Test System And Settings
It turns out the DiRT 2 engine is fairly easy on the graphics hardware when in DirectX 9, despite the beautiful visuals. We therefore selected the highest visual fidelity options when testing. We used the in-game benchmark to keep results consistent.
We tested a solid sample of cards from our "Best Graphics Cards for the Money" recommendations. We tested Radeons from the Radeon HD 4650 to the new Radeon HD 5870 series and most of the cards in between. On the Nvidia side of things, we tested from the GeForce GT 220 to the GTX 260 series. I have heard reports that the GTX cards have been given end-of-life status, and indeed the GeForce GTX 275 has all but disappeared (Ed.: the explanation from Nvidia is that end-of-quarter supply is affecting availability, though cards should still be around early next year). We would have liked to try a GeForce GTX 285 sample for comparison purposes, but availability is unfortunately slim.
When testing multi-card configurations, we were stifled by a lack of support. CrossFire is now available through a hot-fixed Catalyst driver version 9.11_8.673.1 (and now Catalyst 9.12), but SLI support will take longer to arrive. Nvidia has told us to expect a compatible SLI driver in January. But until then, even the GeForce GTX 295 will perform using only a single GPU in this title. This means we will only test Radeons in CrossFire to represent multi-GPU configurations (specifically Radeon HD 4890s and 5850s).
To fully scrutinize the DirectX 11 effects, we tested most of AMD's Radeon HD 5000-series cards, including the 5750, 5770, 5850, and 5870. The only DirectX 11 card missing from our stable was the dual-GPU Radeon HD 5970. Our Radeon HD 5870 sample is PowerColor's liquid-cooled LCS card, which we underclocked to reference speeds. We also set the XFX Radeon HD 5850 Black Edition cards we used in single and CrossFire mode down to reference speeds to keep the tests on an even keel.
XFX was extremely helpful in supplying us with some Radeon HD 5750 and Radeon HD 5770 cards to round out our DirectX 11 offerings. The Radeon HD 5750 is XFX's HD-575X-ZNDC, a solid offering that sports reference clock speeds behind its 720 shader processors and 1GB of GDDR5 memory.
The Radeon HD 5770 sample is another XFX card, the HD-577A-ZNFC. With a higher 850 MHz core clock speed, 80 more shader processors, and 1GB of faster GDDR5 memory than its Radeon HD 5750 cousin, the Radeon HD 5770 should be able to handle higher resolutions and settings.
|Graphic Test System|
|CPU||Intel Core i7-920 (Nehalem), 2.67 GHz, QPI-4200, 8MB CacheOverclocked to 3.06 GHz @ 153 MHz Bclk|
|Motherboard||ASRock X58 Supercomputer Intel X58, BIOS P1.90|
|Networking||Onboard Realtek Gigabit LAN controller|
|Memory||Kingston PC3-10700 3 x 1,024MB, DDR3-1225, CL 9-9-9-22-1T|
|Graphics||Sapphire HD4650 512MB DDR2Gigabyte GV-N220OC-1GI GeForce GT 220 1GB DDR3Gigabyte GV-N96TSL-1GI GeForce 9600 GT 1GB DDR3Diamond Radeon HD 4770 512MB DDR5Asus ENGTS250 DK 1GB DDR3XFX Radeon HD 5750 1GB GDDR5XFX Radeon HD 5770 1GB GDDR5Asus ENGTX260 796MB DDR3ATI Radeon HD 4890 Reference 1GB GDDR5XFX Radeon HD 5850 Black Edition 1GB GDDR5PowerColor Radeon HD 5870 LCS 1GB GDDR5*all clock rates have been set to reference specifications for the purpose of benchmarking|
|Hard Drive||Western Digital Caviar WD50 00AAJS-00YFA, 500GB, 7,200 RPM, 8MB cache, SATA 3.0 Gb/s|
|Power||Thermaltake Toughpower 1,200W1,200W, ATX 12V 2.2, EPS 12v 2.91|
|Software and Drivers|
|Operating System||Microsoft Windows Vista Ultimate 64-bit 6.0.6001, SP1|
|DirectX version||DirectX 10|
|Graphics Drivers||AMD Catalyst 9.11, Nvidia GeForce Driver 195.62Hotfix Catalyst driver version 9.11_8.673.1 for CrossFire|