AMD 6970/6950 CFX and NVIDIA 580/570 SLI Review

Ever wondered how the new Radeon HD 6970, Radeon HD 6950, GeForce GTX 580 and GeForce GTX 570 perform when paired up with a second card? We did, and we have evaluated all four combinations in AMD Eyefinity and NV Surround resolutions.

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F1 2010

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F1 2010 Formula 1 racing game by Codemasters, released on September 22nd for Windows, Microsoft Xbox 360, and Sony Playstation 3. This game was patched. The patch adds DirectX 11 support, new graphical effects and higher graphics settings. Similar to DiRT 2 there are now some new "Ultra" settings which enable the highest DX11 features in the game. The game can be patched after logging into LIVE within the game, even using the STEAM version. Once you are logged in, it will detect the new patch, download and install it.

All of the improvements the patch brings can be read about here. For our F1 2010 testing procedure, we raced a 3-lap race against a full grid. We chose the Mercedes-McLaren racing team and we raced in Melbourne under heavy rain conditions.


Highest Playable Settings

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F1 2010 with the DX11 features turned to "Ultra" is demanding on video cards. We have found this to be true at 2560x1600, and increasing the resolution to 5760x1200 makes it even more so. In this triple display configuration we see which video card combinations struggle, and which fly through with flying colors. This game is the most dramatic difference out of all the games we tested.

With the Radeon HD 6870 and Radeon HD 6950 CrossFireX, we experienced the best gameplay. We were able to run at 8X MSAA at 5760x1200 while maintaining above 40 FPS average. The minimum framerate never dropped below 35 FPS in our testing. This is a high level of performance at a high level of AA and resolution. The gameplay experience was phenomenal with 8X AA running at 5760x1200, the game was quite enjoyable.

You would think that the GeForce GTX 580 SLI would also be able to do 8X MSAA as well at 5760x1200, but it was not. We have an apples-to-apples test below that shows the GTX 580 at 8X MSAA in comparison to the AMD video cards. What we found, is that performance seemed to chug just as if we were running out of memory capacity with 8X MSAA enabled. When we dropped the GTX 580 SLI to 4X AA performance smoothed out and the game was playable. Even at 4X AA though, GTX 580 SLI is still running behind 6970 CrossFireX running at a higher 8X MSAA setting.

The most disappointing combination for this game was GeForce GTX 570 SLI. We tried playing at 5760x1200 8X MSAA, 4X AA and 2X AA as well as No AA, and just did not experience fast enough performance to enjoy the game. At 8X MSAA the game was a slide show, we are talking less than 10 FPS, typically around 5 FPS, and yes we have an apples-to-apples to show that. At 4X AA the chugging wasn’t as bad, but performance was still well under 30 FPS. Even at 2X AA and No AA, performance was not up to the level that we needed, averaging around 40 FPS for this game. We found we had to drop the game down to 5040x1050 with No AA in order to get acceptable performance. This is clearly a huge loss in visual quality compared to 5760x1200 with AA enabled.


Apples-to-Apples

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We are comparing all video cards at 8X MSAA at 5760x1200. You can see that the GeForce GTX 580 SLI is performing under 30 FPS at this setting, clearly miles away from the two Radeon video cards. We feel this has more to do with memory capacity, as when we dropped to 4X AA the game was playable, and performance shot up quite a bit as you saw in our gameplay testing above.

GeForce GTX 570 SLI is severely bottlenecked in this game, yes, we played it at 5 FPS to get you these results, it was painful. It proves a point though, memory capacity is important when running SLI or CrossFireX at high multiple display resolutions.