Screenshots & Video Processing
We've done a number of comprehensive image quality comparisons using ATi's and NVIDIA's high-end GPUs in a few past reviews, so we won't go too in-depth again here today. What we do have for you, however, are a few screenshots from 3DMark05 taken at the same settings we used to benchmark the X850...
In these first shots from 3DMark05's "Battle for Proxycon" game test, you can see the differences in the images made when enabling 4X antialiasing and 8X anisotropic filtering. In the screenshots taken without any antialiasing or aniso, all three of the cards produce a very similar image. And with 4X AA and 8X aniso enabled, sections of the walls and pipes in the distance get sharper, and the jaggies along the railings and boxes are significantly reduced with all of the cards. Comparing the output from the GeForce 6800 to the X850 shows a few minor differences, though. With the GeForce, the lines along the top of the boxes in the foreground seem smoother, but the grates on the platform in the background show a little more detail with the Radeon.
We also took a few screenshots in 3DMark05's "Firefly Forest" game test. In this batch of screenshots we found it incredibly difficult to find any differences between the three cards' output. Unlike the GeForce FX / Radeon 9800 battle of the past, image quality with both companies' high-end cards is now very similar. Video cards from both companies produce excellent images.
NVIDIA has weathered a bit of negative press recently with regard to the GeForce 6800's on-chip video processor. NVIDIA had promised full hardware accelerated MPEG 1 and 2, and WMV9 encoding and decoding with the NV40. But NVIDIA initially fell a bit short with its support for WMV9 decoding. The GeForce 6600 and 6200 have an "updated" video processor that does everything NVIDIA had initially claimed, but the 6800s lack WMV9 acceleration...
With that in mind, we ran some quick tests using a few of the high-definition videos available on Microsoft's WMVHD site. We played these videos on a system powered by a 3.6GHz P4, using the Radeon X850 and a GeForce 6800 Ultra, with Windows Media Player 10 monitoring CPU utilization throughout. In the end, the Radeon used much less CPU horsepower, especially in the higher-resolution "Step Into Liquid" video. NVIDIA has also claimed it'll be able to remedy this situation somewhat with a future driver release, but those drivers have yet to materialize. Until they do, ATi seems to have an advantage with WMV acceleration with its high-end cards.