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Part 2: 2D, Acceleration, And Windows: Aren't All Graphics Cards Equal?


To sum up our analysis, we have to observe that today’s high-end graphics cards make a fairly sad showing all the way around. Some of this is a result of the Radeon HD 5000-series performance in certain Windows XP situations, but also due to weakness performing direct GDI draw operations in Windows 7. 

This latter "gotcha" is made all the more frustrating by a reproducible trick, where by opening and closing a second window improves performance momentarily, as explained in our discussion of the line drawing test. Even Nvidia's GeForce GTX 285 is defeated rather soundly by integrated graphics products. That's a tough pill to swallow for the folks dropping $400 and more for discrete GPUs.

It's interesting that those on-board chipsets demonstrate alacrity in a number of our tests. The aging Nvidia nForce 630i, in particular, scored well consistently. Also, the Intel IGPs appear to be particularly well-suited for 2D applications, despite the company's reputation for delivering lackluster 3D drivers. Its Atom suffers when CPU load increases (not surprisingly), so GDI rendering suffers as well, often winding up at the back of the pack. This is, unfortunately, a profound limitation for a platform that’s used so often with Windows XP, and should influence software choices for that platform accordingly.

Although GDI is no longer at the top of the 2D food chain, the results of these tests remain relevant for many users. We hope they’ll read and ponder them carefully.

Editor's Note: As promised, ATI followed up with us after Part 1 was published, delivering a driver claimed to address the issues we were running into. We're currently running that hotfix through our German lab and will follow up shortly with our findings.

If you'd like to try out our Tom2D benchmark for yourself, it's available right here. The mirror is on our German site, but you'll just need to click Download, and then select the Download-Server Nr.1.