How We Tested:Please be aware that the way we test our video cards is not a like-for-like comparison, and it is not meant to be. We decided to concentrate on finding the "Best Playable" settings - this means that we're finding the best possible gaming experience delivered on each different configuration. There are no time demos used in our evaluations - we're focusing on the real-world gaming experience, which is, ultimately what should determine your next graphics card's purchase.
Rather than focusing on reporting the minimum and average frame rates for every configuration, we have decided to move the focus to resolution and settings. Thus, we are displaying our "Best Playable" resolutions and settings in a table that should be easier to understand than our previous format. If you take the logic that the higher the resolution and in game details, the faster the video card, you will not go far wrong.
In situations where we find that two competing video cards run at the same settings, we will bring the frame rates in to the discussion of our game play experiences with each particular video card.
AMD Athlon 64 FX-57 (operating at 2200MHz, 11x200MHz - equivalent of Athlon 64 3700+
); DFI LANPARTY nF4 SLI-DR (NVIDIA NForce4 SLI); 2 x 512MB Corsair XMS3200XL Pro (operating in dual channel with 2.0-2-2-10 timings); Western Digital Raptor 74GB, 10000RPM SATA 150 Hard disk drive; OCZ PowerStream 520W Power Supply; Windows XP Professional Service Pack 2; DirectX 9.0c; NVIDIA NForce4 Standalone chipset drivers, version 6.66.
- 1 x HIS X800GTO IceQ II iTurbo 256MB - operating at both its default and enhanced clock speeds of 392/980MHz and 500/1000MHz using Catalyst version 5.9 WHQL available from ATI.com.
- 1 x XFX GeForce 6800 256MB - operating at its default clock speeds of 325/700MHz using Forceware version 81.84 available from nZone.
- 1 x HIS X800GT IceQ II iTurbo 256MB - operating at both its default and enhanced clock speeds of 492/980MHz and 500/1000MHz using Catalyst 5.9 WHQL.
- 1 x XFX GeForce 6600 GT 128MB - operating at its default clock speeds of 500/1100MHz using Forceware 81.84.
The video card drivers were left at their default settings with the exception of Vsync, which was disabled in all cases.
Publisher: Electronic Arts
We used the follow up to Battlefield 1942 and Battlefield: Vietnam, Battlefield 2. It features an all-new game engine based on the DirectX 9.0 API. There is no Shader Model 3.0 support, but the majority of hardware will use a Shader Model 2.0++ mode that includes support for Normal Maps, Parallax Mapping, Full-Resolution Dynamic Shadowing, Post Processing and Fog.
The game will look the same on both NVIDIA and ATI hardware, so there is no advantage of choosing one over the other in image quality related circumstances. The only major difference is that Ultra Shadow 2 is utilised on NVIDIA's hardware, while the Shadowing on ATI hardware is done using a slightly different technique.
We played five five-minute segments of the same map, reporting the median frame rate. We found that there was no ready way to duplicate testing situations manually in this game, so we felt that taking a typical slice of action from the game was the best way to report our findings. We controlled Anti-Aliasing from inside the game, while Anisotropic Filtering was set to 8xAF when the 'Texture Filtering' option was set to 'High'.
Below is a table of the best-playable settings that we found best for each video card configuration. In this title, we found that 25 to 30 frames per second minimum and a target of 60 frames per second (or higher) for the average frame rate delivered a smooth and fluid gaming experience.
At its default clock speeds, the HIS X800GTO IceQ II iTurbo was clearly the fastest video card in this game. We found that 1280x960 0xAA 8xAF with medium-high in-game details were the optimal settings for this video card. Most of the details were set to medium, with the exception of Terrain, Texture and Effects - we were able to select the high setting for those.
When we enabled the card's iTurbo mode - enhancing the clock speeds to 500/1000MHz - we found that the in game detail settings could be improved further. We found that we were able to increase Dynamic Lights to high and also add 2xAA in to the fray too. This meant that a lot of the jaggies in the game are removed.
The XFX GeForce 6800 Std and XFX 6600 GT Extreme Gamer Edition video cards both delivered optimal gaming experience at 102x768 2xAA 8xAF with the only difference being that with the GeForce 6800 Std, we were able to set Dynamic Lighting to high. The majority of the in-game details were set to medium on both cards, with the exception of Texture, Terrain and Dynamic Lights as aforementioned.
Finally, the HIS X800GT IceQ II iTurbo, operating at its default clock speeds, was best playable at 1024x768 0xAA 8xAF with high Terrain, Effects and Texture detail - all other settings were left at medium. When we increased the clock speeds slightly, up to 500/1000MHz for the cards' iTurbo mode, we were able to add 2xAA to the scene too, allowing it to compete with the XFX 6800 Std on the playable image quality front.