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ATI HD 4870 1GB vs. NVIDIA GTX 260/216 896MB
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by Rob Williams on November 24, 2008 in AMD-Based GPU, NVIDIA-Based GPU

In the $250 – $300 price-range, there exists two graphics cards that want to see your dollar, but which one deserves it the most? To find out, we’re taking a thorough look at each. In addition to general performance comparison, we’re also taking a look to see which excels where power consumption and temperatures are concerned, in addition to overall pricing.

Dead Space, Fallout 3

Not to be confused with the general mass that floats around inside my head, Dead Space is a cross between Quake IV and Resident Evil, offering survival horror action that’s surprisingly great. In fact, almost all of the game’s initial reviews have praised the title for its story (rare to see), gameplay and overall experience. It might be a Resident Evil in space, but EA showed that they could still impress even in a relatively over-saturated genre.

The game is innovative in more than one way, with the main being the awkward view of the player. Rather than seeing the camera situated directly behind the player, it’s instead pushed slightly to the left, for more of an over-the-shoulder view. It’s odd at first, but after a while of playing, it grows on you. Another notable innovation is the absolute lack of a HUD, except when needed. Seems minor, but the experience looks far better without a HUD filling up a quarter of the screen.

The level we use for testing is “New Arrivals”, which is Chapter 1 of the game. This is based off an NVIDIA-based saved game file that begins us 50 minutes in the game, and gives us a perfect opportunity to do a quick run through a certain area of the ship. No battles take place, but we do shoot a gas canister along the way, because after all, explosions are fun.

Overall, the gains on the GTX 260/216 are stark… there’s absolutely no comparison. Well, there’s especially absolutely no comparison with our 2560×1600 test, as the resolution was not supported on our NVIDIA card for some reason. By “not supported”, I mean it wasn’t even a selectable option, and couldn’t be forced (through an edit of the game’s configuration file). Prior GeForce driver versions didn’t help either, but after searching the web, I seem to be the only person with this issue, as I found others using the same resolution on their own GeForce cards.

I’m unsure who to blame here, but if I had to pick someone, it would be Gateway. Although this is the first time I’ve ever seen this happen with any game, previous issues with our XHD3000 lead me to believe that anything is possible. After all, others can play the game at this resolution on GeForce cards, and every-single other game out there has worked at that resolution as well. Ultimately, I believe it to be an issue with the EDID, but that’s something even a firmware update couldn’t fix, from what I’m aware.

That all aside, given that we saw such great gains at our other two resolutions, I have no reason to believe that 2560×1600 wouldn’t exhibit the same.

Fallout 3

If there is one game that’s been hyped up this year for the PC, it would have to be Fallout 3. Building on the foundation that has captivated countless fans, the third game in the series instantly became a well-respected action role-playing game… a genre we rarely ever see great games from. Bethesda did a masterful job here.

It’s not often that a PC game gets released that delivers over 50 hours of gameplay, but this is one of them. In fact, if you beat the game in 30 hours, you probably didn’t play it right. I’ve even seen accounts people who’ve played it for 80 hours. Now that’s value! The game takes place in 2277, with you as a survivor of a nuclear ‘fallout’. Your father mysteriously disappears, and it’s up to you to find him. Along the way, you meet many friends, kick a lot of ass, and take in a world that’s very dirty, but still fun to explore at the same time.

The area in the game we use for testing is Dupont Circle, and the test consists of a general walk through the area, with light combat along the way, in addition to a few good explosions… something there is a lot of in this game. You can see the heart of the area in the screenshot above. To make sure our character doesn’t die during the play through (there are a lot of landmines), we use God mode.

Fallout 3 will turn out to be the tightest of all the games included here, with 5 FPS being our largest gain. Nothing major, but it’s a gain nonetheless, and one NVIDIA is no doubt proud to gloat about. Whether or not ATI’s upcoming 8.12 driver release will work to fix this problem, we don’t know.