Company of Heroes Goes DirectX 10

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Benchmark Results & Final Thoughts

Once the latest Company of Heroes patch was installed we could run the game with DirectX 10 enabled to benchmark both the ATI Radeon HD 2900 XT and the NVIDIA GeForce 8800 series video cards. The ATI Radeon 2900XT used the CATALYST 7.5 drivers that were released on May 31st, 2007 and all three of the NVIDIA cards used Forceware 145.45 drivers that were also released on May 31st, 2007.  The benchmark was run on 1280×1024 and 1600×1200 resolutions as they were playable on all four cards.

Company of Heroes Benchmarking

At 1280×1024 all of the video cards were above 30FPS with the overclocked XFX GeForce 8800 Ultra XXX Edition video card leading the pack.  The battle between the GeForce 8800 GTS 640MB and the ATI Radeon 2900XT was close with just 4.5 frame per second difference between the two cards. The just released Forceware 158.45 and CATALYST 7.5 drivers were both able to render everything correctly. Let’s see what happens when we enable 8x AA.

Company of Heroes Benchmarking

With the resolution still set to 1280 x 1024 we enabled 8x AA on all the cards to see how they do with antialiasing on. In the options menu on NVIDIA G80 series graphics cards you get to pick between Coverage Sampled AA (CSAA) and Quality Antialiasing (QAA). CSAA produces antialiased images that rival the quality of 8x or 16x MSAA, while introducing only a minimal performance hit over standard (typically 4x) MSAA. It works by introducing the concept of a new sample type: a sample that represents coverage. This differs from previous AA techniques where coverage was always inherently tied to another sample type. Basically it allows developers to use fewer Color/Z/Stencil samples than standard MSAA, and as a result the game will run faster at the cost of some quality. We ran the CoH benchmark with the 8Q setting, not the 8x CSAA setting because the 8Q setting is equivalent to ATI’s 8x MSAA in terms of quality.  It seems here that having 8x AA enabled on both series cards turned out to reduce performance by 10 FPS across the board.

Let’s turn up the resolution…

Company of Heroes Benchmarking

At 1600 x 1200 we see both the GeForce 8800 GTS 640MB and the Radeon 2900XT drop below 30FPS with no AA enabled.  It should be noted that testing was done on an AMD Athlon 64 X2 5600+ processor, which some might think limit the performance levels. On an Intel Core 2 Duo X6800 processor the GeForce 8800 GTS 640MB scored 32.6 FPS, which might imply that Company of Heroes could be shader bound and not CPU bound. This also could explain why the performance increases so much between each GeForce 8 series video card.

Company of Heroes Benchmarking

With 4x Antialiasing enabled at 1600 x 1200 all the cards take a performance hit, but just slightly. It was enough to make the game not playable on the GeoForce 8800 GTS and Radeon 2900 XT as both averaged in the mid 20′s with the lows well into the low single digits.

Final Thoughts and Conclusions:

Last month we showed DirectX 10 performance on Call of Juarez and Lost Planet: Extreme Condition and found that ATI was lagging behind the competition when it came to DirectX 10 gaming benchmarks. After testing the first DirectX 10 game patch on the popular title Company of Heroes we again find out that ATI finishes behind NVIDIA in DX10 performance tests. Sure, the AMD/ATI drivers are still new and need to be worked on, but it doesn’t seem like the current Radeon 2900 XT with 512MB of GDDR3 memory has the muscle to compete with the GeForce 8 series on DirectX 10 game titles.

The current Radeon 2900 XT with GDDR3 memory?  It seems that later this month AMD will be releasing a new Radeon HD 2900 XT graphics card with GDDR4 memory. AMD plans to take another shot at Nvidia with this new version of the Radeon HD 2900 XT that features double the memory and improved memory bandwidth thanks to the higher memory clock speeds. This means we will soon see Radeon HD 2900 XT video cards with 1GB of GDDR4 memory per card! This card will remain at 9″ (23cm) in length, just like the current model that’s outfitted with 512MB of GDDR3 memory.  I guess pretty soon we will be talking about how Nvidia’s $800 GeForce 8800 Ultra comes with “only” 768MB of GDDR3 memory compared to the 1GB of memory on the Radeon HD 2900 XT.  Oh how the times change…

The Legit Bottom Line:  The Company of Heroes DirectX 10 patch is finally here!  The ATI Radeon HD 2900 XT doesn’t have enough muscle to beat out the NVIDIA GeForce 8800 GTS 640MB in Company of Heroes when using the latest drivers from both companies.

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