How We Tested

Testing graphics cards is a time consuming task, especially if you’re going to cover different resolutions, FSAA, AF and as many quality benchmarks as possible. Choosing the right benchmarks is a task in its own right, but for this group test we have used the most popular benchmarks out there at the time of the test. We used the most recent drivers available at the time of the test, which were the ATi Catalyst 3.5 and the nVidia Detonator 45.23. Apart from running 3DMark 2001 and 2003, which you can read up on here we also used the following tests.

Gun Metal – This is one of the first DirectX 9 benchmarks available and although it is written in Cg which was developed by nVidia, this test gives an early indication on how capable your graphics card will be at running new DirectX 9 games. You need a powerful graphics card to run Gun Metal as it is FSAA only. We ran the benchmark at 1,024 x 768, 1,280 x 1,024 and 1,600 x 1,200 in 32bit. All cards where tested with 4X FSAA as well as 4X FSAA and 4X AF. The benchmark can be downloaded for free and links can be found at the Yeti Studios website

Serious Sam, the Second Encounter – This is one of two OpenGL tests we used. It is a fairly old game but it still offers a good base as a benchmark. OpenGL is not used as much as it was a couple of years ago in games, but there are still new games being developed for OpenGL.

To enable the benchmark in Serious Sam, bring down the console and type dem_bprofile=1 then start one of the recorded demos from the demo menu. We tested all the cards with the Valley of the Jaguar demo that features wide open spaces and a high polygon count that pushes the graphics cards a bit harder. After the demo has finished, bring down the console again and you get a break down of the results in frames per second. Serious Sam, the Second Encounter was benchmarked in 1,024 x 768, 1,280 x 1,024 and 1,600 x 1,200 resolution in 32bit. We also ran it with 4X FSAA and 4X FSAA with 4X AF.

SPECviewperf 7.1 – This is not a games benchmark like the other tests, but rather a workstation graphics card test that runs in OpenGL. SPECviewperf utilises real world applications and offers some very demanding tests. The different tests consist of, 3DStudio Max 5.1, Data Explorer, DesignReview, Lightscape, Pro/Engineer and Unigraphics. For a complete breakdown of what the different tests do, visit SPECs website where a detailed breakdown for each one of the tests can be found. You can also download a copy of SPECviewpeft 7.1 from there. After the benchmark has completed you’re presented with a text document with a breakdown of the different scores.

We ran SPECviewperf 7.1 at 1,280 x 1,024 resolution and 32bit but some of the tests are not run in full screen, so the resolution doesn’t really affect the benchmark.

Unreal Tournament 2003 – This is a DirectX 9 game, but it is still a good benchmark for real games performance. We used the built-in test as it’s quick and easy to run and gives a repeatable result. As with most game benchmarks the returned result is in frames per second.

The benchmark utility can be found in the install directory of the game and is a small application that allows you to change the resolution. We ran the test at 1,024 x 768, 1,280 x 960 and 1,600 x 1,200 at 32bit. We did of course run all the tests with 4X FSAA and 4X FSAA with 4X AF as well.

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