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HL2: Lost Coast with QuadSLI

In our Half Life 2 : Lost Coast level testing, we ran things a bit differently between our NVIDIA and ATI-based test machines.  Since even Half Life's HDR-enabled Lost Coast level doesn't tax these high end graphics cards all that much, we decided we would not only turn up the resolution but turn up AA levels a bit as well.

Performance Comparisons with Half-Life 2
Details: http://www.half-life2.com/

Half Life 2
Thanks to the dedication of hardcore PC gamers and a huge mod-community, the original Half-Life became one of the most successful first person shooters of all time.  So, when Valve announced Half-Life 2 was close to completion in mid-2003, gamers the world over sat in eager anticipation. Unfortunately, thanks to a compromised internal network, the theft of a portion of the game's source code, and a tumultuous relationship with the game's distributor, Vivendi Universal, we all had to wait until November '04 to get our hands on this classic. We benchmarked Half-Life 2 with a long, custom-recorded timedemo in the "Canals" map, that takes us through both outdoor and indoor environments. 

Below we have screen shots for you of two different sampling patterns from NVIDIA and ATI that result in very comparable image quality production.  For NVIDIA, 8Xs AA means doing a 4X Multi-Sample AA process on each card and then a 2X Super-Sample.  For ATI, 10X SAA (Super AA mode) means blending a pair of 4X Multi-Samples and then applying a 2X Super-Sample.  So, in short, these two patterns are as close to comparable as you get for anything higher than 4X AA between NVIDIA and ATI cards but don't take our word for it, see for yourselves in the screen shots below.


NVIDIA 1920X1200 - 8Xs AA
 

ATI 1920X1200 - 10X SAA
 

NVIDIA Quad SLI
Load Balancing

Though we would consider ourselves complete "pixel snobs", we are hard pressed to call one image better than the other in the above 8Xs and 10X SAA shots.  Image quality for both setups looks completely stunning actually with minimal aliasing, great texture quality and HDR lighting.  Incidentally, we asked NVIDIA if their products are specifically capable of rendering HDR with AA turned on in Half Life 2: Lost Coast and this is what we were told. 

"There are many ways to accomplish AA and HDR in applications. Some games like Half Life 2 Lost Coast use an integer-based HDR technique, and in such games, the GeForce 6 and GeForce 7 chips can render HDR with MSAA simultaneously using that method. The GeForce 6 and GeForce 7 series GPUs do not support simultaneous multisampled AA (MSAA) and FP16 (floating point) blending in hardware (the method used in 3dMark 2006 for example)."

Finally,on another side note, in the far right shot, we can see that a Quad SLI setup does AFR of SFR (Alternate Frame Rendering of Split Frame Rendering) to load-balance the rendering process in HL2: Lost Coast, so we do have Quad SLI numbers for you here.

At high res. and super high AA mode, the Quad SLI setup, powered by the Asus EN7950GX2 coupled with our stock GeForce 7950 GX2 card, in Quad SLI mode, showed the best overall performance, besting the next fastest config, a single EN7950GX2, by about 22%.  This is hardly the type of 2X gain one would expect from adding another 2 GPUs for available rendering resources but that's AFR of SFR mode for you.  NVIDIA will only really realize full potential of Quad SLI when they get the majority of game engines running in full Quad AFR SLI mode.

Beyond that, the Asus EN7950GX2 blows any single card out of the water at any level and even competes with an X1900 CrossFire setup with high levels of AA enabled. 

Tags:  Asus, GeForce, X2, force, 7950

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