We proceed with our performance tests of video cards of different price levels in DOOM III. Last time we benchmarked the high end 3D accelerators, very expensive video cards of the RADEON X800 and GeForce 6800 series.
Today we shall present weaker and cheaper solutions. It goes without saying that if even the most powerful accelerators demonstrated not more than 50-60 fps with the Ultra High and High Quality settings, there is absolutely no sense in testing admittedly weaker cards with these settings.
That's why we divided our video cards into the low and middle end sections and tested them in DOOM III with low and medium settings correspondingly. The only exception is made for RADEON 9800 PRO and GeForce FX 5900, which can manage the High Quality settings, so there will be two data sets for these video cards: Medium and High Quality.
We have also changed the range of resolutions. Usually we use resolutions from 1024x768 to 1600x1200. In this case it's silly to use these resolutions for an obvious reason, that's why we limited ourselves to two resolutions: 800x600 and 1024x768.
What's the difference between the Ultra High, High, Medium, and Low modes? Let's have a look at the table:
I suppose that you all understand how much the image quality suffers in Low Quality. However, at the end of the article you can see screenshots demonstrating the effect.
And now it's high time to introduce our contenders.
I suppose there is no point in commenting on these cards, all of them were tested in our lab.
Installation and Drivers
VSync is disabled.
Note that we used a beta version of CATALYST 4.9, which contains ICD OpenGL (alpha version) rewritten from scratch. The driver is still in the development stage, so the current ATI test results can be considered preliminary.
Test results: performance comparison
We used the following test applications:
If you want to get the demo-benchmarks, which we use, contact me at my e-mail. I'm warning you that the demo-benchmark in DOOM III is 150-200MB(!), 25MB compressed.
Concerning the benchmark, we did not use Demo1 installed with the game but recorded our own demo instead - SAM3 (timedemo sam3 console command is used for the test) This is done to avoid possible optimizations for the existing game benchmark.
Important information: The maximum FPS in the game is limited to 60 frames per second, but when we run timedemo this limitation is lifted.
AF8x mode in the diagrams means Anisotropic 8x Quality
Middle end accelerators
Low end accelerators
Summary table of performance differences
Test results: quality comparison
I shall not provide the quality differences between the cards today (you can see them in the previous article).
But to show the visual difference between the four above-mentioned quality settings in the game is quite reasonable.
We can see that the Low settings heavily damage the quality. But have a look at the game speed even in this mode...
Thus, on the whole:
There is obviously no sense in comparing the competing video cards (ATI/NVIDIA) with each other, as they are on the level.
The only exception is the defeat of RADEON 9200 by its competitor GeForce FX 5200. But then RADEON 9550 is very good.
The question is why the top ATI products catastrophically lose to those from NVIDIA, while their cheap solutions are on the level? What's the matter? I guess we partially answered this question earlier when we assumed that the key to NVIDIA success was the proprietary technology for shadow processing, mind that we didn't disable shadows even in Low Quality. Thus, this effect is due to UltraShadow and fast stencil belonging only to the FX 5900 series and higher. Disarmed FX 5700/5500/5200 couldn't shoot ahead. Plus there is a possibility that NVIDIA shader optimization is implemented only in top video cards.
Now about the speed itself: we can see that even in the Medium/Low mode at 800x600 the gameplay demonstrated by some video cards is below critical. It means that the owners of RADEON 9200 (including 9600SE) and FX 5200/5700LE will have to upgrade their video cards if they want to play DOOM III. There is no other way out. You can still decrease the quality level, but watching blurred walls in 2004 is a shame.
Conclusion: The owners of low end (and some middle end) video cards will have to part with their cards and buy faster accelerators. The example of DOOM III is illustrative: the future will present more and more games requiring more considerable performance capacity from video cards.
Andrey Vorobiev (firstname.lastname@example.org)
10 August, 2004
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