Test System Setup
Processor: Intel Core 2 Quad QX6700 at 3GHz (10 x 300MHz FSB)
Motherboard: ASUS P5WDG2 WS PRO (Intel 975X)
Memory: 4 x 512MB Samsung DDR2-800
Hard Disk: Western Digital 80GB 7200 RPM SATA
Power Supply Unit: Seventeam 500-watt
Monitor: Dell 3007WFP 30" LCD
Operating System: Microsoft Windows XP Processional SP2
Drivers: Intel INF 126.96.36.1991, ATI Catalyst 7.4 (for X1950 XTX), ATI 8.361 (for HD 2900 XT), ForceWare 158.22 (for 8800 GTX) and DX9c
UPDATE - We are aware there are newer drivers in the wild (8.37 and 8.38) but these are BETA drivers and NOT the final shipping driver. They are said to improve performance but are not stable. All retail cards will be shipping with 8.361 as we tested.
We performed all testing of the graphics on the system above with the impressive Dell 30-inch LCD monitor. It is a high powered system with the quad-core QX6700 processor overclocked to 3GHz (10 x 300MHz FSB) to eliminate any chance of the CPU being the bottleneck of the system. AMD recommends at least a 750-watt power supply but we only used a 500-watt model and had no issues, but your mileage may vary.
All cards are running at their stock speeds, we did not change anything except disabling vertical sync. We are comparing the Radeon HD 2900 XT 512MB against the older Radeon X1950 XTX 512MB and Nvidia's GeForce 8800 GTX 768MB using the latest drivers for each card. While the HD 2900 XT 512MB is priced more closely to the GeForce 8800 GTS 640MB, we wanted to compare against the more expensive 8800 GTX to see what AMD's new part can do against the more expensive product - in fact, at retail the 8800 GTX is at least US$150 more than the HD 2900 XT 512MB. If AMD's new flaming beast can keep up even a little with the GTX, it will be impressive!
We tested with the latest available testing driver from AMD which is 8.361 - and this is the shipping driver for Radeon HD 2900 XT. There is a new driver floating around but that is not entirely stable yet. We would not be surprised if AMD releases its Catalyst 7.5 monthly driver soon and that should probably see some performance improvements and fixes of known bugs. The driver that we are using now is not perfect and AMD has noted some known issues. For example, in some of our tests, the older Radeon X1950 XTX is actually faster than the HD 2900 XT - this is a driver issue and we hope AMD fixes the problems very soon.
As mentioned, we did not get time to run any overclocking tests but we did manage to run at three resolutions - 1280 x 1024 (standard LCD), 1920 x 1200 (24" LCD) and 2560 x 1600 (30" LCD). We also ran a couple of tests with AA and AF enabled at the maximum possible at 1920 x 1200 to put as much strain on the cards as possible. We have also started to use Supreme Commander to expand our lineup of benchmark tests and boy is it intensive. All games were tested with graphics quality settings of "high" or "highest" and patched to their latest versions for best support.
Does AMD's ATI Radeon HD 2900 XT have what it takes to put a smile back on its shareholder's faces? Let us not waste any more time and get cracking!