I never knew working an average of 18 hours a day and sleeping every other night could be so incredibly enjoyable. These past two weeks have been so full of benchmarking and analysis that I hardly have time to breathe. Of course, when people come up to me and tell me "man, I wish I could play games for a living too," I can't help but laugh out loud. I tell them: its not about games, it's about trying to understand the hardware. Of course, that is my kind of fun. The only problem is that I don't get to see what the picture looks like until I benchmark games for 50 hours.

When we sat down to start working on this series, I was very excited. I know that it's taken a long time to try to get the whole picture out in the open, but we wanted to be very thorough. Some of the motivation behind Part 1 was to give everyone an idea how these two cards perform vs. mid/high end cards that are already out. We wanted to give a basis for comparison so that numbers between 9800XT and NV38 had some way to relate back to what we already know. So now we can get on with trying to push these to their limits and beyond. The only other card we will be testing in Part 2 is the GeForce FX 5900 Ultra with both 52.14 and publicly available 45.23 WHQL drivers. We will also be doing a separate article on ATI's Catalyst 3.8 drivers when they are released.

This time around we tested at 1280x1024 (or 960 in some cases), and 1600x1200. At each of these resolutions we tested with AA and AF off and on when possible. Some games brought both cards to their knees, while others provided little more than a bump in the road. There is an incredible amount of information in this article so you may want to set aside some time to digest it all. We've done one unconventional test that will at least be a very good point of discussion, and there are plenty of surprises within.

The series is far from over and the next thing on the plate is a value/mid-range roundup to show you some cards that are actually feasible to purchase.

We hope you will enjoy reading this as much as we did putting it together.

An even more updated Test Suite


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  • Anonymous User - Wednesday, October 8, 2003 - link

    Didn't anyone notice that Ati doesn't do dynamic glows in Jedi Academy with the 3.7 cats!? Look at the lightsabre and it's clearly visible. They only work with the 3.6 cats and then they REALLY kill performance (It's barley playable in 800*600 here on my Radeon 9700 PRO) Reply
  • Anonymous User - Wednesday, October 8, 2003 - link

    funny to see that ati fanboys can't believe that nvidia can bring drivers without cheats. And nobody talk about the issues in TRAOD with ATI cards, really very nice... Reply
  • Anonymous User - Wednesday, October 8, 2003 - link

    WTH did you benchmark one card with unreleased drivers (something you said you would never, ever do in the past) and use micro-sized pictures for IQ comparisons?
    You might as well have used 256 colors.

    The Catalyst 3.8's came out today - the 51.75 drivers will not be availible for an indeterminate amount of time. Yet you bench with the Cat 3.7's and use a set of unreleased and unavailible drivers for the competition.

    I suggest you peruse this article:
    from 3DCenter (german) to learn just how one goes about determining how IQ differs at different settings with the Nvidia 45's, 51's, and 52's.
    Needless to say, everyone else who has compared full-sized frames in a variety of games and applications has found the 5X.XX nvidia drivers (all of them) do selective rendering, and especially lighting.

    And why claim the lack of shiny water in NWN is ATi's fault?

    Bioware programmed the game using an nvidia exclusive instruction and did not bother to program for the generic case until enough ATI and other brand users complained.
    This is the developer's fault, not a problem with the hardware or drivers.
  • Anonymous User - Wednesday, October 8, 2003 - link

    Nice article. I like that you benched so many games.

    Unfortunately you missed that the Det52.14 driver does no real Trilinear Filtering in *any* DirectX game, regardless of whether you're using anisotropic filtering or not. This often can't be seen in screenshots but in motion only. Please have a look here:


    There is *NO* way for a GeForceFX user to enable full trilinear filtering when using Det52.14. No wonder the performance increased...
  • Anonymous User - Wednesday, October 8, 2003 - link

    TR: AOD is a fine game, you just have to play it...

    Sure there are some graphical issues on the later levels but there's nothing wrong with the game as such and considering that it has made its way into a lot of bundles (sapphire and creative audigy 2 ZS to name two) I believe it will recieve a fair share of gameplay.
  • Anonymous User - Wednesday, October 8, 2003 - link

    You guys need to stop talking about gabe newell...for such a supposed good programmer he sure needs to learn about network security...We all know he's got his head up ATI's rearend. The funny part is that they are bundling hl2 with the 9800xt (a coupon) when it isn't coming out until april now. Who's to say who will have the better hardware then? Doom 3 will likely be out by then. In 4 months when the new cards are out you guys won't care who makes the better card the 12 year old fan-boys will be up in arms in support of their company. I owned the 5900u and sold it on ebay after seeing the hl2 numbers. I then bought a 9800pro from newegg and on the first tried ordering the 9800xt from ati which said it was in stock. 2 days later they told me my order was on backorder and hassled me when I wanted to cancel. One thing I'd point out is that war3 looks much better on the 5900u then the 9800. It looks really dull on the 9800 where it's bright and cartoony (like it should be) on the geforce. Either way who knows what the future will hold for both companies but let's hope they both succeed to keep our prices low.... Reply
  • Anonymous User - Wednesday, October 8, 2003 - link

    i took over #41's original post... i didnt like his tone :| Reply
  • Anonymous User - Wednesday, October 8, 2003 - link

    IQ part was crappy at best. small screenshots in open not-so-detailed areas and sometimes there was no option for a big one to check.

    You can call me what you want, but there are quite a few reviews there that will disagree BIG time with what has been posted about IQ here. And it is impossible all of them are wrong on this at the same time.

    HomeWorld has shadow issues in ATI cards with cat 3.7, yet that ain't shown there anyways....this goes for both ways.

    If you ask me, NVidia got his DX9 wrapper to work fine this time.
  • Anonymous User - Wednesday, October 8, 2003 - link

    Um what happened to post #41 where the guy detailed all the inconsistencies of the IQ comparisons? Please don't tell me you guys actually modded that post....

    I haven't had the chance to go through everything yet but those few I did, I definitely saw differences even in these miniscule caps (how about putting up some full size links next time guys?).. particularly in the AA+AF ones. It's obvious theres still quite a difference in their implementations.

    I was also surprised at the number of shots that weren't even of the same frame. Honestly, how can you do a IQ test if you aren't even going to use the same frames? A split second difference is enough to change the output because of the data/buffer/angle differences etc.

    Personally I wonder what happened to the old school 400% zoom IQ tests that Anand was promising and I'm fairly disappointed despite the number of games in this article.

    That said, I am glad that Nvidia didn't botch up everything entirely and hopefully they'll have learned their lesson for NV4x.
  • Anonymous User - Wednesday, October 8, 2003 - link

    Where can i get the 52.14 drivers? Reply

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