CrossFire vs SLI; Eyefinity vs 3D Surround.
Before I get deeper into how today’s tests will be conducted, let’s get an understanding of how a PC gamer plays games. According to Steam latest survey for May 2011, the most widely used resolution is 1920×1080, or 1080p as the HDTV manufacturers like to call it. Keeping that in mind, for the single monitor test, I have used our resident BenQ G2400W LCD monitor which supports a maximum resolution of 1920 x 1200.
For those who want to enjoy a multi-monitor setup, 3 seems to be the ideal number of monitors as it’s not as expensive as a 6 monitor setup, nor is it as space-consuming. For that purpose, I used three LG W2363D-PU monitors, supporting a 1080p resolution. Once all three of them were hooked up, it gave a total resolution of 5760 x 1080. Note that running a triple monitor setup on AMD cards is very hard. In order for three monitors to work in a CrossFire setup, all three monitors must be connected to the first GPU. It’s either that, or no CrossFire. Since most AMD cards come with mini-DisplayPorts including two DVI ports (max per card), you need a mini-DP to DVI or mini-DP to DP adapter. Mind you this has to be a powered adapter, so a passive adapter that maybe included in retail boxes isn’t enough. You have to have something like this adapter pictured below. Basically you cannot run triple monitor setup on AMD cards out of the box if you monitor doesn’t have a DisplayPort.
Since the AMD HD 6990 comes with only 1 DVI port and 4 mini-DisplayPorts, and the fact that we couldn’t source a powered mini-DP to DP adapter in time for this article to go online, no triple monitor tests were conducted on that card.
Since 3D is still pretty relevant, I thought I would give these cards a run for their money in 3D modes. And by these cards I mean Nvidia mostly, because of their substantial support for 3D Vision. AMD’s 3D support is paltry in comparison, although this is all set to change with the launch of their new Octa-Core CPU and “Gaming Evolved” program. For this purpose, I tested Crysis 2 running in 3D. This is why Crysis 2 is the only game whose standard one monitor test was done at a resolution of 1920 x 1080 instead of 1920 x 1200.
Coming down to the actual testing methodology now, below are the details of settings used for the benchmarks:
- 3DMark 11 – Performance preset; 1280×720
- 3DMark Vantage – Performance preset; 1280×1024
- StarCraft II – Ultra Settings on all; NoAA/NoAF; 1920×1200
- Just Cause 2 – Highest Settings; 8xAA/16xAF; 1920×1200
- Far Cry 2 – Ultra High Settings; 8xAA/16xAF; 1920×1200
- Unigine Heaven – Highest Settings (except Tessellation being Normal); 4xAA/16xAF; 1920×1200
- Metro 2033 – Very High Settings; 4xAA/16xAF; 1920×1200
- Lost Planet 2 – Highest Settings; 8xAA/Default AF; 1920×1200
- Aliens vs Predators – Highest Settings; 1xAA/Default AF; 1920×1200
- Crysis 2 – Extreme Settings; 1920×1080
For the triple monitor setup, we had the exact same settings as the one’s stated above, except all the benchmarks were run at 5760×1080 instead of 1920×1080/1200. Likewise, 3D tests run on Crysis 2 had the same settings and resolutions, except the game was now running in 3D.
Our testbed comprised of the following:
- CPU – Intel Core i7-2600K @ 3.4GHz
- RAM – G.Skill Ripjaws X 4GB DDR3-1600
- Motherboard – Gigabyte P67A-UD7
- HDD – Western Digital VelociRaptor 300GB
- PSU – Cooler Master 1200W Silent Pro Gold
- Nvidia GTX 550Ti
- Nvidia GTX 560
- Nvidia GTX 560 Ti
- Nvidia GTX 570
- Nvidia GTX 580
- Nvidia GTX 590
- AMD HD 6790
- AMD HD 6850
- AMD HD 6870
- AMD HD 6950
- AMD HD 6970
- AMD HD 6990
The latest version of Windows 7 Ultimate 64bit with Service Pack 1 was used; drivers for all Nvidia cards were Forceware 270.61 (except GTX 560 for which 270.48 was used). For all of AMD HD cards Catalyst 11.4 was used.
In the table below you will see the specs and pricing of each of the above mentioned cards in more detail. All of these cards were running at stock speeds, any overclocked variants that we had were downclocked to match factory speeds.
Now with all the formalities out of the way, let’s get to the what we have all been waiting for: bar charts!