As usual, we tested each card with Fraps to record its average frame rate in seconds over a set amount of time. We typically run tests for 60 seconds. Reporting the average frames per second is how things have been done for... well, forever. It's a fantastic metric in the sense that it's easy to record and easy to understand but it doesn't tell the whole story, as The Tech Report and others have shown.
To get a fuller picture, it's increasingly apparent that you need to factor in a card's frame latency, which looks at how quickly each frame is delivered. Regardless of how many frames a graphics card produces on average in 60 seconds, if it can't deliver them all at roughly the same speed, you might see more brief jittery points with one GPU over another -- something we've witnessed but didn't fully understand.
Assuming two cards deliver equal average frame rates, the one with lowest stable frame latency is going to offer the smoothest picture, and that's a pretty important detail to consider if you're about to drop a wad of cash. As such, we'll be including this information from now on by measuring how long in milliseconds it takes cards to render each frame individually and then graphing that in a digestible way.
We'll be using the latency-focused 99th percentile metric, which looks at 99% of results recorded within X milliseconds, and the lower that number is, the faster and smoother the performance is overall. By removing 1% of the most extreme results, it's possible to filter anomalies that might have been caused by other components. Kudos to The Tech Report and other sites like PC Per for shining a light on this issue.
Test System Specs
- Intel Core i7-4770K (3.50GHz)
- x2 4GB Crucial DDR3-2400 (CAS 11-13-13-28)
- Asrock Z97 Extreme6 (Intel Z97)
- OCZ ZX Series (1250W)
- Samsung SSD 850 Pro 512GB (SATA 6Gb/s)
- Gigabyte Radeon HD 290X (4096MB)
- Gigabyte Radeon HD 290 (4096MB)
- AMD Radeon HD 280X (3072MB)
- Asus R9 280X DirectCU II TOP (3072MB)
- HIS R9 280X iPower IceQ X² Turbo (3072MB)
- MSI R9 280X Gaming (3072MB)
- Sapphire Vapor-X Tri-X OC R9 280X (3072MB)
- Gigabyte R9 280X WindForce 3X OC (3072MB)
- HIS Radeon HD 7970 GHz (3072MB)
- Gigabyte GeForce GTX Titan (6144MB)
- Gigabyte GeForce GTX 780 Ti (3072MB)
- Gainward GeForce GTX 780 (3072MB)
- Gainward GeForce GTX 770 (2048MB)
- Gainward GeForce GTX 680 (2048MB)
- Microsoft Windows 8.1 Pro 64-bit
- Nvidia GeForce 340.43
- AMD Catalyst 14.6