NVIDIA Surround Hardware and Testing Configuration
To help us quickly and efficiently test the new NVIDIA 3D Vision Surround setup, NVIDIA set us up with a killer rig from the guys at MAINGEAR that included an Intel Core i7-960 processor and a pair of EVGA GTX 480 graphics cards.  This obviously a top-tier hardware configuration and should result in about the best possible results for both 2D and 3D gaming. 

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The MAINGEAR system was attractive but we were much more interested in the insides that the outsides.  If you were curious about getting a system using two GTX 480 to be quiet, it seems that MAINGEAR sees the same answer we did in our recent GTX 480/470 SLI Performance review – get that air flow going!

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The MAINGEAR chassis takes the same cooling features of the Silverstone Raven cases and turns the hardware inside 90 degrees so the fan exhausts are all going up rather than back as this jives with the physical tendency for heat to rise.  In our testing with this system it was incredibly quiet even while running a full 3D Vision gaming session.

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We also picked up a three-monitor stand from Ergotech to help with monitor stabilization and in general to not take up every bit space on our desk.  This Ergotech is actually for sale on NVIDIA’s own site or on Amazon for just over $300.

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Here you can see our final configuration used for 2D testing on both AMD and NVIDIA systems as well as the 3D testing with NVIDIA’s 3D Vision enabled.  To say that sometimes reviewing graphics cards and PC hardware has its perks would be an understatement.  (Also note that your desk had better look way cleaner than this one!)

You can see a time lapse video of us putting together our 3D Vision Surround kit with stand right here if you are interested in seeing how easy it was.

I do also want to let you all know that we didn’t just trust NVIDIA on this one and use their system for our benchmarks, etc.  We also installed our own GTX 480 cards on our standard test bed and took the driver from the MAINGEAR system and installed it (version 258.61) without any issues or complications.  Testing was actually done on BOTH setups but our final benchmarks came from our internal configuration.
  • Testing Configuration
  • ASUS P6T6 WS Revolution X58 + nForce 200
  • Intel Core i7-965 @ 3.33 GHz
  • 3 x 2GB Corsair DDR3-1333 MHz
  • Intel X25-M G2 160GB SSD
  • PC Power and Cooling 1200w Turbo Cool PSU
  • NVIDIA Driver version: 258.61
  • ATI Driver version: 10.6 + CrossFire X update
  • Monitors: 3 x Acer 235HZ 120 Hz 3D-ready 1920×1080
Now, onto the specific cards in question for our performance testing.  Now that we have configurations from both ATI and NVIDIA that are capable of three-monitor gaming we are ready to see head-to-head comparisons.  Obviously this will only apple to 2D gaming for now.

Today we are going to be limiting our NVIDIA results to a pair of GTX 480 graphics cards in SLI mode due solely to the request of NVIDIA.  Check back at PC Perspective tomorrow to see GTX 470 numbers added into the mix.  For AMD’s options we are going to be testing several different options of multi-monitor goodness starting with a single Radeon HD 5870.  Yes, the HD 5870 is outmatched in terms of GPU performance compared to two GTX 480s but those are the minimum configurations for high performance three display gaming and we’ll take pricing into account in our final decisions at the end. 

We are also including a CrossFire X configuration of 2GB Radeon HD 5870 graphics cards running the same 5760×1080 resolution and I threw in a single card Radeon HD 5970 2GB card as well just to make sure we show how close the best single card from AMD can get to the pair of GTX 480s from NVIDIA. 

The next two pages look at four games in 2D performance (Batman: AA, DiRT 2, Left 4 Dead 2 and Metro 2033) and then we will address the 3D question with both a look at performance drops moving from identical resolutions in 2D to 3D and then I will discuss the 3D experience after finding the best playable settings for each title. 

Let’s get to it!

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