PhysX physics chip previewed
The folks at PC Perspective have put together a preview of AGEIA's upcoming PhysX PPU, or physics processing unit. The article explains the basics of AGEIA's approach to physics acceleration and asks a few pertinent questions about how PPUs might make the transition from a non-factor to a common component in gamers' PCs. Perhaps foremost among those questions is the difficult challenge of making games that both run well on a regular PC and take full advantage of a PPU when present:
That means that what current game engines, and those for the immediate future, that have implemented support for the PhysX processor with the inclusion and use of the NovodeX API are merely going to see game "fluff" added to systems with a PPU in them. In this case, I mean "fluff" in the sense of new effects and interactions that may be very, very cool, but won't be required to finish or play the game.
There's also the question of how dual-core CPUs will affect the PPU's prospects. The NovodeX physics API will have to be multithreaded in order for developers to use it in the next-gen consoles, as is planned, and so it should be able to take advantage of multicore CPUs on the PC, as well. But if developers can offload physics to a relatively idle second CPU core, is a dedicated PPU really that much more desirable?
The PhysX cards' estimated price between $249 and $299 is definitely a factor, as well. Would you rather pay more for a PPU or for a second CPU core?