Test Systems & Benchmark Configuration
Most of the rest of it, believe it or not, comes from Western Digital's 2TB Caviar Black. Over on MainGear's configurator you can buy a pair of 1TB C.B's for $280 or a single 2TB drive for $389. High-capacity drives typically carry a price premium, but WD's is a bit high—three 1TB Caviar Black drives are just 10 percent more than the single 2TB HDD. This pricing structure isn't unique to MainGear; we saw similar margins at Newegg as well.
Intel Core i7-920 @ 3.8GHz
EVGA X58 SLI Classified
6GB Corsair DDR3-1600
2x ATI Radeon 5970 Crossfire
1x Intel X25-M G2 SSD
2TB WD Caviar Black RAID 0
Win 7 Home Premium x64 / ATI Catalyst 10.3 w/Profile Updates
Price: $4,999 USD
Now that both ATI and NVIDIA are shipping high-end DX11 hardware, we wanted to test both systems in new, cutting-edge games with all potential detail levels cranked up and preferably maxed out. Our logic here is simple: If you want fast frame rates, you buy one video card. If you want fast frame rates and you don't want to compromise at all on visual quality, you buy two.
After some consideration, we opted not to use the Unigine-based Heaven DX11 benchmark. While it incorporates DX11 functionality, it's also less a measure of game performance and more of a tessellation test, particularly at the higher presets. When it comes to measuring practical performance real-world titles trump benchmarks; we've focused on the former over the latter. Initially we planned to include Aliens vs. Predator as it's one of the relatively few games on the market with DirectX 11 support, but we were forced to drop the title from our lineup—performance varied wildly and randomly.
As you read over the test results, keep in mind that the HD 5970 and GTX 480 aren't particularly close to each other as far as pricing is concerned. The cheapest Radeon HD 5970 at NewEgg will set you back $699 ($1398 for a pair in CrossFire) while the GTX 480 is "just" $499 ($998 in SLI). We benchmarked the Origin Genesis with a single 5970 (where applicable) in order to chart an additional comparison point relative to the pair of GF100's in the MainGear Shift.