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Nvidia GTX-260 Core 216 VS ATI 4870 1GB 5 Game Shootout

Christmas is getting close and it’s time to look at which GPU is best for the seasons hottest titles. We’re doing a 5 Game shootout with the GTX-260 core 216 vs the ATI 4870 1 GB.

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INTRODUCTION

It’s that time of year again and Christmas is around the corner. The year’s hottest games are about to be released and it’s time to look at new Tech Toys to make your year’s gaming experience the best it can be. This year we decided to go with a price point comparison of two of the best GPU’s out there, the Nvidia GTX-260 Core 216 vs the ATI 4870 1 GB edition in a head-to-head 5 game Hottest Title Shootout. Both of the selected GPU’s are at the same price point roughly $300 (USD). The ATI card has 1GB of memory and the Nvidia card has 896MB of memory, and it’s going to matter. We’re testing at uber resolutions for this shootout. The lowest resolution is 1920×1200 and the highest resolution is 2560×1600 with AA set at 4x and AF set by the game.

So what games are we running in the Shootout, lets see there’s PacMan, QBert, Space Invaders, Pong, and Asteroids. Oh wait a minute, flashback, it’s FarCry 2, Dead Space, Fallout 3, Call Of Duty World At War, and Left 4 Dead. Must have been that road trip during the 60’s. I knew that Koolaid tasted funny.

TESTING METHODOLOGY

We did a fresh load of Vista 64 on our test rig without loading any graphics drivers, applied all the latest patches, and updated drivers to the latest available. Then, without loading any graphics drivers we cloned it to a spare HD using Acronis. That way, we can reload the drive with a fresh load when we switch out GPU’s and know that no old drivers are left to interfere with testing.

We ran each test three times and report the average here. If the game has a built-in benchmark we used that. If it doesn’t, we used a predetermined run pattern according to a precise set of instructions we drew up. Specifics will be listed with each individual game. In the games without a built-in benchmark we used Fraps to save the statistics to a text file and recorded and averaged results from there.

Test Rig

Test Rig
“Quadzilla”
Case Type Top Deck Testing Station
CPU Intel Core I7 965 Extreme (3.74 GHz 1.2975 Vcore)
Motherboard Asus P6T Deluxe (SLI and CrossFire on Demand)
Ram G.Skill DDR 3 1600 (9-9-9-24 1.5v) 6GB Kit
CPU Cooler Thermalright Ultra 120 RT (Dual 120mm Fans)
Hard Drives Intel 80 GB SSD
Optical Sony DVD R/W
GPU BFG GTX-260 MaxCore       Drivers 180.47 Beta
Diamond 4870 1GB             Drivers Catalyst 8.11
Case Fans 120mm Fan cooling the mosfet cpu area
Docking Stations None
Testing PSU Thermaltake Toughpower 1K
Legacy None
Mouse Razer Lachesis
Keyboard Razer Lycosa
Gaming Ear Buds
Razer Moray
Speakers None
Any Attempt Copy This System Configuration May Lead to Bankrupcy

 

GPU Specifications Table

 

Major GPU Specifications
GPU HD 3870 X2 9800 GX2 8800 GTX GTX 260 BFG GTX 260 Core 216 GTX 280 HD 4850 Diamond HD 4870 1GB
GPU frequency 825MHz 600MHz 575MHz 576MHz 602MHz 602MHz 625MHz 750MHz
ALU frequency 825MHz 1500MHz 1350MHz 1242MHz 1296MHz 1296MHz 625MHz 750MHz
Memory frequency 900MHz 1000MHz 900MHz 999MHz 1107MHz 1107MHz 993MHz 900MHz
Memory bus width 2×256 bits 2×256 bits 384 bits 448 bits 448 bits 512 bits 256 bits 256 bits
Memory type GDDR3 GDDR3 GDDR3 GDDR3 GDDR3 GDDR3 GDDR3 GDDR5
Memory quantity 2 x 512 MB 2 x 512 MB 768 MB 896 MB 896 MB 1024 MB 512 MB 1024 MB
Number of ALUs 640 256 128 192 216 240 800 800
Number of texture units 32 128 32 64 72 80 40 40
Number of ROPs 32 32 24 28 28 32 16 16
Shading power 1 TFlop 1152 GFlops 518.4 GFlops 715 GFlops 839.8 GFlops 933 GFlops 1 TFlop 1.2 TFlops
Memory bandwidth 115.2 GB/s 128 GB/s 86.4 GB/s 111.9 GB/s 124.0 GB/s 141.7 GB/s 31.78 GB/s 115.2 GB/s
Number of transistors 1334 mil 1010 mil 681 mil 1400 mil 1400 mil 1400 mil 965 mil 965 mil
Process 55nm 65nm 90nm 65nm 65nm 65nm 55nm 55nm
Die surface area 2 x 196 mm² 2 x 324 mm² 484 mm² 576 mm² 576 mm² 576 mm² 260mm² 260mm²
Generation 2008 2008 2006 2008 2008 2008 2008 2008
Shader Model supported 4.0 4.0 4.0 4.0 4.0 4.0 4.1 4.1

FARCRY 2

FarCry 2 is one of the most anticipated titles of the year. It’s an engaging state-of-the-art First Person Shooter set in an un-named African country. FarCry 2 features a stunning backdrop on which to play out the conflict between you and a nasty fellow aptly named the Jackal. It would be rather boring if it were just you and the Jackal wandering around the game world trying to off each other, so Ubisoft tossed in a couple of warring factions that are called the APR and UFLL. We might add that the APR and UFLL aren’t really particular about who they shoot at, so you might want to do unto others before they do it to you.

For FarCry 2 we used the built-in benchmark that comes with the game. We set the AA to 4x and used the games normal AF setting that are default to the game. The Benchmark makes three passes at the game and reports the average of the three runs. Individual runs are reported but we’re interested in the average of the three.

FarCry 2 1920×1200 4xAA Results

In FarCry 2 it’s pretty obvious at this resolution that the BFG GTX-260 MaxCore (Core 216) is the better performing GPU. It outperforms the 4870 1 GB by 19%, which translates into 8 FPS better performance. We feel compelled to mention that at this resolution, with the eye candy cranked way up, this game is simply beautiful.

FarCry 2 2560×1600 4xAA Results

We ran the same test at 2560×1600 to really stress the GPU’s and the BFG GTX-260 Core 216 came in 6 FPS ahead of the beefed up 4870 that carries 1GB of memory instead of the 512MB the normal model runs. That’s a 20% performance increase over the 4870 1GB despite the advantage the 4870 has with more memory than the GTX-260 core 216 which carried 896MB of memory.

 

FALLOUT 3

Set in a post apocalyptic world some time in the future, Fallout 3, published by Bethesda and released October 28th 2008, is a DX9 game which features stunning graphics and open game play. You start out as a baby in a shelter called the Vault and quickly mature into a young man in search of his father who has left the safety of the Vault for the radiation plagued wastelands. Game play is open, and you’re not required to follow any one path, or even find your father. It’s a game you play your way, anyway you want. You can run the side quests and go for Bottlecaps which are used for money in the post apocalyptic scenario, or you can steal your way to riches. Be aware though, the stealing path can affect your Karma which affects the outcome of the game and how NPC (Non Playing Characters) interact with you.

We tested Fallout 3 by loading from a save game and running a predetermined path performing the same actions each time. In order to avoid Vsync which would cap the FPS at the refresh rate of your monitor you have to turn Vsynch off by setting ‘iPresentInterval=0” in both “Fallout.ini” and “FalloutPrefs.ini” located in “UserDocumentsMy GamesFallout 3.” You may need to redo this every time you install a new video card. After disabling Vsync we loaded the save game and hit the Tilde “~” to drop open the command prompt and enter “tgm” to enter GodMode and ran our predetermined sequence. We did the same sequence three times and averaged the total to smooth out any imperfections in the run.

Fallout 3 1920×1200 4xAA Results

At the 1920×1200 resolution we see the BFG GTX-260 Core 216 ahead of the Diamond 4870 1GB by 7 FPS, which translates to a 10% increase in performance over the 4870 1GB. It still amazes us to see the stunning graphics that we fell in love with in this game. At times, the changing of day to night made things a little dim for our liking, but who likes to wander a radioactive wasteland after dark with mutated dogs and Ghouls trapsing about?

Fallout 3 2560×1900 Results

When we kicked it up to 2560×1600 at 4xAA the BFG GTX-260 Core 216 kicked out ahead of the Diamond 4870 1GB by 9 FPS. That translates to 15% better performance from the Nvidia GPU. We can already tell that we are going to have to explore this phenomenon further in pinpoint game reviews with more Resolutions and more GPU’s.

One thing we would like clarification on from Bethesda is how come the dogs seem to attack our character every time but not that Ghoul right next to him? If I were a starved dog in an irradiated wasteland I think I’d take my snacks where I could get them.

DEADSPACE

The player takes the role of Isaac Clarke (named after science fiction writers Isaac Asimov and Arthur C. Clarke), an engineer who must fight his way through a stricken mining ship infested with Necromorphs, a hostile, virus-like, free-roaming alien DNA with the ability to reanimate the bodies of the dead, turning them into grotesque monstrosities. The game features an ‘over-the-shoulder’ third-person perspective, similar to the games Resident Evil 4, Dark Sector and Gears of War. The interface does not feature a traditional heads-up display. Instead, information is relayed to the player via holographic projections, which hover over Isaac’s weapons and armor.

Zero gravity and decompressed environments also appear in Dead Space, and Isaac can navigate through them using his pressurized suit and magnetic boots. Some levels even lead out onto the surface of the ship’s hull. Floating debris presents a hazard, however, and Isaac can lose his footing and simply float off into space. Isaac’s suit also has a limited amount of air while in airless environments, which can allow him to suffocate, forcing the player to move faster when in these situations. In keeping with Isaac’s profession as an engineer rather than a soldier, weapons in the game are mostly improvised from mining tools, such as a plasma cutter, hydrazine torch used as a flamethrower, and a force cannon emitting powerful shock waves, although a triple-barreled automatic military rifle is also available.

To test Dead Space we played until we came to a combat intensive scene and created a save game. Then we disabled Vsync in the options menu, loaded the save game and ran the same game pattern for each run, recording the results with Fraps. We used the same save game for each GPU and each GPU got three runs at the same scene. Once we had our three runs we averaged the total of the average frame rates and report that here.

Dead Space 1920×1200 4xAA Results

We ran the same test on both GPU’s but the BFG GTX-260 Core 216 came out way ahead in Dead Space at 1920×1200 with the AA cranked. In terms of frames, we’re talking 46 FPS more than the Diamond 4870 1 GB GPU. Those 46 FPS translate to 32% better performance for the Nvidia GPU, the largest performance increase we’ve seen so far. It’s hard to make the screen shots do Dead Space justice. They lack the depth and movement that makes the in game graphics so stunning.

Dead Space 2560×1600 4xAA Results

At the highest (Uber) resolution we tested, at 2560×1600, the ATI 4870 1GB closed the gap a little but the BFG GTX-260 Core 216 came out in the lead by 9 FPS, which equates to a 15% performance advantage. By this time we’re starting to see a pattern forming. Even though the GTX-260 Core 216 carries slightly less memory at uber resolutions, it’s performing better in all the games and resolutions we’ve tested so far.

It must be time for lunch because when we were editing this screenie we were thinking fried dead reanimated by an alien virus crispies anyone?

CALL OF DUTY WORLD AT WAR

Call of Duty: World at War is a first-person shooter video game developed by Treyarch and published by Activision for Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 3, Wii, Xbox 360, Nintendo DS, and PlayStation 2. It is the fifth installment in the main Call of Duty series. The game is set in the Pacific theater and Eastern front of World War II. The game shipped in North America on November 11, 2008, in Australia on November 12, 2008, and in Europe on November 14, 2008.

The story focuses on the final battles of World War II in the Pacific and Eastern Europe involving the United States, the Empire of Japan, the Soviet Union, and Nazi Germany. It is told from the perspectives of a Marine Raider and a Red Army soldier, and is based on several historical battles, including the Makin Island raid, the Battle of Peleliu, and the Battle of Berlin. The multiplayer portion of the game contains various game modes, and contains a leveling system that allows the player to unlock additional weapons and rewards as they progress, which was originally implemented in Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. A new feature to the Call of Duty series is the co-op mode, which can support up to four players online and two offline.

To test in Call Of Duty World at War we disabled “Sync Every Frame” and disabled “Dual video cards.” SLI works fine without this option, in case you happen to forget to enable it. Then, inside the game under options we enabled the console. Once inside the game we hit the tilda “~” to open the console and type “com_maxfps 1000”. This will disable the framerate cap. The default cap is 85 fps. We then started into the game and went to a combat intensive scene and started fraps, made three runs at it and averaged the FPS Fraps recorded as average frame rates and reported that here. Again, same three runs for each GPU, same combat intensive scene, same run and kill pattern.

COD WAW 1920×1200 Results

Seems the pattern we were beginning to see earlier is holding true to form. The BFG GTX-260 Core 216 came in 18 FPS faster than the Diamond 4870 1GB GPU. That gives the Core 216 a 30% better performance than the 4870 1GB edition GPU. We have noticed a lot of these games are running DX9, not that it affects the GPU performance much, but it’s interesting that they have rejected DX10 in favor of the faster DX9.

COD WAW 2560×1600 Results

At 2560×1600 the ATI 4870 1 GB GPU sadly fell below 28 FPS and making our benchmark runs was somewhat painful. We saw micro stutters, choppiness, and scenes seemed to jump from one point to the other with no transition. We consider the cutoff for acceptable performance in a game 30 FPS so we were kind of disappointed when the 4870 1 GB edition dropped below that in Average frame rates. The BFG GTX-260 Core 216 on the other hand stayed at a respectable 42 FPS and game play was smooth and no noticeable stutters or graphic ugliness was evident. Those 14 FPS might seem like a small lead, but in this case they made a significant difference. Those 14 FPS translate to a performance increase of 33%. So far, in 4 of our 5 games in the shootout, we’d have to say the ATI 4870 has four bullet holes in it’s carcass and the Nvidia GTX-260 Core 216 remains unscathed.

There’s nothing quite like the smell of Napalm in the morning. Well we couldn’t really smell it but a neighbor was burning leaves. It wasn’t as spectacular, but we did have the urge to run up and plant a flag in the burning pile.

Left 4 Dead

Left 4 Dead is an upcoming multiplayer co-operative survival horror first-person shooter game by Valve Corporation. The game has been built using Valve’s Source engine and will be available on Steam and the Xbox 360.

Left 4 Dead puts four human playable or AI controlled survivors of an apocalyptic pandemic against hordes of aggressive “Infected” zombies in a cinematic backdrop in which the players “star” as each character in a fictional movie. The Survivors’ goal is to help each other make it through various scenarios to safety. The Infected are controlled by an AI that dynamically balances difficulty and mood depending on the players’ progress and situation. In an alternate game mode, human players can control up to four different monsters with special abilities and cooperate to stop the Survivor players.

The expected release date for Left 4 Dead is November 18, 2008 in the United States and November 21, 2008 in Europe to coincide with the tenth anniversary of the release of Half-Life. A five-minute trailer was released on Halloween. A public demo was released on November 6 for pre-purchasers and was released for the general public on November 11 for both systems. The demo contains the first two out of five maps of the “No Mercy” campaign and is playable in both single player and multi-player.

Left 4 Dead uses the Half-Life 2 Engine, so it can be benchmarked using prerecorded timedemos. The outdoor areas are more intensive, allowing for better comparisons between GPU’s. The indoor areas tend to be CPU bound. We used a prerecorded time demo to bench Left 4 Dead, ran the time demo three times for each GPU and recorded and averaged the results. The average is reported here.

Left 4 Dead 1920×1200 4xAA Results

In the last game of the 5 hottest hottest titles shootout to determine the best GPU in the $300 dollar price range we are seeing the same results we’ve seen in the previous four tests. The BFG GTX-260 Core 216 comes out 9 FPS in the lead. Those 9 FPS translate to a 12% performance advantage with the Nvidia GPU. If we were betting men we’d be betting on the Nvidia GPU, making this a clean sweep.

Left 4 Dead 2560×1600 4xAA Results

In the last test of our 5 game shootout the Nvidia GTX-260 Core 216 has made it a clean sweep. It bested the 4870 1GB GPU by 11 FPS for a percentage advantage of 19% in favor of the Nvidia GPU. Seldom do we see two GPU’s at the same price point not have a back and forth fight in this type os shootout/game roundup. We like to refer to the GTX-260 Core 216 as a mini 280 and this testing confirms our pet name for it.

We couldn’t resist throwing in another shot of this highly anticipated First Person Shooter. The muzzle flash, combined with the ejecting shells, makes this scene scream realism. The nasty, creature barely visible in the shot, spraying blood and ragdolling it’s way to the ground didn’t hurt the shot any.

CONCLUSION

Since we are in a 5 Game shootout for the perfect GPU for the season’s hottest titles we need to treat our conclusion a little differently. We’re going to go by game individually, rather than lump it into one generic conclusion.

In FarCry 2, at both resolutions we tested, the BFG GTX-260 came out ahead for an average percentage total of 19.5% better for FarCry2 than the 4870 1GB edition. While both GPU’s did pretty well in the game, that would tend to indicate that as far as usability over an extended period of time the, GTX-260 Core 216 is probably the better choice. At the highest resolution tested ,the ATI GPU failed to maintain the required 30 FPS that makes game play smooth and enjoyable. For this game in particular, the GTX-260 Core 216 the best choice. Score 1 Nvidia ATI 0.

In Fallout 3 the GTX-260 Core 216 came out an average of 12.5% percent better than the ATI 4870 1 GB edition. Again both GPU’s did pretty well but given they are at the same price point, why settle for less performance for the same money? Score Nvidia 2 ATI 0.

Dead Space liked the Nvidia GTX-260 Core 216 23.5% better than the ATI 4870 1GB GPU, and it showed in this game. The GTX-260 Core 216 ran without so much as a stutter, game play was smooth, and it never skipped a beat. Score Nvidia 3 ATI 0.

Call of Duty World At War really liked the GTX-260 Core 216 and it performed 31.5% on average better than the ATI 4870 1 GB edition. We guess it all boils down to the ultimate beer question, “More Taste, Less Filling?” The Nvidia GPU had more taste and the ATI GPU was less filling. To make matters worse, the ATI GPU dipped below the magical 30 FPS level that makes grapics look rock solid to the eye. Score Nvidia 4 ATI 0.

In our last test in Left 4 Dead, the Nvidia GTX-260 Core 216 came in with a 15.5% overall advantage over the ATI 4870 1GB and we were slightly awed and amazed. The Nvidia GTX-260 Core 216 came out ahead in every test, making it a clean sweep in our Holiday 5 game Shootout for the perfect GPU for the season’s hottest game. Score Nvidia 5 ATI 0.

One Generic Lump Conclusion

We weren’t expecting it, but the Nvidia BFG GTX-260 Core 216 (MaxCore) made it a clean sweep. With every game at every resolution, it took the lead and kept it. If this were a Shootout at the OK Corral the ATI GPU would be sprawled in a pool of blood with five holes in its core and the Nvidia GPU would be left standing unscathed.

You can’t get much clearer than that.  “The perfect GPU for the 2008 Christmas seasons hottest games, in the $300 dollar price range, is the GTX-260 Core 216.” Be sure when you set on Santa’s lap you tell him no GTX-260 Core 216 or don’t slide down my chimney!

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