Do Not Fall For The Hype
Not that long ago I was watching the nVidia GPU Conference keynote address. In it they showed ray tracing models and how it would change the way games where played down the road. For right now they where showing how it could be done very fast for static pictures. What was most impressive was the way light actually acted real.
What if I told you the current rendering system can NOW do the same thing and can do it one existing hardware? Radiocity (not sure I am spelling this right) was a technique shown at the EVE Online fanfest by CCP. The system allows for realistic light interaction with the environment. Now while this may not approach the level of detail that ray tracing can hit this was amazing to see in action and oh BTW worked on existing hardware. Light correctly interacts with the surfaces it bounces off of and also with itself as it reflects back on itself. BTW no hardware companies involved, this is a purely software solution.
What about Physics? To hear nVidia speak of it you would think they invented the stuff and ATI has now tried to coop it. The truth is we have seen some pretty impressive Physics applications run already, anyone remember World in Conflict? BTW this did not need a specific video card to enable the effect. Now while maybe not as visually impressive as Batman the effects do have a game play impact and in my book that is a ton more impressive. Again no special language or specific hardware required.
Oh the the crème of the crop, ATI and EYEFinity. Again at the EVE Fanfest (CCP is a real innovator so this should come as no surprise) a demo was shown using the Matrox Triple Head and an existing generation of video card. According to the CCP engineers this was achieved by a minor change in the engine allowing for higher resolution options and used technology built into Windows 7. The result was EVE running flawlessly over a three monitor spread just like ATI was touting that only they could do. Perhaps the ATI development team should put more effort into contact game developers so they do not look a little silly. Again you can use your existing hardware to perform this with the addition of the Triplehead. In fairness this is even more impressive when you realize CCP has made it so the game can use 1, 2 or 3 monitors in combinations of not just a single big display but also by undocking the game interface from the game and putting it on the second monitor.
Now in fairness the above items have their place. HD 5000 cards were actually mentioned by CCP as a way to get three monitor support without the need to get the triple head. Ray tracing does offer the most realistic image quality currently possible and PhysX has shown that moving the physic rendering to GPU for more intense calculations with less performance hit.
The point of this post however is to show that hardware companies are notorious for making claims as marketing hype and sometimes forget what others do. Sometimes they even forget what they do. nVidia back in it’s early days called SLI a hack that was never going to be needed in the video card industry. How could nVidia say this, they invented SLI? Well they would like the uneducated to believe that. SLI was actually a technology developed by 3dfx and was in place and in use by that company in the early days of 3d cards. nVidia bought 3dfx and tried to ignore it’s own past statements.
ATI is not without blame here. In a recent blog an ATI executive spoke about how ATI has always been committed to open standards. Nice rewrite of history as ATI has seen it’s own share of proprietary efforts in the past. Even the current marketing of ATI Stream is an attempt to reinvent themselves. The original STREAM concept was a way to direct compete with CUDA. Oh and please do not pull up the quotes from ATI about how important graphic based physics where when nVidia first introduced their effort. Look at ATI now scrambling to play catch-up.
Now the purpose of this post is not to trash the video card companies. We all would like at times to forget our mistakes and move forward, luckily for the hardware industry the consumer public has a short memory. The purpose is to point out marketing hype needs to be sighted and ignored to get to the reality of the product.
Using the 5850 that I reviewed last post as an example. The card offers great performance, has a lot of leg room, reasonably priced and will see more benefit in the future. That should be more than enough for anyone to consider the card. A ton of so called extra features are thrown at you to make the decision seem like a no brainer. My position is we have to be no brains to let the hype and not the reality influence our decisions.