VGA Charts Update October 2006

More Cards For The Lineup

With a red-hot season of launches, graphics card manufacturers have been keeping us busy. In some cases, there are too many choices for the consumer and there needs to be more information available to make appropriate purchasing decisions. Tom's Hardware Guide has been publishing comprehensive VGA charts since 2002, and in late August, we our updated our VGA Charts again. Our latest Interactive VGA Charts are the most extensive we have put together to date.

With only two major players in the discrete graphics market, there still are lots of cards. From the ATI side we added the Radeon X1300 XT, X1650 Pro, X1900 XT 256 MB and the flagship Radeon X1950XTX. On the other side we added Nvidia's GeForce 7900GS and 7950GT. For multi-graphics platform performance we added the Radeon X1950 XTX in CrossFire as well as the X1650 Pro, and X1300 XT. From Nvidia we added the GeForce 7900 in SLI.

For the charts we kept the resolutions spectrum to that which 95% of gamers really use. While the majority of gamers still play at 1024x768, there has been a continued move to 1280x1024 as LCD panel sales push their native resolution. On the fringe are those who maximize their 1600x1200 CRTs or have a panel that can display it.

The new marketing term XHD for Extreme High Definition has emerged but with less than 5% of the populous using displays less than 2048x1536, we felt it was not yet time to put in two more resolutions. It takes a lot of extra time to run at four more settings per card, and when the time is right, we will make the move to fit them all in.

We will adopt new games for the new year and the next round of test will incorporate the latest feature sets. However, we are at the mercy of the three parties, game developers, the hardware manufactures and Microsoft's Direct X specification. We are confident that DX10 parts will be available soon as we have started getting specs on the new cards - and wow are these things big and consume a lot of power (No teasers for you... for now)..

Test Setup

One note I would like to make is about the difference between the testing for the VGA charts and the single card reviews seen here on Tom's Hardware Guide. The VGA charts use Oblivion to test features such as HDR, with Oblivion used as a torture test with AA and almost all of the settings turned up in the single card tests. The scores will be totally different but will show the same trend: high-end cards will perform better than inferior cards. That should be obvious but we have had some readers send us "why are they different" messages, and we needed to clarify this. For these tests the game is set up at levels a typical gamer might choose.

We tested without anti-aliasing and anisotropic filtering as well as with 4x AA and 8x AF settings at all resolutions. To incorporate all of the configurations (CrossFire, SLI, PCIe and AGP), we had to run three platforms. The components and configurations are listed below.

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Nvidia Single Graphics and SLI, ATI Single Graphics Setup
CPUAMD Athlon 64 FX-60, 2.6 GHz
System Interface1 GHz HT-Link
MotherboardAsus A8N32-SLI Deluxe
ChipsetNvidia nForce4
MemoryMushkin 2x1024 MB PC3200, CL2.0-2-3-2
Hard DriveWestern Digital Raptor WD1500, 150 GB, Serial ATA, 10,000 RPM
DVDGigabyte GO-D1600C
AudioRealtek AC97
Power SupplySilverstone SST-ST56ZF, 560 W
ATI Crossfire Setup
CPUAMD Athlon 64 FX-60, 2.6 GHz
System Interface1 GHz HT Link
MotherboardATI Reference Board
ChipsetATI CrossFire Xpress 3200 (RD580)
MemoryMushkin 2x 1024 MB, PC3200, CL2.0-2-3-2
AGP Graphics Cards
CPUAMD Athlon 64 FX-60, 2.6 GHz
System Interface1 GHz HT-Link
MotherboardAsus AV8 Deluxe
ChipsetVIA K8T800 Pro
MemoryMushkin 2x 1024 MB, PC3200, CL2.0-2-3-2
AudioRealtek AC97
Drivers & Setup
GraphicsATI Catalyst 6.6Nvidia Forceware 91.31
OSWindows XP Professional, SP2
DirectXVersion 9.0c
Chipset SoftwareNvidia Nforce4 6.86AGP VIA Hyperion Pro V509A
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Test Matrix Details
ApplicationBenchmarkAnti Aliasing (AA)Anisotropic Filtering (AF)Possible Problems and Settings
Half Life 2: Episode OneFraps/THG-Savegame, Max Details /Quality /HDR-RenderingApplication-drivenApplication-driven,ATI X1000 high quality AF 6200 TC does not support HDR, but bloom only
Hard Truck ApocalypseFraps/THG-Savegame, Max Details /QualityApplication-drivenApplication-driven, ATI X1000 high quality AFAF via game settings
Oblivion: The Elder Scrolls 4Fraps/THG savegame outdoor and indoor, max details /quality /HDR renderingNo support for AA + HDR rendering, no support for Nvidia AA + HDR rendering, ATI AA not visible, ran X800, X850 without AA for the sake of better comparisonDriver-driven, ATI X1000 high quality AFAF not offered by the game, 6200 TC, X600, X700, X800, X850 do not support HDR rendering, but bloom only.
PreyTHG-Timedemo, max details /qualityApplication-drivenApplication-driven ATI X1000 high quality AFRow 4 - Cell 4
Rise of Nations: Rise of LegendsTHG record game, max details /qualityApplication-drivenDriver-driven, ATI X1000 high quality AFAA selectable in game settings (medium), no AF support, 128 MB 3D memory without full screen filters and with medium shadow setting only
Titan QuestFraps/THG savegame, max details /qualityApplication-drivenDriver-driven, ATI X1000 high quality AFAA selectable via game settings, no AF support
3DMark06 (v1.0.2)Default BenchmarkApplication-drivenApplication-driven, ATI X1000 high quality AFNvidia HDR rendering + AA not supported, 6200 TC, X600, X700, X800, X850 don't support HDR rendering
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Test Matrix for SLI and Crossfire
ApplicationBest Performance Settings Nvidia SLIBest Performance Settings ATI Crossfire
Half Life 2: Episode OneSingle-GPU rendering, 7300 GS TC SLI, 7600 GS SLI, 7600 GT SLI, 7800 GT SLI Split-frame rendering, Quad-SLI Alternate frame rendering 2Single-GPU rendering, Crossfire alternative: Install first card, then second card, then the applications
Hard Truck ApocalypseSingle-GPU rendering, 7300 GS TC SLI Split-frame renderingX1900 XTX Crossfire mode: Install one card first, install the second card, then install applications. X1300 to X1600 do single GPU rendering only
Oblivion: The Elder Scrolls 4Alternate frame renderingCrossfire mode: Install both cards at the same time, then install applications
PreySplit-frame rendering, 6800 GT SLI, 6800 Ultra SLI, Single GPU renderingCrossfire mode
Rise of Nations: Rise of LegendsAlternate frame rendering, 7800 GTX 512 MB SLI, 7900 GTX, Quad SLI Single GPU renderingSingle GPU rendering
Titan QuestAlternate frame rendering 2, Quad SLI Split-frame rendering, 6600 GT SLI Single-GPU renderingCrossfire-Modus: Install both cards at the same time, then install applications. Exception: 1024x768 in Crossfire mode. 1280x1024 does single-rendering only.
3DMark06 (v1.0.2)Auto selectInstall both cards at the same time, then install applications.

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