So often, when comparing new graphics products, the decision of which card to go for comes down to the bundle and warranty, because performance is invariably identical. However, today I have two cards that can be expected to perform differently. So, letâ€™s find out just how much performance those extra MHz that the BFG sports actually give you.
To test, I used our standard selection of benchmarks in our reference Intel 975XBX â€œBad Axeâ€ motherboard, with an Intel X6800 Core 2 Duo. Coupled with 2GBs of Corsair CMX1024-6400C4 running at 800MHz with latency settings of 4-4-4-12.
For comparison Iâ€™ve pulled in the results we obtained in our 8800GTX and 8800GTS reviews, as well as results for the X1950XT-X. The 8800GTX was tested on the 96.94 version of nVidiaâ€™s drivers, the 8800GTS used version 97.02, while the X1950XT-X used ATIâ€™s Catalyst 6.8. Todayâ€™s tests were performed on the 97.92 version of nVidiaâ€™s drivers.
I ran Call of Duty 2, Counter Strike: Source, Quake 4, Battlefield 2, Prey and 3DMark06. Bar 3DMark06, these all run using our in-house pre-recorded timedemos in the most intense sections of each game. 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 1,200 and 2,048 x 1,536 each at 0x FSAA with trilinear filtering, 2x FSAA with 4x AF and 4x FSAA with 8x AF. I originally tested at 2,560 x 1,600 but had trouble with some spurious results so havenâ€™t included these figures. Performance was also dropping to unplayable levels at this resolution and Iâ€™d recommend you save a little harder for the 640MB version or a GTX.
The results revealed two quite interesting points. First, in Counter-Strike: Source and Call Of Duty 2 performance tailed of markedly, at anything over 1,280 x 1,024, when AA and AF were used. In the case of CS:S the drop was only academic, as all but the highest settings tested were still playable. Call of Duty 2 didnâ€™t fare so well, though, as only 1,280 x 1,024 was truly playable. However, we do run our tests at the absolute maximum detail level so dropping down to â€˜onlyâ€™ high levels of detail should result in playable frame rates at the higher resolutions without compromising quality too much. In the other games the 320MB versions consistently kept up with their 640MB cousins.
The second thing of note was how little difference the overclocking on the BFG card made. On some occasions there was around a 10 per cent difference but often both cards would be neck and neck.
Given the infrequency with which people upgrade their monitors, it is likely that you have already chosen the resolution that you plan to be running for the foreseeable future. So, if your budget has stretched all the way to a 30in widescreen, or if you still have a massive 22in CRT, then you are going to find this card struggles to keep up, especially as newer games come out. However, for the rest of us, any of the 8800GTS 320MB should be adequate.
Of the two cards Iâ€™ve looked at today itâ€™s an obvious choice. The MSI is nearly Â£25 more expensive than the BFG and it is slower â€“ though by a pretty small fraction. Itâ€™s great that MSI has included Company of Heroes but it seems youâ€™re also paying over the odds to have it. Youâ€™d be better off getting the BFG and buying Company of Heroes separately if you really want that particular game.