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Our testing methods
As always, we did our best to deliver clean numbers. We ran our graphics card tests on the following test system and with the following graphics cards:

Processor Intel Core i7-6700K
Motherboard ASRock Z170 Extreme7+
Chipset Intel Z170
Memory size 16GB (2 DIMMs)
Memory type Corsair Vengeance LPX
DDR4 SDRAM at 3200 MT/s
Memory timings 16-18-18-36
Chipset drivers Intel Management Engine 11.0.0.1155
Intel Rapid Storage Technology V 14.5.0.1081
Audio Integrated Z170/Realtek ALC1150
Realtek 6.0.1.7525 drivers
Hard drive OCZ Vector 180 480GB SATA 6Gbps
Power supply Corsair RM850
OS Windows 10 Pro with Anniversary Update

 

  Driver revision GPU base
core clock
(MHz)
GPU boost
clock
(MHz)
Memory
clock
(MHz)
Memory
size
(MB)
XFX Radeon RX 470 RS Radeon Software 16.8.1 beta  - 1256 1750 4096
Radeon RX 480 Radeon Software 16.8.1 beta 1120 1266 2000 8192
Sapphire Nitro Radeon R9 380X Radeon Software 16.8.1 beta 1228 1329 1753 4096
MSI GeForce GTX 970 Gaming 4G GeForce 368.81 1114 1253 1753 4096
Gigabyte Windforce GTX 960 4GB GeForce 368.81 1216 1279 1753 4096

For our "Inside the Second" benchmarking techniques, we now use a software utility called PresentMon to collect frame-time data from DirectX 11, DirectX 12, OpenGL, and Vulkan games alike. We sometimes use a more advanced tool called FCAT to capture exactly when frames arrive at the display, but our testing has shown that it's not usually necessary to use this tool in order to generate good results for single-GPU setups.

You'll note that aside from the Radeon RX 480, our test card stable is made up of non-reference designs with boosted clock speeds and beefy coolers. Many readers have called us out on this practice in the past for some reason, so we want to be upfront about it here. We bench non-reference cards because we feel they provide the best real-world representation of performance for the graphics card in question. They're the type of cards we recommend in our System Guides, so we think they provide the most relatable performance numbers for our reader base. To make things simple, when you see "GTX 970," "GTX 960," or "Radeon RX 470" in our results, just remember that we're talking about custom cards, not reference designs.

With that exposition out of the way, let's talk results.