by Rob Williams on June 25, 2008 in Graphics & Displays
Proper competition from AMD in the mid-range scheme of things might have taken a while to happen, but it does happen with the HD 4000 series. We are taking a look at the smaller of the two new models, which offers exceptional performance for the price of $200.
Regardless of the operating system or product being reviewed, there are a few conditions that are met prior to testing to assure we receive accurate, repeatable results.
- Desktop and scrap files are cleaned up, including emptying of recycle bin/trash.
- No virus scanner or firewall is installed.
- Internet is disabled.
- Computer has proper airflow and room temperature is 80°F or less.
- Hard-drives affected by testing are defragged using Diskeeper 2008 before each fresh run.
Below is our testing machine, which remains untouched throughout all testing except for the graphics card. AMD didn’t coincide the HD 4000 series’ launch with a new Catalyst release, but rather released a ‘hotfix’ driver as soon as the cards began showing up in retailers. We are using that driver for all testing, but will retest when the Catalyst 8.7 releases, to see if performance at all improves.
In previous GPU reviews, we’ve used Windows XP Professional due to its stability (when compared to Vista), but as Vista becomes increasingly popular and the choice for many, it makes sense for us to make the switch as well. We choose to use the 64-Bit version of the OS due to it being the logical choice for gamers who want to use more than 2GB of RAM in their machine.
Depending on the graphic card being reviewed, we split up models into two different categories: Low-End to Mid-Range and Mid-Range to High-End. The former will see the GPUs tested using 1280×1024 and 1680×1050 resolutions, since those are the most common resolutions for gamers looking to purchase a GPU in that price-range.
For our Mid-Range to High-End category, we test GPUs at 1680×1050, 1920×1200 and also 2560×1600 to better reflect the resolutions for those looking for a solid GPU offering.
We do not use time demos in our reviews except where necessary, and in the case of our current GPU reviews, the only game to be subject to a time demo is Enemy Territory: Quake Wars. This is due to that game disallowing greater than 60FPS without the use of a time demo. But since the game is a popular choice for multiplayer gamers, it should be included in some form or another.
In an attempt to deliver “real-world” results, all games except the above mentioned title are played through manually, with the average FPS recorded with the help of FRAPS 2.9.4. In our personal tests, we have found that manual benchmarks are the best way to deliver accurate results, since time demos rely heavily on the CPU.
In order to deliver the best results, each title we choose is explored to find the best possible level for our benchmarking. Once a level is chosen, we play through in order to find the best route, and then in future runs, we stick to that route as close as possible. We are not robots, so we cannot make sure that each run is identical, but they will never be far off from each other. As we see in our results, scaling is good, so we are confident that our methodology is a good one.
Call of Duty 4
Half Life 2: Episode Two
Call of Juarez
Unreal Tournament III
Need for Speed: Pro Street
Enemy Territory: Quake Wars
Note that the reason we do not test Need for Speed at 2560×1600 is because it’s a resolution not supported by the game. EA tends to be a little slow when it comes to supporting high-end hardware.