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Ageia PhysX Tested 179

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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  • by JoeLinux ( 20366 ) <joelinux&gmail,com> on Tuesday May 09, 2006 @06:30PM (#15297238) Homepage
    Since Mainframes, I've always thought it makes more sense to modularize hardware.

    While studying for my EE, I often wondered what the purpose of having a clock was, since so much of the individual chips often had finished their calculations before the next clock cycle came around.

    I think we are going to see the clock go away, replaced with "Data Ready" lines, which will also help heavily in determining the bottlenecks in a given system (Hint: it's the system that is taking the longest to put up the "Data Ready" flag).

    I also think that optics will be the way of the future. Quantum will be like Mechanical Television: cute idea, but impractical for mass production.

    Optics. Think of it this way: Imagine a bus that can address individual I/O cards with full duplex, simply by using different colors for the lasers. Motherboards are going to get a lot smaller.

    That's my opinion, anyway.


    Q:Why couldn't Helen Keller drive?

    A:Because she was a woman.
  • by Eideewt ( 603267 ) on Tuesday May 09, 2006 @06:39PM (#15297306)
    I think that while this card can do some amazing physics stuff, we aren't ready to make use of that capability for anything more than a little eye candy. Not in networked games, at least. Trying to keep everyone's world in sync is hard enough as it is, without adding even more objects that need to appear in the same place for everyone.
  • by daVinci1980 ( 73174 ) on Tuesday May 09, 2006 @06:42PM (#15297328) Homepage
    Having a Data Ready flag doesn't solve the problem that a clock solves. How do you know when you can read your 'Data Ready' flag? How do you know that your current reading of 'Data Ready' is really new data, and not the same data you haven't picked up yet?

    A clock is a syncronization scheme, and it solves a very low-level issue: How do I syncronize my reads and writes on a physical level?

    Many people have tried to create systems that don't have clocks. Without exception, they have all failed or have been unscalable.
  • by Rimbo ( 139781 ) <rimbosity&sbcglobal,net> on Tuesday May 09, 2006 @06:49PM (#15297373) Homepage Journal
    short for "abated"
  • by cubeplayr ( 966308 ) on Tuesday May 09, 2006 @07:02PM (#15297444)
    Is there any competion for Aegis? Reviews are all fine and dandy but product comparisons is where the decisions should be made. It should be based on which PPU can perform a given task faster/better. Competition would also drive each competitor to better their own product to beat the other. However, they shouldn't be mutually exclusive (ie. If you use Product A, then you can't use a program with only Product B support).

    I wonder how long it will be before there is a mainstream demand for a separtate physics unit (probably as soon as games require them). It sounds like a great idea to take some of the load off the CPU. Does this mean that now game performance will be more directly linked to the speed and power of the GPU and PPU and that the CPU will be more of an I/O director and less of a number cruncher?

    I've seen numerous posts of people saying that they do not have any available PCI slots. Will the introduction of a new type of card lead to larger motherboards with more slots or might it lead to a small graphics card that does not monopolize the PCI space? Also, there is the concern of adding another heat source to the mix.

    "Get you facts first - then you can distort them as you please." -Mark Twain
  • Re:Skeptical (Score:5, Insightful)

    by HunterZ ( 20035 ) on Tuesday May 09, 2006 @07:25PM (#15297542) Journal
    I also remember that in its day Glide was faster and resulted in higher quality 3d than OpenGL or DirectX.

    For a while, since 3dfx was the only one innovating for a while. Once they got hold of the market, nobody else could because the games only supported Glide, and nobody else was able to make Glide-supported hardware due to it being a proprietary API.

    Then nVidia came along with superior cards that only supported Direct3D and OpenGL because Glide was 3dfx proprietary. Game developers were forced to switch to D3D/OpenGL to support the new wider array of hardware. Since 3dfx cards were overly-optimized for Glide, this resulted in games that ran crappy on 3dfx hardware but great on nVidia. The rest is history.

    EAX is a similar story. Creative owns it, but what has happened is that many game developers don't bother to take advantage of it, instead relying on DirectSound3D or OpenAL as the lowest-common-denominator. The widespread use of SDKs suck as Miles Sound System do also help to allow transparent use of various sounds API features though, so mileage varies. Personally, I've been without Creative products for years now and haven't missed them one but. I'm currently waiting for the next generation of DDL/DTS Connect sound cards to come out, and then I'll give those a shot.

    The same thing is likely to happen here; competitors will make their own products, but because they won't be able the use the PhysX engine they will make their own. It will be an open API because they'll have to band together to get game developers to support their cards. Ageia will be forced to add driver support for the standard API, but it won't perform as well on their cards. If they're smart, they'll either open the API early on, or else release new hardware built around the open API. This is all assuming the PPUs even catch on, of course.

    The problem with the PC gaming hardware market is that when there's only one company making a certain type of product, they tend to stop innovating. Then, when someone else develops a competing product they try to use marketing to stay ahead instead of coming up with more competitive products. Sometimes gamers see through the marketing (3dfx) and sometimes they have a harder time doing so (EAX). It will be interesting to see how it turns out this time.
  • by complete loony ( 663508 ) <> on Tuesday May 09, 2006 @07:50PM (#15297655)
    Of course this argument falls down with graphics processing. While it is true that today's CPUs could probably process the graphics engine from games 5-7 years old, the bandwidth and processing requirements of current generation games is very different to the types of problems CPUs normally handle. It's a type of problem that generic CPUs can't keep up with. Physics may be a similar type of problem, one that can be performed far more efficiently than a current CPU can handle. That said, there has to be a large market for such a device to fund the R&D for future revisions or the generic CPU will catch up again.

    With graphics, small visual differences between hardware implementations are not a big problem. Physics processing needs a standard interface, and precise specs on what the output should be. If there is only going to be one vendor, and one proprietary interface, this market will fail.

  • Re:Skeptical (Score:3, Insightful)

    by aarku ( 151823 ) on Tuesday May 09, 2006 @08:04PM (#15297726) Journal
    It absolutely is optimized in software. That's ridiculous. My own little informal tests have put it high and above Newton and ODE for a lot of cases, and who knows about Havok. (too damn expensive to try)

    I think most people don't realize it's a great physics engine by itself that has the added bonus of supporting dedicated hardware. Plus, a lot of the larger developers presumably have source access, so if it doesn't look optimized or if there are big /* LOL THIS'll MAKE EM BUY A CARD */ comments... well... Unreal 3 and everyone else [] wouldn't be using it would it then?
  • by joe_n_bloe ( 244407 ) on Tuesday May 09, 2006 @08:26PM (#15297820) Homepage
    Some day Slashdot will allow people to edit their posts for grammar and spelling, or perhaps there will be a Slashdot editor who knows grammar and spelling.

Fear is the greatest salesman. -- Robert Klein