The nVidia cards were tested on an Asus A8N32-SLI using an Athlon 64 FX60, 2GB of CMX1024-3500LLPRO RAM and a Seagate Barracuda ST340083A8 hard disk. Power was supplied by a Tagan 900W TG900-U95. For ATI testing, everything was kept the same except for the use of an Asus A8R32-MVP Deluxe and an Etasis 850W ET850.
All of the nVidia cards were tested using the official 84.21 ForceWare drivers. The X1800 GTO and the X1900 XTX were tested using the official Catalyst 6.3 drivers, while the X1900 GTO was tested using Catalyst 6.4.
Using our proprietary automated benchmarking suite, aptly dubbed “SpodeMark 3D”, I ran Call of Duty 2, Counter Strike: Source, Quake 4, Battlefield 2 and 3DMark 06. Bar 3DMark06, these all run using our in-house pre-recorded timedemos in the most intense sections of each game I could find. Each setting is run three times and the average is taken, for reproducible and accurate results. I ran each game test at 1,280 x 1,024, 1,600 x 1,200, 1,920 x 1,440 and 2,048 x 1,536 each at 0x FSAA with trilinear filtering, 2x FSAA with 4x AF and 4x FSAA with 8x AF.
In our graphs you will see results compared to the X1800 GTO, X1900 XTX and a 7900 GT.
Averaged across all the gaming benchmarks, the X1900 GT was 27 per cent faster than the X1800 GTO and interestingly the X1900 XTX was 30 per cent faster than the X1900 GT, so the card is very much in the middle of the two.
In 3DMark the X1900 GT scored almost identically to the 7900 GT, suggesting that ATI possibly used this is a point of reference. In most games though, on average the 7900 GT was 15 per cent ahead. However, in Battlefield 2 for instance, the X1900 GT was faster in everything especially when FSAA and AF were switched on.
In Quake 4 which traditionally favours nVidia ardware, the 7900 GT was 24 per cent ahead on average and as much as 33 per cent in places. At the lower resolutions, the CPU was the limiting factor so there was only a 13 per cent difference.
In Counter-Strike: Source, the 7900 GT was 15 per cent ahead in average, with a huge 38 per cent improvement at 2,048 x 1,536 with 4x FSAA and 8x AF. In ATI's defence this is only 26.96 versus 19.48 – neither of which are close to representing a playable frame rate.
Call of Duty 2 showed a similar result to everything else, with the 7900 GT on average 27 per cent ahead. This was as high as 46 per cent in places. All of the frame rates were pretty low though and playing above 1,600 x 1,200 wouldn't be recommended.
Overall, the 7900 GT is definitely faster but we all know there is more to buying a graphics card than speed. It's good to see the cooler improvement on the ATI card making it very similar to the 7900 GT. Of the current ATI line up, this does seem to offer the best value for money and of course has the ability to run FSAA and HDR simultaneously.
This card can also be run in CrossFire, but as the master card has to be an X1900 XT you'll be paying a lot more for your second card, and having to run it at X1900 GT speeds. In contrast, with SLI you can just buy another card a few months down the line (possibly even second hand)and upgrade performance. With CrossFire because you need a specific master card you pretty much have to decide to go CrossFire from day one, and that will probably mean you'll be looking at an X1900 XT rather than a GT.
At £199.69, this is a good price and comes in cheaper than most 7900 GTs, but the performance isn't quite there. But in the time it takes for Catalyst Control Center to load, you should be able to find a 7900 GT for similar money. Connect3D cards are usually pretty good value when it comes to ATI hardware, so other brands could well be more expesive than this one.