It has been a full six months since we started benchmarking with the latest build of Epic's Unreal Engine. When we first introduced the Unreal Performance Test benchmark, Epic had just announced Unreal Tournament II and we were putting the pressure on the hardware vendors to get drivers ready for the game's release later this year. In a matter of weeks Epic will be releasing the first public demo of Unreal Tournament 2003 (formerly UT II), which will stress your graphics cards unlike any first person shooter (FPS) you've ever played.

Until very recently, the limiting factor in the FPSes we all played was memory bandwidth. If you remember when the original GeForce 256 launched, the biggest complaint was the lack of DDR memory. The measley 2.7GB/s of memory bandwidth was easily saturated at higher resolutions and thus the demand for higher bandwidth memory solutions was upon us.

Since then, ATI and NVIDIA have both improved their GPUs considerably to offer as much memory bandwidth as possible. They have focused on being efficient by introducing Z occlusion culling technologies like ATI's HyperZ and NVIDIA's Visibility Subsystem which get rid of elements that will never be seen by the user before sending them through the texturing pipelines. They have also worked with memory vendors to bring extremely high speed DDR SDRAM to the mainstream graphics market, with the next generation of GPUs using 350 - 500MHz DDR SDRAM (effectively 700MHz - 1GHz). And the two companies have also improved their memory controller and cache designs to maximize the throughput of their GPUs.

While memory bandwidth has been getting more plentiful, GPUs have been becoming more powerful. The next-generation of GPUs will offer much more programmability and flexibility, allowing developers to truly utilize their potential. Going along with this trend, the next-generation of 3D games won't be entirely memory bandwidth limited. The need for a GPU to run through tens of shading instructions to produce a single pixel will shift games from being overly dependent on memory bandwidth over to a balance between GPU power and memory bandwidth.

Although Unreal Tournament 2003 doesn't make any extensive use of complex shader programs, it does represent the next paradigm of games with a modern 3D engine. Between now and Doom 3, there will be few games that can match the visual appeal of UT2003 and its engine.

With all of that said, today we will be bringing you an update to the first article we did using the Unreal Performance Test back in January. We've rounded up a total of 19 GPUs and benchmarked each and every one of them under a 6/28/2002 build of Unreal Tournament 2003 that Epic produced for our use.

The Benchmarks

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