Articles: Graphics

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Testbed and Methods

To investigate the performance of contemporary graphics accelerators in Red Alert 3 we put together the following testbed:

  • Intel Core 2 Extreme X6800 processor (3.0GHz, FSB 333MHz x 9);  
  • Asus P5Q Pro (Intel P45 chipset) for ATI Radeon HD 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;
  • ATI Catalyst 8.11 for ATI Radeon HD
  • Nvidia GeForce 180.48 WHQL for Nvidia GeForce

According to our testing methodology, the drivers were set up to provide the highest possible quality of texture filtering and to minimize the effect of software optimizations used by default by both: AMD/ATI and Nvidia. Also, to ensure maximum image quality, we enabled transparent texture filtering. As a result, our ATI and Nvidia driver settings looked as follows:

ATI Catalyst:

  • Catalyst A.I.: Standard
  • Mipmap Detail Level: High Quality
  • High Quality AF: On
  • Wait for vertical refresh: Always Off
  • Enable Adaptive Anti-Aliasing: On/Quality
  • Method: Multi-sampling
  • Temporal Anti-Aliasing: Off
  • Other settings: 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: default

13 graphics systems participated in our today’s performance test session.

Premium/High-End category:

  • ATI Radeon HD 4870 3-way CrossFire
  • ATI Radeon HD 4870 X2
  • Nvidia GeForce GTX 280 SLI
  • Nvidia GeForce GTX 280

Performance-Mainstream category:

  • ATI Radeon HD 4870 1GB
  • ATI Radeon HD 4850
  • Nvidia GeForce GTX 260 (192sp)
  • Nvidia GeForce 9800 GTX+

Mainstream category:

  • ATI Radeon HD 4830
  • ATI Radeon HD 4670
  • ATI Radeon HD 3870
  • Nvidia GeForce 9800 GT
  • Nvidia GeForce 9600 GT

We ran the tests in all resolutions including 2560x1600 only for the Premium category. Performance-Mainstream was limited by 1920x1200. Mainstream solutions were tested in 1680x1050 max. The game has five levels of detail: Very Low, Low, Medium, High and Ultra High and allows fine tuning certain options. The complete settings profiles look as follows:

The settings are pretty logical, except for the disabled Vertical Sync option in Very Low profile and practically useless FSAA 2x mode in Ultra High profile. Since the antialiasing quality in this mode was not high enough by today’s standards, we kept all the other settings in Ultra High profile as is, but changed the FSAA to 4x.

We used an intensive battle scene taking place on the ground and on water as our test sequence. We used Fraps utility version 2.9.6 to record the average and minimal fps rate. To minimize the measuring error, we took the average results of three combined runs for further analysis. Since the game has a built-in average performance limiter locked at 30 fps that cannot be disabled, the minimal performance readings are of primary interest to us today.

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