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Game performance
We'll kick things off with a selection of four of the most recent PC games on the market, each based on an entirely different engine. All games were tested with FRAPs, which logged frame rates as we played through 60-second sections of each title. Tests were run five times and the results averaged. We've also provided a look at how frame rates tracked through our 60-second gameplay run and the median low frame rate for each card.

Bioshock uses Unreal technology, delivering native support for OpenAL in Windows Vista.

Not much to see here, folks. The Prelude technically manages the highest average frame rates of the bunch, but by less than half a frame per second. Only just over one FPS separates the best score from the worst here, and even the median low frame rates are close.

Call of Duty 4
Call of Duty 4 uses an engine of developer Infinity Ward's own creation. In Windows Vista, audio is handled by OpenAL.

We see a little more difference between in-game frame rates in Call of Duty 4, with the most notable outlier being the X-Fi Fatal1ty trailing the rest of the pack by a few frames per second. Again, the X-Fi Prelude manages to come out on top, although the Xonar and Realtek onboard audio do offer slightly higher median low frame rates.

Crytek's latest engine is an absolute beast, and rather than relying on any form of hardware acceleration, it includes a software audio mixer designed to deliver the same listening experience regardless of the user's sound card. Unfortunately, FRAPs refused to cooperate with a couple of our configurations—even after a clean reinstall—limiting us to only a couple of test runs with the Xonar and Prelude.

As one might expect, scores are close again. This time, it's the Xonar taking top honors, followed by dueling X-Fis ahead of our onboard audio implementation. The Prelude's median low frame rate is a little off the pace here, but overall, we have another wash.

Quake Wars
id Software has long supported cross-platform APIs like OpenGL, so it's no surprise that Quake Wars uses OpenAL under Windows Vista.

Again, there isn't a whole lot of difference between the cards. Average frame rates are all within a couple of frames per second. The X-Fi Fatal1ty and Xonar D2X do exhibit notably lower minimum frame rates than the others, though.