Beware of 3DMark03 screenshot comparisons

I just received confirmation from Futuremark that 3DMark03, in its latest form, renders a number of effects differently from run to run. According to Patric Ojala, Futuremark's Senior Manager for Benchmark Development, the following objects are affected:
  • The smoke puffs when the doors open & close in game test 2
  • The magic flame of the sword in game test 3
  • The girl's hair in the face close up camera of game test 3
  • The biggest explosion in game test 1 when the two bombers collide, or actually one single particle system there
That a number of different objects are rendered slightly differently in each benchmark run explains many of the supposed image quality anomalies associated with NVIDIA's 52.16 drivers and the latest build of 3DMark03. The only screenshots I've seen with image quality differences highlight the above objects.

NVIDIA's optimizations still violate the company's own internal optimization guidelines, and indeed Futuremark's optimization rules for 3DMark03. However, it looks like the optimizations are at least breaking the rules without compromising image quality.

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