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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
System bus 1333MHz (333MHz quad-pumped)
Motherboard Gigabyte GA-X38-DQ6
BIOS revision F9a
North bridge X38 MCH
South bridge ICH9R
Chipset drivers INF update 8.3.1.1009
Matrix Storage Manager 7.8
Memory size 2GB (4 DIMMs)
Memory type Corsair TWIN2X40966400C4DHX
DDR2 SDRAM
at 800MHz
CAS latency (CL) 4
RAS to CAS delay (tRCD) 4
RAS precharge (tRP) 4
Cycle time (tRAS) 12
Command rate 2T
Audio Integrated ICH9R/ALC889A
with RealTek 6.0.1.5618 drivers
Graphics
Radeon HD 4670 512MB GDDR3 PCIe
with Catalyst
8.53-080805a-067874E-ATI drivers
Diamond Radeon HD 3850 512MB PCIe
with Catalyst 8.8 drivers
Radeon HD 4830 512MB PCIe
with 8.542-081003a-070362E-ATI drivers
Asus Radeon HD 4850 512MB PCIe
with Catalyst 8.8 drivers
Diamond Radeon HD 4870 512MB PCIe
with Catalyst 8.9 drivers
Radeon HD 4870 1GB PCIe
with Catalyst 8.9 drivers
Palit Radeon HD 4870 X2 2GB PCIe
with Catalyst 8.9 drivers
Zotac GeForce 9500 GT ZONE
512MB GDDR3 PCIe
with ForceWare 177.92 drivers
EVGA GeForce 9600 GSO 512MB PCIe
with ForceWare 177.92 drivers
BFG GeForce 9600 GT OCX 512MB PCIe
with ForceWare 177.92 drivers
Palit GeForce 9800 GT 1GB PCIe
with ForceWare 177.92 drivers
GeForce 9800 GTX+ 512MB PCIe
with ForceWare 177.92 drivers
Palit GeForce GTX 260 896MB PCIe
with ForceWare 178.13 drivers
Zotac GeForce GTX 260 (216 SPs) AMP²! Edition 896MB PCIe
with ForceWare 178.13 drivers
XFX GeForce GTX 280 1GB PCIe
with ForceWare 178.13 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.

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.