We would like to thank the following companies for supplying and supporting us with our test system hardware and equipment: Intel, ASUS, MSI, Western Digital and Corsair.
Today will be the first time we see our new Z68 testbed for a video card review. The MARS II seemed like the perfect card to use it on, though, as our 5.2GHz 2600k gives the card plenty of breathing room making sure the highest performance is able to be offered.
As for the cards we're going to be comparing the MARS II against, we're a little limited because of the update in our testbed, meaning all our old results are invalid, but we've included the two most important setups. The first is the GTX 580 in SLI which is essentially what the MARS II is, just in its original two card setup. The other card we've got today is the HD 6990 which is the fastest card on the market at the moment. It's truly the biggest competition for the MARS II and it will be interesting to see how the HD 6990 and MARS II match up.
We would've liked to have had the GTX 590, but our original one died and we don't have a spare on hand. We also know it's slower than both the HD 6990 and GTX 580 SLI setup, so it's not the most important card to include, unlike the ones we have got here today.
Before we get into the swing of things, though, I just want to quickly say that we're using a new benchmark line up which gets rid of some of our less intensive games and introduces some more intensive ones, even if some of them are a little old. Games like Metro 2033 and Just Cause 2 are extremely intensive and a great addition to the line up. With some massive releases coming out in the next few months as well, we hope to see some more built in benchmarks which will see them added to our line up here.
The other thing I want to mention as I know it's going to come up, is the fact we're using a Z68 x8 / x8 system instead of an X58 x16 / 16 one. There's of course a method to our madness and if you want to find out exactly why we've made the move to the Z68 platform over the X58 one for our video card benchmarks, I highly recommend you check out our recent article; Z68 vs X58 - Which is The Better Gaming Platform. I think that covers just about everything.
Let's get started!
The FPS Numbers Explained
When we benchmark our video cards and look at the graphs, we aim to get to a certain level of FPS which we consider playable. While many may argue that the human eye can't see over 24 FPS or 30 FPS, any true gamer will tell you that as we climb higher in Frames Per Seconds (FPS), the overall gameplay feels smoother. There are three numbers we're looking out for when it comes to our benchmarks.
30 FPS - It's the minimum number we aim for when it comes to games. If you're not dropping below 30 FPS during games, you're going to have a nice and smooth gaming experience. The ideal situation is that even in a heavy fire fight, the minimum stays above 30 FPS making sure that you can continue to aim easily or turn the corner with no dramas.
60 FPS - It's the average we look for when we don't have a minimum coming at us. If we're getting an average of 60 FPS, we should have a minimum of 30 FPS or better and as mentioned above, it means we've got some smooth game play happening.
120 FPS - The new number that we've been hunting down over recent months. If you're the owner of a 120 Hz monitor, to get the most out of it you want to get around the 120 FPS mark. Moving from 60 FPS / 60 Hz to 120 FPS / 120 Hz brings with it a certain fluidity that can't really be explained, but instead has to be experienced. Of course, if you're buying a 120 Hz monitor to take advantage of 3D, an average of 120 FPS in our benchmark means that in 3D you will have an average of 60 FPS, which again means you should expect some smooth gameplay.