Quake 4 Performance

There has always been a lot of debate in the community surrounding pure timedemo benchmarking. We have opted to stick with the timedemo test rather than the nettimedemo option for benchmarking Quake 4. To be clear, this means our test results focus mostly on the capability of each graphics card to render frames generated by Quake 4. The frame rates we see here don't directly translate into what one would experience during game play.

Additionally, Quake 4 limits frame rate to 60 fps during gameplay whether or not VSync is enabled. Performance characteristics of a timedemo do not reflect actual gameplay. So why do we do them? Because the questions we are trying to answer have only to do with the graphics subsystem. We want to know what graphics card is better at rendering Quake 4 frames. Any graphics card that does better at rendering Quake 4 frames will handle Quake 4 better than another card. While that doesn't mean the end user will necessarily see higher performance throughout the game, it does mean that the potential for seeing more performance is there. For instance, if the user upgrades CPUs while keeping the same graphics card, having higher potential GPU performance is going to be important.

What this means to the end user is that in-game performance will almost always be lower than timedemo performance. It also means that graphics cards that do slightly better than other graphics cards will not always show a tangible performance increase on an end user's system. As long as we keep these things in mind, we can make informed conclusions based on the data we collect.

Our benchmark consists of the first few minutes of the first level. This includes both inside and outdoor sections, with the initial few fire fights. We tested the game with Ultra Quality settings (uncompressed normal maps), and we enabled all the advanced graphics options except for VSync. Id does a pretty good job of keeping framerate very consistent, and so in-game framerates of 25 are acceptable. While we don't have the ability to make a direct mapping to what that means in the timedemo test, our experience indicates that a timedemo fps of about 35 translates into an enjoyable experience on our system. This will certainly vary on other systems, so take it with a grain of salt. The important thing to remember is that this is more of a test of relative performance of graphics cards when it comes to rendering Quake 4 frames -- it doesn't directly translate to Quake 4 experience.

Quake 4 Performance

At resolutions over 1280x1024, the GeForce 7950 GT falls short of the X1900 XT 256MB. Even with all these cards offering playable performance at 1920x1440, it's still a better idea to stick with the card that will give you higher performance for less money. In this case, that would be the Radeon X1900 XT 256MB. That is, if you can get ahold of it at a reasonable price.

Quake 4 Performance

While these numbers are a little more cluttered with lower end SLI solutions falling on top of high end single card setups, the lead ATI has held since their release of Catalyst 6.8 remains strong, especially with AA enabled. Not only does the X1900 XT 256MB outperform the 7950 GT, it outperforms the 7900 GTX. Not even SLI is enough to give an advantage to NVIDIA in these tests, and the 7950 GX2 only barely edges out the X1950 XTX in performance.

Half-Life 2: Episode One Performance Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory Performance
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  • Genx87 - Thursday, September 14, 2006 - link

    In this price category it is hard to justify Nvidia here. Nvidia's pressure from the top with the GX2 has pushed ATI's 2nd best card into this price range. The X1900XT is faster and better compared to this card IMO. It needs to be dropped to the 280-300 range and let it settle in around the 250 if it wants to compete with the X1900XT.

  • ieskorp - Thursday, September 14, 2006 - link

    What is the added value of a review/test when you are comparing Nvidia SLI configurations with single ATI 19k cards????
  • JarredWalton - Thursday, September 14, 2006 - link

    We've looked at the CF performance in the recent past, and nothing has changed. You'll notice in the conclusion that we really don't recommend getting two new current gen GPUs regardless of manufacturer. If you look at the X1950 XTX article, you can see where CrossFire sits in the performance ladder. Basically, it's competitive with SLI, though most will agree the SLI bridge is far more elegant than the CF dongle. Basically, the graphs were already crowded, and adding more cards/configurations just gets really messy. We included SLI numbers for the new cards mostly to show where they fall, i.e. 7900 GS SLI about equals 7900 GTX, while 7950 GT SLI is slightly faster than 7950 GX2.

    Quick summary of CF vs. SLI:
    ATI "owns" Quake 4 now, along with Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory. NVIDIA still clearly leads in Black and White 2. Performance in most of our other tested titles is very close. Price performance is more difficult to call, as X1950 are in very limited availability with no CF cards currently showing up, and prices are thus quite inflated. You can get Quad SLI for the cost of X1950 CrossFire... and neither one support the DirectX 10 feature set.
  • yacoub - Thursday, September 14, 2006 - link

    Would really appreciate temperature testing of the XFX card idel and under full 3D load. Passively-cooled cards notoriously run hot so it would be nice to know ahead of time just how well it's cooled. Additional overclocking potential would also be nice to know.
  • DerekWilson - Thursday, September 14, 2006 - link

    we are working on a 7950 gt roundup that will address this and other issues
  • yacoub - Thursday, September 14, 2006 - link

    Great thanks.

    Looks like the traditional 10-15 degrees Celcius for passive cooling holds true by Guru3D's review:

    Card Temperature in idle (Celsius) Temperature at 100% load in (Celsius)
    GeForce 7950 GT 45 64
    XFX 7950 GT Extreme 64 81

    I can't fathom allowing a GPU to run at over 60-65C. That's REALLY hot. 81C is downright dangerous and life-sapping for sure.
  • SniperWulf - Thursday, September 14, 2006 - link

    It's pretty gratifying to see that the card I bought at the beginning of the year is still holding its own pretty good (X1900XT)
  • DerekWilson - Thursday, September 14, 2006 - link

    X1900 XT has been a good performer. It's also be a much better value than the X1900 XTX for its entire lifetime. Definitely a good purchasing decision.
  • Tilmitt - Thursday, September 14, 2006 - link

    You'd have to be stoned off your head to find 20FPS "a good experience" in any game. Unless you're a girl...they can't see lag or jaggies.
  • VooDooAddict - Thursday, September 14, 2006 - link

    I greatly disagree. Most casual girl gamers that I've had sit down and play a PC game are MORE distracted by and less tolerable of lag and low framerates then guys who game frequently. Those of us who play often know it's a fact of life and can tolerate it. New PC gamers (male and female) who may be more used to console systems are frustrated easily by the little things we putup with in the PC gaming world.

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