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VGA Charts 2008: 101 Configurations Tested

VGA Charts 2008: 101 Configurations Tested
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Our largest and most up-to-date 3D comparison covers 101 different graphics card configurations spanning five technology generations. The test includes the Radeon X800, X1000, HD 2000, HD 3000, GeForce 6, 7, 8, 9 families, as well as the new HD 4000 series from AMD and both of the GTX 200 models from Nvidia. A total of 500 hours of work was invested in the 6,767 test values, which consist of tests taken at three resolutions (1280x1024, 1680x1050 and 1920x1200 pixels) both with and without anisotropic filtering (AF) and anti-aliasing (AA).

The local grid provided more than 110,000 watts of power for our tests, while the neighbors were serenaded by the maximum noise level of 58.3 dB(A) when running AMD’s Radeon HD 2900 XT CrossFire and X1950 CrossFire. The GTX 260 SLI and 8800 Ultra SLI reached temperatures of over 100 degrees C, causing the GPUs with no additional fans to give up and either choke thermally or crash the PC.

With an artificially-imposed speed limit set by the Core 2 Extreme X6800 running at 2.93 GHz, the current dual-card solutions made up of two Radeon HD 4870s, GeForce GTX 260s or GTX 280s showed very little or no improvement in overall performance. The SLI and CrossFire configurations are frequently slower than a single card due to badly optimized games. In this test environment, the right benchmark and the selected resolution determine whether purchasing the most powerful 3D boards is actually worthwhile. Performance differences are most perceptible at 1680x1050 or 1920x1200 resolutions when AA is enabled.

Editor’s Note: The following five pages will tell you all about the cards we tested, the benchmarks we ran, the settings we chose, the bugs we ran into, and the results we saw. On the last page of this introduction to our newest charts, right underneath our recommendations on which cards to consider, you’ll find a link straight to the data. Use that page for all of your own product comparisons.

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  • 11 Hide
    rocky1234 , September 15, 2008 6:58 AM
    Not to nit pick but ummm where is the Radeon 4870x2 2GB card in those charts or did I miss it you know the one with 2GB memory umm 800x2 shaders GDDR5 memory 3.6Ghz rated at & 750 core x2 whatever.
Other Comments
  • 1 Hide
    chise1 , September 15, 2008 6:17 AM
    Thanks guys!
  • 2 Hide
    amdfangirl , September 15, 2008 6:30 AM
    Very good! Thanks guys!

    If only you tested F@H PPD...
  • 11 Hide
    rocky1234 , September 15, 2008 6:58 AM
    Not to nit pick but ummm where is the Radeon 4870x2 2GB card in those charts or did I miss it you know the one with 2GB memory umm 800x2 shaders GDDR5 memory 3.6Ghz rated at & 750 core x2 whatever.
  • 0 Hide
    c0d3r , September 15, 2008 7:02 AM
    So totally Awesome :D  Gooood Job THG! What wud i do without u !
  • 8 Hide
    Mathos , September 15, 2008 7:04 AM
    Just curious. Why is it you're using catalyst 8.6 for the ATI cards which doesn't have proper support for the 4000 series cards, instead of 8.7 or 8.8? Yet for the Nvidia cards, you use the most up to date drivers.
  • 1 Hide
    cangelini , September 15, 2008 7:22 AM
    Rocky1234Not to nit pick but ummm where is the Radeon 4870x2 2GB card in those charts or did I miss it you know the one with 2GB memory umm 800x2 shaders GDDR5 memory 3.6Ghz rated at & 750 core x2 whatever.


    As mentioned in the charts introduction, these numbers take hours upon hours to compile, which means setting cut-offs for the product submissions and drivers. Unfortunately, the X2 didn't make it. However, there are results for a pair of 4870s in CrossFire, which is a roughly equivalent configuration. You'll also notice that there are no 4600-series Radeons. Again, same issue.
  • 4 Hide
    ossie , September 15, 2008 7:37 AM
    Why do I have the impression that at THG is a persistent confusion between power and energy?
  • 0 Hide
    JeanLuc , September 15, 2008 8:45 AM
    Great job, I'm always pointing people to the charts now they can compare the latest hardware.

    The charts also show the difference between games they are coded well and ones that aren't. Compare Crysis (very high quality) and HL2 Ep2 at 1920 x 1200 4xAA 8xAF, on Crysis even the best hardware left begging for mercy at around 24fps, yet HL2 EP2 which looks just as good (graphically speaking) IMO will run at 30 FPS on a 8600 GTS (yes an 8600 GTS!) and X1800XL. A small portion of the difference can be put down to DX10 but not all of it.
  • 3 Hide
    Anonymous , September 15, 2008 9:36 AM
    Wonder why you insist on using catalyst 8.6 - a 3/4 months old driver, out *before* the whole HD4xx0 series and not really supporting it. And by the time the 48x0 cards were released you also had a better driver with actual support the the cards (and some 10% performance boost).
  • 6 Hide
    buzzlightbeer , September 15, 2008 9:51 AM
    OMFG they did it again, why oh why did they use 8.6 drivers didnt they learn from all the annoyed people from the last test
  • -4 Hide
    Anonymous , September 15, 2008 10:22 AM
    ATI fanboys have only a reason to whine, if and only IF Tom's used a more recent Nvidia drivers than ATI's (something i don't know)

    Otherwise just shut up
  • 2 Hide
    randomizer , September 15, 2008 10:55 AM
    As a suggestion for permalinking chart comparisons, add an option for permalinking that doesn't contain HTML code. Some forums don't allow posting HTML. Also, using the URL in the browser address bar doesn't work because it contains square brackets, and I think the software tries to parse part of the URL as BBCode and this breaks the link. Otherwise it's just because it's non-standard in a URL. For example:

    http://www.tomshardware.com/charts/gaming-graphics-charts-q3-2008/compare,794.html?prod[2113]=on∏[2118]=on

    The link breaks because of the []. It should point to http://www.tomshardware.com/charts/gaming-graphics-charts-q3-2008/compare,794.html?prod%5B2113%5D=on&prod%5B2118%5D=on (permalink with HTML removed).
  • 1 Hide
    Pei-chen , September 15, 2008 11:07 AM
    I think for stability reason and to act as control, Tom's won't overclock the CPU but for a lot of these cards, 2.93GHz isn't enough. An e8600 would do a better job, let alone an overclocked 4.5GHz e8600.
  • -1 Hide
    JAYDEEJOHN , September 15, 2008 11:08 AM
    Glad to see you mentioned the cpu restrictions. At 3Ghz, its simply not enough for todays cards, especially in CF/SLI. Great to see this, this is a long awaited achievement which only puts a + in the Toms site. Great going
  • -1 Hide
    JAYDEEJOHN , September 15, 2008 11:15 AM
    jaydeejohnGlad to see you mentioned the cpu restrictions. At 3Ghz, its simply not enough for todays cards, especially in CF/SLI. Great to see this, this is a long awaited achievement which only puts a + in the Toms site. Great going

    Some people are under the impression todays cpus are good enough at their stock speeds. We need more truth about this out there so people understand. I wish for newer updates with newer drivers as they come down the chute, especially when the cards are out and for sale. I hope it isnt too long before we see an update
  • 7 Hide
    randomizer , September 15, 2008 11:34 AM
    My E6600 @2.7GHz is sufficient I tell you!
  • 0 Hide
    swampthug , September 15, 2008 11:57 AM
    Okay, how does the single most powerful graphics card not make the 'cut-off'? If you've already spent 500 hours doing these benchmarks then what's the problem with spending a couple more? Man, that's annoying. How can you say the 4870 crossfire is similar enough to the 4870 x2 to justify not testing? The x2 has 2x the amount of GDDR5 memory. Stupid...
  • 4 Hide
    spaztic7 , September 15, 2008 11:57 AM
    cangelini


    I disagree that 2 4870 = 1 4870x2. You do see a slight bump in performance with a 4870x2 over 2x4870. Then 4600 just came out, so you have an excuse for those, but not the 4870x2. Although I doubt my comments will be taken seriously and nothing will come of it, I am just amazed that THG refuses to use a 4870x2. It’s almost like you guys are biased against that card.

    It just makes me mad... >:|
  • 8 Hide
    kitsilencer , September 15, 2008 12:10 PM
    Ah, the long looked-for update. A little late, but much welcomed all the same. Thanks.
  • -5 Hide
    phantom93 , September 15, 2008 12:12 PM
    al the 4860x2 is, is crossfire 4870s with more ram.... not gonna give out much more then reg crossfire 4870s.....

    TH had their reasons for doign what the did.
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