Unreal TournamentUT is an extremely CPU-bound game, and some reviewers make the mistake of exacerbating this fact by using a CPU-intensive demo for benchmarking. While that might tell you a lot about the system in which the card happens to be installed, it won’t tell you much about the card itself. To work around this problem I created a simple demo called Gothic which is just a run-through of the UT map Gothic (no bots or net players). This is a good test of RAVE performance, and as you will see the 8500 does have excellent RAVE support.
I started with default configs but made some important changes to minimize the CPU impact. I set the audio quality to LOW, and set the desired frame rate to 0 (zero). Next you must start a practice game and load the first map; after this loads, then you open the console and type "timedemo 1" and then "demoplay gothic." I let the test run three times and averaged the results.
Once again the monster fill rate of the 8500 pulls ahead at 1024x768 and just keeps going; I’d love to see what it can do at 2048 and above, but a new monitor is not on my purchase list.
FSAA BenchmarksI took the liberty of doing some benchmarks with Unreal Tournament X Preview 2, the only game that supports both FSAA and benchmarking. This is an unoptimized preview release of the game and the numbers cannot be trusted for that reason alone, but I thought the test was most interesting because of what it did not show – 4x FSAA does not show the almost 60% drop in frame rate at 1024x768 that this setting exhibited with the Voodoo5. In fact, the impact in frame rate is less than 3 fps overall! It looks like the days of trading visual quality for frame rate are largely over.
Other GamesI went through the majority of my game catalog in testing this card, and in every case the effect was the same: I was able to effectively max out all of the game settings and still play smoothly. While it isn’t appropriate to comment on bugs at this point (as this is a preview) I will say that I did not encounter any show-stopper problems that would further delay the release of this card.
Red Faction and Black and White look just gorgeous with 4x FSAA turned on, and (as with UT) experience almost no drop in performance. Older games ran exceedingly well, especially Descent 3 and Heavy Metal F.A.K.K. 2.
2D games ran very well also, as expected; both RAVE and OpenGL support worked great with Diablo II, and scrolling in Age of Empires II is quite snappy.
I was also pleased with the speed of games played with Classic, such as Vampire: The Masquerade. The game became extremely playable, and I now can play smoothly at 1280x1024 with many settings turned all the way up.