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An official representative from a well-known manufacturer of graphics cards based on NVIDIA GeForce graphics processor today accused Futuremark Corporation, the developer of 3DMark software – an industrial benchmarks for graphics cards – of disabling certain functions available in NVIDIA ForceWare 52.16 drivers.

Futuremark Corporation announced yesterday the immediate availability of its v340 patch to the 3DMark03 benchmark suite. According to Tero Sarkkinen, Executive Vice President of Sales and Marketing at Futuremark Corporation, “the new version is published to make sure that our customers can get an objective 3DMark03 performance comparison with the latest hardware and drivers. Our customers will be able to perform apples-to-apples performance comparisons between the various IHVs’ graphics cards.” 

Earlier this year Futuremark Corporation unveiled 3DMark03 specific optimizations in drivers from the world’s leading graphics processor companies, such as NVIDIA Corporation and ATI Technologies. 3DMark03 specific optimizations in drivers are against run rules of 3DMark03, because they invalidate the performance measurement results and thus make it impossible to compare performances of different hardware. In an attempt to disable benchmark specific optimizations, Futuremark implemented a number of changes in its 3DMark03 benchmark to avoid its recognition by GPU drivers that deploy application-specific optimizations.

As a response to Futuremark findings, ATI Technologies promised to remove its 3DMark03 application specific optimization from its CATALYST drivers and reportedly has fulfilled its promise. NVIDIA Corporation has never made official comments in regards application specific-optimizations for 3DMark03.

In October 2003 the world’s largest GPU manufacturer – Santa Clara, California-based NVIDIA Corporation – introduced its new Unified Compiler specifically integrated in its ForceWare 52.16 drivers that optimize Pixel Shader code for NVIDIA GeForce FX architecture to improve performance of graphics cards powered by NVIDIA’s latest GPUs in variety of demanding applications.

NVIDIA said that compiler technology tunes DirectX 9.0 execution on GeForce FX GPUs, and can be used to correct any similar conflict that arises with future APIs. NVIDIA indicated that the Unified Compiler is an automatic tuning tool that optimizes Pixel Shader performance on all applications, not just on specific ones.

According to reports from various web-sites dedicated to graphics cards benchmarking, NVIDIA GeForce FX 5950 Ultra scores roughly 15% lower in the newly patched version of 3DMark03 compared to previous build.

However, it appears that some technical specialists have something to say against the new patch. Hans-Wolfram Tismer, a Managing Director for Gainward Europe GmbH said today: “According to my information patch 340 disables the GPU compiler. The compiler has to run on the CPU instead resulting in code harder to digest and taking away 20% of the performance. This may not reflect gaming performance and may point in the wrong direction. To me 3DMark03 may look less and less suitable to be used for benchmarking. By the end of the day the end users are running games and applications, not 3DMark03.”

Due to some reasons, 3DMark03 in-depth testing of this web-site revealed no performance penalty in 3DMark03 Pixel Shader 2.0 performance test, but uncovered a 26.5% speed drop in Vertex Shader test. 

According to benchmarks available around the World Wide Web, ATI RADEON hardware using the latest drivers performs equally in all versions of 3DMark03.

Representatives from NVIDIA and Futuremark did not return enquiries at press time.

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