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AquaMark 3 - Time for nVidia to face the reality? - Benchmarks - NV under the spotlight and Test System Setups

In two days time Massive Development in Germany will release AquaMark 3, a fully compliant DX9 benchmark which offers gamers the ability to measure the performance of their graphics cards for the next 12 months. With all the news of poor DX9 performance from nVidia's NV35 lately, Cameron "Mr.Tweak" Wilmot has posted an article examining the performance under AquaMark 3 compared to ATI's R350 while taking a preview look at the upcoming benchmark. Read on!

| Benchmarks in Software | Posted: Sep 13, 2003 4:00 am

NV under the spotlight


From the beginning after receiving our preview copy of AquaMark 3, I never had the intention of naming this article "AquaMark 3 - Time for nVidia to face the reality?" nor to have a dig at our good friends from nVidia. I was purely going to tell you about AquaMark 3 and if it serves as a reliable DX9 benchmark for modern graphics cards. However, I found something far more interesting I could talk to you about today.


It was after nVidia gave us access to their upcoming Detonator 51.75 beta drivers that I thought it might be interesting to compare a reference GeForce FX 5900 Ultra with 256MB of RAM with the latest official drivers on nVidia's website at time of publishing, Detonator 44.23, and the upcoming Detonator 50 series which will be released at the end of the month as told in the introduction, which nVidia say will improve DX9 performance. We put the NV35 up against a PowerColor Radeon 9800 Pro with only 128MB of RAM with ATI's latest drivers, Catalyst 3.7 - the 128MB less RAM on the Radeon must be kept in mind throughout the rest of this article for reasons which will become more obvious why later on.


We decided to use an Intel based system to test DX9 performance on both cards with a Pentium 4 "C" 2.4GHz processor under AquaMark 3 and the Mother Nature DX9 test under 3DMark03. We didn't use a higher clocked CPU because not many people can afford to use the latest 3GHz or 3.2GHz processors from Intel, but more likely clock speeds around the 2.4GHz range which will give you a better chance to compare our results with your system. The full system specs are below for both ATI and nVidia cards:


ATI Test System Setup


Processor: Intel Pentium 4 2.4GHz "C" (800MHz FSB)


Motherboard: ABIT IC7 MAX3 (Supplied by ABIT)


Memory: Kingmax 2x 256MB DDR-400 (Supplied by Kingmax Australia)


Hard Disk: Maxtor 80GB SATA-150 (Supplied by Altech Computers)


Graphics Card: PowerColor Radeon 9800 Pro 128MB (Supplied by Altech Computers)


Drivers: ATI Catalyst 3.7


Operating System: Microsoft Windows XP Professional SP1


nVidia Test System Setup


Processor: Intel Pentium 4 2.4GHz "C" (800MHz FSB)


Motherboard: ABIT IC7 MAX3 (Supplied by ABIT)


Memory: Kingmax 2x 256MB DDR-400 (Supplied by Kingmax Australia)


Hard Disk: Maxtor 80GB SATA-150 (Supplied by Altech Computers)


Graphics Card: Reference nVidia GeForce FX 5900 Ultra 256MB (Supplied by nVidia)


Drivers: Detonator 44.23 and Detonator 51.75 BETA


Operating System: Microsoft Windows XP Professional SP1


As far as the system setup went, we left all driver settings at their defaults. The only driver option change we made was disabling V-Sync and AA and AF settings were left application specific. The memory controller was set to run at DDR-400 with the Kingmax RAM running SPD. No ABIT performance acceleration options were enabled in the BIOS. The AGP aperture size was set to 256MB for both systems. For all tests under AquaMark 3, triple buffering and V-Sync were disabled with the gamma option being left at default.


Since the benchmark is new, we ran most of the same tests two or three times to check for consistency. Massive have done a fabulous job with this benchmark - most repeats of the benchmarks showed exact same results and when they were different, they were under one frame per second different from the previous run. Thanks Massive!


Can nVidia make up ground in the DX9 department by relying only on software optimizations in the Detonator 50 series of drivers? Read on and find out just what the story is for nVidia as we weave our way down the Yellow Brick Road.


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