The Myths Of Graphics Card Performance: Debunked, Part 2

There’s A Lot To Learn About Graphics Performance

There are a number of myths surrounding video card performance, and we certainly didn’t cover them all. We tried, however, to address the most popular ones, answering some of the questions you asked us after Part 1 of this series along the way. We also expanded a bit into the broader ecosystem of which video cards a part of.

In doing so, we introduced two new concepts: the "40 dB(A)" test, and the A+/A/B Classes of anti-aliasing – what we believe is a much needed categorization of today’s most talked-about anti-aliasing techniques.

We broke new ground on measuring and comparing video memory bandwidth (something that, to our knowledge, has never been done before) and comparing video cards using thermal envelopes and throttling, rather than raw, unthrottled frame rates.

We de-mystified (hopefully) convoluted concepts like the impact of PCIe and whether it’s a bottleneck in your system, how anti-aliasing works, how video memory works, how display connectors differ from each other, why different vendors expose proprietary technologies and how video cards throttle when they overheat.

All of that information was collected in two articles, which we hope will be a useful reference for both system builders and gamers when it comes to getting the most out of their systems. Promoting a better understanding of PC hardware is icing on the cake.

I talked about value, though in a more subjective fashion than our typical "value/performance" charts. We're using far more nuanced concepts than average frame rate, frame rate over time or even frame time variance, without forgetting other items that are hard to quantify like vendor-specific value-adds.

What's next?

  • We'd like to expand our 40 dB(A) test to add a 50 dB(A) benchmark for new cards, including aftermarket ones (we heard you there!)
  • We'd like to look at new platforms like Haswell-E and the latest Maxwell-based high-end cards
  • We'd like to thank you, our readers, for bearing with us on reading some very long and technical articles, and for your earlier feedback, which we hope will keep coming!
  • iam2thecrowe
    i've always had a beef with gpu ram utillization and how its measured and what driver tricks go on in the background. For example my old gtx660's never went above 1.5gb usage, searching forums suggests a driver trick as the last 512mb is half the speed due to it's weird memory layout. Upon getting my 7970 with identical settings memory usage loading from the same save game shot up to near 2gb. I found the 7970 to be smoother in the games with high vram usage compared to the dual 660's despite frame rates being a little lower measured by fraps. I would love one day to see an article "the be all and end all of gpu memory" covering everything.

    Another thing, i'd like to see a similar pcie bandwidth test across a variety of games and some including physx. I dont think unigine would throw much across the bus unless the card is running out of vram where it has to swap to system memory, where i think the higher bus speeds/memory speed would be an advantage.
  • blackmagnum
    Suggestion for Myths Part 3: Nvidia offers superior graphics drivers, while AMD (ATI) gives better image quality.
  • chimera201
    About HDTV refresh rates:
  • photonboy
    Implying that an i7-4770K is little better than an i7-950 is just dead wrong for quite a number of games.

    There are plenty of real-world gaming benchmarks that prove this so I'm surprised you made such a glaring mistake. Using a synthetic benchmark is not a good idea either.

    Frankly, I found the article was very technically heavy were not necessary like the PCIe section and glossed over other things very quickly. I know a lot about computers so maybe I'm not the guy to ask but it felt to me like a non-PC guy wouldn't get the simplified and straightforward information he wanted.
  • eldragon0
    If you're going to label your article "graphics performance myths" Please don't limit your article to just gaming, It's a well made and researched article, but as Photonboy touched, the 4770k vs 950 are about as similar as night and day. Try using that comparison for graphical development or design, and you'll get laughed off the site. I'd be willing to say it's rendering capabilities are actual multiples faster at those clock speeds.
  • SteelCity1981
    photonboy this article isn't for non pc people, because non pc people wouldn't care about detailed stuff like this.
  • renz496
    14561510 said:
    Suggestion for Myths Part 3: Nvidia offers superior graphics drivers

    even if toms's hardware really did their own test it doesn't really useful either because their test setup won't represent million of different pc configuration out there. you can see one set of driver working just fine with one setup and totally broken in another setup even with the same gpu being use. even if TH represent their finding you will most likely to see people to challenge the result if it did not reflect his experience. in the end the thread just turn into flame war mess.

    14561510 said:
    Suggestion for Myths Part 3: while AMD (ATI) gives better image quality.

    this has been discussed a lot in other tech forum site. but the general consensus is there is not much difference between the two actually. i only heard about AMD cards the in game colors can be a bit more saturated than nvidia which some people take that as 'better image quality'.
  • ubercake
    Just something of note... You don't necessarily need Ivy Bridge-E to get PCIe 3.0 bandwidth. Sandy Bridge-E people with certain motherboards can run PCIe 3.0 with Nvidia cards (just like you can with AMD cards). I've been running the Nvidia X79 patch and getting PCIe gen 3 on my P9X79 Pro with a 3930K and GTX 980.
  • dovah-chan
    There is one AM3+ board with PCI-E 3.0. That would be the Sabertooth Rev. 2.
  • ubercake
    Another article on Tom's Hardware by which the 'ASUS ROG Swift PG...' link listed for an unbelievable price takes you to the PB278Q page.

    A little misleading.