Meet The 2012 Graphics Charts: How We're Testing This Year

Preset Levels: Entry-Level, Performance, And Extreme

Three Separate Preset Levels Ensure a Fair Evaluation

In order to assess a broad spectrum of graphics cards, we also expanded our benchmark-based performance index by adding a whole category. Starting at the bottom, the “Entry-Level” segment for budget-oriented cards comes first. The levels of resolution, image quality, and performance that can be expected from such cards are exemplified by the Radeon HD 6790 and the GeForce GTX 550 Ti. Two typical cards you'll find in the “Performance” category are the GeForce GTX 560 Ti and Radeon HD 6950. Finally, the “Extreme” category contains graphics cards like the Radeon HD 7950 and the GeForce GTX 580. Yes, the GTX 680 is coming as well, but we didn't get it in time for this first round of testing.

We raised the bar for each of the performance categories, as we've already seen new boards based on 28 nm GPUs up the ante significantly for graphics performance. A score of 100% in a category means that the card fully achieves the requirements of that specific segment. Note that performance (and the associated score) can vary from game to game and across driver versions. We also tried to choose the benchmarks in a way that doesn't favor either GPU vendor. We're confident that our benchmark selection results in a fair performance assessment of a particular graphics card.

Swipe to scroll horizontally
LevelResolutionGraphic Settings
Entry1280x720 (720p)-Minimal to mid-level quality settings -No anti-aliasing  -Medium anisotropic filtering  -No ambient occlusion  -Minimum tessellation depth  -Normal texture quality
Performance1920x1080 (1080p)-High quality settings   -Simple to mid-level anti-aliasing  -Maximum anisotropic filtering  -Medium tessellation depth  -High texture quality, but no HD textures
Extreme2560x1440-Maximum quality settings  -Maximum anti-aliasing level (w/o driver tweaks)  -Maximum anisotropic filtering  -Maximum tessellation depth  -Maximum texture quality, HD textures

Let's turn now to a discussion of the different benchmarks we're using in 2012.

  • johnny_utah
    While I love the new techniques, using BITCOIN to bench GPUGPU performance instead of Folding @ Home? Um, okay.
  • Still with the bar charts? Would *love* to see scatter plots with price/score on the axes... So much more useful in picking out a card.
  • AznCracker
    Man the charts are dying to be updated. Too bad it isn't done more often since it takes a lot of work.
  • You havent added how many cheese wheels it can run in skyrim as a benchmark... wth?
  • DjEaZy
    ... i like the pile of card's @ the end of the article.... a beautiful pile...
  • pharoahhalfdead
    johnny_utahWhile I love the new techniques, using BITCOIN to bench GPUGPU performance instead of Folding @ Home? Um, okay.
    I agree. I know Tom's spends a lot of time benchmarking, but Folding@home is something that is a bit more common. I would love to see F@H in some articles.

    BTW, I appreciate all the work you guys do.
  • randomkid
    Where's the 5760x1080? In the area where I come from, 3x 1920x1080p 22" monitor cost around the same or even less than a single 2560x1440/1600 27" monitor so this is a more likely configuration among gamers.

    The 5760x1080 resolution will also push the GPU's harder than a 2560x1440/1600 could so why limit the resolution there?
  • We'll add up to 20 new boards each month until the lower end of the performance range is filled out, too.
    How far back in GPU generations are you going to test, if at all? I saw the power consumption charts and could only see GTX 500, 600 and Radeon 6000, 7000 series. I have an EVGA GTX 480 SC for two years and do like to know how it compares to the newer series of GPUs. Much appreciated.
  • Yargnit
    MMO FanYup no surprise here typical Nvidia benchmark suite fuck sakes.
    So what would YOU like to see used then? If they were trying to push Nvidia wouldn't Hawx 2 be in the suite?
  • shinym
    For Starcraft II you say "This game doesn't stress the CPU, and is thus well-suited for GPU benchmarking." Looks like you got CPU and GPU mixed up there.