We'll start with the latest benchmark from the infamous developers known as Futuremark. This synthetic benchmark runs through a series of short game-like graphical demos developed by Futuremark designed to stress the video card and CPU and return a number based on how well the system coped.
"Performance" mode runs the tests at 1280x1024 with low texture quality and no antialiasing (AA) or anisotropic filtering (AF); "High" mode is with medium quality textures at 1680x1050 with 2xAA and 8xAF, and "Extreme" uses high quality textures at 1920x1200 with 4xAA and 16xAF. As you can guess, a higher number is better.
Here we see the cheaper ATI cards outperforming their nVidia competitors. Great news on the face of it; does this set the tone for the rest of the tests though?
You're probably more accustomed to 3DMark06 scores, so let's throw them in before moving on to actual games. From here on out I'll include an older overclocked ATI HD 3850 card for reference.
Hmmm, pretty close. The Crossfire'd 4850 cards pull another strong performance out to best the GTX280, but the single card (albeit much cheaper) 4850 gets pipped slightly by the 9800GTX+. The difference seems to narrow considerably at higher resolution with AA and AF cranked up which could be a good sign of things to come.
For our first game bench I have used the full version of Crysis patched to v1.21 and run the built-in benchmark. Whilst this may not represent the same FPS you'd expect in game, particularly in some of the more graphically demanding later levels, it does give a good indication of relative performance between the cards.
nVidia has always been stronger with Crysis performance so the surprise here is that ATI has almost turned the tables on them. Whilst the 4850 is overall slower than the 9800GTX+, and the GTX280 usually beats out the Crossfired cards, there are a few instances where the ATI cards come out on top. Good job, moving on...
Call of Duty 4
You know it, you love it. I've adopted the popular and simple method of using FRAPS to record the framerate whilst flying over the container ship at the start of the "Crew Expendable" level. All graphics options are set at the highest the game allows in order to stress the cards as much as possible.
As they say in France, le woot! The 4850 shows a huge improvement from the older 3850 and is neck and neck with the 9800GTX+, and the two cards in Crossfire convincingly stomp the GTX280 at all resolutions.