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DiRT 2: DirectX 11 Game Performance Compared And Analyzed

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
CPUIntel Core i7-920 (Nehalem), 2.67 GHz, QPI-4200, 8MB CacheOverclocked to 3.06 GHz @ 153 MHz Bclk
MotherboardASRock X58 Supercomputer Intel X58, BIOS P1.90
NetworkingOnboard Realtek Gigabit LAN controller
MemoryKingston PC3-10700 3 x 1,024MB, DDR3-1225, CL 9-9-9-22-1T
GraphicsSapphire 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 DriveWestern Digital Caviar WD50 00AAJS-00YFA, 500GB, 7,200 RPM, 8MB cache, SATA 3.0 Gb/s
PowerThermaltake Toughpower 1,200W1,200W, ATX 12V 2.2, EPS 12v 2.91
Software and Drivers
Operating SystemMicrosoft Windows Vista Ultimate 64-bit 6.0.6001, SP1
DirectX versionDirectX 10
Graphics DriversAMD Catalyst 9.11, Nvidia GeForce Driver 195.62Hotfix Catalyst driver version 9.11_8.673.1 for CrossFire
  • eklipz330
    im sure when true dx11 games come out, the difference won't be so subtle anymore.. game looks great either way
    Reply
  • rbarone69
    I have to say, Dirt 2 is a great game if you like the rally/baja type car racing. Regardless of the graphics differences the game play is simply fun. It's not "real to life" like Forza, but it is a blast playing if you like sliding around corners on track that's not necessarily pavement.

    Reply
  • Onyx2291
    Looks good, gotta be honest though I probably wouldn't see much of a difference if I just played the game without taking a good look at stuff. Maybe except for the water.
    Reply
  • Sihastru
    One down, one or two to go ;)

    Until DX11 does not become mainstream (eg. 90% of the users will have DX11 capable cards) you can't expect to see differences between DX11 and DX9/10 modes. Why? Because they won't make games where one player sees something and the other does not, to the point that will actually mean something and affect the gameplay.

    So anyone that bought the cards for DX11 will not get anything extra from the DX11 code path. No developer that wants to sell a game would code it so that you'd need a new card to play the game. They would not shoot themselves in the foot.

    DX11 is now in the position PhysX was, and I'm not necessarily speaking about the CUDA PhysX version, but the original PhysX by Ageia, when you needed a PCI card for it. It had and still has great potential, but you can't use it to it's full extent until people embrace it and make it mainstream. Until then, all the developers can do is to use certain features here and there, so that it gives you a glimpse of what it could be, but not so much that it makes a difference and modifies the experience too much. They just don't want to give up customers, it's not just that they don't want to use the technology.

    And when DX11 finally becomes mainstream, in 6-12-18 months, the current DX11 cards will be nearly obsolete performance wise... truly tragic. But that's the way the cookie crumbles...

    It's a bit of a troll-ish post (it may seem that way, if you have an ATI DX11 card), and I will get "-1" all round but it's the truth if you think about it from a safe distance. Too bad you... yes... you... the one clicking the "Useless message" icon, won't even get to this last paragraph.
    Reply
  • coolronz
    DirectCompute 11..? Doesnt my GTX260 support that? So will I beable to enable that, but not hardware tesselation etc..?
    Reply
  • cryogenic
    Dirt 2 uses a DX 9 engine, so I guess this is not such a big surprise, although I've expected more from DX 11 integration, actually **allot** more, considering that the game was marketed as the first DX 11 title out there.

    It's rather disappointing to see such small visual differences between DX9 and DX11 versions, even though I've never expected rather major ones from this title.

    My hope is that DX 11 will become mainstream very fast, and developers will focus on getting the most out of it soon. Congrats to all that got DX 11 cards this christmas(me included). The DX9 performace is great and the fact that DX11 gains market share is even greater.






    Reply
  • cryogenic
    Dirt 2 uses a DX 9 engine, so I guess this is not such a big surprise, although I've expected more from DX 11 integration, actually **allot** more, considering that the game was marketed as the first DX 11 title out there.

    It's rather disappointing to see such small visual differences between DX9 and DX11 versions, even though I've never expected rather major ones from this title.

    My hope is that DX 11 will become mainstream very fast, and developers will focus on getting the most out of it soon. Congrats to all that got DX 11 cards this christmas(me included). The DX9 performace is great and the fact that DX11 gains market share is even greater.
    Reply
  • frederico
    "And when DX11 finally becomes mainstream, in 6-12-18 months, the current DX11 cards will be nearly obsolete performance wise... truly tragic. But that's the way the cookie crumbles..."

    I think, I'm not sure though, but I think he is somehow trying to say that in the 'future' your DX11 graphics card may need to be upgraded to a more powerful DX11 graphics card. Something that has been happening with every graphics card for the last 20 years. I am not sure I can deal with all the tragedy.
    Reply
  • h83
    I could be wrong, but i think that the only game that will probably show the full potential of DX11 it´s going to be Crysis 2, so prepare your wallets for the PC upgrade...
    Reply
  • LATTEH
    dirt 2 looks awesome in DX 9 or DX11 anyone who buys it will be able to enjoy its beauty
    Reply