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Core i7 3960X with 4-Way CrossFireX HD 6970 Performance Analysis

We find another HD 6970 lying around and throw it into the fray. How's 4-Way CrossFireX traveling these days?
@ShawnBakerTW
Shawn Baker
Published Thu, Nov 24 2011 11:43 AM CST   |   Updated Tue, Apr 7 2020 12:30 PM CDT

Introduction

Introduction

Core i7 3960X with 4-Way CrossFireX HD 6970 Performance Analysis 02 | TweakTown.com
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So you find yourself with four Sapphire HD 6970s, an Intel i7 3960X and an ASUS Rampage IV Extreme. It seems there's only one thing we can do - throw it all together and see what kind of FPS we get on our 30" monitor at 2560 x 1600.

It's been ages since we've tested 4-Way CrossFireX actually. Recently we did a bit of 3-Way CrossFireX action with the introduction of the Bulldozer and Sandy Bridge-E platform, but apart from that there hasn't been any real reason lately to expand from those numbers; that along with the fact that most boards support only up to three cards.

The introduction of the new high end platform from Intel means that we're starting to see 4-Way boards hit and our new X79 testbed which finds itself graced with the ASUS Rampage IV Extreme supports four way CrossFireX and SLI.

The performance today is going to be interesting; 4-Way scaling for both NVIDIA and AMD is something people have not really paid heaps of attention to because the cost associated doesn't yield the biggest gains over a 3-Way setup. Today, though, we're going to see what kind of performance we get over our freshly tested 3-Way setup and really, there's no better platform to test the setup on than the new Sandy Bridge-E one.

There's not a lot more that needs to be said. Like our other articles we'll be getting straight into the testbed side of things where we'll cover the setups we've got here today before we just dive into the fun stuff and see what kind of performance is on offer.

Test System Setup

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We would like to thank the following companies for supplying and supporting us with our test system hardware and equipment: Intel, ASUS, Sapphire and Corsair.

Today we've thrown four HD 6970s into the mix to see just what kind of performance we get over the three card setup on the same X79 platform with our i7 3960X running at 5GHz. We've also included the 3x HD 6970 setup on our Z68 setup, although the results from that one aren't so relevant.

In our last CrossFireX coverage we also had the results from our Bulldozer platform. Today we've chosen not to include them, though, as the main information we'll find ourselves looking at is the performance of the extra card when comparing the 4-Way setup to the 3-Way one.

There's not much else that really needs to be said; we'll get into our benchmarks and like our other Eyefinity coverage, we'll be ignoring 1680 x 1050 for the most part and instead be concentrating on just 1920 x 1200 and 2560 x 1600.

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.

3DMark 11

3DMark 11

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.1

Developer Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com

Product Homepage: http://www.3dmark.com/3dmark11/

Buy It Here

3DMark 11 is the latest version of the world's most popular benchmark. Designed to measure your PC's gaming performance 3DMark 11 makes extensive use of all the new features in DirectX 11 including tessellation, compute shaders and multi-threading. Trusted by gamers worldwide to give accurate and unbiased results, 3DMark 11 is the best way to consistently and reliably test DirectX 11 under game-like loads.

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Looking at 3DMark 11 we can see there's a nice little performance boost, but nothing too major coming out of the 4-Way setup. Hopefully we get a better performance boost when we get into some of the other applications.

Unigine Heaven Benchmark

Unigine Heaven Benchmark

Version and / or Patch Used: 2.5

Developer Homepage: http://www.unigine.com

Product Homepage: http://unigine.com/press-releases/091022-heaven_benchmark//

New benchmark grants the power to unleash the DirectX 11 potential in the gift wrapping of impressively towering graphics capabilities. It reveals the enchanting magic of floating islands with a tiny village hidden in the cloudy skies. With the interactive mode emerging experience of exploring the intricate world is ensured within reach. Through its advanced renderer, Unigine is one of the first to set precedence in showcasing the art assets with tessellation, bringing compelling visual finesse, utilizing the technology to the full extend and exhibiting the possibilities of enriching 3D gaming.

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Looking at Ungine Heaven, we can see a really nice boost in performance. An extra 1000 points on our 1680 x 1050 run, and at 1920 x 1200 we can see that the 4-Way setup is offering us more power than the 3-Way setup when running at 1680 x 1050.

Benchmarks - Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X. 2

Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X.2

Version and / or Patch Used: Benchmark Demo

Timedemo or Level Used: Built-in Test

Developer Homepage: http://www.ubi.com/UK/default.aspx

Product Homepage: http://www.hawxgame.com/

Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X. 2 is an arcade-style flight action game developed by Ubisoft Romania and published by Ubisoft. The game is the sequel to Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X., released in 2009.

The game begins with Colonel David Crenshaw participating in a routine patrol mission in the Middle East. After halting an insurgent attack, a volley of missiles is fired at the Air Force base that Crenshaw was stationed at, with one of the missiles disabling Crenshaw's aircraft, resulting Crenshaw being in enemy captivity. A joint strike force composed of the U.S. Navy, U.S. Air Force, and a Ghost Recon squad executes an operation to rescue Crenshaw. In Scotland, Royal Navy Pilot Colin Munro encounters an unidentified passenger aircraft that explodes from an on-board bomb when undergoing training exercise. In Russia, an air force squadron led by Colonel Denisov and Captain Dmitri Sokov engages separatist aircraft but is ordered to retreat from the region after numerous Russian military installations have been attacked.

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You can see under H.A.W.X. 2 we're hitting a bit of a wall at the lower resolution with little change. You can see a nice boost in performance, though, when we move to 2560 x 1600. Unfortunately I'm not sure you're really going to be able to feel the difference between a 219 FPS average and a 258 FPS one.

Benchmarks - Mafia II

Mafia II

Version and / or Patch Used: Latest Steam Update

Timedemo or Level Used: Built in Benchmark

Developer Homepage: http://www.2kczech.com/

Product Homepage: http://www.mafia2game.com/

Buy It Here

Mafia II is a third-person action-adventure video game, the sequel to Mafia: The City of Lost Heaven. It is developed by 2K Czech, previously known as Illusion Softworks, and is published by 2K Games. The game is set from 1943 to 1951 in Empire Bay (the name is a reference to New York's state nickname "The Empire State"), a fictional city based on San Francisco and New York City, with influences from Chicago and Detroit. The game features a completely open-ended game map of 10 square miles. No restrictions are included from the start of the game. There are around 50 vehicles in the game, as well as licensed music from the era.

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You can see there's a serious wall being hit under Mafia II with all setups coming in at about 120 FPS.

Benchmarks - Lost Planet 2

Lost Planet 2

Version and / or Patch Used: Benchmark Demo

Timedemo or Level Used: Built in Benchmark - Test A Scene 1

Developer Homepage: http://www.capcom.com/

Product Homepage: http://www.lostplanet2game.com/

Lost Planet 2 is a third-person shooter video game developed and published by Capcom. The game is the sequel to Lost Planet: Extreme Condition which is also made by Capcom, taking place ten years after the events of the first game, on the same fictional planet. The story takes place back on E.D.N. III 10 years after the events of the first game. The snow has melted to reveal jungles and more tropical areas that have taken the place of more frozen regions. The plot begins with Mercenaries fighting against Jungle Pirates. After destroying a mine, the Mercenaries continue on to evacuate the area, in which a Category-G Akrid appears and attacks them. After being rescued, they find out their evacuation point (Where the Category-G appeared) was a set-up and no pick up team awaited them. The last words imply possible DLC additions to the game, "There's nothing to be gained by wiping out snow pirates... unless you had some kind of grudge."

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Lost Planet 2 is one of our more intensive games and you can see a really strong performance boost across the board. An extra 30 FPS at the highest resolution equates to a boost of over 20% when adding the extra card into the mix. That's some pretty nice scaling when you think about it.

Benchmarks - Aliens vs. Predator

Aliens vs. Predator

Version and / or Patch Used: Standalone Benchmark

Timedemo or Level Used: Built in Benchmark

Developer Homepage: http://www.rebellion.co.uk/

Product Homepage: http://www.sega.com/games/aliens-vs-predator/

Aliens vs. Predator is a science fiction first-person shooter video game, developed by Rebellion Developments, the team behind the 1999 original PC game, and published by Sega for Microsoft Windows, the PlayStation 3 and the Xbox 360. The game is based on the Alien vs. Predator franchise, a combination of the characters and creatures of the Alien franchise and the Predator franchise. There are three campaigns in the game, one for each race/faction (the Predators, the Aliens and the Colonial Marines), that, while separate in terms of individual plot and gameplay, form one overarching storyline.

Following the storyline of the campaign modes comes the multiplayer aspect of the game. In this Multiplayer section of the game, players face off in various different gametypes in various different ways.

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Another really intensive game sees a massive boost in performance. The 1920 x 1200 one probably isn't so helpful, but the 2560 x 1200 one is and it really gives us room for AA and AF.

Benchmarks - Metro 2033

Metro 2033

Version and / or Patch Used: Latest Steam Update

Timedemo or Level Used: Built in Benchmark

Developer Homepage: http://www.4a-games.com/

Product Homepage: http://www.thqnordic.com/

Metro 2033 is an action-oriented video game with a combination of survival horror and first-person shooter elements. The game is based on the novel Metro 2033 by Russian author Dmitry Glukhovsky. It was developed by 4A Games in Ukraine and released in March 2010 for Microsoft Windows and Xbox 360.[3] In March 2006, 4A Games announced a partnership with Glukhovsky to collaborate on the game.[4] The game was announced at the 2009 Games Convention in Leipzig;[5] a first trailer came along with the announcement.[6] A sequel was announced, currently titled Metro: Last Light.

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Metro 2033 is another one of those intensive games, but it was really interesting to see that adding the extra card into the mix did nothing in performance. At the highest resolution, where we'd expect to see something, we don't have anything but a bit of fluctuation being seen.

Benchmarks - Dirt 3

Dirt 3

Version and / or Patch Used: Latest Steam Update

Timedemo or Level Used: Built in Benchmark

Developer Homepage: http://www.codemasters.com/

Product Homepage: http://www.dirt3game.com/

DiRT 3 boasts more cars, more locations, more routes and more events than any other game in the series, including over 50 rally cars representing the very best from five decades of the sport. With more than double the track content of 2009's hit, DiRT 3 will see players start at the top as a professional driver, with a top-flight career in competitive off-road racing complimented by the opportunity to express themselves in Gymkhana-style showpiece driving events.

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Getting into Dirt 3, we can again see a really nice boost in performance, especially at the highest resolution. It really gives us some great breathing room for us to turn on AA and AF while continuing to have the game maxed out.

Benchmarks - Far Cry 2

Far Cry 2

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.01

Timedemo or Level Used: Ranch Long

Developer Homepage: http://www.ubi.com/

Product Homepage: http://www.farcry2.com/

Buy It Here

The Dunia Engine was built specifically for Far Cry 2 by the award-winning Ubisoft Montreal development team. It delivers the most realistic destructible environments, amazing special effects such as dynamic fire propagation and storm effects, real-time night-and-day cycle, dynamic music system, non-scripted enemy A.I. and so much more.

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There's a bit of a boost in Far Cry 2, but with 150 FPS minimums there's nothing that you're going to really notice. Far Cry 2 continues to be an intensive game, but you can see this setup just doesn't have any troubles with it.

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.

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Core i7 3960X with 4-Way CrossFireX HD 6970 Performance Analysis 30 | TweakTown.com
Core i7 3960X with 4-Way CrossFireX HD 6970 Performance Analysis 31 | TweakTown.com

Mafia II continues to hit that 120 FPS wall; almost as if we're on a 120Hz monitor and have VSync on. We're not using either, though. Far Cry 2 sees a bit of a boost, but it's nothing too helpful. Aliens vs. Predator sees some awesome performance, though, and you could easily move up to 2560 x 1600 with 4x AA or increase the AA if you wanted to.

Power Consumption Tests

Power Consumption Tests

Using our new PROVA Power Analyzer WM-01 or "Power Thingy" as it has become quickly known as to our readers, we are now able to find out what kind of power is being used by our test system and the associated graphics cards installed. Keep in mind; it tests the complete system (minus LCD monitor, which is plugged directly into AC wall socket).

There are a few important notes to remember though; while our maximum power is taken in 3DMark06 at the same exact point, we have seen in particular tests the power being drawn as much as 10% more. We test at the exact same stage every time; therefore tests should be very consistent and accurate.

The other thing to remember is that our test system is bare minimum - only a SSD hard drive is used with a single CD ROM and minimal cooling fans.

So while the system might draw 400 watts in our test system, placing it into your own PC with a number of other items, the draw is going to be higher.

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You can see adding the forth card into the mix does little when it comes to idle power draw with only a small bump. You can see there's a big jump in load, though, with the setup coming in a good chunk over 900 watt.

Final Thoughts

Final Thoughts

To be completely honest, the performance out of the four card setup here today was better than I thought it would be. Sure, there are some points where we don't see gains, but in others we do see some really nice gains, especially under those super intensive games like Lost Planet 2 and Aliens vs. Predator 2 which help create a really good baseline for a number of other games. If you're getting smooth FPS under these games, you should find yourself getting smooth FPS under anything that's been released in the last 12 months.

The real unsung hero out of the whole setup, though, is the Corsair AX1200. I've always praised this power supply and it's handled so many VGA setups since we've started using them, but today it handled the X79 4-Way CrossFireX setup like an absolute beast.

While our reading in the Power Consumption tests come in at a bit over 900 Watt, we actually ended up leaving our humble "Power Thingy" on for the majority of the testing to see just how high we got with the setup. As you can see below, we got some massive wattage out of the setup.

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I always wondered if our Power Thingy was able to display over 1000 Watt; today it was confirmed it could with peak power draw coming in at 1064 Watt. That's a massive amount of power draw and honestly, it's one any power company is going to hate. If you intend to go on some epic long gaming session, a constant power draw of 1000 Watt is going to be killer on the bill. The strength of the power supply is a real testament to Corsair and the AX1200 and helps reaffirm my love for it.

The system is just an absolute beast, though, and you can see it in the results here today. You can see why people do go for four card setups and let's be honest, there's some real gains to be had under games that are intensive. Throw in higher and higher resolutions into the mix and it doesn't become that hard to start to justify this kind of stuff.

The X79 in the end is going to be the ultimate gamers platform. If you're looking at going down the path of three video cards you're probably going to want to be on it. If you're going down the path of four video cards, though, you need to be on it and honestly, I couldn't think of a better board to be under those cards than the ASUS Rampage IV Extreme which has proven itself so much in such a short period of time.

I suppose the only thing we need to do now is see what kind of FPS we're able to get out of the setup on our Eyefinity setup...just wait, it's coming!

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Shawn takes care of all of our video card reviews. From 2009, Shawn is also taking care of our memory reviews, and from May 2011, Shawn also takes care of our CPU, chipset and motherboard reviews. As of December 2011, Shawn is based out of Taipei, Taiwan.

We openly invite the companies who provide us with review samples / who are mentioned or discussed to express their opinion. If any company representative wishes to respond, we will publish the response here. Please contact us if you wish to respond.

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