we took a first look at the NVIDIA 5.08 drivers. We only tested the drivers with the GeForce on a Coppermine P3-750. We found that the 5.08 drivers increased frame rates by as much as 30% in 640x480, but we really didn't ask why. Were we too focused on the FSAA and the OpenGL features? Or maybe we just didn't want to question the gain for fear of having someone explain it away. It was probably a little bit of both. We decided to run a few more Quake 3 benchmarks with a GeForce DDR and a TNT Ultra to test a few theories.
Before we get into the reasons behind the frame rate jump, we should revisit the FSAA in the 5.08 drivers. Last Thursday, we asked Brian Burke for 3dfx's opinion on NVIDIA's newfound FSAA.
Here's his response:
There is really nothing new in the drivers from nVidia. They claim to offer some form of polygonal anti-aliasing. Any video card can support this type of emulated anti-aliasing through driver tricks that simply stretch the rendering resolution in one or both horizontal and/or vertical dimensions.
The technique nVidia seems to be using has been offered to gamers before and was used in the past to fool benchmarking programs into thinking AA was supported. It was rejected by Ziff-Davis as a valid technique for doing AA and nVidia even requested that reviewers benchmarking their products turn this option off due to the overwhelming loss in framerate.
We define full-scene anti-aliasing (FSAA) to be an anti-aliasing solution that is (a) 100% compatible with all applications and APIs, and (b) performed in hardware. nVidia's approach is neither 100% compatible with all applications and APIs nor is it performed in hardware, instead using age-old software tricks to emulate true anti-aliasing. In particular, realize that nVidia's new drivers only support anti-aliasing for OpenGL applications. This leaves a huge number of games on the market that support DirectX and Glide without any FSAA support.
The nVidia hack for FSAA is not supported in hardware but rather, software based support, and is by definition inferior to the hardware based FSAA found in the Voodoo4 and Voodoo5 products. 3dfx's upcoming Voodoo4 and Voodoo5 series of video cards offer substantially better FSAA image quality, as well as 100% compatibility with all applications and APIs. In this regard, we are the first to deliver a "true" FSAA solution to market. We know users will appreciate the substantial difference between our compatible, hardware-driven solution against the software driver hacks being performed by our competitors.
More at GDC
At our GDC (Game Developers Conference) 3dfx meeting yesterday, Gary Tarolli told us that with NVIDIA's 4X super-sampling, you only get the 2X FSAA that 3dfx is capable of doing, and NVIDIA will need to go up to 16X to catch up with 3dfx's planned 4X FSAA standard. We'll talk more about our 3dfx Voodoo 5 meeting in our GDC reports. For now, let's take a closer look at the frame rate gains with the 5.08 Detonator drivers. Is it the T&L? Is it S3TC? Read on and find out!