Half-Life 2: Episode One Performance

Episode One of the new Half-Life 2 series makes use of recent Source engine updates to include Valve's HDR technology. While some people have done HDR that won't allow antialiasing (even on ATI cards), Valve put a high value on building an HDR implementation that everyone can use with whatever settings they want. Consistency of experience is usually not important enough to developers who care about pushing the bleeding edge of technology, so we are very happy to see Valve going down this path.

We use the built-in timedemo feature to benchmark the game. Our timedemo consists of a protracted rocket launcher fight and features much debris and pyrotechnics. The Source engine timedemo feature is more like the nettimedemo of Id's Doom 3 engine, in that it plays back more than just the graphics. In fact, Valve includes some fairly intensive diagnostic tools that will reveal almost everything about every object in a scene. We haven't found a good use for this in the context of reviewing computer hardware, but our options are always open.

The highest visual quality settings possible were used including the "reflect all" setting which is normally not enabled by default, and anisotropic filtering was set at 8x. While the Source engine is notorious for giving great framerates for almost any hardware setup, we find the game isn't as enjoyable if it isn't running at at least 30fps. This is very attainable even at the highest resolution we tested on most cards, and thus our target framerate is a little higher in this game than others.  

Half-Life 2: Episode One

Showing about a 10% performance advantage over the 7900 GS, the X1950 Pro delivers a good level of performance under Half-Life 2: Episode One without AA enabled. Combine that with the fact that CrossFire delivers about an 80% performance improvement to SLI's 66%, and we have a clear winner in the mulit-GPU department here.

Half-Life 2: Episode One

Enabling 4xAA under HL2:EP1 closes the gap between ATI and NVIDIA at the $200 mark, but still leaves ATI in the lead. The same is true in the multi-GPU arena.


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  • Spoelie - Tuesday, October 17, 2006 - link

    It might be a good idea to use omega's drivers, they do not include catalyst control center but instead use ati tray tools OR the old control panel slightly updated. The only downside to this is that omega's are sometimes one or two releases behind the official ones.

    if you're not comfortable with omega's drivers (even though they're rock solid :)) you can always download just the driver from ati and install ati tray tools seperatly. it includes every option you need to change driver settings etc but is a sleek minimalist fast 1mb tool :)
  • JarredWalton - Tuesday, October 17, 2006 - link

    Unfortunately, CCC is required to enable CrossFire. I don't know if Omega gets around this requirement somehow, but the standard ATI control panel drivers do not have the CrossFire checkbox anywhere. Reply
  • Aikouka - Tuesday, October 17, 2006 - link

    The awkward drivers is actually the main reason I steer clear of ATi still. Also, I get a bit annoyed at the company as they only seem to care about their graphics sector and ignore all of their other products. My ATi TV Wonder Pro Remote Control Edition had so many problems over the years that it was barely worth owning. The Remote Control software just crashes randomly still.

    Although, I have yet to try the newest version of the software, because I removed the card from my system and it won't let you install the main software without it.

    So... with my experience, it leaves me a bit wary.

    But I do also have to admit how much I also don't like the newer nVidia control panel, but at least I can go back to the original one with one mouse click :).
  • DerekWilson - Tuesday, October 17, 2006 - link

    Right on. Reply
  • Zaitsev - Tuesday, October 17, 2006 - link

    Typo on page 2, third paragraph.

    "It is hard enough for us to sort things out when parts hit the selves at different speeds..."
  • RamarC - Tuesday, October 17, 2006 - link

    suggestion: replace Q4 and B&W2 with Prey and Company of Heroes Reply
  • DerekWilson - Tuesday, October 17, 2006 - link

    We are planning on doing exactly that starting in early November. Reply
  • spe1491 - Tuesday, October 17, 2006 - link

    Possible typo?


    All in all, the X1950 Pro is the performance leader at the $200 mark. We hardily recommend it...
  • Basilisk - Tuesday, October 17, 2006 - link

    Further clue: try "heartily"; "hardily" means "ruggedly", etc.. Reply
  • Spoelie - Tuesday, October 17, 2006 - link

    After browsing through some other reviews, all which seem to use the Catalyst 6.9 drivers, it occured to me that they all have significantly lower performance for the ATi camp then what anandtech is reporting.

    Most reviews place 7900gs performance well above that of the x1950pro in quake 4. Can anyone explain to me why that is, and the supposed opengl/doom3 optimisations are only being seen by AT and not by sites such as bit-tech, hardocp, the tech report, firing squad, etc. ??

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