Following on from our highly popular ’12K’ (Triple 4K Monitor) Upgrade, we have new graphics cards which we can update the results with. Since the original article, things got a bit hectic and cards were coming and going extremely quickly. This meant that we didn’t have enough time in one sitting to correctly configure and run the tests as the second (or even third) card needed to be sent on to another media. We are now happy to bring you a long-awaited update featuring graphics cards such as the R9 Fury, R9 Nano and SLI GTX 980Ti’s. The list still isn’t complete with gaps such as SLI Titan X and CrossFire R9 Fury, but once we get these cards in for long enough, we will carry out another update.
With 4K monitors becoming the norm in today’s enthusiast gaming set-up, thanks to the ever decreasing price of these monitors and the increasing performance supplied by single cards; it’s not surprising that some users are combining multiple units. Some will have these monitors for the simply epic screen size and productivity potential, others will simply use them for an upgrade to the current surround gaming experience. Personally I don’t like 4K resolution unless it’s on a large screen, anything under 32″ makes the pixels so small they are hard to see and then you would just have to increase the sizes of font, which defeats (some of) the object.
Testing & Methodology
Before we delve into any testing we would like to take this opportunity to overview our test system. All tests will be conducted with the latest stable drivers available, with results will be taken from an average of three tests. All tests will be conducted using the highest factory setting if multiple options are available.
- Motherboard – Gigabyte X99-Gaming G1 WiFi LGA 2011-3 Motherboard
- Processor – Intel Core i7 5820K at Stock 3.3GHz
- RAM – 16GB (4 X 4GB) Crucial Ballistix Sport DDR4 2400MHz
- CPU Cooler – Thermaltake Water 3.0 with Gelid GC-Extreme
- Power Supply – BeQuiet Dark Power Pro 11 1200W
- Main Storage Drive – Crucial M550 512GB
- Chassis – Lian Li T80 Test Bench
- Displays – AOC U2868PQU 4K
- Operating System – Windows 8.1 Pro 64 Bit
- “Killawatt” style electricity usage meter wall plug
- Precision Gold N05CC Decibel meter
- Battlefield 4
- Bioshock Infinite
- Grand Theft Auto V
- Metro Last Light
- Tomb Raider
Well doesn’t that look nice and full. A good spread of results with a notable jump from single to multi-card configurations. The GTX 980Ti and R9 Fury X are topping the dual cards with the triple R9 390X’s taking the top spot. At this immense resolution, only the top three scores provide over the desired 60FPS.
Moving to Bioshock and the results follow a similar suit from the 1080p – 4K benchmarks with low minimum FPS. Again, the GTX 980Ti SLI and R9 Fury X CrossFire options offering the 60FPS mark.
Grand Theft Auto V
The drivers still aren’t fully optimised for triple card configurations, however, the triple R9 390Xs completely dominate here with a huge 51FPS. The graphics settings could be lowered to Low, but that would make for a truly awful gaming experience at this resolution.
Metro Last Light
Metro crippling the minimum frame rates yet again. This time it is the tri-fire 390X option lagging behind the R9 Nano CF and GTX 980Ti SLI options.
We already know that Tomb Raider is an easy game for graphics cards to render, so it’s no surprise that the more powerful dual card options provided at least 60FPS here.
Whew! There we have it, a much more comprehensive list of graphics cards from both AMD and NVIDIA, but it’s still not complete. This resolution still isn’t fully supported by AMD or NVIDIA, so performance is slightly hampered and will no doubt get better once it becomes more mainstream. Although we will likely see a single monitor with this resolution before that happens. The performance on offer from both manufacturers is impressive, the single card results are understandably low, but the second card really livens things up with playable frame rates in most games; playable being 60FPS.
Since the launch of the R9 Fury range, based on the Fiji core and HBM memory, performance in the red corner has certainly been kicked up and more evenly competes with NVIDIA. However, HBMv1 was always going to be an experiment rather than mainstream consumer option, stock levels were poor and production was extremely slow. This resulted in AMD only offering the technology in 4GB variants which cripples high resolution gameplay. Despite this glaring specification error, the actual performance is very VERY good on the Fiji based cards and it’s scalable to dual cards also, so the increased resolution doesn’t really impact the overall performance too much, but we have had to decrease the graphical settings to compensate for this across all of the cards.
I decided to keep the tri-fire R9 390X results in here because it goes to show how optimised the set-up is for general gaming. The performance is apparent in benchmark software, but almost unnoticeable in most games unless there is a profile already designed. This makes the triple card option cost more and provide poorer performance than the GTX 980Ti or R9 Fury X dual card configurations. Personally for me, I would just stick with two high end cards rather than three mid range cards.
NVIDIA know how to make a fast graphics card and up until now I thought they were crazy slapping on 12GB VRAM onto the Titan X. If we receive another sample to allow SLI, we should see some very favourable scores as the 12GB would allow the two GPU’s to really push the boundary. When it comes to the GTX 980Ti, it has the power to match the Titan X, but the 6GB VRAM just starts to take some of the performance way; although this wouldn’t be noticeable in real world usage.
In regards to reliability, the NVIDIA combinations proved very little in the way of issues, I barely had to go into the settings to correctly setup the monitors apart from telling the software which monitor was where.
Overall, no single card is a match for the immense pixel quantity of these monitors, even the R9 295×2 and Titan Z would struggle. For the time being, I would leave multiple 4K monitors to those with more money than sense, professionals or extreme gamers; at least until the pixel per inch and price comes down and more dedicated drivers are released.
- Huge workable screen size for productivity
- Immersive gameplay
- A step forward for technology
- Relatively expensive
- Affordable 4K monitors have larger bezels, detracting from the overall experience
- Multiple high-end graphics cards are required to run most games to a satisfactory level
- Can take up a lot of space if you buy larger panels
- Drivers are still being optimised to yield the best results
Thank you to our partners for providing us with the review samples to make this article possible.