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Optimizations: Industry Trends

A year ago NVIDIA implemented a special shader complier, dubbed Instruction Optimizer, in their drivers to improve the execution of shaders by GeForce FX processors. NVIDIA went even further saying they would add optimizations for every released game so that the users of GeForce FXs could enjoy the play no less that the users of ATI’s RADEON 9500 and higher GPUs, which had a certain speed advantage then. We guessed then that ATI Technologies would follow suit, although tweaking for each particular game was rather costly since it required additional workforce, research, development and testing of application-specific optimizations.

So what do we have now, a year since? ATI retains a very fast GPU architecture, while NVIDIA has developed the highly flexible GeForce 6 architecture, which matches the performance of the competitor. The GeForce FX family has withdrawn to the background, but the optimizations in NVIDIA’s driver remained, meaning that ATI has to develop even faster hardware or introduce driver optimizations like the competitor did earlier.

Like everything in this world, application-specific optimizations have their pros and cons. They do require additional expenses to buy the programmers’ time and may potentially give too much freedom to game developers who may not find it necessary to achieve the maximum compatibility of their products with the existing standards. On the other hand, optimizations do increase the performance of the whole installed hardware of a certain class, which is good for all end users. Then, making optimizations is obviously cheaper than inventing new hardware. This doesn’t mean of course that the progress is graphics hardware is going to stop – it’s impossible to optimize for all existing and upcoming games, so the GPU developers can’t help avoiding making new chips with a higher computational capacity.

Anyway, the super-fast graphics processors supported with various software accelerators deliver the highest performance and widen the gap between the market leaders ATI Technologies and NVIDIA Corp. and other players like S3 Graphics and XGI Technologies.

Thus, the release of Catalyst AI goes in the wake of new advances in GPU making and is a powerful method to achieving a higher performance on RADEON graphics cards of the latest series.

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