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Core i7 Christmas '08 Graphics Performance

Christmas 2008 Graphics Performance on Core i7

So, Christmas is a little over a week away and you want to upgrade your PC to play some of the great games that came out this year but you don't know where to start. Fear not, as bit-tech has been preparing a rather large Christmas graphics treat for you in the last few weeks.

It doesn't seem all that long ago since we last published a performance round up on the latest graphics cards from ATI and Nvidia. However, even before that article was under way, we were feverishly working to move our test systems over to Intel's Core i7 and X58 platform so that we could finally compare both CrossFire and SLI on one platform.

No more benchmark-related headaches were what we were hoping for, but the task has taken a lot longer than we anticipated thanks to lots of headaches and hiccups along the way. We took the obligatory pain killers and fed some to the BIOS engineers we've been working with for the past few months to cure the teething problems they've been having with X58.

Now they have passed, we're finally ready to talk in detail about how the current market lines up as we've had pressure from both camps to look at how the performance landscape changes with a Core i7 processor. Recent price changes have brought the Radeon HD 4870 1GB and GeForce GTX 260+ (with 216 shaders) on almost even footing, so it'll be interesting to see whether that blurs the painting we'd mocked up just last month or if it enables us to create a completely new one with lots of contrasting colours.

Core i7 Christmas '08 Graphics Performance
Price drops and new driver releases from both camps have distorted the picture we painted last month...

We're not the only ones who have been working all hours – day and night – though, as both ATI and Nvidia have been working hard on their drivers as well. The newest Catalyst 8.12 and Forceware 180.84 drivers promise some pretty bold performance improvements so we're going to have a look today to see whether these driver releases have changed the picture since our Winter 2008 Graphics Performance Update, which we published at the start of November.

While we were rebuilding our test systems from the ground up, we decided it was also time to start looking around at some of the games that have been released this year. A few of the titles we were using for testing were getting a little long in the tooth – either from a performance perspective, or just because they were getting a bit old.

Rather than focus on just single card performance this time around, we've decided to also look at both CrossFire and SLI performance in a few different configurations, as they could impact your purchasing decision later down the line. We've included tests with the Radeon HD 4870 X2, Radeon HD 4870 1GB (with CrossFire), Radeon HD 4870 512MB, GeForce GTX 280 and GeForce GTX 260+ (both with SLI).

This unfortunately means that we haven't looked at the battle between the Radeon HD 4850 and GeForce 9800 GTX+ in this particular article – we'll be doing that later down the line with multi-GPU numbers thrown in for good measure as well.

We're not going to spend a lot of time going over the differences between each of the GPUs we've tested in this article and we're going to focus instead on seeing how these cards stack up across eight different titles at three different resolutions. If you're looking for architectural details, we recommending reading the following articles:So, without further ado, let's get on and look at how we built our systems...