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3DMark06
No graphics card review would be complete without Futuremark’s benchmark of benchmarks, so we’ll get this out of the way first off.

We’ll start by running it at default settings:

It’s good to see that this wee Core 2 Duo @ 3.4GHz isn’t bottlenecking us too bad here, except perhaps with the top two or three scores. Sure, using a more powerful CPU, particularly a quad-core CPU, would result in a higher overall score, but if the CPU was really bottlenecking then most of these scores would be almost identical.

As for the cards – well no surprises that the 3870X2 almost tops the charts (as ATI cards tend to do better with this benchmark compared to nVidia cards), but the really interesting part is the 9600GT SLI setup toppling the slightly more expensive 9800GTX, by no slim margin might I add. Whether this carries through to real world gaming is another story though.

The 9800GX2 clearly outperforms any other nVidia GPU, and along with the 3870X2 is probably getting slightly bottlenecked by the CPU.

Oh well, there’s an easy fix for that – let’s up the resolution and quality settings to take the strain off the CPU and we’ll see how the cards can handle the extra pressure:

Now, that’s more like it. The 9800GX2 holds a strong lead, dropping by only about 17% at the higher settings compared to a drop of around 40% by the two lowest scoring cards, a clear sign that the CPU was holding back the mighty beast at default settings.

In fact, all the dual-GPU solutions fare excellently in this scenario, and the 9600GT SLI cards inexplicably widens the gap with the 9800GTX. Even the single 9600GT manages to rival the more expensive and 3DMark-favoured 3870 from ATI.

Well, time to see what happens in the “real” world of gaming…

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