In the previous two editions of our DOOM 3 3D performance articles, we focused on the high-end offerings from ATI and NVIDIA, now it’s time to take a look at both companies mainstream cards.
While the performance with these cards isn’t as high as the others, testing them is a little easier, as we feel that for most of these cards DOOM 3’s medium quality mode provides the most ideal combination of visual quality to performance -- dropping down to DOOM 3’s low quality mode yields a negligible performance increase for the most part.
On the ATI side we’ve rounded up the RADEON 9500 and 9500 PRO, as well as the 9600, 9600 PRO, and 9600 XT. While ATI’s high-end cards were stealing all the headlines, these cards were largely responsible for bringing DX9 gaming to the masses. We’ve also included ATI’s RADEON 8500 128MB, which is a proven DX8 card with a large following of its own.
In the past few months, ATI has also lowered the price on RADEON 9800 PRO cards. Today these boards can easily be found for attractive prices, even Fry’s/Outpost.com sells these cards for $199.99. Therefore we also decided to include a RADEON 9800 PRO in the mix.
From NVIDIA we’ve gathered the GeForce FX 5600/5600 Ultra, as well as the 5700/5700 Ultra. Representing the DX8 generation are NVIDIA’s wildly popular GeForce4 Ti 4200 and GeForce4 Ti 4600. These cards were widely considered to be the best of their generation and are still used by many gamers today. Meanwhile, taking on the RADEON 9800 PRO at the upper end of the mainstream segment is the GeForce FX 5900 XT.
Before we get started, one thing to keep in mind looking at the hardware we’ve included in this article is ATI and NVIDIA’s upcoming mainstream offerings. NVIDIA announced GeForce 6600 and GeForce 6600 GT at Quakecon last week, while ATI is rumored to be hard at work on a shader model 2.0b mainstream part that will compete directly with NVIDIA. Both of these upcoming offerings should offer significantly more performance than today’s mainstream cards, and should begin shipping in a matter of weeks.
We should also note that we’re continuing to test the ATI cards with the beta version of CATALYST 4.9. CATALYST 4.8 is based on an older OpenGL driver than beta 4.9, in addition, we also ran some quick tests with an X800 XT Platinum Edition and found that DOOM 3 performance with CATALYST 4.8 falls right in between CATALYST 4.7 and the beta 4.9 release. Basically, if you’re an ATI user that craves the highest possible frame rates, you should probably stick with 4.9 beta.