Introduction

The highest performance graphics card contenders from ATI and NVIDIA are in their places on the top of the graphics hardware "hill" right now, and for the first time (in a while at least) there is no clear performance leader. With both the GeForce 7900 GTX and Radeon X1900 XTX available for around $500, and with both having similar performance capabilities, those gamers looking for the absolute best have to make a difficult choice. NVIDIA seems to hold an edge with their efficient new card design and focus on efficiency, but both of these cards are very well matched. Of course, when shopping for a card, we can't all base our choice on whether or not it's the fastest in the world, unfortunately, but we can thankfully find other cards available which will more than suit our needs given our particular situation.

We've mentioned this in the past, but it is important to consider the types of games you play, or are planning on playing, as well as your system capabilities when choosing a new graphics solution. A reason for this would be to avoid overspending on graphics hardware that can't be used to its fullest potential on a certain system. For instance, if you have a maximum screen resolution of 1280x1024 - like all 17" and 19" LCDs - there's very little need for 7900 SLI or X1900 CrossFire. Also, while games like Half-Life 2 and Counter Strike: Source have been around for a while, they are both still very popular; if you're primarily playing slightly older games, a card much less powerful than the 7900 or X1900 will run them at their highest settings without difficulty.

Luckily, there are a wide range of graphics cards out there to suit the average gamer's needs, and with a little research and consideration you're sure to find the right one. Of course, the games are what compel us to buy shiny new graphics hardware in the first place, and there are many great ones out now for us to choose from.

Today we're looking at the game Black and White 2, and specifically how it performs on the latest high-end cards from ATI and NVIDIA. This is one of the more graphically demanding games we test (in the same league as games like F.E.A.R.), so we are very interested to see how cards like the ones mentioned above handle this game at the highest settings. We are giving this game it's own article this time instead of lumping it in with other titles because of some performance improvements we've seen with the latest patch from Lionhead. Before we talk about performance, lets take a look at the game itself.

Black and White 2
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  • mino - Saturday, April 08, 2006 - link

    Hi Josh,

    could you consider a review of the (forever postponed) S.T.A.L.K.E.R. game ???

    I think it is as of now the most visully appealing, realistic and demandong game. IMHO this game is the way to test GPU's performance on future titles.

    I'm sure the moment You check it You will understand.
    Reply
  • Josh Venning - Tuesday, April 11, 2006 - link

    We will definitely consider reviewing this game after it's released, whenever that may be. Reply
  • Kremy - Thursday, April 06, 2006 - link

    Just wanted to add another vote for some Oblivion testing, and ALSO an inclusion of ATI's x800 and x850 series vid cards. For the record, I'm playing Oblivion on an x850xt running at 540/580 (PE speeeds), and it's running fine on high settings, 1024x768, no AA, full distance. Great game... Reply
  • AdamK47 3DS - Wednesday, April 05, 2006 - link

    Why is there an article about it now when this patch has been out for so long? Reply
  • bupkus - Wednesday, April 05, 2006 - link

    Maybe to be fair to ATI. Reply
  • AdamK47 3DS - Wednesday, April 05, 2006 - link

    I suppose there could have been some pressure from Ati to post this article in order to vindicate themselves. Anandtech did like to use the previous version of B&W2 for performance testing. People were probably quick to blame Ati for the poor performance. I doubt this whole article would have ever been written had there not been some sort of outside influence. Reply
  • JarredWalton - Wednesday, April 05, 2006 - link

    Actually, AFAIK, Josh just wanted to write about this subject. He's also the one that has done some of the regression testing (i.e use old drivers). It's all in the search for knowledge. As far as the patch, I'm *sure* that ATI helped Lionhead make some optimizations. Okay, that's a guess, but I would be amazed if they didn't. So, file this one under the heading of, "why is it that we need to make specific optimizations to games and drivers?"

    Oblivion is even worse right now. SLI you have to make a custom profile and manually enable AFR2 rendering for best performance (apparently). For ATI CF support, you actually have to rename the executable. So much for multi-GPU support out of box experience! Not that SLI/CF aren't faster, but they are frequently a hassle to deal with.
    Reply
  • spinportal - Wednesday, April 05, 2006 - link

    Why doesn't any site test a 7900 GTX clocked down to a 7900 GT part for core/mem and see its performance? I have a feeling there could be a US$400 market for such a tweaked GT w/ 512MB card in between a GT (256MB) & GTX (512MB). Where o'where? Reply
  • Araemo - Wednesday, April 05, 2006 - link

    "Unfortunately, one of the problems with this game has been that it tends to favor NVIDIA graphics cards over ATI cards, despite the ATI splash screen at the game's startup."

    Well, humorously enough, there has been at least one "Nvidia: The way it's meant to be played" game that ran better on my 9700 Pro than my friends' 5xxxx and 4xxxx series nvidia cards. :) Most dev houses are against making their game specifically more playable on one type of hardware than another, even with branding payments. ATI and nVidia are pretty even as far as gamer-level market share goes, so they're not going to fubar half their audience on purpose, and some games just run better on one architecture than another.. Nothing really suprising except that ATI and nVidia think that is worth spending their money on. :)
    Reply
  • Warder45 - Wednesday, April 05, 2006 - link

    Let's see some Elder Scrolls Oblivion testing. Reply

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