What is the Best Graphics Card for Folding 2011?

What is the Best Graphics Card for Folding?

A lot has happened since last year's Folding-focused graphics card round up. We've seen new generations of graphics cards from both Nvidia and AMD, and there are some great gaming cards from both manufacturers among them. However, Folding can move the goal posts when it comes to lust-worthy graphics hardware.

Of course, you might be reading this and thinking we've gone slightly mad. So if you're currently thinking we're in the habit of performing origami with the latest silicon, then read on to discover the purpose of Folding, and why you should join our World-class Folding team.

What is folding?

In September 2006, Stanford University released a Beta client for its Folding@home project that worked on ATI Radeon X1900-series GPUs. It was the first popular use of desktop graphics cards away from games and video playback.

*What is the Best Graphics Card for Folding 2011? What is the Best Graphics Card for Folding?
Click to enlarge

Folding@home is a distributed computing project, much like SETI (Search For Extraterrestrial Intelligence) and it's based at the world-renowned Stanford University in the USA. It's used by research scientists to run medical simulations in order to work out how and why proteins (one of the building blocks of life) fold. Folding is the medical term for the process proteins undergo when they interact with each other. Many diseases, such as Alzheimer’s and Mad Cow Disease (BSE), are caused in part by proteins misfolding.

As Martin Gruebele, professor of chemistry, physics, biophysics and computational biology at the University of Illinois told us: 'Everyone can make a contribution to the research, and your work units are all extremely valuable to the guys at Stanford. This is your chance to be a part of groundbreaking medical science and make your PC a component of the world’s most powerful supercomputer.'

GPU folding clients

*What is the Best Graphics Card for Folding 2011? What is the Best Graphics Card for Folding?AMD graphics card owners can fold using the GPU2 and GPU3 clients, both of which use CAL, rather than DirectX to communicate with your hardware. Meanwhile, owners of Nvidia graphics cards have a choice of two clients: GPU2 and GPU3. GPU2 uses CUDA to talk to GeForce 8, 9 and 200-series cards, but doesn't support the latest Fermi-based cards from the GTX 400 and 500-series. For these cards you'll need to use the GPU3 client, which is also backwards compatible with older Nvidia cards.

Although you can fold for a few hours at day, you'll really help the project (and therefore medical science) if you leave the folding client running 24\7. Therefore, in addition to benchmarking each card, we also measured how much power it takes to fold so that you can see how power-efficient each card is.

Apart from genuinely aiding important research, another reason for Folding@home's popularity is that it's very competitive. There are thousands of teams competing for the top spot in Folding production and many users have built dedicated PCs just for the task. Bit-tech has its own team, and we're pretty chuffed with the fact we're in the top 10. Every little helps, though, and you'll even get your name printed in Custom PC as you progress through significant milestones. To get started, you can download the latest GPU clients from Stanford's website - our team number is 35947. If you have any questions, then you can also head over to our dedicated Folding forum.