Computex 2003 - Day 1: DX9 Mayhem and Mobile Graphicsby Andrew Ku on September 22, 2003 6:10 PM EST
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- IT Computing
Well we are here at Computex, and the buzz surrounding NVIDIA and DX9 [particularly Half-Life 2] hasn’t let up. As a matter of fact, it is the hot topic of many under the table talks between video card manufacturers and their respective customers. Our latest mobile look into the latest and greatest for NVIDIA and ATI didn’t leave much room for argument on the DirectX 9 front. Meanwhile, the industry buzz is still debating about who has legitimate claim in this controversy. There are suggestions that ATI and Valve have been conspiring, and Valve specifically coded their image quality paths to ATI hardware. This is really hard to validate since there are other DX9 games that show similar [though with less intense margins] results between NVIDIA and ATI hardware.
Due to all of this we turn back to the concept of our Forum articles: basically, inquiring about the thoughts and opinions of various manufacturers anonymously. While Half-Life 2 may be centralized toward the American market, DX9 is a concern for consumers, manufacturers, and programmers worldwide. Consumers are less likely to buy a certain graphic solution should he or she know that image quality and rendering abilities are inferior of its competitor. Those that have already chosen the “unfavorable” graphics solution will likely then be alienated. Manufacturers, therefore, are directly effected due to sales [or lack of] relating to the limitations of a graphic solution, in this case NDIVIA and ATI. Programmers, as we noted before, are frustrated on two different levels. First is the topic of resources, typically, developers have an optimal frame per second range, which they try to hit on all graphic solutions. Regardless of the reasons behind it, ATI and NVIDIA graphic processing parts can’t hit the same frame per second range in an intensive image quality game, at least for now. This means that to keep up to par with the competition, developers have resorted to coding special code paths for these frames per second ranges to be hit. Obviously, this means image quality settings need to be lowered and this directly points to our second conundrum: consumers not being able to enjoy the full DX9 experience the way the developer intended. Programmers are artists, and for this reason; they hate to see their effort and artistic talent go to waste. On the other hand, they also understand that not creating a special code path could possibly lead to low sales or even undercutting them.
At Computex, we have had to chance to sit down and chat with a few tier 1, tier 2, and tier 3 video card manufacturers, all of which have given some interesting comments on the fiasco bubbling around the industry. First of all, the majority [regardless of which graphic solution they produce] have told us that they believe that ATI is not cheating. They believe that if NVIDIA requires certain questionable optimizations in their drivers and ATI does not all while still leading benchmarks, the consumer is going to catch on very fast about who they should choose for their next graphics solution purchase. Additionally, most of these manufacturers are sure that this will play out very soon. We have been informed by manufacturers that NVIDIA was back in Taiwan about 3 weeks prior to Computex, to supposedly answer for their actions and reassure consumers. This was strategic move an anticipation of AquaMark 3 and Half-Life 2 benchmarks that were going to pop up soon. The basic content of the discussion between NVIDIA and their respective manufacturers were to reassure them that they were doing fine and to expect everything fixed with newer and better drivers. However, those traditionally considered NVIDIA strongholds told us that they are seriously discussing the possibilities of ATI internally. Despite this, it seems that the executive management of such companies have decided to wait and see what fully materializes from the controversy, basically, if NVIDIA can deliver on these promises. If they can’t, they risk alienating the manufacturers, which they partnered with. On the other hand, choosing ATI means competition almost against one’s self, because ATI also sells their brand of cards. Much of these topics still need to be addressed. The war on NV4x and R4xx is still a ways off from duking it out. Only one thing is for sure, the heat has been kicked up a notch, and now we will wait for the ensuring battle fog to clear.