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Our testing methods
As always, we did our best to deliver clean benchmarking results. Our test system was configured as follows:

Processor Core i7-5960X
Motherboard Asus X99 Deluxe
Chipset Intel X99
Memory size 16GB (4 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 X99/Realtek ALC1150
Realtek 6.0.1.7525 drivers
Hard drive Kingston HyperX 480GB SATA 6Gbps
Power supply Fractal Design Integra 750W
OS Windows 10 Pro

 

  Driver revision GPU base
core clock
(MHz)
GPU boost
clock
(MHz)
Memory
clock
(MHz)
Memory
size
(MB)
Asus Strix Radeon R9 Fury Radeon Software 16.6.1 - 1000 500 4096
Radeon R9 Fury X Radeon Software 16.6.1 - 1050 500 4096
Gigabyte Windforce GeForce GTX 980 GeForce 368.39 1228 1329 1753 4096
MSI GeForce GTX 980 Ti Gaming 6G GeForce 368.39 1140 1228 1753 6144
MSI GeForce GTX 1070 Gaming Z GeForce 368.39 1657 1860 2002 8192
GeForce GTX 1080 Founders Edition GeForce 368.39 1607 1733 2500 8192

Our thanks to Intel, Corsair, Asus, Kingston, and Fractal Design for helping us to outfit our test rigs, and to MSI, Nvidia and AMD for providing the graphics cards for testing, as well.

For our "Inside the Second" benchmarking techniques, we use the Fraps software utility to collect frame-time information for each frame rendered during our benchmark runs. 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. We filter our Fraps data using a three-frame moving average to account for 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 a frame reaches the display.

You'll note that aside from the Radeon R9 Fury X and the GeForce GTX 1080, 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 1070," "GTX 980," or "GTX 980 Ti" in our results, just remember that we're talking about custom cards, not reference designs. You can read more about the MSI GeForce GTX 980 Ti Gaming 6G in our roundup of those custom cards. We also reviewed the Gigabyte Windforce GeForce GTX 980 a while back, and the Asus Strix Radeon R9 Fury was central to our review of that GPU.

Each title we benched was run in its DirectX 11 mode. We understand that DirectX 12 performance is a major point of interest for many gamers right now, but the number of titles out there with stable DirectX 12 implementations is quite small. DX12 also poses challenges for data collection that we're still working on. For a good gaming experience today, our money is still on DX11.

Finally, you'll note that in the titles we benched at 4K, the Radeon R9 Fury is absent. That's because our card wouldn't play nicely with the 4K display we use on our test bench for some reason. It's unclear why this issue arose, but in the interest of time, we decided to drop the card from our results. Going by our original Fury review, the GTX 980 is a decent proxy for the Fury's performance, which is to say that it's not usually up to the task of 4K gaming to begin with. You can peruse those numbers and make your own conclusions.