NVIDIA vs ATi Grahics Card Shoot-out

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NVIDIA vs ATi - Page 4

Graphic Card Roundup
A comparative look at what's out there now

By Robert Maloney
March 29th, 2004

HotHardware's Test Setup
The testbed for this graphic goodness

How We Configured Our Test System:

We tested these cards on an i865PE "Springdale" based Asus P4P800 Deluxe motherboard, powered by an Intel Pentium 4 2.4CGHz CPU (800MHz System Bus).  The first thing we did when configuring this test system was enter the BIOS and load the "High Performance Defaults".  Then we set the memory to operate at 200MHz (Dual DDR400) with the CAS Latency and other memory timings set by SPD and the AGP aperture size set to 256MB. The hard drive was formatted and Windows XP Professional with Service Pack 1 was installed.  After the installation completed, we installed the latest Intel chipset drivers and then hit the Windows Update site to download and install all of the available updates. Next, we installed all of the necessary drivers for the rest of our components and Windows Messenger was disabled and removed from the system. Auto-Updating and System Restore were also disabled, the hard drive was de-fragmented, and a 768MB permanent page file was created. Lastly, we set Windows XP's Visual Effects to "best performance", installed all of the benchmarking software and ran all of the tests.

Video Cards Tested:
Chaintech AA5700U GFFX 5700 Ultra (128MB)
e-VGA GeForce FX 5900XT (128MB)
e-VGA GeForce FX 5950 Ultra (256MB)
ATi Radeon 9600XT (128MB)
ATi Radeon 9800 Pro (128MB)
Asus Radeon 9800XT (256MB)

Benchmarks Used:
Halo v1.031
Unreal Tournament 2003 - Citadel Flyby
Splinter Cell - Oil Rig Demo

Final Fantasy XI v2.0

Comanche 4 Demo
Wolfenstein - Enemy Territory


Common System Hardware:
Asus P4P800 Deluxe (i865PE) Motherboard
Intel Pentium 4 2.4GHz CPU / 800MHz FSB
512MB (256MB x2) Kingston HyperX PC3500 DDR
Western Digital 20GB Hard Drive
Lite-On 16X DVD-ROM

Software / System Drivers:
Windows XP Professional Service Pack 1
DirectX 9.0b
Intel Chipset Software, v5.1.1.1002
ATi Catalyst Drivers, v4.2
NVIDIA ForceWare Drivers, v56.56

Performance Comparisons With AquaMark3
DX8 and DX9 Benchmarks under the sea

Aquamark 3 comes to us by the way of Massive Development, and is the first of our tests to be based on a real game engine.  Massive's release of the game Aquanox in 1999 was panned by critics, yet was one of the first to implement DX8 shaders, which led to the creation of Aquamark 2, another benchmark used by many reviewers. Since the Aquamark benchmarks are based on a real gaming environment, they must support old and new cards (and therefore technologies) alike.  Thus, Aquamark 3 utilizes not only DirectX 9 shaders, but DirectX 8 and 7 as well.  We ran this at 1024x768x32 and 1600x1200 with no anti-aliasing, then again with 4x AA enabled in the drivers.

The first victory in our series of battles went to the GeForce FX 5950 Ultra.  Its 43.04 frames per second at 1024x768 was the highest of any of the cards, although the twin team of Radeon 9800 cards trailed closely behind.  The midrange priced 5900XT card from e-VGA followed next in line, about another 5 fps behind the 9800 Pro.  For its price, however, it handily beat the two other sub $200 cards, the 5700 Ultra and 9600XT.  At 4XAA, the Radeon 9800s regain the top rank, only dropping off 10-15% from their original scores.  The performance hit on the 5950 Ultra was much more pronounced, as it dropped a full 20%.  In general, the performance lost when applying anti-aliasing was always greater for the GFFX cards than for the Radeons.  At 1600x1200, we saw the same relative breakdown that we saw at the lower resolution, except this time the 9800XT held a slim lead over the 5950 Ultra. 

Benchmarks With Halo
Finally on the PC, Where it Belongs

Although the release of Halo marked the end of a long wait, since it was originally released as an Xbox exclusive a few years back, it hasn't fared too well on the PC.  No additional patches or tweaks are needed to use this game's built-in benchmarking utility, however, as Gearbox has included all of the information needed in their README file.  The benchmark runs through four of the cut scenes from the game, after which the average frame rate is displayed.  We ran it twice, once at 1024x768 and again at 1280x1024. Anti-aliasing doesn't work properly with this game at the moment, so all of the tests below were run with anti-aliasing disabled.

The 5950 Ultra and 9800XT both gave us 51.72 frames per second at 1024x768, sharing the lead.  The 9800 Pro was just a hair behind at 51.18 fps. The 5900XT was all by itself it fourth place, settling in midway between the performance of the high-end cards and the other two mid-range cards.  It's almost as if the 5900XT in a class of it's own.  The 9600XT and 5700 Ultra battled it out to see which would come in last, and this time it was the 9600XT which took the dubious honor. At 1280x1024, we saw a little more of a shakedown, with the 5950 Ultra pulling slightly ahead of the 9800XT.  There was also a much more defined gap between these two and the 9800 Pro, whose performance was more on par with the 5900XT.

Unreal Tournament 2003 & Splinter Cell Testing  

Tags:  Nvidia, ATI, Car, shoot, card, SHO, ICS, RAH, id, AR

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