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Matching Doom3 With The Best Graphics Card

Matching Doom3 With The Best Graphics Card
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As is so soften the case with id Software games, Doom3 has split gaming fans into two camps. One group loves it, and the other group sees the game as being merely an expanded graphics demo (read our review DOOM 3 Review : A Return to Hell ). Whatever the case, there are always the hardware requirements. Aside from the CPU, the greatest demands are made on the graphics card. Happily, though, id Software made sure that Doom3 can also be played on older and slower cards without involving great sacrifices in quality.

In order to adapt the game to the cards, there are various levels of quality :

  • Ultra Quality (max. quality) : for 512 MB video cards. Settings comprise each texture, diffuse, specular and normal map at full resolution with no compression.
  • High Quality : for 256 MB video cards. Uses compression ( DXT1,3,5 ) for specular diffuse and no compression for normal maps. This looks very similar to Ultra quality but the compression does cause some loss.
  • Medium Quality : for 128 MB video cards. Uses compression for specular, diffuse, and normal maps. This still looks really good but compressing the normal maps can produce a few artifacts, especially on hard-angled or round edges.
  • Low Quality : for 64 MB video cards. It does everything that Medium Quality does, but it also downsizes textures over 512x512. We downsize specular maps to 64x64 in this mode as well.


Screen shots of the various quality modes in Doom3. In other game levels, further differences can emerge.

Here, the differences become clear. These are best seen with an image viewer. The complete screenshots can be downloaded here .

The visual differences between the various quality modes are nominal. That is to say, they are perceptible, but in many cases, they can only be seen upon taking a second, closer look. Thus, the performance increase is also minimal. In order to really get some decent FPS out of the game, the resolution has to be reduced. If that doesn’t help, then the only thing left to do is to manually deactivate special effects in the expanded settings options, and this comes at a price - not only to quality, but also to the gaming experience.

Test Setup

We ran the benchmarks using the standard demo (demo 1), which is included with the game. The tests are divided up into three parts :

  • Enthusiast level for graphics cards in the high performance segment with High Quality settings - once without FSAA and once with 4x FSAA ;
  • Mainstream I for graphics cards in the mid performance segment with Medium Quality - once without FSAA, once with 2xFSAA ;
  • Mainstream II for graphics cards in the mid- to low-performance segment with Low Quality - once without FSAA and once with 2x FSAA.

We left all other expanded settings at their default standard. The anisotropic setting in the file DoomConfig.cfg was left unchanged, and the FSAA settings were made in the game itself. Here, well-versed users can squeeze a bit more FPS out of the game. In order to get a better overview, we limited ourselves to settings that are offered by the game - without detracting from the game’s atmosphere by turning off the effects.

Among the cards that we selected are the newest top models from ATI and NVIDIA, as well as popular older models. We only chose a limited number ATI cards due to time constraints - ATI just released its special beta driver for Doom3 (which boosts performance) a few days ago on Wednesday (see ATI Beta Catalyst v4.9 For Doom3 ). We’ll bring you the results of other ATI graphics cards at a later time.

In a few of the benchmark runs, some of the cards did not give acceptable frame rates with FSAA (< 8 fps). Because we were short on time, we had to cancel the tests and are thus unable to provide their benchmarks here.

Test System
CPU Intel Pentium 4 3.2 GHz
FSB 200 MHz
Motherboard Intel D875PBZ (i875)
Memory 4x Corsair CMX256A-3200LL CL2, 1024 MB
HDD Seagate Barracude 7200.7 120 GB S-ATA (8 MB)
DVD Hitachi GD-7000
LAN Netgear FA-312
Power Supply Antec True Control 550W
Drivers & Configuration
Graphics ATI Catalyst v4.9 Doom3 Hotfix (Beta)
NVIDIA v61.77
Chipset Intel Inf. Update
OS Windows XP Prof. SP1a
DirectX DirectX 9.0b
Graphic cards used in this article
ATI Radeon 9200 (250/400 MHz, 128 MB)
Radeon 9600SE (325/365 MHz, 128 MB)
Radeon 9600XT (500/600 MHz,128 MB)
Radeon 9800XT (412/730 MHz, 256 MB)
Radeon X800 Pro (475/900 MHz, 256 MB)
Radeon X800 XT Platinum Edition (520/1120 MHz, 256 MB)
NVIDIA GeForce 4 Ti 4200 (250/514 MHz, 128 MB)
GeForce FX 5200 Ultra (325/650 MHz, 128 MB)
GeForce FX 5700 Ultra (475/950 MHz, 128 MB)
GeForce FX 5900 XT (400/700 MHz, 128 MB)
GeForce FX 5950 Ultra (475/950 MHz, 256 MB)
GeForce 6800 (325/700 MHz, 128 MB)
GeForce 6800 GT (350/1000 MHz, 256 MB)
GeForce 6800 Ultra (400/1100 MHz, 256 MB)
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