PhysX is growing on me and I think the reason for that is because PhysX on a whole is just growing. It's hasn't jumped forward heaps, but these days we're getting excited about up and coming games that will include the technology. Hello!?!?! Mafia 2 anyone?!
So, you like NVIDIA and you've bought yourself a GTX 480; you're someone that doesn't mind splashing a bit of money around so you're thinking about a dedicated PhysX card. You're not going to spend GTX 470 or GTX 480 money on a dedicated PhysX card. Instead something like a second hand GTX 2XX series could be a goer.
The thing is, you might find that you want to stay with the GTX 400 series, so the perfect card could be here for you. The GTX 465 comes in at under $300 and offers some pretty good performance. What kind of performance under PhysX, though? Is adding the card as a PhysX card to an already highly powerful card going to make a difference? Well, to be honest, I'm not sure. But I intend to find out today while at the same time letting you find out, too.
So, with that said, let's have a quick look at some GPU-Z shots first and then we'll get straight into our benchmarks which include a number of games that support PhysX. Let's find out if adding a GTX 465 to your GTX 480 is something worth doing.
Setting up the GTX 480 with GTX 465 PhysX
Adding in a second NVIDIA card to use as a PhysX card is really easy. Eith no drivers installed we slotted both cards into the testbed and fired it up. Once in Windows we installed the latest NVIDIA drivers and after a reboot we went into the NVIDIA control panel.
From there you can select PhysX and how you want it to be handled. We have three choices; GTX 480, GTX 465 and CPU. So, what we did was select GTX 465.
I actually forgot to take pictures of the GPU-Z screens separately, but I did take a screen shot of them both running at one stage. Below you can see our two cards installed.
So, what I ended up doing is running the PhysX tests three ways. The first was just with the GTX 480 and that being also used as the PhysX card. The second was the same single GTX 480 and we selected for the CPU to do the PhysX work. Finally, we had both cards installed and selected the GTX 465 to do the PhysX work.
Test System Setup and 3DMark Vantage
We would like to thank the following companies for supplying and supporting us with our test system hardware and equipment: Intel, ASRock, Kingston, Western Digital, Noctua and Thermaltake.
As we mentioned on the page before, we've got the GTX 480 doing graphics and PhysX, the GTX 480 doing graphics and the CPU doing PhysX and finally, the GTX 480 doing graphics and the GTX 465 doing PhysX.
We'll of course today be running a smaller set of benchmarks due to the fact we're only going to be running games that make use of PhysX, since games that don't won't resemble any performance difference.
The idea is that games will run faster when a separate card is used for PhysX due to those calculations being passed onto another card. All the GTX 480 has to do then is give us the high FPS count. The question is, though, does it really work like that and is there a performance increase that can justify spending the extra money on a separate card just to do PhysX?
Let's get started!
Version and / or Patch Used: 1.0.1
Developer Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com
Product Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com/products/3dmarkvantage/
Buy It Here
3DMark Vantage is the new industry standard PC gaming performance benchmark from Futuremark, newly designed for Windows Vista and DirectX10. It includes two new graphics tests, two new CPU tests, several new feature tests, and support for the latest hardware.
3DMark Vantage is based on a completely new rendering engine, developed specifically to take full advantage of DirectX10, the new graphics API from Microsoft.
With a separate PhysX card we really see no change. With the CPU doing PhysX we can see performance falls back slightly. For people who want PhysX and are looking at a separate card, this isn't the most important test; but for bench markers it's worth noting that adding a card just for PhysX isn't going to do much for your 3DMark Vantage score.
Benchmarks - Darkest of Days
Darkest of Days
Version and / or Patch Used: 1.4
Timedemo or Level Used: Built-in Test
Developer Homepage: http://www.darkestofdays.com/index.php
Product Homepage: http://www.darkestofdays.com/index.php
Darkest of Days takes the player through time into historic battles in an effort to save key individuals from certain death. The battles range from Custer's Last Stand at the Battle of the Little Bighorn in 1876 to fighting in Pompeii as ash and fire rain down from an erupting Mt. Vesuvius in 79 AD. Other locations include the battles of Antietam and Tannenberg, and a German World War II P.O.W. camp. There are different missions in every time period and the game takes about 4 hours to complete.
The game features over twenty weapons, both from the original time period as well as those brought back from the future. In addition, there are artillery weapons from different time periods to assist in battle.
Note: With the PhysX set to Medium or High Darkest of Days take advantage of the NVIDIA PhysX abilities. For that reason we will test ATI cards at the Low preset, NVIDIA based cards though will be tested at Low and High.
Under Darkest of Days we can see that all the setups perform very close to each other. Unlike 3DMark Vantage, even when we palm the PhysX off to the CPU we don't see an impact in performance.
Benchmarks - Batman Arkham Asylum
Batman Arkham Asylum
Version and / or Patch Used: 1.1
Timedemo or Level Used: Built-in Test
Developer Homepage: http://www.batmanarkhamasylum.com/
Product Homepage: http://www.batmanarkhamasylum.com/
Batman: Arkham Asylum exposes players to a unique, dark and atmospheric adventure that takes them to the depths of Arkham Asylum - Gotham's psychiatric hospital for the criminally insane. Gamers will move in the shadows, instigate fear amongst their enemies and confront The Joker and Gotham City's most notorious villains who have taken over the asylum.
Using a wide range of Batman's gadgets and abilities, players will become the invisible predator and attempt to foil The Joker's demented scheme.
Batman: Arkham Asylum features an original story penned exclusively for the game by famous Batman author and five-time Emmy award winner Paul Dini, whose credits include Lost season one and Batman: The Animated Series.
Note: With support for PhysX NVIDIA based cards will be tested with the technology on and off, ATI cards will be tested with the technology off due to it not being supported on their cards.
Getting into some real gaming and we start to see a different picture when compared to our previous tests. For starters, it's clear that the CPU can't handle the PhysX work load. More importantly, though, we can see by adding a separate PhysX card we're able to break the 30 FPS average at 2560 x 1600.
The good news is that if you're on a 1920 x 1080 120Hz screen, we're dealing with a 120 FPS average which is fantastic for people who are using V Sync; you can see that without the dedicated PhysX card we're not close to that 120 FPS average and the game is rendered unplayable at 2560 x 1600.
Benchmarks - Dark Void
Version and / or Patch Used: Benchmark Demo
Timedemo or Level Used: Built-in Test
Developer Homepage: http://www.airtightgames.com
Product Homepage: http://www.darkvoidgame.com/
The game's story takes place during World War II and centers around a cargo pilot named William Augustus Grey (voiced by Nolan North) who is teleported to another world while flying through the Bermuda Triangle. In this world, known as the 'Void', Will encounters an alien race as well as other humans, which are known as the Watchers and the Survivors respectively.
Will reluctantly joins the Survivors who are engaged in a feud with the alien race to satisfy his desire to return to Earth. While aiding the Survivors, Will discovers that the Void is a middle ground that connects both the Watchers homeworld and Earth. It also becomes apparent that the Watchers are supplying the Axis powers with various supplies for reasons unknown. With the help of Nikola Tesla, Will utilizes retrofited Watcher technology to combat the Watchers and eventually find a way to escape the Void.
Dark Void paints the same picture as Batman AA. For starters, palming the PhysX off to the CPU is hopeless. You have to remember as well that we're dealing with a 4.2GHz 980X CPU here and not some low end one.
Compared to the GTX 480 and no PhysX card, performance is good. Even without dedicated PhysX we're above the 30 FPS average we want to see. Throwing the GTX 465 into the mix as a PhysX card really boosts performances and again this is fantastic news for people who are looking at 120Hz monitors etc.
Off the mark you'd feel like adding a GTX 465 as a PhysX card is waste of time, power and money. When you start getting stuck into some real world games, though, like Batman AA and Dark Void, you can see that the inclusion of the card really begins to show some serious potential.
It's really worth noting that as we see more and more games that support PhysX and the technology becomes even more intensive, a good quality NVIDIA card used alongside your current one as a PhysX card is going to really be put to good use.
PhysX isn't at that level where you have to have it; we're not sure it's ever going to get there for the simple reason it's a side technology, in much the same way Tri Monitor Gaming and 3D is. What we hope for, though, is that more and more companies make use of the technology.
Today you can see that palming off PhysX to the CPU just isn't an option and brings games to a crawl. And looking at the results, a dedicated PhysX card to even the mighty powerful GTX 480 finds that we're moving from a non playable experience (Batman AA: 2560 x 1600, PhysX High, Minimum 22 FPS) to a playable experience (Batman AA: 2560 x 1600, PhysX High, Minimum 33 FPS) and this is exactly what you want to see.
PhysX on a whole is quite an exciting technology and we're glad NVIDIA are concentrating on trying to get game companies to make use of it. At the end of it all, anything that makes our overall gaming experience better is appreciated.
We're not so sure if you're on a GTX 480 you should rush out today and buy a GTX 465 as a PhysX card, but in saying that we would throw it on the 'to do list' when some funds become available; especially if you're a high res gamer.