|MSI N460GTX HAWK GeForce GTX 460|
|Reviews - Featured Reviews: Video Cards|
|Written by Bruce Normann|
|Friday, 24 September 2010|
Page 6 of 19
Video Card Testing Methodology
With the widespread adoption of Windows7 in the marketplace, and given the prolonged and extensive pre-release testing that occurred on a global scale, there are compelling reasons to switch all testing to this highly anticipated, operating system. Overall performance levels of Windows 7 are favorable compared to Windows XP, and there is solid support for the 64-bit version, something enthusiasts have anxiously awaited for years. After several months of product testing with Win7-64, I can vouch for its stability and performance; I can't think of any reasons why I would want to switch back to XP.
Our site polls and statistics indicate that the over 90% of our visitors use their PC for playing video games, and practically every one of you are using a screen resolutions mentioned below. Since all of the benchmarks we use for testing represent different game engine technology and graphic rendering processes, this battery of tests will provide a diverse range of results for you to gauge performance on your own computer system. All of the benchmark applications are capable of utilizing DirectX 10 or DirectX 11, and that is how they were tested. Some of these benchmarks have been used widely for DirectX 9 testing in the XP environment, and it is critically important to differentiate between results obtained with different versions. Each game behaves differently in DX9 and DX10 formats. Crysis is an extreme example, with frame rates in DirectX 10 only about half what was available in DirectX 9.
At the start of all tests, the previous display adapter driver is uninstalled and trace components are removed using Driver Cleaner Pro. We then restart the computer system to establish our display settings and define the monitor. Once the hardware is prepared, we begin our testing. According to the Steam Hardware Survey published at the time of Windows 7 launch, the most popular gaming resolution is 1280x1024 (17-19" standard LCD monitors) closely followed by 1024x768 (15-17" standard LCD). However, because these resolutions are considered 'low' by most standards, our benchmark performance tests concentrate on the up-and-coming higher-demand resolutions: 1680x1050 (22-24" widescreen LCD) and 1920x1200 (24-28" widescreen LCD monitors).
Each benchmark test program begins after a system restart, and the very first result for every test will be ignored since it often only caches the test. This process proved extremely important in several benchmarks, as the first run served to cache maps allowing subsequent tests to perform much better than the first. Each test is completed five times, the high and low results are discarded, and the average of the three remaining results is displayed in our article.
A combination of synthetic and video game benchmark tests have been used in this article to illustrate relative performance among graphics solutions. Our benchmark frame rate results are not intended to represent real-world graphics performance, as this experience would change based on supporting hardware and the perception of individuals playing the video game.
Intel P55 Express Test System
DirectX 10 Benchmark Applications
DirectX 11 Benchmark Applications
I tested this video card in two configurations: first with its moderate 105 MHz factory overclock (780 MHz core), and then with the biggest overclock I could manage, with all the stops pulled out (950 MHz core). I had to raise the core voltage to its maximum setting order to achieve stability at this speed, but I also suspect that this chip is capable of more. My goal was to show what performance levels could be reached without extreme measures. Anyone who buys this card should be able to achieve this result, not just the mad scientists with dry ice and liquid nitrogen that you read about on overclocking forums. The fact that MSI supplies the software to make it not just possible but easy, is icing on the cake. While I was at it, I bumped up the memory clock to 50 MHz above their rated speed, to 1050 MHz (4.2 Gbps data rate). While I didn't crack the magic 1.0 GHz barrier on the GPU, the results were still very impressive in terms of performance gain.
A note on driver configurations: I tested this card with the Forceware v258.96 drivers because I wanted to show directly comparable results with the last few GTX 460 cards I tested. This was a conscious decision on my part, to offer you the best set of data to make apples-apples comparisons with the existing body of test data available, here and elsewhere. The latest drivers from NVIDIA are a radical step forward for them, and they probably deserve their own article to highlight the improvements in usability. The ATI drivers seem to have reached a plateau recently, in terms of improved gaming performance, so I didn't re-run those test results.
Video Card Test Products