We said we would test the GX2 again once we obtained some updated drivers, and that's exactly what we're about to do right now. From a hotmail account this morning, we received the 174.51 Vista drivers. The difference between these drivers and the last batch of 174 drivers we tried is that these ones actually installed!
Word is that the new drivers fix the profile issues that were present in the 173.67 release. While some people say SLI just wasn't working in the first driver we tested, the issues seem more related to profiles as it was clear SLI was working some of the time.
Let's see if there's anything to it this time around.
Benchmarks - Test System Setup and 3DMark06
Test System Setup
Processor(s): Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600 @ 3GHz (333MHz x 9)
Cooling: Corsair Nautilus500 (Supplied by Corsair) with Arctic Cooling MX-2 Thermal Compound (Supplied by Arctic Cooling)
Motherboard(s): GIGABYTE X48-DQ6 (Supplied by GIGABYTE)
Memory: 2 X 1GB Kingston PC6400 DDR-2 3-3-3-10 (KHX6400D2ULK2/2G) (Supplied by Kingston)
Hard Disk(s): Seagate 250GB 7200RPM SATA-2 7200.10 (Supplied by Seagate)
Operating System: Windows Vista SP1
Drivers: ForceWare Beta 173.67 and 174.51
We've used the same results from our first 9800 GX2 review, so we've included the other cards we tested which comprise the HD 3870 X2 and 8800GT.
Version and / or Patch Used: Build 110
Developer Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com
Product Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com/products/3dmark06/
Buy It Here
3DMark06 is the very latest version of the "Gamers Benchmark" from FutureMark. The newest version of 3DMark expands on the tests in 3DMark05 by adding graphical effects using Shader Model 3.0 and HDR (High Dynamic Range lighting) which will push even the best DX9 graphics cards to the extremes.
3DMark06 also focuses on not just the GPU but the CPU using the AGEIA PhysX software physics library to effectively test single and Dual Core processors.
We can see under 3DMark06 that there is no difference between the new and older driver. This doesn't really surprise us though, as we already saw good gains over the single 8800GT which gives us the impression SLI is working without any issues.
Benchmarks - PT Boats: Knights of the Sea
PT Boats: Knights of the Sea
Version and / or Patch Used: Benchmark Demo
Developer Homepage: http://en.akella.com/
Product Homepage: http://www.pt-boats.net/
PT Boats: Knights of the Sea is a naval action simulator that places gamers in charge of a mosquito fleet of the Allied Forces, Russia or Germany during the height of World War II.
Using the latest Direct X 10 technology PT Boards - Knights of the Sea manages to apply a lot of stress to the components of today which in turn gives us quite an intensive benchmark.
What we can see here is that the minimum is pretty much left unchanged. When you look at the averages however, we can see that the jumps are quite significant at the higher resolution.
Benchmarks - CINEBENCH R10
Version and / or Patch Used: Release 10
Developer Homepage: http://www.maxon.net/
Product Homepage: http://www.maxon.net
CINEBENCH is a real-world test suite that assesses your computer's performace capabilities. MAXON CINEBENCH is based on MAXON's award-winning animation software, CINEMA 4D, which is used extensively by studios and production houses worldwide for 3D content creation. MAXON software has been used in blockbuster movies such as Spider-Man, Star Wars, The Chronicles of Narnia and many more.
MAXON CINEBENCH runs several tests on your computer to measure the performance of the main processor and the graphics card under real world circumstances. The benchmark application makes use of up to 16 CPUs or CPU cores and is available for Windows (32-bit and 64-Bit) and Macintosh (PPC and Intel-based).
We can see CINEBENCH performance is way up, but still doesn't manage to make any real use of SLI.
Benchmarks - Half Life 2 (Episode Two HDR)
Half Life 2 (Episode Two HDR)
Version and / or Patch Used: Latest from Steam
Timedemo or Level Used: Custom Timedemo
Developer Homepage: http://www.valvesoftware.com
Product Homepage: http://www.half-life2.com
Buy It Here
By taking the suspense, challenge and visceral charge of the original, and adding startling new realism, responsiveness and new HDR technology, Half-Life 2 Episode Two opens the door to a world where the player's presence affects everything around him, from the physical environment to the behaviors even the emotions of both friends and enemies.
We benchmark Half Life 2 Episode Two with our own custom timedemos as to avoid possible driver optimizations using the "record demo_name" command and loading the timedemo with the "timedemo demo_name" command - For a full list of the commands, click here.
Here we can see that the high resolution performance is up. The low resolution is actually slightly down on performance however.
Benchmarks - World in Conflict
World in Conflict
Version and / or Patch Used: 220.127.116.11
Timedemo or Level Used: Built-in Test
Developer Homepage: http://www.massive.se
Product Homepage: http://www.worldinconflict.com
World in Conflict is a real-time strategy video game by Massive Entertainment and to be published by Sierra Entertainment for Windows (DX9 and DX10) and the Xbox 360.
The game is set in 1989 where economic troubles cripple the Soviet Union and threaten to dissolve it. However, the title pursues a "what if" scenario where, in this case, the Soviet Union does not collapse and instead pursues a course of war to remain in power. It is an intensive new game is sure to put plenty of stress on even the latest graphics cards and we use the built-in benchmarking for our testing.
We again see that the lowest resolution performance is down, but as we go up, the minimums remain quite unchanged while the averages manage to jump up a bit.
Benchmarks - Enemy Territory: Quake Wars
Enemy Territory: Quake Wars
Version and / or Patch Used: Latest Steam Version
Timedemo or Level Used: Custom time demo
Developer Homepage: http://www.splashdamage.com/
Product Homepage: http://www.enemyterritory.com/
Enemy Territory: Quake Wars is the latest Quake incarnation to make it out of the iD labs and carries with it a fast paced experience that manages to place a good amount of strain on your graphics card.
We use a custom made time demo which shows a bit of everything and manages to give us a good solid benchmark for the graphics cards that we test.
ET:QW performance is actually down, and this is the first test where we've seen a negative impact with the new drivers.
Benchmarks - Crysis
Version and / or Patch Used: 1.1
Timedemo or Level Used: Custom time demo
Developer Homepage: http://www.crytek.com/
Product Homepage: http://www.ea.com/crysis/
Buy It Here
From the makers of Far Cry, Crysis offers FPS fans the best-looking, most highly-evolving gameplay, requiring the player to use adaptive tactics and total customization of weapons and armor to survive in dynamic, hostile environments including Zero-G.
Real time editing, bump mapping, dynamic lights, network system, integrated physics system, shaders, shadows and a dynamic music system are just some of the state of-the-art features the CryENGINE™ 2 offers. The CryENGINE™ 2 comes complete with all of its internal tools and also includes the CryENGINE™ 2 Sandbox world editing system.
We continue to see that he lower resolution performance is down, but as we climb up to 1920 x 1200 performance sees a decent gain.
Benchmarks - Unreal Tournament 3
Unreal Tournament 3
Version and / or Patch Used: 1.1
Timedemo or Level Used:
Developer Homepage: http://www.epicgames.com/
Product Homepage: http://www.unrealtournament3.com/
Buy It Here
Following the formulae that made Unreal Tournament so great the third installment to the series has hit us recently with better than ever graphics. The games uses the latest Unreal Engine which like most modern day games when maxed out puts the pressure on our lineup of graphics cards.
UT3 sees the same thing with low resolution performance being down, but high resolution performance increasing.
Benchmarks - High Quality AA and AF
High Quality AA and AF
Our high quality tests let us separate the men from the boys and the ladies from the girls. If the cards weren't struggling before they will start to now.
We again see under 3DMark06 that there really is no noticeable performance change.
WOW! Looks like SLI is working here........now!
We again see a decent performance increase with the card almost being able to achieve a minimum of 30FPS.
It's clear that NVIDIA has shifted their focus on across the higher end cards to better suit high resolution performance, which makes sense. There's no real reason why NVIDIA should choose to increase the performance on these kinds of cards at 1280 x 1024.
This driver is certainly an improvement, there's no denying that. But if people realistically thought that performance was going to double in everything, and Crysis was going to give us 100FPS @ 1920 x 1200 then they were clearly dreaming.
Since we're on the topic of Crysis, I took the time to test it at high detail for everyone. There's a reason I don't test Crysis at high. When you get an average of only 50FPS at 1920 x 1200 at medium, the performance is going to be too poor at high. So even if the card is 10FPS faster than the other cards, if the average is that low it's not going to make a difference in terms of it becoming playable.
With that said, we get a very underwhelming 34.4 fps at 1920 x 1200 when set at high. When the numbers start coming up to a decent level we will move from medium to high, and then hopefully to very high; but I dare say that will be quite a ways away yet
Finally, before anyone says "Oh, 30 odd FPS is smooth, the eyes can't see anything more than that", then you are clearly missing out on a fantastic gaming experience. The sweet spot for averages is around the 60FPS to 70FPS mark. We don't want to drop below 30 FPS if we can help it. The day you can play Crysis at 1920 x 1200, or even 2560 x 1600 on High or Very High will be when the people who are used to high frame rates and slick looking graphics are finally happy with their Crysis experience.
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