iXBT Labs - Computer Hardware in Detail






3Digest, June 2005

Monthly drivers report and popular 3D
accelerators comparison

Monthy 3Digest is the project of iXBT.com and Digit-Life.com dedicated to informing you about the performance of a large number of graphics cards under Windows XP in the past month.

In this issue we examine drivers released from 05/10/2005 to 06/10/2005 . Traditionally our 3Digest informs you about the best price/performance ratios available in the market. Another very important part of any issue is cards' 3D graphics quality shown on the example of a wide selection of games.

It's our 61th issue of 3Digest.

June 2005

3Digest is 5 years old!

May 2000. NVIDIA GeForce2 GTS, 3dfx Voodoo5 5500 are announced. GeForce256 as well as S3 Savage2000 are already the past. (But fingers still "remember" typing 3dfx Voodoo, Savage, Matrox...).

ATI RADEON is announced, but is not available even as samples.

Some experience has been gained, lots of articles have been written. The problem of obsolete drivers is becoming more and more serious. Readers cause more and more hype comparing articles about drivers benchmarking from various online reviwers. There's no hype about "optimizations" yet, but the motive is already obvious as newer drivers change performance by 5% to 20%.

About this time Pavel Sokolov, iXBT.com, decided to launch a monthly article with the graphics cards benchmarking results that would solve the problem of obsolete drivers - the usual articles would introduce new cards to readers, while once a month a summary would help readers understand cards positions relative to each other.

The idea was very interesting and early in June we released the first issue of 3Digest.

This project would be impossible without people that helped us much. One of them was Evgeniy Zaitsev that in some short time became a full-time tester.

Afterwards Evgeniy left 3Digest for its favourite section - networking, where he's working now.

Since almost the very beginning we established 4 testbeds:

Of course, even one hepling person was not enough. Besides, the amount of cards to test grew very fast and we also launched Games quality section, because drivers carried lots of bugs, especially those from ATI Technologies and 3dfx (we don't even speak of S3 whose drivers were the real talk of the town - we just couldn't use reference ones and were forced to assemble "drivers cocktails" to conduct necessary tests).

By the way, that time we got acquainted with a group of S3 fans which named themselves "S3 Ma" :). They couldn't believe that Savage4/2000 performed that humble and declared "war" upon us, telling everybody that our benchmarks were untrustworthy. As the result, we invited them all to our laboratories (Alexey Samsonov, the editor of TV tuner section, was a part of that "mafia" as well).

We must say that another person of this group now works as an engineer in NVIDIA. His modified Savage 2000 with increased core and memory voltage is still in our museum (on the photo below to the right of and under the cuckoo clock with memory heatsinks).

By the way, it's not just a bunch of antiques. It surely exhibits obsolete graphics cards, but it also hosts products still being a part of the tests.

But let's get back to 2000. We needed more helpers and for some time Ildar Ahmetzhanov was one of our testers:

Then, in November 2000, we invited Alexander Kondakov that worked for us longer than anyone else. Now he's also working for NVIDIA as a test lab coordinator.

For about a month and a half Sergey Lazarev also gave us a helping hand.

I must say, during the first months all the work was done manually: the results were written onto paper forms and then typed into a PC. Then we obtained an old but steady IBM ThinkPad which sped up our work a lot.

After Alexander Kondakov had left, Kirill Budankov worked for us for about a year. He introduced a lot of innovations into benchmarking and calculations. Evgeniy Zaitsev and Alexander Kondakov also helped us much in optimizing the entire process and programming. By the way, Kirill is working for NVIDIA now as well.

At that time we started using Benchemall utility and I'm greatly thankful to its developer, Alexander Kondratyuk aka render for his constant utility optimization and his fast response to all our comments and needs. Let's say it straight: the general quickness of benchmarking in 3Digest is the result of Alexander's efforts.

Now the 3Digest team includes three persons. Me, Andrey Vorobiev; Danil Gridasov; and Vitaly Milov. Our photos are in the end of 3Digest's main page. ;)

Speaking of testbeds, they've lived through many upgrades. Now we use two of them (the configurations are below).

We are optimistic about the future. The games quality section has been considerably remade. Thanks to Danil Gridasov, there are three subsections in which you can get all the details of existing game problems that occur with certain graphics cards.

Danil made all efforts possible, so now the games quality section is one of the primary parts of the project.

We are now curtailing the monthly repetitive cards benchmarking with new drivers. The time has shown us there's no need in such material every month. So, it would be enough to introduce such kind of information once per quarter, dedicating other months to other aspects of graphics cards performance.

To draw a bottom line of this introduction, I would like to thank every person who congratulated us with our anniversary. Especially the people at Gainward who presented us a marvellous cake (on the photo is Mihail Proshletsov, Gainward; here's a 20-second movie (2MB)):

We are also very thankful to all our readers for their comments, criticism and wishes. We thank all our partners that supply us with graphics cards. We thank our colleagues at iXBT that help us with testbed upgrades - first of all, our boss Pavel Sokolov, and our marketing director Alexander Vorobiev). And a special thanks is going to certain friends at iXBT that were of much moral support during hard times (first of all, Alexey Samsonov).

And yet again we thank Pavel Sokolov whose idea in 5 years grew to a very popular project, a permanent part of iXBT/Digit-Life.

PLEASE NOTE! For this issue we tested only PCI-E graphics cards! The AGP-based benchmark follow!


  1. Testbed configurations and test software
  2. Tested videocards list
  3. What's new in 3Digest
  4. Test summary diagrams and digest bottom line
  5. 3D accelerator rating calculations for the end of the month
  6. Screenshot gallery
  7. Games quality section
  8. Game Quality Control

1. Testbed configuration

  • System on Athlon 64 3200+: 64 (754Socket): - WAS NOT used for this issue!
    • AMD Athlon 64 3700+ (L2=1024K);
    • ASUS K8V SE Deluxe motherboard on VIA K8T800;
    • 1 GB DDR SDRAM PC3200;
    • Seagate Barracuda 7200.7 80GB SATA HDD.

  • System on Athlon 64 (939Socket)
    • AMD Athlon 4000+ (L2=1024K);
    • ASUS A8N SLI Deluxe motherboard on NVIDIA nForce4 SLI;
    • 1 GB DDR SDRAM 400MHz (CAS (tCL)=2.5; RAS to CAS delay (tRCD)=3; Row Precharge (tRP)=3; tRAS=6);
    • WD Caviar SE WD1600JD 160GB SATA HDD.

Testbeds have Windows XP Professional Service Pack 2, DirectX 9.0c installed. ViewSonic P810 (21") and IIYAMA Vision Master Pro 514 (22") monitors were used.

The list of benchmarks is here .

2. Graphics card list

Below is a list of graphics cards that we tested linked to respective 3Digest feature-description pages.

You can see the quality of 3D graphics produced by tested cards in our monthly updated Screenshot gallery.

Card list:

  1. PCI-E-ATI RADEON X300 128MB DDR 5ns (325/400 MHz)
  2. PCI-E-ATI RADEON X600 PRO 128MB DDR 3.3ns (400/600 MHz)
  3. PCI-E-ATI RADEON X600 XT 128MB DDR 2.5ns (500/760 MHz)
  4. PCI-E-ATI RADEON X700 128MB DDR 2.8ns (400/700 MHz)
  5. PCI-E-ATI RADEON X700 PRO 256MB GDDR3 2.0ns (425/860 MHz)
  6. PCI-E-ATI RADEON X800 256MB GDDR3 2.0ns (400/990 MHz)
  7. PCI-E-ATI RADEON X800 XL 256MB GDDR3 2.0ns (400/990 MHz)
  8. PCI-E-ATI RADEON X800 XL 512MB GDDR3 2.0ns (400/990 MHz)
  9. PCI-E-ATI RADEON X850 XT 256MB GDDR3 1.6ns (520/1080 MHz)
  10. PCI-E-ATI RADEON X850 XT PE 256MB GDDR3 1.6ns (540/1180 MHz)
  11. PCI-E-NVIDIA GeForce 6200 128MB DDR 3.6ns (300/550 MHz)
  12. PCI-E-NVIDIA GeForce 6600 128MB DDR 3.6ns (300/550 MHz)
  13. PCI-E-NVIDIA GeForce 6600GT 128MB GDDR3 2.0ns (500/1000 MHz)
  14. PCI-E-NVIDIA GeForce 6800 256MB DDR 2.8ns (350/600 MHz)
  15. PCI-E-NVIDIA GeForce 6800 GT 256MB GDDR3 2.0ns (350/1000 MHz)
  16. PCI-E-NVIDIA GeForce 6800 Ultra 256MB GDDR3 1.6ns (425/1100 MHz)
  17. PCI-E-NVIDIA GeForce 6800 Ultra SLI 2x256MB DDR3 1.6ns (2x425/1100 MHz)
  18. PCI-E-NVIDIA GeForce 6800 GT SLI 2x256MB DDR3 2.0ns (2x350/1000 MHz)
  19. PCI-E-NVIDIA GeForce 6800 SLI 2x256MB DDR 2.8ns (2x350/600 MHz)
  20. PCI-E-NVIDIA GeForce 6600 GT SLI 2x128MB DDR3 2.0ns (2x500/1000 MHz)
  21. PCI-E-NVIDIA GeForce 7800 GTX 256MB GDDR3 1.6ns (430/1200 MHz)
  22. PCI-E-NVIDIA GeForce 7800 GTX SLI 2x256MB DDR3 1.6ns (2x430/1200 MHz)

Archive (videocards, information on which is no longer updated)

3. June 2005 news and the current business

We introduced a new benchmark based on F.E.A.R. See the corresponding section for more details.

  • 3.1. The following drivers were released from May 10, 2005 to June 10, 2005:

    • NVIDIA ForceWare for all NVIDIA-based cards:

      • Windows XP: 77.62, 77.30, 77.50;

    • ATI Catalyst for all ATI-based cards:

      • Windows XP: 6.542 (CATALYST 5.6)

  • 3.2. This month we used 77.62 drivers for NVIDIA-based card summaries; 6.542 drivers for ATI-based card summaries.

4. Summary diagrams of graphics cards performance with the latest drivers for June 2005

5. 3D accelerator ratings calculations for the end of the month

All willing to conduct his own rating calculations with his own values are invited to download this Excel XP table in RAR 3.0 or ZIP format.

The method of rating calculation is described here.

Calculations were conducted considering the following assumptions:

  1. Percentage of performance and quality demand ratio:
    • performance priority - 60%
    • quality priority - 40%

  2. ONLY 1600x1200@32bpp resolution was used for the prospect rating;
  3. The usability rating indicates performance and features of a card (numerator) related to its price (denominator).

  1. Athlon 64 4000+ (PCI-E):

    We apologize for technical issues which resulted in a rating miscalculation. It has been fixed.

    Usability rating (rating from the previous 3Digest is in parentheses):

    Usability rating

    01. GeForce 6600GT 128MB 500/1000 PCI-E
    02. RADEON X800 256MB 400/990 PCI-E
    03. RADEON X700 128MB 400/700 PCI-E
    04. RADEON X800 XL 256MB 400/990 PCI-E
    05. GeForce 6600 128MB 300/550 PCI-E
    06. RADEON X700 PRO 256MB 425/860 PCI-E
    07. GeForce 6800 256MB 350/600 PCI-E
    08. GeForce 6600GT SLI 2x128MB, 500/1000
    09. GeForce 6800 GT 256MB 350/1000 PCI-E
    10. RADEON X800 XL 512MB 400/990 PCI-E
    11. RADEON X850 XT 256MB 520/1080 PCI-E
    12. GeForce 6800 Ultra 256MB 425/1100 PCI-E
    13. GeForce 7800GTX 256MB, 430/1200
    14. RADEON X600 PRO 128MB, 400/600
    15. GeForce 6200 128MB 300/550 PCI-E
    16. RADEON X850 XT PE 256MB 540/1180 PCI-E
    17. RADEON X600 XT 128MB, 500/760
    18. GeForce 6800 GT SLI 2x256MB 350/1000
    19. GeForce 6800 SLI 2x256MB 350/600
    20. RADEON X300 128MB, 325/400
    21. GeForce 6800 Ultra SLI 2x256MB 425/1100
    22. GeForce 7800GTX SLI 2x256MB, 430/1200

    Prospect rating (the previous rating is in parenthesis):

    01. GeForce 7800GTX SLI 2x256MB, 430/1200
    02. GeForce 6800 Ultra SLI 2x256MB 425/1100
    03. GeForce 7800GTX 256MB, 430/1200
    04. GeForce 6800 GT SLI 2x256MB 350/1000
    05. GeForce 6800 Ultra 256MB 425/1100 PCI-E
    06. RADEON X850 XT PE 256MB 540/1180 PCI-E
    07. GeForce 6800 SLI 2x256MB 350/600
    08. RADEON X850 XT 256MB 520/1080 PCI-E
    09. GeForce 6800 GT 256MB 350/1000 PCI-E
    10. RADEON X800 XL 512MB 400/990 PCI-E
    11. RADEON X800 XL 256MB 400/990 PCI-E
    12. GeForce 6600GT SLI 2x128MB, 500/1000
    13. RADEON X800 256MB 400/990 PCI-E
    14. GeForce 6800 256MB 350/600 PCI-E
    15. GeForce 6600GT 128MB 500/1000 PCI-E
    16. RADEON X700 PRO 256MB 425/860 PCI-E
    17. RADEON X700 128MB 400/700 PCI-E
    18. GeForce 6600 128MB 300/550 PCI-E
    19. RADEON X600 XT 128MB, 500/760
    20. GeForce 6200 128MB 300/550 PCI-E
    21. RADEON X600 PRO 128MB, 400/600
    22. RADEON X300 128MB, 325/400

Ingame quality

6. Games screenshot gallery

All test screenshots are compiled into a gallery where you can qualify the work of a chosen videocard. All shots were taken at the same 1024x768 resolution at the maximum quality. Screenshot gallery

7. Games artefacts gallery

Games quality section

8. Game Quality Control!

Game Quality Control

We thank all the companies that provided us with graphics cards and other equipment for our 3Digest, including:

HIS (Peter Yueng personally)

Vitaly Milov (vmilov@ixbt.com)
Danil Gridasov (degust@ixbt.com)

Andrey Vorobiev (anvakams@ixbt.com)


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