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Test notes
This review is the perfect opportunity to debut our new GPU test rigs. We have a pair of GPU rigs in Damage Labs, one for Radeons and the other for GeForces, that allow us to test two graphics cards at once. We've updated the core components on these systems to the very best new hardware, so they should fit quite nicely with the Titan X. Have a look:

The major components are:

  • Intel Core i7-5960X processor
  • Gigabyte X99-UD5 WiFi motherboard
  • Corsair Vengeance LPX DDR4 memory - 16GB
  • Kingston SSDNow 310 960GB SSD
  • Corsair AX850 modular power supply
  • Thermaltake Frio CPU cooler

The CPU-and-mobo combination offers an ideal platform for multi-GPU testing, with tons of PCIe Gen3 lanes up and to four PCIe x16 slots spaced two apart. That's room for lots of shenanigans.

Speaking of shenanigans, whenever I show a picture of our test systems, people always ask why they include DVD drives. The answer? Mostly so I have place to plug in the extra SATA and power leads that I need when I plug in external drives for imaging. Also, I can install legacy games I own in a pinch. So deal with it.

One place where I didn't go for the ultra-high-end components in these builds was the SSDs. My concern here wasn't raw performance—especially since most SATA drives are limited by the interface as much as anything—but capacity. Games keep growing in size, and the 480GB drives in our old test rigs were getting to be cramped.

Thanks to Intel, Gigabyte, Corsair, and Kingston for providing new hardware for our test systems. We've already started putting it to good use.

Our testing methods
Most of the numbers you'll see on the following pages were captured with Fraps, a software tool that can record the rendering time for each frame of animation. We sometimes use a tool called FCAT to capture exactly when each frame was delivered to the display, but that's usually not necessary in order to get good data with single-GPU setups. We have, however, filtered our Fraps results using a three-frame moving average. This filter should account for the effect of the three-frame submission queue in Direct3D. If you see a frame time spike in our results, it's likely a delay that would affect when the frame reaches the display.

We didn't use Fraps with Civ: Beyond Earth or Battlefield 4. Instead, we captured frame times directly from the game engines using the games' built-in tools. We didn't use our low-pass filter on those results.

As ever, we did our best to deliver clean benchmark numbers. Our test systems were configured like so:

Processor Core i7-5960X
Motherboard Gigabyte X99-UD5 WiFi
Chipset Intel X99
Memory size 16GB (4 DIMMs)
Memory type Corsair Vengeance LPX
DDR4 SDRAM at 2133 MT/s
Memory timings 15-15-15-36 2T
Chipset drivers INF update 10.0.20.0
Rapid Storage Technology Enterprise 13.1.0.1058
Audio Integrated X79/ALC898
with Realtek 6.0.1.7246 drivers
Hard drive Kingston SSDNow 310 960GB SATA
Power supply Corsair AX850
OS Windows 8.1 Pro

Driver revision GPU base
core clock
(MHz)
GPU boost
clock
(MHz)
Memory
clock
(MHz)
Memory
size
(MB)
Asus Radeon R9 290X Catalyst 14.12 Omega - 1050 1350 4096
Radeon R9 295 X2 Catalyst 14.12 Omega - 1018 1250 8192
GeForce GTX 780 Ti GeForce 347.84 876 928 1750 3072
Gigabyte GeForce GTX 980 GeForce 347.84 1228 1329 1753 4096
GeForce Titan X GeForce 347.84 1002 1076 1753 12288

Thanks to Intel, Corsair, Kingston, and Gigabyte for helping to outfit our test rigs with some of the finest hardware available. AMD, Nvidia, and the makers of the various products supplied the graphics cards for testing, as well.

Also, our FCAT video capture and analysis rig has some pretty demanding storage requirements. For it, Corsair has provided four 256GB Neutron SSDs, which we've assembled into a RAID 0 array for our primary capture storage device. When that array fills up, we copy the captured videos to our RAID 1 array, comprised of a pair of 4TB Black hard drives provided by WD.

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.

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.