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Enemy Territory: Quake Wars
ET:QW has a beautiful game engine and is a popular online FPS title, so let’s see what sort of card you need to crank the eye-candy up.

I’ve maxed out all the quality options except anti-aliasing (which is a performance killer), and ran a custom demo created by HardwareOC set in the outdoor arena of Salvage.

Damn, this game just doesn’t wanna know about SLI or Crossfire at all! Nevertheless, it’s good to see the 9800GTX taking its rightful place above the 8800GTX, and I was utterly blown away by the performance of the 9800GX2, the insane amount of hardware built into this card is really throwing its weight around here.

Crysis 1.2
A number of fixes and tune-ups have been implemented in this release of Crysis, and today I’ll be using the canned timedemo that comes with the game. Just bear in mind that the framerates posed here are slightly higher than what you’d generally expect in-game, but the comparisons between cards, particularly cards using the same drivers, are a useful indication of relative performance. First up, let’s run the game at playable settings…

Ouch! The 9-series drivers seem to be working much better for these cards, as even the 8800GT SLI cards couldn’t overtake the lower-spec 9600GT SLI cards. The 9800GTX is starting to show what it’s really made of, even rivalling its dual-GPU big brother. CPU bottlenecking again?

Well, let’s find out…

Here we see the 9800GX2 dropping over 30% of its performance at these higher settings, indicating that the CPU probably wasn’t holding it back that much at the lighter settings.

The 8800GTX manages to nuzzle the 9800GTX back out of the way, and coupled with the fact that the two SLI setups fare very well here, I would suspect that at higher settings Crysis is a very memory-intensive game, and the additional bandwidth on the older 8800GTX is better utilised.

The dual-GPU ATI card barely seems to nose above its single-GPU counterpart which is a pity, but whatever the case maybe, only the 9800GX2 behemoth manages to garner a playable framerate.

Call of Duty 4
Another great online and single-player shooter which has become very popular with the NZ gaming community.

I found a particularly demanding scene from the Container level to test the cards out with, and measured the average framerate with FRAPS.

Call of Duty 4 is known to favour multi-GPU setups and that has definitely panned out here. The 8800GTX again holds its ground against the newer 9800GTX, and once more the 3870X2 is right up there with it.

Only the bottom two cards here didn’t pump out a playable frame rate during this test, but not every scene is this demanding and COD4 was definitely playable with any of these cards overall.

Unreal Tournament 3
The latest in a long line of Unreal games, this is the first to utilise the revolutionary Unreal 3 engine developed by Epic Games. Again I’ve recorded a custom demo and recorded framerates using FRAPS, in the outdoor environment of Sandstorm during a busy Vehicle Capture the Flag map with all in-game settings at their highest.

The 9800GX2 continues to dominate the other cards, but the real surprise here is the performance of the 9600GT SLI setup. I ran the test three times for all the cards and took the average figure for the result, but when the 9600GT came out on top of the more powerful 8800GT I went back and benched each another six times just to make sure it wasn’t an anomaly – sure enough it came out on top every time. This is probably down to drivers, that’s all I can say, although the 9800GTX is using the same drivers and it gets beaten by the 8800GTX again.

As for ATI... for shame.

Half-life 2: Episode One
Using the ultra-popular Source engine that is used in many other games, here I have used the built-in timedemo creation method to record a firefight in City 17.

This game runs spectacularly on even modest hardware so I’ve upped the anti-aliasing level to 8x to put more strain on the cards.

Woot, go the 3870X2! It’s apparent that the CPU is starting to bottleneck the top-end cards even with the higher AA settings, but the ATI card still manages to beat out the nVidia tyrant by a hair’s breadth.

A good showing from the SLI cards; the 9800GTX goes neck-and-neck with the 8800GTX; and even the three cheaper cards pull fully playable framerates out of the hat.

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