Testing Methodology and System Setup

Palit GeForce GTS 250 1GB Graphics Card Review - More NVIDIA G92b - Graphics Cards  1
Palit GeForce GTS 250 1GB

Palit GeForce GTS 250 1GB Graphics Card Review - More NVIDIA G92b - Graphics Cards  2
NV GeForce 9800 GTX+ 512MB

Palit GeForce GTS 250 1GB Graphics Card Review - More NVIDIA G92b - Graphics Cards  3
AMD Radeon HD 4870 512MB

Palit GeForce GTS 250 1GB Graphics Card Review - More NVIDIA G92b - Graphics Cards  4
AMD Radeon HD 4850 512MB

You can see in our GPUZ screenshots that the technical differences between the GeForce GTS 250 and 9800 GTX+ are indeed as minimal as we expected; in reality you are only getting an additional 512MB of frame buffer over the previous model.  The Radeon HD 4870 and HD 4850, to which we will be comparing the NVIDIA offerings, differ only in their clock speeds and pricing. 

Testing Methodology

Graphics card testing has become the most hotly debated issue in the hardware enthusiast community recently.  Because of that, testing graphics cards has become a much more complicated process than it once was.  Before you might have been able to rely on the output of a few synthetic, automatic benchmarks to make your video card purchase, that is just no longer the case.  Video cards now cost up to $500 and we want to make sure that we are giving the reader as much information as we can to aid you in your purchasing decision.  We know we can’t run every game or find every bug and error, but we try to do what we can to aid you, our reader, and the community as a whole.

With that in mind, all the benchmarks that you will see in this review are from games that we bought off the shelves just like you.  Of these games, there are two different styles of benchmarks that need to be described.

The first is the “timedemo-style” of benchmark.  Many of you may be familiar with this style from games like Quake III; a “demo” is recorded in the game and a set number of frames are saved in a file for playback.  When playing back the demo, the game engine then renders the frames as quickly as possible, which is why you will often see the “timedemo-style” of benchmarks playing back the game much more quickly than you would ever play the game.  In our benchmarks, the FarCry tests were done in this matter: we recorded four custom demos and then played them back on each card at each different resolution and quality setting.  Why does this matter?  Because in these tests where timedemos are used, the line graphs that show the frame rate at each second, each card may not end at the same time precisely because one card is able to play it back faster than the other — less time passes and thus the FRAPs application gets slightly fewer frame rates to plot.  However, the peaks and valleys and overall performance of each card is still maintained and we can make a judged comparison of the frame rates and performance.

The second type of benchmark you’ll see in this article are manual run throughs of a portion of a game.  This is where we sit at the game with a mouse in one hand, a keyboard under the other, and play the game to get a benchmark score.  This benchmark method makes the graphs and data easy to read, but adds another level of difficulty to the reviewer — making the manual run throughs repeatable and accurate.  I think we’ve accomplished this by choosing a section of each game that provides us with a clear cut path. We take three readings of each card and setting, average the scores, and present those to you.  While this means the benchmarks are not exact to the most minute detail, they are damn close and practicing with this method for many days has made it clear to me that while this method is time consuming, it is definitely a viable option for games without timedemo support.

The second graph is a bar graph that tells you the average framerate, the maximum framerate, and the minimum framerate.  The minimum and average are important numbers here as we want the minimum to be high enough to not affect our gaming experience.  While it will be the decision of each individual gamer what is the lowest they will allow, comparing the Min FPS to the line graph and seeing how often this minimum occurs, should give you a good idea of what your gaming experience will be like with this game, and that video card on that resolution.

Our tests are completely based around the second type of benchmark method mentioned above — the manual run through.

System Setup and Comparisons

For comparison to the GeForce GTS 250 1GB we will obviously include the original GeForce 9800 GTX+ card as well as a pair of GPUs from the AMD camp.  After heading over to our pricing engine I decided that the best suitors for this $129-149 battle were the 512MB versions of the Radeon HD 4850 and HD 4870. 

(Note: with the expected price drops of the HD 4850 and HD 4870 from AMD today these comparisons end up spot on: the GTS 250 1GB now needs to compete directly with the Radeon HD 4870 512MB.)

Test System Setup

CPU

Intel Core 2 Extreme QX9650

Motherboards

EVGA nForce 790i Ultra SLI Motherboard – NVIDIA GPUs

Memory 

OCZ Technology 2 x 2GB DDR-1333

Hard Drive

Western Digital Raptor 150 GB – Review

Sound Card

Sound Blaster Audigy 2 Value

Video Card

Palit GeForce GTS 250 1GB
NVIDIA GeForce 9800 GTX+ 512MB
AMD Radeon HD 4870 512MB
AMD Radeon HD 4850 512MB

Video Drivers

NVIDIA Forceware 182.08
AMD Catalyst 9.2
Power Supply PC Power and Cooling 1000 watt

DirectX Version

DX10 / DX9c

Operating System

Windows Vista Ultimate 64-bit

  • Call of Duty: World at War
  • Crysis
  • Far Cry 2
  • Left 4 Dead
  • World in Conflict 
  • 3DMark Vantage 

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