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Ageia PhysX Tested 179

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the useless-in-the-short-term dept.
MojoKid writes "When Mountain View California start-up Ageia announced a new co-processor architecture for Desktop 3D Graphics that off-loaded the heavy burden physics places on the CPU-GPU rendering pipeline, the industry applauded what looked like the enabling of a new era of PC Gaming realism. Of course, on paper and in PowerPoint, things always look impressive, so many waited with baited breath for hardware to ship. That day has come and HotHardware has fully tested a new card shipped from BFG Tech, built on Ageia's new PPU. But is this technology evolutionary or revolutionary? "
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Ageia PhysX Tested

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  • Anandtech too ... (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 09, 2006 @06:30PM (#15297239)
    The link: http://www.anandtech.com/video/showdoc.aspx?i=2751 [anandtech.com]

    Short summary: Great for synthetic benchmarks, probably not real-world ready.
  • Re:Looks like... (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 09, 2006 @06:33PM (#15297260)
  • by mobby_6kl (668092) on Tuesday May 09, 2006 @06:37PM (#15297290)
    Without question, one of the hottest topics throughout the industry this year has been the advent of the discrete physics processor or "PPU" (Physics Processing Unit). Developed by a new startup company called Ageia, this new physics processor gives game developers the opportunity to create entirely new game-play characteristics that were not considered possible using standard hardware. Since its original inception, both CPU and GPU vendors have come to the spotlight to showcase the ability to process physics on their respective hardware. However, the Ageia PhysX PPU is the only viable solution which is readily available to consumers.

    For the foreseeable future, the only vendors which will be manufacturing and selling physics processors based on the Ageia PhysX PPU are ASUS and BFG. With ASUS primarily focusing on the OEM market, BFG will enjoy a monopoly of sorts within the retail channel, as they will comprise the vast majority of all available cards on store shelves. Today, we will be running a retail sample of BFG's first ever Physics processor through its paces. Judging from the packaging alone, you can tell that this box contains something out of the ordinary. Housed in an unusual triangular box with a flip-down front panel, consumers can glimpse the card's heatsink assembly through a clear plastic window.

    BFG Tech PhysX
    Card And Bundle

    Flipping the box, consumers are presented with a quick listing of features complete with summaries and a small screen-shot. Most importantly, the package also lists the small handful of games which actually support the PPU hardware. This short list consists of City of Villains, Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter, and Bet on Soldier: Blood Sport.

    Upon opening the packaging, we are presented with a standard fare of accessories. Beyond the actual card itself, we find a power cable splitter, a driver CD, a demo CD, and a quick install guide. Somewhat surprisingly, we also find a neon flyer warning of a driver issue with Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter that instructs users to download the latest driver from Ageia to avoid the problem. This is a bit disheartening as there are only three games which currently support this hardware. With this in mind, it is hard to not feel as though the hardware is being rushed to market a bit sooner than it probably should have.

    Directing our attention to the card itself, we find a rather unassuming blue PCB with a somewhat standard aluminum active heatsink assembly. Amidst the collection of power circuitry, we also find a 4-pin molex power connector to feed the card as a standard PCI slot does not provide adequate power source for the processor. At first glance, the card looks remarkably similar to a mainstream graphics card. It's not until you see the bare back-plate with no connectivity options that you realize this is not a GeForce 6600 or similar product.

    Thankfully, the BFG PhysX card does not incorporate yet another massive dual-slot heatsink assembly as so many new pieces of high-end hardware do these days. Rather, we find a small single-slot active heatsink that manages to effectively cool the PPU while keeping noise at a minimum. Removing the heatsink, we were pleased to find that BFG has done an excellent job of applying the proper amount of thermal paste and that the base of the heatsink was flat with no dead spots. After powering the system, we see that BFG has dressed the card up with three blue LED's to appease those with case windows.

    With the heatsink removed, we have our first opportunity to glimpse the Ageia PhysX PPU in all its glory. Manufactured on a 0.13u process at TSMC, the die is comprised of 125 million transistors. Overall, the size of the die is slightly larger than the memory modules which surround it. Looking closely at the board, we see that the 128MB of memory consists of Samsung K4J55323QF-GC20 GDDR3 SDRAM which are rated for a maximum frequency of 500MHz. Unfortunately, neither BFG nor Ageia have disclosed what frequency the PPU memory and core operate at, so we are unsure
  • Coral Cache link (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 09, 2006 @06:41PM (#15297324)
  • Ghost Recon video (Score:5, Informative)

    by jmichaelg (148257) on Tuesday May 09, 2006 @06:46PM (#15297356) Journal
    Anandtech posted these video sequences [anandtech.com] to show what you see with and without the card.

    The Anandtech article [anandtech.com] states that the physics hardware slows down the framerates which Aegis can't possibly be happy about.
  • by Ruff_ilb (769396) on Tuesday May 09, 2006 @06:53PM (#15297396) Homepage
    http://www.anandtech.com/video/showdoc.aspx?i=2751 [anandtech.com]

    "The added realism and immersion of playing Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter with hardware physics is a huge success in this gamer's opinion. Granted, the improved visuals aren't the holy grail of game physics, but this is an excellent first step. In a fast fire fight with bullets streaming by, helicopters raining destruction from the heavens, and grenades tearing up the streets, the experience is just that much more hair raising with a PPU plugged in."
  • by Khyber (864651) <techkitsune@gmail.com> on Tuesday May 09, 2006 @08:09PM (#15297746) Homepage Journal
    http://www.amd.com/us-en/assets/content_type/Downl oadableAssets/So32v64-56k.wmv [amd.com]

    Nice comparison concerning current 32-bit applications/limitations over 64-bit. If this video is TRUE, then I won't bother with a PPU - my Athlon 64 3000+ may already to be able to handle those extra physics calculations while any WELL-PROGRAMMED game will use any extra resources I have available for extra object/texture/physics rendering.

    Sorry, IMHO, PPU is at a loss. Mod down at will.
  • by Short Circuit (52384) * <mikemol@gmail.com> on Tuesday May 09, 2006 @09:15PM (#15298010) Homepage Journal
    Multi-stage processors have latching mechanisms between stages that release on a clock pulse. I think what he meant by "data ready flags" was to allow the latches between the stages to unlock automatically, instead of being dependant on a chipwide clock signal.

    But then, I'm only working on a Bachelor's in Computer Information Systems...what would I know about signalling in a complex silicon device?
  • by hackwrench (573697) <hackwrench@hotmail.com> on Tuesday May 09, 2006 @10:34PM (#15298373) Homepage Journal
    Set a data request line. When the data request line is cleared and the data ready line is set, then the data is new data.
  • by Animats (122034) on Tuesday May 09, 2006 @11:27PM (#15298598) Homepage
    It sounds like they're looking at demos with an older version of the Ageia API. In the 2.4 release, cloth (even tearable cloth) is supported. The demo of this was shown at GDC, but it may not be in the current crop of games. It's less impressive than one might expect.

    Still, I would have expected a bigger improvement in performance on existing stuff. There may be too much of a bottleneck getting in and out of the physics processor, which is the usual problem with coprocessors. I'd expect more improvement in fluids, particles, hair and cloth physics, which usually don't feed back into the gameplay engine and thus can be done concurrently with the main engine work. If you're banging boxes around, the main game engine probably has to wait for the physics engine to get the new box positions, so there's no big win there. Even if you have feedback to the game engine from cloth, you can probably delay it a cycle, so that when the cape gets caught in the door, it doesn't yank on the character until one cycle later.

What this country needs is a good five dollar plasma weapon.

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