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Thanks in part to performance gains enabled by DirectX 11 (more on that shortly), all of Nvidia's GeForce GTx 400-series cards can play Cataclysm at Ultra quality. The DX10-capable GeForce GTX 200-series boards don't enjoy the same performance boost, and so they occupy the bottom half of our charts.
Once again, we'll point out a problem with the second dual-GPU card in our little benchmark-fest. The GeForce GTX 295, like AMD's Radeon HD 5970, sees no gains from its second graphics processor. In fact, it even runs slower than a single-GPU GeForce GTX 275 at all three resolutions. Nvidia claims SLI should function normally, but the settings we were told enable proper scaling did little to improve performance.
The order here is somewhat predictable. If you've purchased a GeForce GTX 580, you're probably wondering why it isn't beating the GeForce GTX 480 (or even 470) by much of a margin. The answer is that the top three cards are being limited by the performance of our overclocked Core i7-980X. It'll take more than a mainstream resolution and Ultra quality settings to push these boards harder.
Nvidia's GeForce GTX 460 remains a solid choice here, as it puts down benchmark results that are even faster than AMD's Radeon HD 5870.
We're still CPU-bound up top at 1920x1080. The GeForce GTX 460 still looks like the best value here. And are we the only ones amazed that a GeForce GTS 450, benefiting from DirectX 11 support, is able to beat the GeForce GTX 285? And poor GeForce GTX 295...after spending so much on a flagship board, that last-place finish has to hurt.
Finally, a high resolution puts some distance between the fastest two boards--though it's decidedly not large enough to justify upgrading from one card to the other (perhaps our anti-aliasing tests will show more of a difference).
A more intense graphics load pushes the mainstream GeForce GTS 450 down to the bottom of the stack here. Optimizations to the API are only able to help when there's not a bottleneck elsewhere, and the card's limited shading muscle is what holds it back when the resolution increases.
Here that's run at 1920x1080 plotted out over time. There's a massive hole in between the DirectX 11-capable cards and last generation's DX10 boards (with the exception of the GTS 450, which hangs out at the top of that latter bunch).