With the Nv4x architecture we see the 1st of a new class of 3D graphics cards being introduced, graphics cards that like never before are able to render scenes with photo realistic quality. That calls for a whole new set of benchmarks to be able to properly measure how well these new graphics cards perform, as older benchmarks only give us an idea about raw pixel processing power, which has nothing to do with image quality. We've therefore selected a set of benchmarks we feel accurately represents what these cards will be used for when playing games or doing work. Unfortunately we won't be able to use our full set of benchmarks for this article, due to time constraints and the fact that we received our GeForce 6800 Ultra sample shortly before the launch. We'll be focusing on game performance and will skip the workstation benchmarks for now as time did not permit creating an accurate workload with popular CAD/CAM and other workstation applications. Furthermore we'll also revisit the NV4x' video processor at a later date and will look at it's en- and decoding performance as well as WMV9 playback and scaling and filtering qualities.
Fig 3. Crytek's Far Cry, pushing the abilities of modern graphics cards to the limit.
Our game benchmark suite consists of a number of the latest DirectX 9.0 titles that'll push the graphics cards to the maximum by making frequent use of shaders, volumetric lighting, anti-aliasing and all the other new features introduced with DirextX 9.0b. One of the games we’ll use is Crytek’ Far Cry, a game which is beyond a doubt one of most graphically intensive available right now. Since DirectX 9.0 is high up on our wish list for supported game features we obviously also included Epic's Unreal Tournament 2003 and the newly released 2004 edition. To top things off we added Microsoft's highly acclaimed Halo, a game that also pushes a graphics card to its limits. Naturally we've evaluated the performance with these games at three resolutions, 1024x768, 1280x1024 and 1600x1200 to find out exactly how scalable the GeForce 6800 Ultra is and what to expect if you switch to a higher resolution.
Fig 4. Unreal Tournament 2004, another game fully utilizing DirectX 9.0 features.
Obviously we also looked at the performance with a number of industry standard benchmark applications. To gauge the performance we used Futuremark 3Dmark2001 SE and 3Dmark2003 as well as Massive Development AquaMark3. Again, we've used higher resolutions were possible to get a good perspective on how the GeForce 6800 Ultra performs with these benchmarks. The system we used consists of a Pentium 4 3.2GHz EE processor, EpoX 4PCA3+ i875P chipset motherboard, 1GB of Crucial DDR400 memory and two Western Digital WD740GD Raptors in raid0. We used the "quality" settings on all drivers and left all anti-aliasing settings, etc. set to application preference. Furthermore we've used maximum detail settings in game benchmarks, unless specified otherwise. Combined with the above mentioned benchmarks we managed to get a good impression of the performance the new NV4x architecture. In the next few pages we'll detail exactly how well it fared against the fastest graphics card Nvidia’s competitor has available right now, the ATI Radeon 9800 XT.
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