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Futuremark 3DMark testing suites have always looked into the future being at the progress forefront. Contemporary graphics cards have never shown any superior results in these tests, but it has always been the distinguishing feature of this test software. It was an excellent tool for predicting the future and revealing the major trends in 3D graphics world. 3DMark05 once predicted the wide-spreading of the Shader Model 2.0, and now it has already become a common thing for us: any contemporary game uses a lot of shaders 2.0. So, what does 3DMark06 tell us these days?

  • According to the results obtained in 3DMark06 we have every right to say that the gradual shift to more flexible and universal Shader Model 3.0 is inevitable. Besides we can also predict further increase in shader number and complexity in the upcoming games, broader use of HDR and Cascaded Shadow Maps as well as growing popularity of dual-core processors.
  • The new Futuremark suite also shows clearly that even the highest-performance graphics cards will not be able to ensure acceptable performance in games with the level of graphics similar to SM3.0/HDR tests, even the ones we saw in lowest resolutions. Only the new generation GPUs with more high-performance pixel processors will be able to cope with this task. Moreover, 512MB of video memory will also become a standard for the graphics accelerators of the future.

And in the meanwhile 3DMark06 can serve as a pretty good tool for testing graphics cards of different categories:

Radeon X1900 XTX: this graphics card shows the today’s best gaming performance and has quite a bit of potential for the future. The absence of FP16 textures filtering is no big drawback, as it can be easily simulated with the pixel shaders. With 48 pixel processors onboard, this emulation will not result into any noticeable performance drop.

GeForce 7800 GTX 512: good performance and good potential for the future. No simultaneous support for FSAA and HDR is no fatal thing: the performance would be too low in this mode anyway. It competes quite successfully with Radeon X1900 XT in terms of gaming performance, but cannot boast the same attractive price and wide availability.

GeForce 7800 GTX: this guy performs as fast as Radeon X1800 XT due to more pixel processors onboard. If the games use a lot of SM3.0/HDR it may yield to the latter that is why it is not as attractive on the long-term basis as Radeon X1800 XT.

GeForce 7800 GT: this solution runs as fast as Radeon X1800 XL, and represents the best choice among the inexpensive performance solutions. It can theoretically yield to the latter one in games using a lot of SM3.0 shaders, however, the SM3.0/HDR graphics tests do not prove this.

Radeon X1600 XT: it looks less attractive than GeForce 6800 GS in contemporary games, but seems to be more promising thanks to a more progressive architecture.

GeForce 6800: isn’t very prospective because of relatively low performance and small amount of video memory.

Radeon X850/X800 family has no future, because it doesn’t support SM3.0/HDR. However, if you are mostly playing gaming without these features, they might be a good choice.

Radeon X1300 PRO is the most promising graphics accelerator in the budget segment, just as GeForce 6600 GT. The latter however is more expensive. It will offer acceptable performance in the future games only in low resolutions, such as 800x600 or less. The same is true for GeForce 6600 GDDR2 and GeForce 6600.

Radeon X700 family has no future because of low gaming performance and no Shader Model 3.0 support.

S3 Chrome S27 offers pretty high performance for a value graphics solution. However, it has absolutely no future ahead, because it doesn’t support SM3.0.

As for the 3DMark06 itself, Futuremark keeps up the good tradition of offering quality testing tools. The benchmarking suite is very convenient to work with and supports all the latest technologies. Its set of tests is outstanding from the technical as well as aesthetical points of view. 3DMark06 is destined to follow into the footsteps of its predecessors: it will undoubtedly become a new standard for 3D industry.

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