How We Tested:
We have used the in-game Anti-Aliasing and Anisotropic Filtering controls where possible, and thus our driver's AA and AF configuration have been set to "Application Controlled" - you can view our driver settings at the bottom of this page.
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. The current state of the 3D world, where Independent Hardware Vendors no longer render things in a similar fashion, dictates that even an apples-to-apples comparison is no longer a true like-for-like comparison. We decided to concentrate on finding the "Best Playable" settings - this means that we're finding the best possible image quality delivered on each different configuration, while remaining completely playable. 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.
There is an element of human error in all of our results, as everything is run manually. The important thing is that we're playing through exactly the same part of each title, so the same workload is being placed on the system during this period. Where we lose accuracy from manually running our tests, we gain accuracy from using real-world gaming scenarios, which ultimately place load on to both the CPU and GPU, as you would expect to happen in a real-world gaming experience rather than focusing on out and out 3D rendering performance that is derived from running a time demo or synthetic benchmark.
- MSI K8T Neo2 Platinum (VIA K8T800 Pro);
- AMD Athlon 64 FX-55 - operating at 2000MHz (10x200);
- 2 x 512MB Corsair XMS 3200XL - operating in dual channel with 2.5-2-2-5 timings;
- Western Digital 200GB Caviar SATA 150 Hard disk drive;
- Windows XP Professional Service Pack 2;
- DirectX 9.0c;
- VIA Hyperion 4.51 chipset drivers;
- NVIDIA GeForce 6600GT AGP reference board - operating at default clock speeds of 500/900MHz using ForceWare 66.93 WHQL.
- ATI Radeon 9800 Pro - operating at default clock speeds of 380/680MHz using Catalyst 4.11 WHQL.
We have reduced the speed of our CPU slightly, and also slightly lowered the memory timings in order to represent a typical system that is likely to be matched up with these video cards. Our CPU represents something in the region of 3200+ to 3400+ using AMD's performance rating, while the memory is held back slightly to represent memory modules that will not cost quite as much as Corsair's ultra fast XL series modules.
NVIDIA ForceWare 66.93 settings:
ATI Catalyst 4.11 settings:
Our video drivers were left relatively untouched, with the exception of Anti-Aliasing and Anisotropic Filtering. In some cases, the game title did not have support for Anti-Aliasing or Anisotropic Filtering to be selected from within the game - in these circumstances AA and AF were controlled via the driver control panel. In ATI's drivers, we selected Geometry Instancing support in the 'API Specific' tab.