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Synthetic tests can be useful in how they evaluate features that will be common in tomorrow's games, but performance in real games is far more important. We test with five current games that are all capable of pushing a modern graphics card to the limit.
Codemasters' Formula 1 racer F1 2010 is a more strenuous DirectX 11 driving game than Dirt 2, so we're moving forward with using it as a standard benchmark. We enable DirectX 11 and turn all the detail levels up to Ultra quality mode. AMD's cards looked great here, with the Radeon HD 6970 easily outpacing the GTX 570, and even matching the GTX 580 at extremely high resolutions.
Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X. is a graphically rich arcade flight game that utilizes DirectX 10.1 to enable features such as Screen Space Ambient Occlusion (SSAO), God Rays, and Soft Particles. Again, we turn all the detail levels up to the max here. Nvidia's cards easily took the prize in this game, though we should mention that all four of the cards managed over 60 frames per second even at extremely high resolution with antialiasing enabled.
Although World in Conflict is aging a bit, it's still a beautiful real-time strategy game with a DirectX 10-based graphics engine that can put a strain on all but the most powerful graphics cards when you maximize detail levels, as we do. The Radeon HD 6970 was roughly equal to the GeForce GTX 570 at the extreme resolution of 2560 by 1600, but Nvidia's new card was a bit faster at 1920 by 1200.
The S.T.A.L.K.E.R. series has always been on the bleeding edge of graphics technology. We use the demo benchmark for the Call of Pripyat sequel, with DirectX 11 lighting enabled and all detail settings maximized. The Radeon HD 6970 outpaced the GeForce GTX 570 by a small amount here--and at very high resolutions or with antialiasing enabled, the 6950 was just a step behind. Nothing could catch Nvidia's $500 GeForce GTX 580, but AMD's new cards came impressively close considering their lower price.
Last but not least, we have the excellent benchmark built into Just Cause 2. We maximize graphics settings and run the "Concrete Jungle" test, which is the most strenuous of benchmarks. We're beginning to sound like a broken record, but the pattern is becoming clear. In this game Nvidia's cards were definitely faster at 1920 by 1200, but AMD narrowed the gap considerably when we moved up to 2560 by 1600.
Next: Value and efficiency
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