It’s truth time. Now that the first games using DirectX 10 have appeared, Nvidia and ATI have to face the real world and answer the question – which card offers the most performance under Vista?
In DirectX 9 under XP, the comparison between the Geforce 8 series and the Radeon 2 family always tended to favour Nvidia’s cards. Currently, Nvidia has the strongest performers in the shape of the Geforce 8800 Ultra and GTX – and that hasn’t changed in over half a year. ATI positions its Radeon 2900 XT against the Geforce 8800 GTS. When the Canadian company introduced this chip, it insisted that its graphics processors used the better and faster DX10 design. Its cards were looking so slow because they simply weren’t being challenged enough under Windows XP and were being tested in the wrong manner anyway.
ATI fans rallied around this statement, waiting for real DX 10 titles and always holding out hope for faster Windows XP drivers. At the time, we at Tom’s Hardware predicted the performance difference between the chip families would not change much between DirectX 9 and DirectX 10, even when native DX 10 titles appeared. At the same time, message boards all over the Internet were rife with speculation. The common thread, if you will, was that ATI surely had some untapped potential in its cards that just needed to be teased out. ATI simply needed more time – after all, Nvidia had six months to tweak its graphics drivers. Given enough time, ATI’s drivers would be bound to improve, giving the Radeon 2900 XT the much-anticipated performance boost.
Well, ATI has now had a few months to tweak, tinker and optimize, and the Catalyst driver suite has moved from version 7.3 to 7.9. Testing with demo benchmarks that are optimized for the chips of only one of the chip makers (Call of Juarez for ATI, Lost Planet for Nvidia) is now a thing of the past. Real games such as Bioshock, Lost Planet and World in Conflict have since appeared in stores in their final state and can be used as real-world benchmarks. Meanwhile, Company of Heroes has also gained DirectX 10 support through patch 1.70, making a nice addition to our benchmark suite. If one of the graphics chip makers has failed to optimize its drivers for these games, that is their own fault – the games are out in stores and are being sold in a final version.
Several results are very interesting. They finally allow us to answer the following questions:
- What game do you really need a Geforce 8800 Ultra for?
- Is the Radeon HD 2900 XT faster than the Geforce 8800 GTS?
- Does the current generation of cards have enough power for the next wave of games?
- How stable are the current graphics drivers and are there any compatibility problems?
All of our results were determined under Windows Vista with DirectX 10. They are therefore not comparable to Windows XP / DirectX 9 results.
- Testing 3D Performance with real Games
- The Graphics Chips Compared
- Benchmarks – Bioshock Test 1
- Benchmarks – Bioshock Test 2
- Benchmarks - Company of Heroes v1.70
- Benchmarks – Lost Planet
- Benchmarks – World in Conflict Test 1
- Benchmarks – World in Conflict Test 2
- Cumulative Frame Rate, Pricing and Performance for Money
- Conclusion – Geforce Ultra Offers short Load Times in Lost Planet and Bioshock
- Reference Cards