Test Setup & 3DMark05 Benchmarking
How we configured our test systems and our methodology:
This is an important section because we had to set up things a bit differently in order to achieve what we feel was the most level playing field and "apples to apples" comparison. Early on in our testing, it became very obvious to us that our ATi Radeon cards were at a considerable disadvantage running in the nForce4-driven ASUS A8N-SLI Deluxe board. This isn't so much a knock on ASUS as it is just indicative of the fact that NVIDIA highly tunes its chipset obviously for optimal performance with their graphics cards.
The ATi/nForce4 combination disadvantage was so pronounced over what we had seen in testing with ATi cards on other platforms that we felt it wouldn't even be close to a fair comparison of graphics subsystem performance. As such, we made an effort to give each platform and graphics card combination the ability to realize their respective maximum potential in their own "native" architectures. So we utilized the same processor, RAM, and hard drive in each testbed but set up our ATi card on a PCI Express-enabled Radeon Xpress 200 reference motherboard and the NVIDIA cards and SLI set upon the ASUS A8N-SLI Deluxe, which is based on the nForce4.
As far as drivers go, we used the latest Catalyst 4.12 driver from ATi and the only current NVIDIA Forceware driver that supports SLI mode, version 66.93.
Finally, because our GeForce 6800GTs were actually so stable in the ASUS A8N-SLI board, we were able to overclock them to identical GeForce 6800 Ultra speeds (400MHz core / 1.1GHz memory) and provide those metrics for you, as well, in our benchmark data.
Video Cards -
Hard Drive -
Optical Drive -
Operating System -
Chipset Drivers -
Video Drivers -
AMD Athlon 64 FX-53 processor (2.4GHz)
ASUS A8N-SLI Deluxe
ATi Radeon Xpress 200 reference motherboard
(for ATi graphics testing only)
Dual GeForce 6800 Ultras- SLI (overclocked 6800 GT)
Dual GeForce 6800 GTs - SLI (stock)
GeForce 6800 Ultra
GeForce 6800 GT
ATI Radeon X850 XT PE
ATi Radeon X800 XT PE
1024MB Kingston HyperX PC3500
Integrated on board
Western Digital "Raptor"
36GB - 10,000RPM - SATA
Lite-On 16X DVD-ROM
3.5-inch Floppy Drive
Windows XP Professional SP2 (Fully Patched)
Intel INF v188.8.131.528
NVIDIA Forceware v66.93
ATI Catalyst v4.12
|3DMark05 is the latest installment in a long line of synthetic 3D graphics benchmarks, dating back to late 1998. 3DMark99 came out in October 1998 and was followed by the very popular DirectX 7 benchmark, 3DMark2000, roughly two years later. The DirectX 8.1-compliant 3DMark2001 was released shortly thereafter, and it too was a very popular tool used by many hardcore gamers. 3DMark03, however, wasn't quite as well received thanks in no small part to the disapproval of graphics giant NVIDIA. With 3DMark05, though, Futuremark hopes to win back some of its audience with a very advanced DirectX 9 benchmarking tool. We ran 3DMark05's default test (1,024 x 768) on all of the cards we tested and have the overall results for you posted below.|
An impressive victory is chalked up for our SLI boards in this 3DMark05 run. The fastest GeForce 6800 Ultra SLI score is approximately 52% faster than the fastest Radeon X850 score and 77% faster than the fastest single card GeForce 6800 Ultra score. Let's move from the synthetic benchmark world to a real gaming environment, with Halo, next.