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Test notes
As we said on the previous page, our GeForce 9600 GT and Radeon HD 3850 were both "factory overclocked," so their performance is a little higher than other cards of the same name. All of our other cards run at their stock speeds, except for the GeForce 8800 GTS 512MB, which is "factory overclocked" pretty typically for a model in its price range.

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 Core 2 Extreme X6800 2.93GHz
System bus 1066MHz (266MHz quad-pumped) 1066MHz (266MHz quad-pumped) 1066MHz (266MHz quad-pumped)
Motherboard Gigabyte GA-X38-DQ6 XFX nForce 680i SLI EVGA nForce 780i SLI
BIOS revision F7 P31 P03
North bridge X38 MCH nForce 680i SLI SPP nForce 780i SLI SPP
South bridge ICH9R nForce 680i SLI MCP nForce 780i SLI MCP
Chipset drivers INF update 8.3.1.1009
Matrix Storage Manager 7.8
ForceWare 15.08 ForceWare 9.64
Memory size 4GB (4 DIMMs) 4GB (4 DIMMs) 4GB (4 DIMMs)
Memory type 2 x Corsair TWIN2X20488500C5D
DDR2 SDRAM
at 800MHz
2 x Corsair TWIN2X20488500C5D
DDR2 SDRAM
at 800MHz
2 x Corsair TWIN2X20488500C5
DDR2 SDRAM
at 800MHz
CAS latency (CL) 4 4 4
RAS to CAS delay (tRCD) 4 4 4
RAS precharge (tRP) 4 4 4
Cycle time (tRAS) 18 18 18
Command rate 2T 2T 2T
Audio Integrated ICH9R/ALC889A
with RealTek 6.0.1.5497 drivers
Integrated nForce 680i SLI/ALC850
with RealTek 6.0.1.5497 drivers
Integrated nForce 780i SLI/ALC885
with RealTek 6.0.1.5497 drivers
Graphics Diamond Radeon HD 3850 512MB PCIe
with Catalyst 8.2 drivers
Dual GeForce 8800 GT 512MB PCIe
with ForceWare 169.28 drivers
Dual GeForce 9800 GTX 512MB PCIe
with ForceWare 174.53 drivers
Dual Radeon HD 3850 512MB PCIe
with Catalyst 8.2 drivers
Dual GeForce 8800 Ultra 768MB PCIe
with ForceWare 169.28 drivers
Triple GeForce 9800 GTX 512MB PCIe
with ForceWare 174.53 drivers
Radeon HD 3870 512MB PCIe
with Catalyst 8.2 drivers
Triple GeForce 8800 Ultra 768MB PCIe
with ForceWare 169.28 drivers
Dual GeForce 9800 GX2 1GB PCIe
with ForceWare 174.53 drivers
Dual Radeon HD 3870 512MB PCIe
with Catalyst 8.2 drivers
Dual Palit GeForce 9600 GT 512MB PCIe
with ForceWare 174.12 drivers
Radeon HD 3870 X2 1GB PCIe
with Catalyst 8.2 drivers
Dual Radeon HD 3870 X2 1GB PCIe
with Catalyst 8.3 drivers
Radeon HD 3870 X2 1GB PCIe +
Radeon HD 3870 512MB PCIe
with Catalyst 8.3 drivers
Palit GeForce 9600 GT 512MB PCIe
with ForceWare 174.12 drivers
GeForce 8800 GT 512MB PCIe
with ForceWare 169.28 drivers
EVGA GeForce 8800 GTS 512MB PCIe
with ForceWare 169.28 drivers
GeForce 8800 Ultra 768MB PCIe
with ForceWare 169.28 drivers
GeForce 9800 GX2 1GB PCIe
with ForceWare 174.53 drivers
GeForce 9800 GX2 1GB PCIe
with ForceWare 174.53 drivers
Hard drive WD Caviar SE16 320GB SATA
OS Windows Vista Ultimate x86 Edition
OS updates KB936710, KB938194, KB938979, KB940105, KB945149, DirectX November 2007 Update

Please note that we tested the single and dual-GPU Radeon configs with the Catalyst 8.2 drivers, simply because we didn't have enough time to re-test everything with Cat 8.3. The one exception is Crysis, where we tested single- and dual-GPU Radeons with AMD's 8.451-2-080123a drivers, which include many of the same application-specific tweaks that the final Catalyst 8.3 drivers do.

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

Most of our test systems were powered by PC Power & Cooling Silencer 750W power supply units. The Silencer 750W was a runaway Editor's Choice winner in our epic 11-way power supply roundup, so it seemed like a fitting choice for our test rigs. The three- and four-way SLI systems required a larger PSU, so we used a PC Power & Cooling Turbo-Cool 1200 for those systems. 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.