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Testbed and Methods

To test the gaming performance of Zotac GeForce 9800 GX2 and ATI 3-way CrossFireX we put together the following testbeds:

  • Intel Core 2 Extreme X6800 processor (3.0GHz, FSB 1333MHz x 9);  
  • DFI LANParty UT ICFX3200-T2R/G (ATI CrossFire Xpress 3200 chipset) for ATI Radeon?CrossFireX;
  • Asus P5N32-E SLI mainboard (Nvidia nForce 680i SLI chipset) for Nvidia GeForce/Quad SLI;
  • 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 8.3 for Radeon HD/CrossFireX;
  • Nvidia ForceWare 169.25 WHQL for GeForce 8800 GTS 512MB;
  • Nvidia ForceWare 174.53 WHQL for GeForce 9800 GX2.

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 - Adaptive Anti-Aliasing/Multi-sampling for ATI Catalyst and Antialiasing – Transparency: Multisampling for Nvidia ForceWare. 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

For our tests we used the following games and synthetic benchmarks:

First-Person 3D Shooters

  • Battlefield 2142
  • Bioshock
  • Call of Juarez
  • Call of Duty 4
  • Crysis
  • Enemy Territory: Quake Wars
  • Half-Life 2: Episode Two
  • S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl

Third-Person 3D Shooters

  • Lost Planet: Extreme Condition
  • Tomb Raider: Legend

RPG

  • Hellgate: London
  • The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion

Strategies

  • Company of Heroes: Opposing Fronts
  • Command & Conquer 3: Tiberium Wars
  • World in Conflict

Synthetic Benchmarks

  • Futuremark 3DMark05
  • Futuremark 3DMark06

We selected the highest possible level of detail in each game using standard tools provided by the game itself from the gaming menu. The games configuration files weren’t modified in any way. The only exception was Enemy Territory: Quake Wars game where we disabled the built-in fps rate limitation locked at 30fps. Games supporting DirectX 10 were tested in this particular mode.

Besides Zotac GeForce 9800 GX2 we have also included the results for the following single graphics accelerators and ATI 3-way CrossFireX systems:

  • ATI Radeon HD 3870 X2 (2xRV670, 825/825/1800MHz, 640sp, 32tmu, 32rop, 2x256-bit, 2x512MB GDDR3)
  • ATI Radeon HD 3870 (RV670, 775/2250MHz, 320sp, 16tmu, 16rop, 256-bit, 512MB GDDR4)
  • Nvidia GeForce 8800 GTS 512MB (G92, 650/1620/1940MHz, 128sp, 32tmu, 16rop, 256-bit, 512MB GDDR3)

We put together an ATI 3-way CrossFireX system by combining ATI Radeon HD 3870 X2 with a single ATI Radeon HD 3870 graphics card.

The tests were performed in the following resolutions: 1600x1200, 1920x1200 and 2560x1600. If the game didn’t support 16:10 display format, we set the last resolutions to 1920x1440 and 2048x1536 respectively. We decided to give up testing in 1280x1024 this time, because it is hardly of any interest to those gamers who can afford a GeForce 9800 GX2 or 3-way CrossFireX configuration.

We used “eye candy” mode everywhere, where it was possible without disabling the HDR/Shader Model 3.0/Shader Model 4.0. Namely, we ran the tests with enabled anisotropic filtering 16x as well as MSAA 4x antialiasing. We enabled them from the game’s menu. If this was not possible, we forced them using the appropriate driver settings of ATI Catalyst and Nvidia ForceWare drivers. Performance was measured with the games’ own tools and the original demos were recorded if possible. Otherwise, the performance was measured manually with Fraps utility version 2.9.1. We measured not only the average speed, but also the minimum speed of the cards where possible.

 
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