Testing With New Drivers and New Games

A fellow journalist and close friend of mine was complaining the other day that all the video card reviews that are being published these days are cookie cutter reviews that use the same boring and old game titles. I'd have to agree with him and when he questioned the validity of benchmarking with the original Crysis game title he did have a point to an extent. The video game Crysis was developed by Crytek and published by Electronic Arts way back in November 2007. While the video game has been followed up by Crysis Warhead and expansion packs like Crysis Wars and Crysis Maximum Edition the original game is still often used for benchmarking. Why is Crysis still used in benchmarks then? Truth be told it still has a way of bringing video cards to their knees quite well when run with Very High image quality settings and for benchmarking purposes that is sometimes needed to show performance differences between products. That being said the conversation I had did make me think though why I haven't been benchmarking with different games more often.

Image Description

Rather than sitting around and thinking about the 'whats' and 'whys' I headed up to the local target and picked up a few game titles that I knew nothing about, but figured what the heck.  I gave myself a budget no more than $24.99 per game and picked up a few titles that I would never usually buy in a million years.  I ended up buying the following games.

Only Velvet Assassin and Wall-E could be used for benchmarking though as Nancy Drew: Ransom of the Seven Ships has more video clips in it than anything else and the frame rate was between 500-700 FPS.  That makes it completely pointless to benchmark as the game will not stutter or be GPU limited on either of these mainstream graphics cards.

Radeon HD 4890 versus GeForce GTX 275

That being said, let's take the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 275 with Forceware 190.38 drivers and the ATI Radeon HD 4890 with CATALYST 9.7 drivers and see how they do on Velvet Assassin, Wall-E and a few other benchmarks. We haven't looked at these two cards since April and video card drivers have been updated several times since then. Let's try to see which card is faster and which is the one to own!

The Test System

All testing was done on a fresh install of Windows Vista Ultimate 64-bit with Service Pack 1 installed. All benchmarks were completed on the desktop with no other software programs running. All of the modules were run in triple-channel mode at 1866MHz. The NVIDIA GeForce graphics card was benchmarked with Forceware 190.38 drivers; the ATI Radeon HD graphics card was tested with 9.7 CATALYST drivers. The ASUS P6T Deluxe V2 motherboard was run using BIOS 0504 with the processor running stock settings and the Corsair 6GB memory kit was running at 1866MHz with 8-8-8-24 timings.

The Test System

Here is the Intel LGA 1366 Test platform:

Intel Test Platform

 

Component

 

Brand/Model

 

Live Pricing

 

Processor

Intel Core i7 975

 

Motherboard

ASUS P6T Deluxe V2

 

Memory

6GB Corsair DDR3 1866MHz

 

Video Card

 

See Below

 

Hard Drive

 

Western Digital VelociRaptor

 

Cooling

 

Intel Reference

 

Power Supply

 

Cooler Master 1000W

 

Chassis

 

None (Open Bench)

 

Operating System

 

Windows Vista Ultimate 64-Bit

GPU-Z 0.3.4 Details on The New Cards We Tested:

ASUS Radeon HD 4890:

Radeon HD 4890

GeForce GTX 275:

GeForce GTX 275

Velvet Assassin

Velvet Assassin is a stealth action video game for Xbox 360 and Microsoft Windows, released in North America on April 28, 2009. The game is inspired by a real life World War II secret agent/saboteur Violette Szabo. Players take on the role of Violette Summer as she goes behind enemy lines to thwart the German war machine. The game shares many similarities with Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell, No One Lives Forever, and the Hitman series.

Velvet Assassin Chart PC Game

The game Velvet Assassin was done using an in-house graphics engine called the Replay Engine, so benchmarking this game should be interesting.

Velvet Assassin Chart PC Game Settings

With the game settings maxed out as shown in the image above we set off to benchmark the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 275 versus the ATI Radeon HD 4890, but encountered a slight problem since vSync is enabled by default. By forcing vSync off in the control panel of the respective drivers we were able to get some nice benchmark numbers using Fraps 2.9.8.

Velvet Assassin Chart

Benchmark Results: Benchmarking the graphics cards in the final scene from The Lost - Valley gave us some pretty solid performance numbers as this part of the game really put a heavy load on the video cards.  The GeForce GTX 275 beat out the Radeon HD 4890, by just a 2.4 FPS.

Wall-E

WALL•E is the video game adaptation of the movie of the same name. The game was developed and published by THQ for multiple platforms. The game was released in North America on June 24, 2008. The game let's you race, fly and shoot as you take futuristic robots WALL•E and EVE through a fast-paced adventure. From the desolate wastelands of Earth to the Axiom space cruiser, throw cubes and blast robots and obstacles while you relive some of the movie’s most thrilling moments and explore worlds filled with non-stop action and adventure, along with head-to-head multiplayer challenges.

WALL-E PC Game

The game actually looks really good and like it would be tough on graphics cards, but there are very few objects being rendered in many of the scenes.

WALL-E PC Game

The image quality settings for WALL•E allowed for 8xAA and 16X AF to be enabled, so we cranked everything up to the highest possible setting and fired up Fraps 2.9.8 for benchmarking again.

WALL-E PC Game

Benchmark Results: While benchmarking in the scene pictured above with a vortex and with moving objects the benchmark results showed a fairly significant difference between the video cards, but both the cards were well over 100 FPS and were able to play the game stutter free. The GeForce GTX 275 had an average frame rate that was 14% higher than that of the Radeon HD 4890 graphics card. The highest frame rate of the Radeon HD 4890 was 163 FPS, which was the lowest frame rate on the GeForce GTX 275.

Tom Clancy: H.A.W.X.

Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X. (High Altitude Warfare eXperimental squadron) is an aerial warfare video game developed by Ubisoft Romania and published by Ubisoft for Microsoft Windows. It was released in United States on March 6, 2009 and features Microsoft DirectX 10.1 game play.

Tom Clancy HAWX

I used this benchmark back in April 2009 in my original coverage of the GeForce 275 versus the Radeon HD 4890, but some new patches have come out that have greatly impacted performance. I also didn't show the differences between DX9, DX10 and DX10.1 the first time around, but this time will.

Tom Clancy HAWX

For this game VSync was turned off, but Antialiasing was turned on and set to 8x for better image quality.

Tom Clancy HAWX

All of the DirectX 10 options were set to high including Ambient occlusion (SSAO) on both the NVIDIA and ATI graphics cards.  The game was patched with update v1.2, which was the most current patch.

Tom Clancy HAWX

Benchmark Results: Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X. is a very tough game to run in DirectX 10 as you can see from the chart above.  When playing H.A.W.X. in DirectX 9 mode the GeForce GTX 275 has a 19% higher frame rate than the Radeon HD 4890, but with DirectX 10 settings it has a 24% lower frame rate. Only the ATI Radeon HD 4890 can render DirectX 10.1 game titles of the two cards and it does so at a very nice 56 FPS.  The graphics in Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X. are very stunning and if you like aerial combat games this is one title that is worth a look.

FurMark 1.7.0

FurMark is a very intensive OpenGL benchmark that uses fur rendering algorithms to measure the performance of the graphics card. Fur rendering is especially adapted to overheat the GPU and that's why FurMark is also a perfect stability and stress test tool (also called GPU burner) for the graphics card.

FurMark 1.7.0

The benchmark was rendered in fullscreen mode with no AA enabled on both video cards.

ATI Radeon HD 4890 Benchmark Results:

FurMark 1.7.0

NVIDIA GeForce GTX 275 Benchmark Results:

FurMark 1.7.0

And for those that like data in pretty little charts:

FurMark 1.7.0

Benchmark Results: According to the OpenGL benchmark Furmark, the GeForce GTX 275 is 21% faster than the Radeon HD 4890 when it comes to OpenGL fur rendering. I'm not sure how accurate the temperature monitor is for FurMark, but it showed the GeForce GTX 275 had a max GPU temperature that was significantly higher than Radeon HD 4890 for those that wonder about video card temperatures.

3DMark Vantage

3DMark Vantage

3DMark Vantage is the new industry standard PC gaming performance benchmark from Futuremark, newly designed for Windows Vista and DirectX10. It includes two new graphics tests, two new CPU tests, several new feature tests, and support for the latest hardware. 3DMark Vantage is based on a completely new rendering engine, developed specifically to take full advantage of DirectX10, the new graphics API from Microsoft.

3DMark Vantage

The Extreme settings were used for testing, so a resolution of 1920x1200 was used.

3dmark Vantage Benchmark Results

Benchmark Results: The GeForce GTX 275 makes short work of the Radeon HD 4890 in this benchmark as you can see from the graph above. 

Power Consumption and Final Thoughts

For testing power consumption, we took our test system and plugged it into a Seasonic Power Angel. For idle numbers, we allowed the system to idle on the desktop for 15 minutes and took the reading. For load numbers we measured the peak wattage used by the system while running the OpenGL benchmark FurMark 1.7.0 at 1920x1200 resolution.

Total System Power Consumption Results

Power Consumption Results: The Radeon HD 4890 1GB uses more power than a GeForce GTX 275 at idle, but less at load. The GeForce GTX 275 with its 240 stream processors really likes to gobble up power at load as the system peaked out at 378W during benchmarking. The idle state on the GeForce GTX 275 is very impressive though as the system dropped below 180 Watts. 

Radeon HD 4890 versus GeForce GTX 275

Final Thoughts and Conclusions:

This article included the performance analysis of the video games Velvet Assassin and Wall-E, along with the OpenGL benchmark FurMark. I feel it's always good to switch things up and to go out and buy a couple games every now and again to see how video card performance is on games that the driver team really hasn't spent much time on optimizing. The results of the three new benchmarks showed that the GeForce GTX 275 was the more powerful video card between the two models I took a closer look at here today.

When it comes to price, the GeForce GTX 275 with 896MB of GDDR3 memory can be found for $209.99 shipped. The ASUS Radeon HD 4890 Graphics Card with 1GB of GDDR5 memory that we used in the review runs $239.00 shipped, but other brands like XFX use the the same reference design can be picked up for $195.39 shipped. There is basically a $15 price difference between the two cards, with the Radeon HD 4890 being less expensive.  This makes sense as the GeForce GTX 275 appears to be the stronger card on the five benchmarks I looked at today and the six that I looked at back in April during our launch coverage

Both of these graphics cards are very impressive and at a resolution of 1920x1200 neither fail to disappoint.  The bang for your buck that you get at the $200 price point is really impressive and is more than enough for the majority of gamers out there.  Don't forget, you can overclock for a little extra performance if you wanted to as both of these cards have some room in them to be overclocked.

Legit Bottom Line: The GeForce GTX 275 and Radeon HD 4890 are two great graphics cards even when trying to play a couple odd ball games that most people don't use to benchmark.