Introduction

Kicking off what we've dubbed "Doom 3 Week" here at AnandTech, we're bringing you our in depth analysis of video card performance under Doom 3.


Staying up all night benchmarking one of the most anticipated titles of the past few years has been very educational for us. Quite a few impressions we had about what our Doom 3 experience would be like had to be thrown out the window, and it all comes down to the fact that this is an impressive game no matter how you slice it.

Our goal in this review is to cover all angles of graphics card impact on playing Doom 3. We will explore everything from the ultra high end down to the bargain basement cards. We've also included such favorites as the GeForce 4 Ti 4400, the Radeon 9700 Pro, and the Radeon 9600 XT. All the usual suspects put in an appearance as well to make this one of the most comprehensive graphics tests we've undertaken in a while.

But let's get down to it: we're here for the analysis, so lets take a look at the system we're testing on and iron out the details about what to expect from this review.

UPDATE: We have recently been made aware of ATI's beta Catalyst 4.9 drivers targeted at Doom 3 performance enhancement. These drivers will not be available in a whql package until September, but until then, here is a sneak peek at percentage performance improvement over the 4.7 drivers:

 Catalyst 4.9 Performance Improvement
  High 10x7 Ultra 10x7 High 16x12 Ultra 16x12
X800 XTPE 6.75% 8.29% 4.66% 5.21%
X800 Pro 6.87% 8.50% 2.99% 4.09%

 Catalyst 4.9 Performance Improvement w/ 4xAA Enabled
  High 10x7 Ultra 10x7 High 16x12 Ultra 16x12
X800 XTPE 19.07% 19.80% 14.38% 15.30%
X800 Pro 5.38% 6.18% 1.83% 3.40%


We can see that the biggest performance improvements come on the higher end platform, higher quality setting, higher AA setting, and lower resolution. We were unable to install this driver on 9800 series cards, but we hear that performance improvement on older platforms is less significant than what we see on the x800 series.

UPDATE: The issues we experienced with the eVGA GeForce 6800 Ultra Extreme have been fixed with an newer version of the card sent by eVGA.com that (among other things) dropped the core clock speed down to 450MHz. We put the card through a grueling series of tests which confirm its rock solid stability under Doom 3. The scores with the new stable revision will be slightly lower than the previous Ultra Extreme (because of the clock speed decerase), but it is still the fastest card we've tested with Doom 3.
The Test
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  • DerekWilson - Wednesday, August 04, 2004 - link

    Essobie:

    Between the High Quality at 1024x768 graph and the High Quality at 800x600 graph (in the Low End performance analysis), you can see that the 5700U and 9600XT scale a little more than 10fps when dropping res. This number is bigger for higher performance cards. We should have included a couple of last years high end cards in that graph. Sorry for the omission.
    Reply
  • Essobie - Wednesday, August 04, 2004 - link

    I sure would have liked a comparison for ALL the mentioned cards in a few of the different settings side by side. The idea that you can choose what card is right for you can't both be expressed by visual quality and frames per second in three seperate teers.

    What I'd like is to see what the best card for the buck is going to be that will run the game around 60fps in 800x600 with all graphical nicities on. As it is now, I have to just make a judgement call on what the Mid-Range results show, even though the difference in performance between 800x and 1024x are likely to differ in the 10-20 fps level, if I am assuming correctly.

    I love the article, but it would be nice to simply find 'how' I want to play the game, and then see what performs best at those settings. Maybe it's just that none of their settings match what I think is really important. :(
    Reply
  • kherman - Wednesday, August 04, 2004 - link

    ATI 9600 SE, using a 2800+ athlon. Not sure of memmory, etc. Have 512 meg though. Latest non-beta ATI drivers.

    640x480 med - 26.8 fps

    I can't wait to post my 6800 numbers ;)
    Reply
  • Sonic587 - Wednesday, August 04, 2004 - link

    Thank you, PrinceGaz. Very interesting results. Have you tried OCing any of your hardware? Decent FPS considering you have PC2100 and a 1800+. All this with a 4200 at stock! Reply
  • PrinceGaz - Wednesday, August 04, 2004 - link

    I should add that those framerates were measured by doing four runs at each resolution and quality setting, discarding the first run, then taking an average of the other three (they were very consistent and only varied by one tenth of an fps between the second, third and fourth runs). High quality really was marginally faster than Medium, when Aniso was off. Reply
  • PrinceGaz - Wednesday, August 04, 2004 - link

    To run the timedemo, at the console type "timedemo demo1.demo". If you want to see the fps in the top-right corner while playing, type "con_showfps 1".

    I tested my system a couple of days ago using the timedemo (XP 1800+, 768MB PC2100, 128MB Ti4200 @ 250/500 Det 56.72). All Advanced settings were at the defaults (all enabled except for VSync):

    640x480 low - 31.4 fps
    640x480 med - 31.3 fps
    680x480 high - 23.4 fps, or 31.4 fps if Aniso forced Off in the driver (the game requests 8x Aniso on High setting)

    800x600 low - 28.2 fps
    800x600 med - 27.9 fps
    800x600 high - 28.0 fps with Aniso forced Off

    1024x768 low - 21.6 fps
    1024x768 med - 21.2 fps
    1024x768 high - 21.2 fps with Aniso forced Off

    There is no real difference in framerate on a 128MB Ti4200 between Low, Medium, or High quality, except for the 8x Aniso used in High quality mode which cripples older generation cards. Force Aniso off and you can use High quality with no drop in framerate. The optimum balance of resolution and framerate for my system while playing was 800x600 which played surprisingly well and looked a lot better than I expected.
    Reply
  • cosmotic - Wednesday, August 04, 2004 - link

    Actually, GF4MX has no shader support, so its not at all like the GF3. Last card without shader support was GF2s. I was right, according to nVidias website, the only thing it has over the GF2MX is antialiasing... And maybe their light speed memory architecture, video processing engine (DVD) and nView, although I dont know it the GF2MX had that or not. Reply
  • Detritis - Wednesday, August 04, 2004 - link

    From various stories that I have read regarding framerates in Doom 3, I was under the impression that it was going to be capped at 60 fps. However there is a couple of time that some cards break 70 and even 100! Reply
  • Sonic587 - Wednesday, August 04, 2004 - link

    How did the GF Ti4400 do @800X600 medium quality? Not to be nitpicky, but it's well known that AF will kill any GF4 series card. Reply
  • Crassus - Wednesday, August 04, 2004 - link

    Thx for including the GF4. I don't really know why the 4400 though, as the 4200 was sold in way higher quantities. Good to see though that it can run DIII decently. Reply

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