Test Setup and Components
It has been nearly a year since my last video card review, so things have obviously changed. I have upgraded the AMD setup to the Intel i7 3770K/Z77. This should help to push the video cards a bit more, but at resolutions of 1200P and 1600P it should not make a *huge* difference. Still, it is good to push things.
During the past year we have seen a surge of 1080P monitors on the market for very low prices. We have also seen most video cards become so competent that the 1680×1050 resolution is now no issue for the vast majority of add-in cards to handle. Only integrated graphics and APUs have trouble at that resolution anymore. As such, I am dispensing that particular resolution and moving on to only 1920×1200 and 2560×1600. It is pretty astounding to think that cards in this midrange market (approaching budget!) can handle 2560×1600 with few problems.
I feel it is important to see how past video cards compare to the very latest products. I am using the venerable (and groundbreaking at the time) HD 5870 to see how this previous top-of-the-line card compares to products in the $150 range. The 5870 is clocked at 850 MHz core and features 1 GB of GDDR-5 running at 1.2 GHz (4.8 GHz effective) for a max memory bandwidth of 153.6 GB/sec.
I am still using Windows 7, though once Windows 8.1 hits I will likely be moving to that particular OS. The OS is updated to the latest service pack along with whatever hotfixes are available. I have used the latest drivers available at the time of testing. I actually mount these cards in a case to see how they perform with good airflow rather than have them sit on a test bench. I then sit for testing about 3 feet away from the card and give my impressions on sound levels. All graphics card control panels are set at default. This means that texture quality is “optimized” on all cards, and AMD’s tessellation optimization is enabled (lowers potential tessellation factor).
Intel i7 3770K @ stock speeds
Gigabyte G1.Sniper.3 Motherboard
2 x 4GB GSkill DDR-3 1866
Samsung Gen 1 128 GB SSD OS Drive
WD Caviar Black 1 TB Data Drive
Lite-On BD Drive
Corsair AXP1200 Power Supply
Enermax Fulmo GT Full ATX Case
Windows 7 Ultimate 64 Bit
Catalyst 13.6 Beta 2 Drivers
NVIDIA 320.18 Drivers