Single page Print

Test notes
Let me say a word or two about video drivers. When you've compiled the sheer volume of test results we have in the following pages, driver revision management is bound to get tricky. Some of the single-card results from prior-gen GPUs were obtained with somewhat older drivers. We decided to go ahead and include them here since for those who are interested, although the comparison to newer cards and drivers may not be exact.

Also, the drivers we used for newer cards are pre-release or beta drivers, which may create some confusion. For instance, the driver revision we used for the Radeon HD 4850 and 4870 is newer than the WHQL'ed Catalyst 8.7 release available on AMD's website, despite the 8.5.xx version string we've reported. Similarly, the 177.39 drivers we used for the GeForce cards are newer than the 177.41 WHQL drivers posted on Nvidia's website. And, of course, the drivers we used on the 4870 X2 are brand-spanking-new and still unreleased.

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 QX9650 3.0GHz Core 2 Extreme QX9650 3.0GHz
System bus 1333MHz (333MHz quad-pumped) 1333MHz (333MHz quad-pumped)
Motherboard Gigabyte GA-X38-DQ6 EVGA nForce 780i SLI
BIOS revision F9a P05p
North bridge X38 MCH 780i SLI SPP
South bridge ICH9R 780i SLI MCP
Chipset drivers INF update 8.3.1.1009
Matrix Storage Manager 7.8
ForceWare 15.17
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) 5 5
RAS to CAS delay (tRCD) 5 5
RAS precharge (tRP) 5 5
Cycle time (tRAS) 18 18
Command rate 2T 2T
Audio Integrated ICH9R/ALC889A
with RealTek 6.0.1.5618 drivers
Integrated nForce 780i SLI MCP/ALC885
with RealTek 6.0.1.5618 drivers
Graphics
Radeon HD 2900 XT 512MB PCIe
with Catalyst 8.5 drivers
Dual XFX GeForce 9800 GTX XXX 512MB PCIe
with ForceWare 177.39 drivers
Asus Radeon HD 3870 512MB PCIe
with Catalyst 8.5 drivers
Dual Palit GeForce GTX 260 896MB PCIe
with ForceWare 177.39 drivers
Radeon HD 3870 X2 1GB PCIe
with Catalyst 8.5 drivers
Dual Palit GeForce GTX 260 896MB PCIe
+ GeForce GTX 260 896MB PCIe
with ForceWare 177.39 drivers
 
Radeon HD 4850 512MB PCIe
with Catalyst 8.501.1-080612a-064906E-ATI drivers
Palit GeForce GTX 280 1GB PCIe
+ XFX GeForce GTX 280 1GB PCIe
with ForceWare 177.39 drivers
Dual Radeon HD 4850 512MB PCIe
with Catalyst 8.501.1-080612a-064906E-ATI drivers
Dual Palit GeForce GTX 280 1GB PCIe
+ XFX GeForce GTX 280 1GB PCIe
with ForceWare 177.39 drivers
 
Radeon HD 4870 512MB PCIe
with Catalyst 8.501.1-080612a-064906E-ATI drivers
 
Dual Radeon HD 4870 512MB PCIe
with Catalyst 8.501.1-080612a-064906E-ATI drivers
 
Radeon HD 4870 X2 2GB PCIe
with Catalyst 8.52-2-080722a-066081E-ATI drivers
 
Diamond Radeon HD 4870 512MB PCIe +
Radeon HD 4870 X2 2GB PCIe
with Catalyst 8.52-2-080722a-066081E-ATI drivers
 
Dual Radeon HD 4870 X2 2GB PCIe
with Catalyst 8.52-2-080722a-066081E-ATI drivers
 
MSI GeForce 8800 GTX 768MB PCIe
with ForceWare 175.16 drivers
 
XFX GeForce 9800 GTX 512MB PCIe
with ForceWare 175.16 drivers
 
XFX GeForce 9800 GTX XXX 512MB PCIe
with ForceWare 177.39 drivers
 
GeForce 9800 GTX+ 512MB PCIe
with ForceWare 177.39 drivers
 
XFX GeForce 9800 GX2 1GB PCIe
with ForceWare 175.16 drivers
 
GeForce GTX 260 896MB PCIe
with ForceWare 177.34 drivers
 
GeForce GTX 280 1GB PCIe
with ForceWare 177.34 drivers
 
Hard drive WD Caviar SE16 320GB SATA
OS Windows Vista Ultimate x64 Edition
OS updates Service Pack 1, DirectX March 2008 update

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 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. Because it needs ever more power and a different connector layout, our three-way GeForce GTX 280 SLI system used a PC Power & Cooling Turbo-Cool 1200, instead. Thanks to OCZ for providing all of 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.