I'm ankle-deep in graphics testing for an upcoming article, but I should take a second today to get a few random thoughts down in writing. Among them:
- One of the things TR has to deal with regularly is goofy capitalizations from tech companies. You may have been aware, back in the day, of the transformation of 3Dfx to 3dfx, but we actually have to issue internal memos over such things. We try to get things right when we can, but we drew a line in the sand a while back when companies like Abit and Asus came to us asking to have their names spelled in all caps, despite the fact that their names are not acronyms for anything in particular. They just wanted their names to stand out, I guess, and they enforce that discipline in their own official communications to this day. I made the call at that point that, going forward, we would only be putting and brands whose names are legitimately acronyms in all caps. That saved us from doing a lot of virtual yelling about ABIT and ASUS motherboards and RADEON graphics cards that are REALLY NEETO.
One company, however, was grandfathered into an all-caps format: NVIDIA. We'd already fought the battle over nVidia vs. nVIDIA vs. NVIDIA, and I didn't care to revisit it at the time. Their format for TR was already set, and that was that. Now, however, I think the time has come to standardize things, especially since the green team has just unveiled a new corporate logo of indeterminate capitalization. From here on out, we'll be talking about Nvidia rather than NVIDIA. At least, that's the plan; it may take us a while to break our habits.
I know, I know. These things are incredibly consequential. Sorry to burden you with them.
- My task for the past day or so has been setting up graphics test rigs. I now have a pair of systems running side by side, each with a Core 2 Extreme X6800 processor, 2GB of DDR2-800 memory, 700W PSU, dual-slot mobo, and all the trimmings. One uses an Intel D975XBX motherboard for CrossFire testing, and the other uses an Asus P5N32-SLI SE Deluxe, an nForce4 SLI X16 Intel Edition mobo with Core 2 Support. As far as I know, Asus is the only company right now with an SLI board for sale with Core 2 support. Funny how modifying that product for Core 2 support instantly transformed it from an oddity with little reason to exist to Asus's fastest SLI motherboard. I don't have much in the way of benchmark numbers yet, but the quad SLI rig just spat out a score of 8888 in 3DMark06.
- Speaking of the P5N32-SLI SE Deluxe, I was out looking for one in the local Micro Center in Overland Park, Kansas on Saturday. They didn't have one, but they did have a Core 2-ready Asus 975X board and a Gigabyte P965 board, which surprised me. More surprisingly, they had what must have been 10 to 12 unboxed Core 2 Duo E6300 processors for sale at $209quite a bit less than the prices online, where stock is thin. I guess nobody knew about 'em. I certainly didn't expect to see them there. 'twas funny to see a couple of guys teasing the salesman about how slow Intel processors are with the memory controller "still glued onto the motherboard." Apparently they hadn't heard the news.
- After setting up the Core 2 Extreme quad-SLI rig yesterday, I played through a chunk of Quake 4 in High Quality at 2048x1536 with 4X AA. I had FRAPS running a frame rate counter as I played, and the thing was virtually locked at 60 FPS. The Radeon X1900 XTX CrossFire rig would stumble sometimes at those settings, dropping to 45 FPS or below (slow enough you could feel it.)
- Maybe it's just the four G71s talking, but I think Quake 4 may well be the best looking PC game. Raven has put the Doom 3 engine to good use, with bigger rooms, brighter colors, detailed textures, lots of shader-enhanced materials in the environments, and exceptional non-player character models. With that kind of help, the Doom 3 engine's outstanding lighting model really shines. To me, it makes F.E.A.R. dull and flat by comparison. I also think Q4 is a barrel of fun to play, although I miss F.E.A.R.'s excellent A.I. and breathtaking firefights.
- Also tried out the Prey demo, and man, those Skaarj look pretty good.
- I'm considering doing some or all of my upcoming graphics testing with non-default quality settings in the ATI and Nvidia control panels. With dual-GPU setups this powerful, it seems a waste not to use the high-quality anisotropic filtering and transparency antialiasing capabilities of the GPUs. The trick is figuring out which settings are worth using and how to tune the ATI and Nvidia control panels to achieve something close to parity in terms of image quality. If any of you have insights into how specific settings compare or which ones might be worth tweaking, please feel free to share them. If you have low-quality insights into how these things make you feel, however, feel free to keep them bottled up.