With the introduction of the Nv4x architecture just two weeks ago we saw 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 called 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. With our review of Nvidia’s latest we’ve also debuted a new set of benchmarks we feel accurately represents what these new cards will be used for when playing games or doing work. 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.
Fig 3. Crytek's Far Cry, pushing the abilities of modern graphics cards to the limit.
The first game we’ll use is Crytek’ Far Cry, a game which is beyond a doubt one of most graphically intensive available. Since DirectX 9.0 is high up on our wish list for supported game features we obviously also included Epic’ Unreal Tournament 2003 and the newly released 2004 edition. To top things off we added Microsoft’ 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. 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 and ViewSonic's excellent VP201s 20.1" 1600x1200 flatpanel, connected through DVI-D.
Fig 4. Unreal Tournament 2004, another game fully utilizing DirectX 9.0 features.
The graphics cards we’ll be using are the ATi Radeon X800 XT, clocked at 520-MHz for the graphics processor and 560-MHz for the GDDR3 memory and the second card, the final revision Nvidia GeForce 6800 Ultra, which just arrived at our offices. It may come as no surprise to you that both manufacturers are keeping an eye out for what the other is doing, hence Nvidia supplied us with a sample of the retail boards that’ll be shipping soon just a day prior to the launch of ATi’s new products. This GeForce 6800 Ultra sample board is different only by the clockspeed it runs at, 450-MHz instead of 400-MHz. The GDDR3 memory still runs at a respectable 550MHz clockspeed and the same heatsink is used that we’ve seen in our earlier evaluation.
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