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  • Microsoft DirectX 10

    Although DirectX 10 was released quite a while ago but still there are very few games today that really take the full advantage of its features. Hugely popular First Person Shooter titles and Role-Playing Games all barely push the sheer graphical power of the newest version. As the DirectX 10, was introduced in Windows Vista, 3D features support the same effects as 9, guaranteeing compatibility across the board. Although this may sound very good, allowing for a more standardised games development environment. But the reality is not so colorful, because Microsoft will soon be regulating the introduction of 3D features, leaving companies such as NVIDIA behind. This application programming interface (API) was officially named “DirectX 10.”

    DirectX 10

    DirectX 10 was available to Windows Vista users only at the time of its introduction, but unfortunatelly, you will not find DirectX 10, being released for the Windows XP operating system. DirectX 10 is deeply linked into Windows Vista OS and we currently do not know about the plans by Microsoft to allow Windows XP to officially support the new DX10. In general, DX10 gives much more generic graphic processing model with lots of flexibility and reliability. This will be very crutial going forward, but right now developers still need to make some limitations on shader length and complexity based on the performance of the hardware that exists. Another thing related with the Geometry Shader is the Stream Out functionality that provides the GPU to recycle graphics files without computing on the CPU. Not only is this a hit of performance, it will also gives completely independant of the CPU for particle systems. Take a look at the DirectX 10 performance tested on two nVidia Cards:

    DirectX 10 performance

    If you want to have a DirectX 10 on your computer you will have to go with Windows Vista as your OS, theres nop possibility to launch dx10 on MS windows XP systems. Because of this we will see an expensive upgrade path associated with the experience of DirectX 10. You will need Windows Vista, DirectX 10 hardware and of course some DirectX 10 coded games, what is totally rediculous, that’s why plenty of gamers are turning into PS3 or Xbox. The question that gamer all over the world are asking is: “Will this very expensive upgrade will have positively impact on my my gaming experience enough to justify the cost?” That has yet to be seen and can only be answered with the games we have yet to play. We can however talk about some of capabilities of DirectX 10 with a unknown architecture and answer the question how it can potentially benefits to the gamers. In next reviews we’ll be reviewing later versions of DirectX.

  • What is nVidia PhysX?

    nVidia physX logo

    What is nVidia PhysX?

    Generally speaking PhysX is a realtime middleware physics engine SDK. It refers to the card PPU (physics processing unit) which can accelerate graphic processing, where PhysX feature is enabled. It is used the most to enhance graphic environment in computer games, PhysX was designed strictly to improve the graphic performance. The physX was released some time ago, it was used then by Graphic engineers and designers to produce professional physics simulations and to make 3D environment used in games or movies. The fact was that this technology was too expensive for a regular gamers. Graphics processes supporting hardware acceleration by PhysX can be accelerated by PhysX PPU or a CUDA-enabled GeForce GPU. CUDA is a name of PhysX developed engine by nVidia. When graphic applications such as computer games using physics calculations from the CPU, allowing it to perform other objectives instead - it is potentially resulting with a smoother and faster graphic processing. Middleware physics engines gives another feature to game designers. It allows to avoid writing their own code to handle the complex physics interactions possible in modern games, because PhysX has got a ready to use physical algorithms.

    A bit of PhysX history

    PhysX was originally developed by Ageia as the NovodeX SDK. Ageia was a company that profiled itself into the 3D graphics market with fantastic idea to bring physics computing into computer games. Ageia engineers knew that physics calculations allow for a more extreme and real visual experience. Ageia way of thinking was a really interesting, and as a pioneer idea it had also plenty of disadvantages, unfortunately the cards were put into the market way too expensive and received way to little industry support.

    ageia physx logo

    The Ageia financial results was a way below the average and the company was nearly bankrupt. All management’s eyes and hopes turned to nVidia who was interested in Ageia technology of graphic processing. And it happened, in February 2008, Nvidia bought Ageia for 30 million dollars and hired their leading staff to get Ageia’s PhysX API. After that the PhysX engine and has begun to transform into nVidia CUDA technology. In August 2008, Nvidia released software technology that allows GeForce 8 series and higher cards to implement PhysX graphic processing.

    PhysX features and performance:

    PhysX graphic processing is widely used to delivering physical environments inside the game source. The main features that PhysX is capable to perform is allowing very spectacular graphic realtime effects, very detailed environment like clothes factor, tear drops and hairs. PhysX also improves dust and collateral debris during in-game explosion. More of that it can perform moving objects inside a very dense smoke & fog without lack of performance. When PhysX is on, game characters has got complex geometries for better movement and interaction. It generally increases performance of all graphic applications moving some tasks to PhysX PPU. Nowadays any CUDA ready GeForce graphics cards, GeForce series 8 and newer, can take advantage of PhysX without the need to install a dedicated PhysX card. Take a look at the graph showing the PhysX performance rates on various resolutions. The graph compares platforms with and without Physx graphic processing:

    nVidia PhysX graph

    As you see the PhysX doubles the performance of graphic processing, so the technology, nVidia invested was a sure shot. Now, NVIDIA claims that the fact GPU solutions are cheaper is going to push better GPUs into more powerful machines, making more PCs abstractly available for gaming. When PhysX is disabled in software, it left the effects enabled, and they are now calculated over the CPU. It’s incredible how much CPU overhead that takes. Now, normally your FPS would be much higher as physics stuff is disabled, but I figured it’s a nice example of how well Physics can be done over a GPU. It’s just much more efficient.

    nVidia/EVGA GeForce gtx285 with PhysX

    PhysX P1 (PPU) hardware specifications:

    • Multi-core MIPS architecture based device with integrated physics acceleration hardware
    • Interface: 32-bit PCI 3.0
    • 125 million transistors
    • Fabrication Process: 130 nm
    • Peak Instruction Bandwidth: 20 billion per second
    • Memory: 128 MB GDDR3 RAM on 128-bit interface
    • 182 mm2 die size
    • Sphere collision tests: 530 million per second (maximum capability)
    • Peak Power Consumption: 30 W
    • Convex collision tests: 530,000 per second (maximum capability)
    • Price: Between $100-$250

    nvidia physx

    So finishing, NVIDIA did a lots of fantastic work here. The attributes the PhysX provides are very good. PhysX solution is the great choice if you want to have the best available gaming experience, and the performance are great. PhysX is a fantastic graphic process technology. It looks good for the future I want more, yet we need to see some bigger and newer titles supporting it.