ATI Radeon HD 2900 XT - R600 Has Arrived

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Our Test Systems and 3DMark06

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HOW WE CONFIGURED THE TEST SYSTEMS: We tested all of the graphics cards used in this article on either an EVGA nForce 680i SLI motherboard (NVIDIA GPUs) or an Intel D975XBX2 board (ATI GPUs) powered by a Core 2 Extreme X6800 dual-core processor and 2GB of low-latency Corsair RAM. The first thing we did when configuring the test system was enter the BIOS and set all values to their "optimized" default settings. Then we manually configured the memory timings and disabled any integrated peripherals that wouldn't be put to use. The hard drive was then formatted, and Windows XP Pro with SP2 and the April '07 DX9 update was installed. When the installation was complete, we then installed the latest chipset drivers available, installed all of the other drivers necessary for the rest of our components, and removed Windows Messenger from the system.  Auto-Updating and System Restore were also disabled, the hard drive was defragmented, and a 1024MB permanent page file was created on the same partition as the Windows installation. Lastly, we set Windows XP's Visual Effects to "best performance," installed all of the benchmarking software, and ran the tests.

The HotHardware Test System
Core 2 Extreme Powered


Processor -

Motherboard -






Video Cards -






Memory -


Audio -

Hard Drive
-

Hardware Used:
Core 2 Extreme X6800 (2.93GHz)


EVGA nForce 680i SLI
nForce 680i SLI chipset

Intel D975XBX2
975X Express 

GeForce 88oo Ultra (2)
GeForce 8800 GTX (2)
GeForce 8800 GTS (2)
EVGA GeForce 8800 GTS (2)  

Radeon X1950 XTX (2)
Radeon HD 2900 XT (2)

2048MB Corsair PC2-6400C3
2 X 1GB

Integrated on board

Western Digital "Raptor"

74GB - 10,000RPM - SATA


OS -
Chipset Drivers -
DirectX -

Video Drivers
-



Synthetic (DX) -
DirectX -
DirectX -
DirectX -
DirectX -
OpenGL -

OpenGL -
 
Relevant Software:
Windows XP Pro SP2
nForce Drivers v9.53
DirectX 9.0c (April '07 Redist.)

NVIDIA Forceware v158.19
ATI Catalyst v7.4 / 8.37


Benchmarks Used:
3DMark06 v1.0.2
S.T.A.L.K.E.R. *
F.E.A.R. v1.08
Half Life 2: Episode 1*
Prey v1.2*
Quake 4 v1.3*

* - Custom Test (HH Exclusive demo)

Performance Comparisons with 3DMark06 v1.0.2
Details: www.futuremark.com/products/3dmark06


3DMark06
3DMark06 is the most recent addition to the 3DMark franchise. This version differs from 3Dmark05 in a number of ways, and includes not only Shader Model 2.0 tests, but Shader Model 3.0 and HDR tests as well. Some of the assets from 3DMark05 have been re-used, but the scenes are now rendered with much more geometric detail and the shader complexity is vastly increased as well. Max shader length in 3DMark05 was 96 instructions, while 3DMark06 ups that number to 512. 3DMark06 also employs much more lighting and there is extensive use of soft shadows. With 3DMark06, Futuremark has also updated how the final score is tabulated. In this latest version of the benchmark, SM 2.0 and HDR / SM3.0 tests are weighted and the CPU score is factored into the final tally as well.

We've broken up all of our graphs into two different sections in an effort to make them easier to read. The top portion of each graph it made up of all of the single-GPU configurations, while the bottom half consists of all of the dual-GPU SLI or CrossFire setups.

We would also like to point out the reason that we have two sets of GeForce 8800 GTS numbers listed here.  The EVGA GeForce 8800 GTS cards listed in our graphs are "factory overclocked" models that are available for about $370-$400 a piece. The vanilla GeForce 8800 GTS cards listed here are standard models clocked at NVIDIA's reference specifications.  We thought it best to include both sets of numbers to illustrate exactly how the Radeon HD 2900 XT compare to both types of GTS.

With that out of the way, according to 3DMark06, the new Radeon HD 2900 XT performs slightly better than the factory overclocked 8800 GTS card in a single card configuration and virtually on the same level (alibiet slightly below) two factory overclocked GTS cards running in SLI mode. The HD 2900 also turned out to be significantly faster than the Radeon X1950 XTX, but it couldn't catch NVIDIA's high-end 8800 GTX or Ultra cards.

 

If we drill down into the 3DMark06 results and look at the individual shader model 2.0 and shader model 3.0 / HDR tests, we can see just how the Radeon HD 2900 XT was able to compete with NVIDIA's similarly priced offerings. In a single card configuration the HD 2900 XT finished just ahead of the overclocked GTS card in the SM 2.0 test, but its lead dwindled when running in CrossFire mode.  The see-saw battle in the SM 2.0 test was overshadowed by the HD 2900 XT's much stronger performance in the SM 3.0 / HDR test, however. In the SM 3.0 / HD test, in both single and dual-card configurations, ATI's new flagship put up scores that came close to matching an 8800 GTX, which put it well out in front of either GeForce 8800 GTS configuration.

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