To obtain accurate comparisons between as many graphics cards as possible, it's essential that the Folding client is churning away on the same project between graphics cards. This can be quite tricky to achieve, as each project has a specific deadline and we're also unable to directly compare AMD and Nvidia GPUs, as well as graphics cards that can only use the GPU2 client such as the GeForce GTX 260 (rev2).
To get round the problem, we benchmarked a hoard of graphics cards in quick fashion to ensure as many as possible were benchmarked using identical projects. The vast majority of the Nvidia graphics card results are directly comparable with each other, as are those for AMD hardware.
There's a huge selection of graphics cards from which to choose, and many people opt to buy older examples second hand. Our tests show whether it's worth investing in new technology, or whether older hardware still offers good value in terms of Folding prowess, cost and power efficiency.
We used a monitoring program called HFM to monitor the progress of each graphics card and record its ppd (points per day). For the AMD cards we started with the HD 4870 1GB, which we tested using the GPU2 client. For the rest of the AMD cards, which included various models from the 5000 and 6000 series, we used the GPU3 client. On dual-GPU cards we also recorded a combined ppd from using two clients - one for each GPU.
For the Nvidia cards, we began with the GTX 260 (rev 2), again using the GPU2 client, and then tested a host of samples from the GeForce 400 and 500 series with the GPU3 client.
All the cards were tested in one of our standard graphics card test rigs, which is equipped with the following hardware:
Intel Core i7 Test System
Intel Core i7-965 processor (3.2GHz: 133MHz x 24)
Asus Sabertooth X58 motherboard (Intel X58 Express with three PCI-E 2.0 x16 slots)
3x 2GB Corsair TR3X6G1333C9 memory modules (operating in triple-channel mode at 1,600MHz 9-9-9-24-1T)
Corsair X128 120GB SSD running v1 firmware
Corsair HX1000W PSU
Windows 7 Home Premium x64
Antec Twelve Hundred Chassis
ATI graphics cards using Catalyst 11.4 Beta
AMD ATI Radeon HD 6990 4GB
AMD graphics cards using Catalyst 11.2 WHQL
AMD ATI Radeon HD 6970 2GB
AMD ATI Radeon HD 6950 2GB
AMD ATI Radeon HD 6950 1GB
AMD ATI Radeon HD 6870 1GB
AMD ATI Radeon HD 6850 1GB
AMD ATI Radeon HD 5970 2GB
AMD ATI Radeon HD 5870 1GB
AMD ATI Radeon HD 5850 1GB
AMD ATI Radeon HD 5830 1GB
AMD ATI Radeon HD 5770 1GB
AMD ATI Radeon HD 4970 1GB
Nvidia graphics cards using GeForce Driver Release 266.58
Nvidia GeForce GTX 480 1.5GB
Nvidia GeForce GTX 470 1.3GB
Nvidia GeForce GTX 460 1GB
Nvidia GeForce GTX 460 768MB
Nvidia GeForce GTX 260 (rev 2) 896MB
Nvidia GeForce GTS 450 1GB
Nvidia GeForce GTX 560 Ti 1GB
Nvidia GeForce GTX 570 1.3GB
Nvidia GeForce GTX 580 1.5GB
Nvidia graphics cards using ForceWare 267.59
Nvidia GeForce GTX 550 Ti 1GB
Nvidia graphics cards using GeForce Driver Release 267.71 beta