The contendersFor our testing we will be looking at 7 different graphics cards spanning both AMD’s and NVIDIA’s product lineup starting at the $129 price point and going up to $509. Cards were chosen due to matches in their competitive pricing as of March 20th and also just to get a wide array of GPU data points.
Our first comparison (budget label) is between the NVIDIA GeForce GTS 250 1GB graphics card and the AMD Radeon HD 4870 512MB, both priced at or around $135 or so.
GeForce GTS 250 1GB
Radeon HD 4870 512MB
GeForce GTX 260+ 896MB
Radeon HD 4870 1GB
Going a little more on the expensive side of things, the next comparison (high-end label) will be the GeForce GTX 285 1GB card against the Radeon HD 4870 X2 2GB card. Now, these GPUs are not priced as closely as the others: the GTX 285 sells for about $320 or so while the 4870 X2 sells for no less than $380. Keep that price difference in mind as we look over the performance results.
GeForce GTX 285 1GB
Radeon HD 4870 X2 2GB
Finally, our last comparison (MAX label) looks at the top end cards from both NVIDIA and AMD. That means that the Radeon HD 4870 X2 2GB will get a second round of results, this time against the much pricier GeForce GTX 295 1796MB graphics cards that sells for around $509 today.
GeForce GTX 295 1792MB
Radeon HD 4870 X2 2GB…again
Our graphics testing method remained basically unchanged from previous reviews, only this time we were running on both Windows Vista x64 SP1 and Windows 7 x64. There were NO differences in the game functionality or benchmark functionality between Vista and Win 7, indicating that the transition from Vista to Win 7 should be VERY smooth when you do decide to take the plunge.
The selection of games included Call of Duty: World at War, Crysis, Far Cry 2, Left 4 Dead and World in Conflict with a touch of 3DMark Vantage thrown in for good fun. Three resolutions were tested for each game with each graphics card and each test was run three times to average our scores and eliminate any potential outliers. Our total test runs: 7 cards x 5 games x 3 resolutions x 3 iterations x 2 operating systems = 630 results. Carpal tunnel here we come.
You’ll no doubt notice that this is a LONG review: 28 pages as I type this. Each comparison noted above (budget, mid-range, high-end and MAX) has its own result page for each title so you’ll see a budget comparison listing for CoD: WaW, Crysis, etc. In those sections we’ll compare how each graphics card’s individual performance compares in Vista to Windows 7 today and how each vendor’s card compares to the other of similar pricing in both Vista and Windows 7 today.