After posting our Radeon X1800 CrossFire story last month, many of you asked for more in-depth analysis of ATI’s Super AA implementation versus NVIDIA’s SLI Anti-aliasing. You wanted to see more benchmarks and screenshots of the two setups running in action. Well today we’ve delivered, as we re-ran our benchmarks with both the super-hard-to-find GeForce 7800 GTX 512MB and the GeForce 7800 GTX 256MB, as well as the Radeon X1800 XT 512MB. ATI and NVIDIA’s latest driver sets are used as well. Hopefully all this will shed a little more light on the subject.
Some cynics may wonder why the need for such insanely high AA modes. After all, when combined with a high screen resolution such as 1600x1200/2048x1536 for 20”+ LCD/CRT users, and 1680x1050 or 1920x1200 for widescreen LCDs, 4xAA looks pretty good already. But “pretty good” isn’t enough for some gamers. In addition, some games need all the help they can get to combat jaggies. Racing/sports titles for instance, as well as flight sims and some shooters where most of the combat takes place in brighter environments where jaggies are more apparent. Examples of this would include Counter-Strike: Source and Battlefield 2.
These are all situations where 4xAA may not be quite enough for some gamers.
But another reason why AA modes like SLI anti-aliasing and Super AA are becoming more feasible is because today’s latest graphics cards are well ahead of all but the most-intensive games. High-end cards like the GeForce 7800 GTX 512MB and Radeon X1800 XT are frequently CPU-limited in single-card configurations in games such as Half-Life 2. Once you combine two cards in your system, the problem becomes even worse, even with the latest CPUs on the market today – as you crank up the screen resolution, the frame rate stays the same because the CPU can’t keep the graphics card fed with data quickly enough (or in some cases due to poor programming by the game developer, but that’s an entirely different story), in some cases at resolutions as high as 1280x1024!
But if you could crank up the AA to say, 8x or 10xAA (or more) the burden shifts more on the graphics card, keeping your system’s components in balance and giving you better visuals in the process. That’s the theory at least. Up until the latest generation of GeForce 7 and Radeon X1800 graphics cards were released last year, GPUs weren’t quite up to the challenge of tackling these AA modes while delivering fluid frame rates, but as we showed you in our X1800 CrossFire story, not only is the X1800 CrossFire setup capable of confronting this test, it actually handles these AA modes with aplomb. Let’s start by taking a look at some screenshots…