With the launch of some truly stellar gaming titles in the last few months, some of our tried and tested graphics benchmarks are looking a bit long in the tooth. So, for this review I've dropped Counter-Strike: Source in favour of Team Fortress 2, and I've added in the Crysis demo to see how these cards cope with the latest most demanding of games. Call Of Duty 2, 3DMark06, and Prey are still in there for the time being but this will probably be the last time they will be used for testing - we just need to iron out the kinks in our test code before the new benchmarks can be let loose.
As per usual, each game is run with full in-game detail settings at a variety of resolutions with varying degrees of anti-aliasing and anisotropic filtering applied. For Call Of Duty 2, Prey, 3Dmark06, and Team Fortress 2, each setting is run three times and the average is taken so we end up with a pretty rock solid figure. For Crysis we've used the inbuilt timedemo that loops four times enabling us to calculate an average from the results. As it's such a demanding game, though, we've kept in-game settings to high (rather than very-high) and also stuck to resolutions of just 1,280 x 1,024 and 1,680 x 1,050. We also use transparency anti-aliasing throughout our testing as we feel its a processing technique that greatly enhances image quality in a lot of games.
Our test platform consists of the following:
We generally find that any single card configuration struggles to cope at the resolutions demanded by a 30in monitor so we've stuck to testing at 1,920 x 1,200 and 1,600 x 1,200 (or 1,680 x 1,050), and 1,280 x 1,024 for these tests. We will, however, come back to test SLI and CrossFire configurations very soon so we will take a look at performance at 2,560 x 1,600 then.
As was to be expected, the 8800 GTX is still top of the pile (well, except for the 8800 Ultra, but we haven't tested that here) but overall the 8800 GT makes a good show of itself, most notably staying ahead of the 8800 GTS for the majority of tests. At the highest resolutions and anti-aliasing settings, the reduced memory bandwidth of the 8800 GT lets it down and the 8800 GTS just creeps ahead on the odd occasion. However, considering the price difference, and all the other benefits of the new card, the 8800 GT would be the better bet every time.
Conversely, the 8800 GTX does enough to show why it still demands such a high price. While the other cards begin to drop off significantly as the resolution, anti-aliasing, and anisotropic filtering are cranked up, the 8800 GTX takes far less of a hit. In particular, Team Fortress 2 at 1,920 x 1,200 with 8xAA and 16xAF is nearly twice as fast with the 8800 GTX as it is with the 8800 GT. However, for the most part the 8800 GT is more than capable.
Of course none of this takes into account the incredibly poor framerates that all the cards produce when playing Crysis. Hopefully the full game will be slightly more optimised, while future driver updates from both ATI and nVIdia should also improve the situation. Otherwise, Crysis could prove to be unplayable for most people, which would be a huge shame because it looks incredible.
While the nVidia 8800 GT doesn't beat the established 8800 GTX, it provides close to the performance for a fraction of the price and also packs in more features to sweeten the deal. Add to this it's small size, cool operation, and quiet running and you have a card that we can't recommend highly enough. It's simply phenomenal.