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Halo Shootout

Posted 12/31/03 by Rob-ART Morgan, chief mad scientist
and Perry Longinotti, our 3D gaming Canadian remote mad scientist
January 5th, 2004 NOTE: This page is over a year old. For more recent Halo results, see our page on the Radeon X800 XT compared to four other high end graphics cards.

After a long wait, Halo for Mac is shipping. Perry and I decided to collaborate on this test. We brainstormed for several days on what settings to use. We decided that this first article will show results from what we call LOW, MEDIUM, and HIGH quality configurations (see bottom of page).

LEGEND:
P4/3.4 = Pentium 4 3.36GHz (overclocked from 2.4GHz)
Rad9800 = ATI Radeon 9800 Pro (128M)
Rad9700 = ATI Radeon 9700 Pro (128M)
Rad9600 = ATI Radeon 9600 Pro (64M
Rad9000 = ATI Radeon 9000 Pro (64M)
FX5200 = GeForceFX 5200 (64M)

 

INSIGHTS

The G5 did surprisingly well in the LOW and MEDIUM tests. I was expecting the Pentium 4 to smoke it like we saw with UT2003. The Power Mac G4s should do well if they have a high-end graphics card like the 9700 or 9800 Pro.

Comparison to the Windows PCs in tricky but popular with readers. That's why we try to do it when practical. Though the Mac version of Halo came out after the PC's, it offers more interactive configuration options and greater control over rendering.

The PowerBooks did so-so in LOW and MEDIUM -- but serious Halo players will want a fast G5 (or G4) Power Mac with a high-end graphics card. I wouldn't recommend running Halo on an iBook G4 except in the LOWEST quality settings. We couldn't test any of the laptops in HIGH mode since none of them support 1280x1024 on the built-in screen. The iBook G4 doesn't support PIXEL shaders and, trust me, you don't want to run with PIXEL shaders on a PowerBook G4 -- even if you have a large external display. When we enabled them on the 17" PB and made a run at 1024x768 -- the framerates dropped to 12.

You'll notice that some systems ran faster in MEDIUM that in LOW quality configuration. We ran LOW with Vertex shaders OFF on the Macs. While playing around, I discovered that if I turned ON Vertex shaders in the LOW config, the framerates increased on most systems. So no matter what settings you use with Halo on your Mac, we suggest running with Vertex Shading turned ON.

(We were informed by a reader that Vertex Shading is always ON in the case of a Windows PC.)

Although certain graphics cards allow you to turn on Full Scene Anti-Aliasing (FSAA) from a control panel, the Halo folks recommend letting Halo control the anti-aliasing. And in the Mac version of Halo, the systems don't always respond to FSAA... or if they do, you can get some strange artifacts (as in the case of the Radeon 9600). FSAA did appear to work fine on the G5 with 9800 Pro. When I set it to 4X, the jaggies were smoothed as expected with only a small speed penalty.

In the case of the Windows version of Halo, it doesn't use the graphics card's HW anti-aliasing feature. It uses the D3D back buffer instead. For more on this, see Bungie's Halo Performance FAQ. Because of this, we decided to turn disable FSAA on the Mac in an attempt to make a fair comparision.

This is just the first pass at the HALO shootout. We'll be adding other Macs and other PCs, including the Dual Opteron. We also plan to give you more configurations than LOW, MEDIUM, and HIGH. We also expect patches and updates to emerge for Halo for the Mac (and PC) that will affect test results. We'll update these pages accordingly.

NOTE: On 1/23/04, I tried version 1.03 of Halo. In the Medium setting, it was 10% slower. In the High setting, it was 2% slower.

DON'T MISS Perry's Halo technical discussion on PAGE TWO.

CONFIGURATION NOTES

Here's the THREE configurations we tested this round:

"LOW"
800x600
NO Shaders
FSAA OFF
Lens Flare Low (or OFF for PC)
Model Detail Low (or OFF for PC)
Framerate throttle NO SYNC
Decals NO
Specular NO
Shadows NO
Particles OFF
Texture Quality LOW

"MEDIUM"
1024x768
VERTEX Shaders for Mac (We don't see VERTEX shader option for the PC)
FSAA OFF
Lens Flare Low (or OFF for PC)
Model Detail Low (or OFF for PC)
Decals YES
Specular NO
Shadows NO
Particles LOW
Texture Quality MEDIUM

"HIGH"
1280x1024 (or 960)
PIXEL & VERTEX Shaders for Mac (We assume turning on Specular and Shadows produces PIXEL shading on the PC; still no VERTEX shading.)
FSAA OFF
Lens Flare Low (or OFF for PC)
Model Detail Low (or OFF for PC)
Specular YES
Shadows YES
Decals YES
Particles HIGH
Texture Quality HIGH

In all of the three configs above,
Sound Options were set to:
Hardware Acceleration NO
Sound Quality LOW
Sound Variety LOW

As you can see, it's tricky trying to match configs between the Mac and PC. We are open to suggestions if you have any good ones.

DON'T MISS Perry's Halo technical discussion on PAGE TWO.

or RETURN to Main BARE FEATS Index Page.

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"BARE facts on Macintosh speed FEATS"
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