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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  • WooDaddy - Tuesday, August 03, 2004 - link

    Hey tfranzese,

    Yeah, I'll be fine, but I don't want to run at 640x480. I do have DDR, but only 256. This definately reminds me of the old days when I wanted to play Turok with my Riva128 card on my AMD K75 (or something like that). The minimum spec back then was really minimum spec and it seems the same here. I don't like being on the low-end so I'll probably build up a A64 system with some decent video card.

    I just think this is great. D3 will hopefully be the shot in the arm to get everybody back to spending money in the PC market. I just hope Matrox, S3 and others jump back in the frey again.
    Reply
  • Boardmonger - Tuesday, August 03, 2004 - link

    I am currently looking at buying a IBM Thinkpad T42 with a 64mb 9600m and I want it to play Doom3 and HL2 (Maybe not great, but playable.) I really want to move to a mobile solution to replace my desktop, but I still want to play a game from time to time and I think that if I can find a notebook that can play Doom3 and HL2 it will handle most of the new games for the next year or more. Any chance of benchmarking some notebooks with mid range cards in the next round of tests? Reply
  • tfranzese - Tuesday, August 03, 2004 - link

    "Actually, your XP1700 is just fine (at the low end) The min spec is a 1.5 MHz Intel or roughly a XP1500+"

    Actually, because that 1.5 GHz Intel is a Pentium 4 adn his XP 1700+ is a 1.4 GHz Athlon. In comparison he's about 500 Willamette MHz ahead of the minimum with that chip. So, yeah, he's set as you said depending on Doom 3's memory bandwidth requirement which could play an important role.

    However, with a minimum such as a 1.5 GHz Pentium 4 you also have to consider what such ancient machines could have in them, namely the possible crippling SDRAM.
    Reply
  • cosmotic - Tuesday, August 03, 2004 - link

    it was my understanding that the GF4MX = GF2MX + AA. I'm surprised it would even work. It's funny that Carmack says GF4MX is ok when GF2MX isnt, if you dont have antialiasing on, your not ganing much. Maybe if its on a smaller process or something...

    lanz: Since they started menchmarking with ATI Cards... OHHH!!!! (j/k, yeah, sounds fishy)
    Reply
  • lanz - Tuesday, August 03, 2004 - link

    Actually, looking at those benchies, something is defo wrong....

    1024, x4 AA, High Quality X800 XTPE gets 51.6fps

    and

    1024, NO AA, High Quality X800 XTPE gets 46.5!

    Since when as applying x4AA increase your framerate?
    Reply
  • kherman - Tuesday, August 03, 2004 - link

    Where are the ati 9600 SE benchmarks!

    What can this Piece of XXXX do? I ave one and already decided to upgrade to a Geforce 6800 base model. I figured I'd be doing 640x480 at medium res....

    Will someone, ANYONE, do a benchmark for this card.
    Reply
  • punko - Tuesday, August 03, 2004 - link

    Actually, your XP1700 is just fine (at the low end) The min spec is a 1.5 MHz Intel or roughly a XP1500+ Reply
  • WooDaddy - Tuesday, August 03, 2004 - link

    Wow... I feel like its the old days when 640x480 was an acceptable resolution to play with my Nvidia Riva128.

    I feel invigorated almost. I must upgrade and spend money! My 4200 can't cut it. Neither can my Xp1700.

    Carmack, good job! You may have just singlehandedly improved the personal tech sector. I'm buying nvidia stock now! I would suggest you would too.

    Reply
  • Goi - Tuesday, August 03, 2004 - link

    Wow, the low end still seems pretty mainstream to me. I would've liked to see a GF3/GF4MX/R8500/GF FX5200 thrown into the mix. Reply
  • punko - Tuesday, August 03, 2004 - link

    Re:13

    Derek, I could sell you a used one . . .
    Reply

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