A starting point: Fill rate
Since we're interested in GPU horsepower, a quick peek at our results for 3DMark06's multitextured fill rate test seems in order. The number of texels (a.k.a. texture elements, or multi-textured pixels) a given GPU can crank out per second is a long-standing key performance metric. Shader power is becoming more important, but it's more difficult to test well; we're not convinced any one of 3DMark06's shader tests is a good overall measure of shader power. This quick multiextured fill rate benchmark should give us a decent indication of each configuration's texture throughput.
These numbers aren't always good predictors of actual in-game performance, but they do give us a sense of this one important variable. The GeForce 8800 GT lands at the top of our texel throughput value rankings in both its single and dual-card configurations.
The distribution in the scatter plot highlights some realities about current GPU architectures. AMD's RV670 GPU powers all current Radeons, and its texture filtering capacity is relatively modest. As a result, the red points on the plot don't extend too far up the Y axis, even in three- and four-GPU configurations, where they're reaching beyond $500. On the Nvidia side of things, the newer G92 GPU packs quite a bit more texture filtering punch than the older G80 chip in the GeForce 8800 Ultra. The three- and four-way G92 configs are just sick, although you'll pay dearly for them. The GeForce 9600 GT, meanwhile, is based on the G94 GPU, which has roughly half the texture filtering and shader power of the G92. That blunts some of this card's otherwise-potent value appeal.
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