Real-world GamingSynthetic benchmarks do an admirable job of allowing system to system or component to component comparisons, however they often lack a direct "real world" relevancy. Just because a video card does well in 3DMark11 for example, does not necessarily mean it will have a guaranteed level of performance in the next blockbuster gaming title. In order to balance both sides of the coin we have developed a few of our own real world benchmarks utilizing some well known gaming titles. The process here is rather simple. We load up said game while also running FRAPS. The game is played for 30 minutes during which time we have FRAPS calculate the average frame rate. This is admittedly not as structured as a synthetic benchmark, but it is more akin to real world usage where gaming will see the GPU usage peak and valley rather randomly based on game play.Call of Duty: Black OpsOne of the most highly anticipated, and consequently most highly purchased games of all times, CoD Black Ops is a game most are familiar with. We have chosen to include this game in our suite largely due to its sheer penetration in the gaming market, most gamers either own the game or have played the game, and those that haven’t have most likely heard about it. While this test will fall under the real world gaming benchmark description, the "shooter on rails" moniker that the CoD series have earned is well deserved in this case as there
is generally only one way through a level. This real world benchmark will prove to be the closest to fixed-variable aspect of a synthetic benchmark.
Black Ops follows the exploits of its main character Mason throughout 1960’s including settings in Cuba, Vietnam, Soviet Russia and more. True to its namesake, the mix of missions are "black bag" or clandestine operations. For benchmarking purposes we play through the first full level of the game.Gameplay throughout the test was smooth and stutter-free. With all of the graphical options maxed out the HD5830 Xtreme was able to provide a strong average frame rate of 55FPS, just slightly higher than the N460GTX. As the real world gameplay benchmarks are by nature not 100% identical from run to run the performance differences between the N460GTX and the HD5830 Xtreme could be chalked up in-game variables. Regardless, the HD5830’s ability to deliver performance so closely rivaling the more expensive card is to be commended.Just Cause 2Here we are again with Just Cause 2. While we have already utilized the in-game benchmark we thought it would be interesting to bench some real world gaming with the title and see how closely the game’s in-game benchmark predicts real world performance. The Just Cause 2 real world gameplay results show us a few things. First the N460GTX took the lead spot over the R6850 compared to the results from the synthetic benchmark of the game. Secondly, while the HD5830 Xtreme did bring up the rear on pure performance numbers the average frame rate was over 36FPS, resulting in a stutter-free gaming session. All three cards illustrated real world performance numbers much closer to the Sun test from the synthetic run illustrating that test to be more indicative of real world performance. Again, synthetic benchmarks are not able to paint the whole picture and it is for this reason that we conduct the real world gaming tests.Metro 2033We chose Metro 2033 for its system crushing-abilities. It's one thing to run a canned benchmark and get a sub-30fps score, it's quite different however to actually have to play a game at those frame rates. Much the same as Just Cause 2, it will be interesting to see how well built-in benchmark predicts actual game play performance.Metro 2033 is able to retain the system-crushing status managing to prevent any one of the three cards from cresting the 30fps mark. The patterning here was the same with the R6850 in first place, N460GTX claiming second and the HD5830 bringing up the rear. The HD5830 did show some improvements over its synthetic score (as did the other two cards) however the tests reinforce the fact that Metro 2033 at maximum graphics settings is still outside the reach of most cards in this segment. Those wanting to have silky smooth frame rates will need to sacrifice some visual quality to do so. Temperature and NoiseA common consideration when looking at video cards is noise and heat output, after all if you are like most of us, you are going to have to live with this video card operating a few feet from you on a daily basis. As we are more concerned with the real-world attributes of a cards temperature and acoustic characteristics - that is what we test for. Temperature is easy enough to discern and in order to create a level playing field we run each card through our own in house temperature test designed to simulate normal gameplay usage. If we wanted to max out the temperature on the cards we could easily fire up Furmark and set it to the Xtreme Burning Mode selection and watch the card fry, but seeing as even the most extreme normal usage scenario would not heat a card to that level we do not feel it is a fair representation of a video cards thermal attributes.
In the temperature test we measured the idle temperature of each graphics card by allowing the system to sit powered-on but inactive with the desktop visible and no screen saver running. The temperature measurement is taken after the system has been sitting idle for 15 minutes. After this the idle temperature reading is taken the system is launched into the under-load temperature test.The HD5830 Xtreme was able to coolly idle at 21°C, The heatsink/fan combination on the card definitely got a workout during the thermal load testing yet it was able to keep the card under control maxing out at a respectable 61°C.When it comes to the noise level or sound output of a graphics card we feel it is important to remain practical. Granted we could use a dB meter and a quiet room to measure the exact noise level of the card but that setting would be atypical of the average usage scenario for a desktop card. Secondly the dB scale is not an easy indicator to relate to as each increase is in order of magnitude and not easily comparable. How much more annoying is a
graphics card with a sound level of 82dB versus one with 80dB? It's hard to tell. Therefore we feel it makes more sense to break down the sounds levels into four categories akin to real world experience, and these "measurements" are taken in a standard office/room environment with standard ambient noises such as HVAC present: Unnoticeable: At this level the sound of the card is not perceptible. Either completely silent or only perceptible when your ear is place directly next to the card itselfNoticeable: At this level the sound of the card is perceptible, generally as a low hum. The noise at this level is unobtrusive and generally blends in with other ambient noises, such as case fans, power supply exhaust fans etc. The noise from the card can be heard but you have to listen for it to really hear it.Clearly Noticeable: At this level the noise output from the card is clearly evident. The graphics card is discernable as the source of the noise and tends to be of higher magnitude than the ambient noise around it.Annoying: This moniker pretty much describes itself. At this level the sound of the card is distracting. The video card is clearly discernable as the source of noise and during gameplay/media enjoyment speaker and/or headphone volume must be increased to overcome the noise of the card. The HD5830 Xtreme fell into the Noticeable category when under load. The card never entered the Clearly Noticeable category even under thermal load testing and proved to be a soft-spoken deskside companion.
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