock Infinite (DirectX 11) version 1.1.24.21018: Adrenaline Action Benchmark Tool with “Ultra” and “Ultra+DOF” quality settings, two consecutive runs of the in-game benchmark.
  • Metro: Last Light (DirectX 11) version 1.0.0.15: we used the built-in benchmark for two consecutive runs of the D6 scene. All image quality and tessellation settings were at “Very High”, Advanced PhysX technology enabled, with and without SSAA antialiasing.
  • GRID 2 (DirectX 11) version 1.0.85.8679: we used the built-in benchmark, the visual quality settings were all at their maximums, the tests ran with and without MSAA 8x antialiasing with eight cars on the Chicago track.
  • Company of Heroes 2 (DirectX 11) version 3.0.0.11811: two consecutive runs of the integrated benchmark at maximum image quality and physics effects settings.
  • Total War: Rome II (DirectX 11) version 1.8.0 build 8891.481024: Extreme quality, V-Sync disabled, SSAA enabled, two consecutive runs of the integrated benchmark.
  • ArmA III (DirectX 11) version 1.08.0.113494: ArmA3Mark with Ultra quality, V-Sync disabled, two consecutive runs of the integrated benchmark.
  • Batman: Arkham Origins (DirectX 11) version 1.0 update 8: Ultra visual quality, V-Sync disabled, all the effects enabled, all DX11 Enhanced features enabled, Hardware Accelerated PhysX = Normal, two consecutive runs of the in-game benchmark.
  • Battlefield 4 (DirectX 11) version 1.4: Ultra settings, two successive runs of a scripted scene from the beginning of the “Tashgar” mission (110 seconds long).

We publish the bottom frame rate for games that report it. Each test was run twice, the final result being the best of the two if they differed by less than 1%. If we had a larger difference, we reran the test at least once again to get repeatable results.

 
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