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6 mixed video cards - Test system

The test system remains unchanged.


Test system
Hardware
Processor:
AMD Athlon XP 3200+ (400) Mhz
Cooling:
Corsair HydroCool 200
Moderkort:
ABIT NF7S 2.0 (nForce2 400 Ultra)
RAM:
768 MB DDR333 @ 2-5-2-2 timings
3x 256 MB Corsair TWINX512-3200LL DDR-SDRAM
Graphics cards:

Gainward GeForce FX 5700 Ultra (128 MB, 500/1000) - €200:-
Albatron GeForce FX 5600 Ultra (128 MB, 400/800) - €160:-
Albatron GeForce FX 5900 PV (128 MB, 400/850) - €265:-
Albatron GeForce FX 5900 Turbo (256 MB, 410/850) - €350:-
nVidia GeForce FX 5700 Ultra (128 MB, 475/900) - €175:-
ATi Radeon 9600 Pro (128 MB, 400/600) - €130:-
ATi AIW Radeon 9600 Pro (128 MB, 400/650) - €222:-
ATi Radeon 9600 XT (128 MB, 500/600) - €150:-
ATi Radeon 9800 (128 MB, 325/580) - €230:-
ATi Radeon 9800 Pro (128 MB, 380/680) - €265:-

HDD:
120 GB Western Digital Caviar 7200 RPM Special Edition (8 MB cache)
Soundcard:
Creative Soundblaster Audigy 2 ZS Platinum Pro
PSU:
Nexus NX-3000 300W
Ethernet:

D-Link DFE-530TX 10/100

Software
Operating system:
Windows XP Professional (Service Pack 1 + updates)
Video drivers:
nVidia: Forceware 52.16
ATi: Catalyst 3.8
Other drivers:
nVidia ForceWare UDA Chipset Drivers v3.13
Benchmarking program:

Unreal Tournament 2003 (v2225)
Quake 3: Arena (v1.32)
Tomb Raider: Angel of Darkness (v.49)
Star Wars Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy ("1.0")
Battlefield 1942: Secret Weapons of World War II (demo "1.0")
Comanche 4 (demo "1.0")
WarCraft 3: Reign of Chaos (demo "1.0")
Counter-Strike (v1.6)
Mafia: City of Lost Heaven (v1.1)
Halo (v1.02)
Max Payne 2: The Fall of Max Payne (v1.01)

We have eleven games and ten cards to test. In other words, we have 110 performance results to plow through. We have picked cards that are in about the same price range. The only card we have missed is one that can team up with Albatrons 5900 Turbo. The one closest to it would be the Radeon 9800 PRO 256 mb, but we only have place for ten cards in our graphs, so we gave the job to Radeon 9800 PRO 128 mb.

We have used the two latest official drivers from ATi and nVidia.

In the review, you will read a couple of different expressions and abbreviations, if you are not related with them our suggestion is that you take a look at the list below. The same list explains some other expressions that are used specifically for this review.

  • AA, FSAA (Full Scene Anti-Aliasing) - Edge smoothing (Reduces angularity in 3D graphics); all modern graphics cards should handle AA/FSAA in some form. AA can be applied in different strengths; 2X, 4X, 6X and so on. The more the better.
  • AF, Aniso (Anisotrophic Filtering) - Antistrophic texture filtering (Increases the sharpness in texture/surfaces in 3D-Graphics); all modern cards should handle AF in some form.
  • App (Application Preference) - If something is marked with this suffix it means that we have let the game handle the AF instead of setting it in the graphics cards control panel.
  • Trilinear - Two different types of texture filtering that either is used on their own or combined with anisotrophic filtering. The highest quality is reached by a combination of trilinear and anisotrophic filtering. At the time, trilinear filtering is the standard in all games released and is seen as a minimum for acceptable quality with today’s measurements.
  • Aliasing - Graphical artifacts that comes from insufficient Information/Precision. It’s often because of "dancing" pixels on either the sides or within textures. By using AA and AF you can reduce Aliasing.

If you find anything above unclear, feel free to e-mail questions to the address you will find at the top of the page. (Please remember that we are not an idealistic support service, hence we recommend you to drop a line in our forums and to the reteller where you bought the product for support.)

It has surfaced a good deal of information about irregularities concerning picture quality in both ATi's and nVidia's drivers. One piece of news in Forceware 52.16 from nVidia is that they no longer support real trilinear filtering. Admittedly, we haven’t considered this as a noticeable problem, but it’s far from a plus. The major problem we have encountered is antistrophic filtering in combination with pixel shaders. Here, nVidia seems to have done something weird- maybe it’s a bug, because the combination of these two named functions cause a lot of aliasing which hasn’t been there before. ATi, on the other hand, has been accused of cheating in Halo, UT2003 and Aquamark 3. Regarding the latter application, I am uncertain as I haven’t tested it myself, but in UT2003, certain high-detail textures is told to have lower quality, which also applies to Halo. Fact is that we haven’t been able to find these irregularities even though we have dug around in the games for a couple of hours. None of our colleagues on other hardware sites have found nothing of value either.

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