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Two Settings For Graphics Cards

Tom's Hardware Charts: 2009 Mainstream Graphics Update

To enable comparisons for the High and Low Settings tests, we tested a batch of graphics cards for both categories. We chose the Radeon HD 3850 and HD 4670, along with the GeForce 8600 GTS and 8800 GTS 320 models for this head-to-head. While the Radeon HD 4670 works well with DirectX 10 and our higher-end settings, the GeForce 8800 GTS proves something of a problem child. With a game's graphics quality slider set to high, this card’s 320 MB of RAM is improperly optimized, very slow, and unusable at 8x AA. When Low Settings are in effect, this card is much faster, if not under-utilized in light of significant CPU limitations.

Our small test table shows total results in frames per second (FPS) and should shed some light on differences and distinctions in performance. The GeForce 8600 GTS works well at lower graphics quality settings, but when asked to deliver higher graphics quality in a DirectX 10 environment, it just barely limps along. This also applies to the Radeon HD 3850, which is designed more for use with DirectX 9 and somewhat lower graphics quality settings. The Radeon HD 4670 functions well in both categories and is noticeably stronger and more capable as graphics quality increases. In fact, it’s surpassed only in the Low Settings tests by the GeForce 8800 GTS 320 MB.

Overall Performance Results
Low Settings
High Settings

GeForce 8800 GTS (320 MB)

3,247.8 FPS

533.1 FPS

Radeon HD 4670 (512 MB)

2,458.6 FPS

608.5 FPS

Radeon HD 3850 (512 MB)

2,281.1 FPS

454.7 FPS

GeForce 8600 GTS (512 MB)

1,737.8 FPS

384.9 FPS

In the real world, you’d probably boost the graphics quality slider somewhat for the GeForce 8800 GTS 320 MB. For our charts, we were forced to use a setting with medium graphics quality, which didn’t really pay off because it makes the basis for comparison with other chipsets questionable. We also include 3DMark06 tests in our suite, which are independent of graphics chipset speed because we always use the default graphics quality at a 1280x1024 resolution. This too provides a direct basis for comparison across all tests.

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