The Fastest 3D Cards Go Head-To-Head

How Overclocking Affected The MSI Cards

The first table shows an overview of clock speed. The profile with low-power 3D was introduced by Nvidia, as the GTX 200-series card switch from 3D mode to an intermediate level before finally switching to 2D on the Windows desktop. The 3D profile does not apply to the overclocked MSI test cards, as these are running with modified values.

With the Radeon HD 4870 from AMD, the memory is usually clocked at the same rate in both 2D and 3D mode. For a standard card, the correct clock specification would be 500/500/1,800 MHz, and the 2D table specification refers to the overclocked MSI version with a 2,000 MHz memory rate. As you can see, all cards clock back in 2D mode.

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Clocking rates MHz2DLow Power 3D3D normal3D OC (MSI)
GeForce GTX 280 (1024 MB)300/600/100400/800/300602/1296/1107700/1400/1150
GeForce GTX 260 (896 MB)300/600/100400/800/300576/1242/999620/1296/1080
Radeon HD 4870 (512 MB)500/500/20000750/750/1800780/780/2000
Radeon HD 4850 (512 MB)500/500/7500625/625/9930

Order of the clocking specifications: GPU/shader/Memory
Otherwise, memory rate is given doubled

This is how the overclocked speeds of the MSI cards affected the individual benchmarks. All test values were recorded at a resolution of 1920x1200, with anti-aliasing, anisotropic filtering and maximum image quality activated:

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Assassin’s Creed4xAA, Game AFfps normalfps OCPercent
GeForce GTX 280 SLI (1024 MB)
GeForce GTX 280 (1024 MB)47.849.22.9
GeForce GTX 260 SLI (896 MB)46.346.30.0
GeForce GTX 260 (896 MB)
Radeon HD 4870 CF (512 MB)43.743.90.5
Radeon HD 4870 (512 MB)43.544.01.1
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Call of Duty 44xAA, 8xAFfps normalfps OCPercent
GeForce GTX 280 SLI (1024 MB)135.9132.9-2.2
GeForce GTX 280 (1024 MB)103.2111.88.3
GeForce GTX 260 SLI (896 MB)122.5123.40.7
GeForce GTX 260 (896 MB)87.492.76.1
Radeon HD 4870 CF (512 MB)111.7111.6-0.1
Radeon HD 4870 (512 MB)94.798.43.9
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Crysis4xAA, 8xAFfps normalfps OCPercent
GeForce GTX 280 SLI (1024 MB)22.422.0-1.8
GeForce GTX 280 (1024 MB)16.317.78.6
GeForce GTX 260 SLI (896 MB)21.622.22.8
GeForce GTX 260 (896 MB)12.613.24.8
Radeon HD 4870 CF (512 MB)14.517.218.6
Radeon HD 4870 (512 MB)10.812.213.0
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ET: Quake Wars4xAA, 8xAFfps normalfps OCPercent
GeForce GTX 280 SLI (1024 MB)73.874.61.1
GeForce GTX 280 (1024 MB)
GeForce GTX 260 SLI (896 MB)
GeForce GTX 260 (896 MB)80.581.10.7
Radeon HD 4870 CF (512 MB)52.955.14.2
Radeon HD 4870 (512 MB)
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Half Life 2 Episode 24xAA, 8xAFfps normalfps OCPercent
GeForce GTX 280 SLI (1024 MB)77.779.62.4
GeForce GTX 280 (1024 MB)
GeForce GTX 260 SLI (896 MB)
GeForce GTX 260 (896 MB)96.598.82.4
Radeon HD 4870 CF (512 MB)
Radeon HD 4870 (512 MB)100.1100.20.1
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Mass Effect8xAA, Game AFfps normalfps OCPercent
GeForce GTX 280 SLI (1024 MB)74.674.0-0.8
GeForce GTX 280 (1024 MB)60.670.316.0
GeForce GTX 260 SLI (896 MB)72.877.86.9
GeForce GTX 260 (896 MB)49.356.314.2
Radeon HD 4870 CF (512 MB)
Radeon HD 4870 (512 MB)37.839.64.8
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Microsoft Flight Simulator X SP2Game AA, Game AFfps normalfps OCPercent
GeForce GTX 280 SLI (1024 MB)26.525.1-5.3
GeForce GTX 280 (1024 MB)31.330.5-2.6
GeForce GTX 260 SLI (896 MB)26.025.9-0.4
GeForce GTX 260 (896 MB)30.328.8-5.0
Radeon HD 4870 CF (512 MB)25.323.9-5.5
Radeon HD 4870 (512 MB)25.624.8-3.1
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World in Conflict4xAA, 4xAFfps normalfps OCPercent
GeForce GTX 280 SLI (1024 MB)45.644.2-3.1
GeForce GTX 280 (1024 MB)32.835.89.1
GeForce GTX 260 SLI (896 MB)43.344.52.8
GeForce GTX 260 (896 MB)27.629.56.9
Radeon HD 4870 CF (512 MB)44.646.84.9
Radeon HD 4870 (512 MB)34.836.34.3

AMD displays the highest values in Crysis, but the frame rates still drop to unplayable levels below 25 fps. The MSI cards with Nvidia GPUs increase considerably with the UT3 Engine in Mass Effect. The increase with the GTX 260 may have a positive effect on the game. In Flight Simulator, negative values caused by overclocked 3D cards is normal, as less graphics performance relieves the CPU of load so the net effect can be higher.

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Overall results, OCPercent
GeForce GTX 280 SLI (1024 MB)-1.1
GeForce GTX 280 (1024 MB)5.8
GeForce GTX 260 SLI (896 MB)2.2
GeForce GTX 260 (896 MB)4.5
Radeon HD 4870 CF (512 MB)3.8
Radeon HD 4870 (512 MB)3.5

The MSI GeForce GTX 280 Superclocked has great potential with a 5.8% overall improvement. With normal overclocking, 3% is normal, and a 4-5% increase in overall results is a very good result. With a faster CPU, the SLI and CrossFire combinations should be able to achieve even greater increases. The test computer reaches its limit with the faster dual-card combos, as can be seen from the negative test values.

  • San Pedro
    Looks like the results for SLI and Crossfire were switched with the single card results. . .
  • Duncan NZ
    Not a bad article, really comprehensive.
    My one complaint? Why use that CPU when you know that the test cards are going to max it out? Why not a quad core OC'ed to 4GHz? It'd give far more meaning to the SLI results. We don't want results that we can duplicate at home, we want results that show what these cards can do. Its a GPU card comparason, not a complain about not having a powerful enough CPU story.

    Oh? And please get a native english speaker to give it the once over for spelling and grammar errors, although this one had far less then many articles posted lately.
  • elbert
    No 4870x2 in CF so its the worlds top end Nvidia vs ATI mid to low end.
  • Lightnix
    It'd be a good article if you'd used a powerful enough CPU and up to date Radeon drivers (considering we're now up to 8.8 now), I mean are those even the 'hotfix' 8.6's or just the vanilla drivers?
  • elbert
    Version AMD Catalyst 8.6? Why not just say i'm using ATI drivers with little to no optimizations for the 4800's. This is why the CF benchmarks tanked.
  • at 1280, all of the highend cards were CPU limited. at that resolution, you need a 3.2-3.4 c2d to feed a 3870... this article had so much potential, and yet... so much work, so much testing, fast for nothing, because most of the results are very cpu limited (except 1920@AA).
  • wahdangun
    WTF, hd4850 SHOULD be a lot faster than 9600 GT and 8800 GT even tough they have 1Gig of ram
  • mjam
    No 4870X2 and 1920 X 1200 max resolution tested. How about finishing the good start of an article with the rest of it...
  • I agree, the 4870 X2 should have been in there and should have used the updated drivers. Good article but I think you fell short on finishing it.
  • @pulasky - Rage much? It's called driver issues you dumbass. Some games are more optimised for multicard setups than others, and even then some favour SLi to Crossfire. And if you actually READ the article rather than let your shrinken libido get the better of you, you'll find that Crossfire does indeed work in CoD4.

    Remember, the more you know.