Asus Crosshair II AM2+ Motherboard
Note: For the 3D gaming and benchmarks we will be using both single and dual 9800GX2's to both test the Crosshair's function and the scalability of Quad SLI on this motherboard. We shall also endeavour to see how much of a bottleneck the AMD Phenom processor is for the 9800GX2.
3DMark® Vantage is the new industry standard PC gaming performance benchmark from Futuremark, newly designed for Windows Vista and DirectX10. It includes two new graphics tests, two new CPU tests, several new feature tests, and support for the latest hardware. 3DMark® Vantage is based on a completely new rendering engine, developed specifically to take full advantage of DirectX10, the new graphics API from Microsoft.
3DMark® 06 is a popular synthetic gaming benchmark used by many gamers and overclockers to gauge the performance of their PC's taking advantage of todays multi CPU and GPU performance. All 3DMark runs were performed a total of 5 times with the highest and lowest results being removed and an average calculated from the remaining 3 results.
Crysis is without doubt one of the most visually stunning and hardware challenging games to date. By using CrysisBench - a tool developed independently of Crysis - we performed a total of 5 timedemo benchmarks using a GPU-Intensive pre-recorded demo. To ensure the most accurate results, the highest and lowest benchmarks scores were then removed and an average calculated from the remaining three.
Bioshock is a recent FPS shooter by 2K games. Based on the UT3 engine it has a large amount of advanced DirectX techniques including excellent water rendering and superb lighting and smoke techniques. All results were recorded using F.R.A.P.S with a total of 5 identical runs through the same area of the game. The highest and lowest results were then removed, with an average being calculated from the remaining 3 results.
Call of Duty 4 is a stunning DirectX 9.0c based game that really looks awesome and has a very full feature set. With lots of advanced lighting, smoke and water effects, the game has excellent explosions along with fast gameplay. Using the in-built Call Of Duty features, a 10 minute long gameplay demo was recorded and replayed on each of the GPU's using the /timedemo command a total of 5 times. The highest and lowest FPS results were then removed, with an average being calculated from the remaining 3 results.
It's quite clear that we are CPU limited in the Futuremark tests, scoring very low in comparison to Intel based CPU's. Still, the SLI proved worthwhile in 3DMark Vantage giving nearly a 25% increase. COD 4 showed some of the biggest gains to be had with SLI allowing an increase of almost a third in FPS, with Bioshock also showing good gains. Crysis on the other hand showed little to no gains in SLI which I found surprising. I checked, double checked and triple checked along with trying 3 different sets of drivers and 3 more Vista installs(!) but to no avail. Whether this is a CPU limitation or a platform limitation I couldn't tell you but similar problems have been discussed around the web on various platforms which leads me to suspect its most likely a driver issue that is STILL to be resolved.
I also gave the onboard VGA a quick test to see how it could cope with a quick blast of COD 4 and although I had to dramatically lower the res (1024x768) and turn off the goodies, I was pleasantly surprised to find that I could attain a respectable 40 FPS! I shouldn't really be too surprised considering its based on the 8400 chip but on-board VGA has never been so good!
So, a mixed bag of results. I still get the nagging feeling that the AMD CPU is holding back many of the scores, especially SLI so it begs the questions should you even bother with SLI on an AMD based platform, head over to the conclusion to read my thoughts on that....
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