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Test notes
Both AMD and Nvidia released new drivers during our testing period for this article, so we dealt with the change the best we could on a rolling basis.

For the Radeon cards, we began using the Catalyst 7.6 drivers, and then Cat 7.7 was released. The new drivers' release notes didn't promise much in the way of performance enhancements, but they did offer fixes for Lost Planet: Extreme Condition. We found that Lost Planet ran much faster with Cat 7.7, so we've included results using those drivers. Of our other DX10 apps, Company of Heroes was no faster with Cat 7.7 and Call of Juarez was slightly slower, so we stuck with our Cat 7.6 results. All video, power, and noise testing was conducted with Cat 7.7.

We started with ForceWare 158.45 on the GeForce cards, but employed the 163.11 beta release for testing Company of Heroes and Lost Planet, since the new drivers have specfic fixes for those games. Call of Juarez was no faster with the 163.11 drivers, so we retained our 158.45 results. All video, power, and noise testing was conducted with 163.11.

Our testing methods
As ever, we did our best to deliver clean benchmark numbers. Tests were run at least three times, and the results were averaged.

Our test systems were configured like so:

Processor Core 2 Extreme X6800 2.93GHz Core 2 Extreme X6800 2.93GHz
System bus 1066MHz (266MHz quad-pumped) 1066MHz (266MHz quad-pumped)
Motherboard XFX nForce 680i SLI Asus P5W DH Deluxe
BIOS revision P26 1901
North bridge nForce 680i SLI SPP 975X MCH
South bridge nForce 680i SLI MCP ICH7R
Chipset drivers ForceWare 15.00 INF update 8.1.1.1010
Matrix Storage Manager 6.21
Memory size 4GB (4 DIMMs) 4GB (4 DIMMs)
Memory type 2 x Corsair TWIN2X20488500C5D
DDR2 SDRAM
at 800MHz
2 x Corsair TWIN2X20488500C5D
DDR2 SDRAM
at 800MHz
CAS latency (CL) 4 4
RAS to CAS delay (tRCD) 4 4
RAS precharge (tRP) 4 4
Cycle time (tRAS) 18 18
Command rate 2T 2T
Hard drive Maxtor DiamondMax 10 250GB SATA 150 Maxtor DiamondMax 10 250GB SATA 150
Audio Integrated nForce 680i SLI/ALC850
with Microsoft drivers
Integrated ICH7R/ALC882M
with Microsoft drivers
Graphics EVGA GeForce 8800 GTS OC 640MB PCIe
with ForceWare 158.45 and 163.11 drivers
Dual Radeon HD 2900 XT 512MB PCIe
with Catalyst 7.6 and 7.7 drivers
Dual EVGA GeForce 8800 GTS OC 640MB PCIe
with ForceWare 158.45 and 163.11 drivers
Dual Radeon HD 2900 XT 1GB GDDR4 PCIe
with Catalyst 7.6 and 7.7 drivers
MSI GeForce 8800 GTX 768MB PCIe
with ForceWare 158.45 and 163.11 drivers
Dual GeForce 8800 GTX 768MB PCIe
with ForceWare 158.45
and 163.11 drivers
XFX GeForce 8800 Ultra XXX 768MB PCIe
with ForceWare 158.45
and 163.11 drivers
Dual XFX GeForce 8800 Ultra XXX 768MB PCIe
with ForceWare 158.45
and 163.11 drivers
Radeon HD 2900 XT 512MB PCIe
with Catalyst 7.6 and 7.7 drivers
Radeon HD 2900 XT 1GB GDDR4 PCIe
with Catalyst 7.6 and 7.7 drivers
OS Windows Vista Ultimate x86 Edition Windows Vista Ultimate x86 Edition
OS updates - -

Thanks to Corsair for providing us with memory for our testing. Their quality, service, and support are easily superior to no-name DIMMs.

Our test systems were powered by PC Power & Cooling Turbo-Cool 1KW-SR power supply units. Thanks to OCZ for providing these units for our use in testing.

Unless otherwise specified, image quality settings for the graphics cards were left at the control panel defaults. Vertical refresh sync (vsync) was disabled for all tests.

We used the following versions of our test applications:

The tests and methods we employ are generally publicly available and reproducible. If you have questions about our methods, hit our forums to talk with us about them.