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Test System And Benchmarks

Do AMD's Radeon HD 7000s Trade Image Quality For Performance?
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While the primary test system we used is specified below, we also recreated our results on a number of systems in order to verify the image quality issues we encountered. 

When viewing the screenshots, keep in mind that all of the games from which we captured screenshots have some inevitable variation that don't impact texture quality. For instance, Crysis 2 and Battlefield 3 employ dust and fog effects that can't be timed exactly. Skyrim features a lot of moving grass and foliage. Metro 2033 has flickering lights. As a result, we can't XOR an image to come up with a definitive word on driver influence. Fortunately, we're not looking for general differences, but rather the appearance of texture quality specifically.

Also note that screenshots are blown up to 200% to make the differences easier to spot.

Now, let’s get the specifications and particulars out of the way so we can move on to the actual analysis:

Test System
CPU
Intel Core i7-3960X (Sandy Bridge-E), 3.3 GHz, Six Cores, LGA 2011, 15 MB Shared L3 Cache, Hyper-Threading enabled. Overclocked to 3.6 GHz
Motherboard
ASRock X79 Extreme9 (LGA 2011) Chipset: Intel X79 Express
Networking
On-Board Gigabit LAN controller
Memory
Corsair Vengeance LP PC3-16000, 4 x 4 GB, 1600 MT/s, CL 8-8-8-24-2T
Graphics
AMD Radeon HD 6970
880 MHz GPU, 2 GB GDDR5 at 1375 MHz

AMD Radeon HD 7870
1000 MHz GPU, 2 GB GDDR5 at 1200 MHz

AMD Radeon HD 7970
925 MHz GPU, 3 GB GDDR5 at 1375 MHz

Nvidia GeForce GTX 580
772 MHz GPU, 1.5 GB GDDR5 at 1002 MHz
Hard Drive
Samsung 256 GB (SSD)
Power
ePower EP-1200E10-T2 1200 W
ATX12V, EPS12V
Software and Drivers
Operating System
Microsoft Windows 7 x6, Service Pack 1
DirectX
DirectX 11
Graphics Drivers
Radeon: Catalyst 12.3 WHQL,
Radeon 7800 Launch Beta Driver (8.95.5-120224a-134185E-ATI),
Fixed Beta Driver 12.4 RC 4 (8.95.5-120327a-136160E-ATI)

GeForce: 295.73 WHQL
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