X800XT and Conclusion
I decided to run these tests on the X800XT card from ATI, that we first reviewed back in May, to see how the performance changes in the NVIDIA cards compared to the ATI cards.
Just a note: the PS3.0 path would not enable in the Catalyst 4.6 drivers that I have for the ATI cards. This makes a lot of sense of course just because the cards do not support Shader 3.0 anyway.
FarCry – Fort Demo
The SM3.0 patch has the desired affect for NVIDIA on this demo — pushing them ahead of ATI on the scores for FarCry. The SM3 improves 11 FPS over the previous GeForece 6800 Ultra score on Avg FPS and is now 4.5 FPS faster than the ATI card. Both the Min and Max FPS are also higher on the NVIDIA 6800 Ultra now as well. Looking at the time graph, you can see that both the ATI and the 6800U (SM3) bars are significantly better than the SM2 version for NVIDIA and exhibit playable resolutions for FarCry.
FarCry – Dam Demo
Our second demo doesn’t give the 6800 Ultra as much benefit from the SM3 patch, and thus ATI is able to hold their lead a bit longer for FarCry here. However, the NVIDIA card is now only 3 FPS slower on average FPS, though the Min FPS does fall by 5. Looking at the time graph, it would seem that the highs seem higher on the 6800 Ultra, but the lows are also lower on the 6800. Neither card here really makes a solid pass at making FarCry playable at these settings on this level, but both are strong enough that running at 1280×1024 would certainly be acceptable.
Just as Crytek had suggested to us, there were no differences in image quality going from the SM2.0 path in FarCry to the SM3.0 path. In our testing, and of my own playing of the game, the AF quality on both cards was close enough that I couldn’t tell a difference even when playing the same level, at the same time, on two monitors next to each other. We’ll have more detailed looks at AA and AF in future graphics articles.
NVIDIA was heavily pushing their support for the new Shader Model 3.0 in DirectX 9.0c during the launch of their 6800 series graphics cards. Without any real world examples to show us, they were simply not getting anyone’s attention. It’s no wonder NVIDIA was more than happy to help Crytek with SM3.0 implementation and in helping them get this patch out into the press.
The new shader model path is obviously has a big impact on at least some aspects of FarCry — that much is obvious from the benchmarks and in simply playing the game. Of course, the SM3.0 does not help the game everywhere or in every situation — but overall the effect is a nice increase in playability on our test system. This new patch demonstrates the big upside that NVIDIA’s 6800 architecture is offering that the ATI X800 series is lacking — full support for DX9c and SM3.0. If developers starting utilizing these SM3.0 features in more games, NVIDIA’s cards will see a nice overall speed increase in the market. By then, we may be past the current generation of graphics cores and who knows — the upcoming ATI chip may just include this SM3.0 support afterall.
What we saw here at PC Perspective was a moderate to impressive increase in performance in FarCry with the new 1.2 patch enabling SM3.0 support on NVIDIA’s 6800 series of cards. The performance enhancements varied across the diferent levels of AA and AF as well as resolution, but the best results for NVIDIA came when the resolution was high and all bells and whistles were turned on in the control panel. If you have a 6800 series card, this new patch and graphics driver will give you a nice increase in performance for one of the most popular shooter games for free — and that is something you can’t beat. Is this performance increase enough to get people to take notice of SM3.0 and buy a card that utilizes it? I don’t know if a single game is enough to convince anyone what card to buy, especially with the likes of Doom3 and Half Life 2 coming out within 2 months. In either event, the success of Pixel Shader 3.0 here is a feather in NVIDIA’s cap.
Check out some prices on a BFG GeForce 6800GT card!
Check out some prices on FarCry for PC!