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Nvidia Points Finger at AMD's Image Quality Cheat

By - Source: Tom's Hardware US | B 160 comments

Are there shenanigans under the hood?

Image quality is a somewhat subjective thing, but benchmark results are not. When comparing graphics card performance, you want to try to get the most even test possible.

Nvidia's now pointing the finger at AMD saying that its competitor uses a different image quality setting that boosts benchmark results at the expense of image quality when compared to the GeForce parts.

Nvidia wrote in its nTersectblog:

NVIDIA’s own driver team has verified specific behaviors in AMD’s drivers that tend to affect certain anisotropic testing tools. Specifically, AMD drivers appear to disable texture filtering optimizations when smaller window sizes are detected, like the AF Tester tool uses, and they enable their optimizations for larger window sizes. The definition of “larger” and “smaller” varies depending on the API and hardware used. For example with DX10 and 68xx boards, it seems they disable optimizations with window sizes smaller than 500 pixels on a side. For DX9 apps like the AF Tester, the limit is higher, on the order of 1000 pixels per side. Our driver team also noticed that the optimizations are more aggressive on RV840/940 than RV870, with optimizations performed across a larger range of LODs for the RV840/940.

FP16 Render Observations
In addition to the above recent findings, for months AMD had been performing a background optimization for certain DX9 applications where FP16 render targets are demoted to R11G11B10 render targets, which are half the size and less accurate. When recently exposed publically, AMD finally provided a user visible control panel setting to enable/disable, but the demotion is enabled by default.  Reviewers and users testing DX9 applications such as Need for Speed Shift or Dawn of War 2, should uncheck the “Enable Surface Format Optimization” checkbox in the Catalyst AI settings area of the AMD control panel to turn off FP16 demotion when conducting comparative performance testing. 

A Long and Winding Road
For those with long memories, NVIDIA learned some hard lessons with some GeForce FX and 3DMark03 optimization gone bad, and vowed to never again perform any optimizations that could compromise image quality.  During that time, the industry agreed that any optimization that improved performance, but did not alter IQ, was in fact a valid “optimization”, and any optimization that improved performance but lowered IQ, without letting the user know, was a “cheat”.  Special-casing of testing tools should also be considered a “cheat”.

Read the full post here.

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  • 32 Hide
    chaoski , November 24, 2010 10:22 AM
    And Nvidia pays MILLIONS to developers to make their cards perform better in games....until the game comes out and AMD update drivers.

    I'm no fanboi and like whatever is best bang for the buck....which Nvidia has been winning lately (it seems)....but Nvidias deceptive business decisions/moves REALLY turn me off more than ANYTHING AMD can ever do.
  • 32 Hide
    Anonymous , November 24, 2010 10:25 AM
    Anti-Aliasing QC by nVidia is the biggest cheat. It reduces aliasing but makes the textures way blurrier.
    It's just a desperate cry because nVidia lost a lot since Ati/AMD released 5xxx series
  • 32 Hide
    anacandor , November 24, 2010 10:27 AM
    Nvidia should be spending their time improving their own products, not delving into AMD's "cheat" drivers. Nvidia is turning the GPU market into some pre election ad campaign...
Other Comments
  • 32 Hide
    chaoski , November 24, 2010 10:22 AM
    And Nvidia pays MILLIONS to developers to make their cards perform better in games....until the game comes out and AMD update drivers.

    I'm no fanboi and like whatever is best bang for the buck....which Nvidia has been winning lately (it seems)....but Nvidias deceptive business decisions/moves REALLY turn me off more than ANYTHING AMD can ever do.
  • 20 Hide
    Stifle , November 24, 2010 10:25 AM
    Haters gonna hate.
  • 32 Hide
    Anonymous , November 24, 2010 10:25 AM
    Anti-Aliasing QC by nVidia is the biggest cheat. It reduces aliasing but makes the textures way blurrier.
    It's just a desperate cry because nVidia lost a lot since Ati/AMD released 5xxx series
  • 32 Hide
    anacandor , November 24, 2010 10:27 AM
    Nvidia should be spending their time improving their own products, not delving into AMD's "cheat" drivers. Nvidia is turning the GPU market into some pre election ad campaign...
  • 21 Hide
    _Pez_ , November 24, 2010 10:28 AM
    If I were Nvidia, I would better shut up, because in the game Metro 2033 most of the artifacts in movement lost their Definition and when this objects stops the definition is there again... So is that because the game or because their drivers?? "my card is GTX285 with Core i7 920 CPU"
  • 8 Hide
    bustapr , November 24, 2010 10:28 AM
    As long as I get more frames with less money the difference in image quality mentioned here is unnoticable. Ive never really noticed any difference in the new cards when compared to nvidia 4xx cards.

    And who in their right mind plays anything dx10 on a screen with less than 500 pixels on the side... And if you have the balls to buy a 68xx card, you most likely have a screen with more than 1000 side pixels...

    Lol, whenever Nvidia throws something at AMD, AMD always seems to throw something harder at Nvidia... waiting to see the response
  • 20 Hide
    therabiddeer , November 24, 2010 10:29 AM
    fstarnellaWho cares?? I just care about the end result. Whatever happens under the hood is fine by me.

    If you care about the end result, then you should care about this. It is essentially lying to reviewers such as tomshardware who test the products and give benchmark results to assist buyers in choosing which card to go with.
  • 0 Hide
    therabiddeer , November 24, 2010 10:32 AM
    bustaprAs long as I get more frames with less money the difference in image quality mentioned here is unnoticable. Ive never really noticed any difference in the new cards when compared to nvidia 4xx cards. And who in their right mind plays anything dx10 on a screen with less than 500 pixels on the side... And if you have the balls to buy a 68xx card, you most likely have a screen with more than 1000 side pixels...Lol, whenever Nvidia throws something at AMD, AMD always seems to throw something harder at Nvidia... waiting to see the response

    What AMD is doing is lying in benchmarks to appear better. So when the benchmark says you get 5 FPS more than an nvidia card you would actually be getting the same FPS in a real situation. But, if you are told that a certain card is better, which one are you going to buy? These image quality settings are only being done in benchmarks, which is straight up wrong.
  • 26 Hide
    Reynod , November 24, 2010 10:37 AM
    Nvidia remind me of North Korea ... run by a small minded despot surrounded by yes men who focus on covering up their own dirty deeds (sinking ships, shelling innocents) , and pointing the bone at the competition, instead of putting out a better product.

    So far they have been busted cheating on 3DMark benchmarks, AA / AF filtering, thermal ratings for their GPU's, game benchmarks, and pretty much anything else they can get away with.

    If NVidia is whining then you can pretty much assume the following:

    Their yeilds are low on their current line of GPU's and as a result profitability is down, and competitively they are being aced in a number of market niches.

    These currently include:

    Discrete low end
    Chipsets (LOL)
    Mid range (they don't have the same range currently available)
    High end ... did I mention yields?

    http://s0.2mdn.net/1592859/15secondInqWP.html?rfp=http://www.theinquirer.net/inquirer/news/1048824/nvidia-cheats-3dmark-177-drivers

    http://www.geek.com/articles/games/nvidia-still-cheating-even-with-latest-3dmark-build-2003069/

    http://www.nvnews.net/vbulletin/showthread.php?t=11826
  • 27 Hide
    trkorecky , November 24, 2010 10:38 AM
    *dons AMD shirt, point in direction of NVIDIA's shenanigans with PhysX*
    He called me a name!
  • 6 Hide
    yebornah , November 24, 2010 10:51 AM
    Umm... You can actually change the image quality settings in the Control Center. And you can even switch of all performance tweaks. The problem is, Nvidia doesn't allow this in their drivers. So that's why there's never gonna be an apples to apples comparison.

    I have been a very content Nvidia owner in the past, but their PR is reaching Repblican Party election campaign lows.
  • -2 Hide
    saturnus , November 24, 2010 10:52 AM
    TheRabidDeerWhat AMD is doing is lying in benchmarks to appear better. So when the benchmark says you get 5 FPS more than an nvidia card you would actually be getting the same FPS in a real situation. But, if you are told that a certain card is better, which one are you going to buy? These image quality settings are only being done in benchmarks, which is straight up wrong.


    Quite untrue. They actually relate to real-world improvements in FPS performance when running a program in a window. It's actually quite important for some people that cannot run full-screen due to other processes going on. That testers don't specify that it's "artifically" improved windowed performance is were the real mistake is, they should run both types of tests.
  • 16 Hide
    elbert , November 24, 2010 10:55 AM
    This is funny Nvidia had noticeable worse graphics in the early years of 2000. This is the pot calling the kettle black. They now have the nerve to pock at ATI for optimizing graphics that no one notices. This is the funny thing I have ever seen a company waste money and resources on.
  • 9 Hide
    Yuka , November 24, 2010 10:59 AM
    TheRabidDeerWhat AMD is doing is lying in benchmarks to appear better. So when the benchmark says you get 5 FPS more than an nvidia card you would actually be getting the same FPS in a real situation. But, if you are told that a certain card is better, which one are you going to buy? These image quality settings are only being done in benchmarks, which is straight up wrong.


    Because benchmarking always tells the whole story...

    Dude, it's been ages since I've seen a review talking about image quality. AGES. Tom's hardly does it nowadays (remember those gifs and high res jpegs comparing screenshots?).

    Anyway, like yebornah said, CCC has a slider for texture and mipmapping quality (was it mipmapping? XD). I like it so much against nVidia's complicated way of doing things. Have you seen the profiling in nVidia's drivers? Gosh! KISS nVidia, KISS.

    Cheers!
  • 1 Hide
    blackwater11 , November 24, 2010 11:00 AM
    It's actually the other way around. Nvidia is just trying to pin it on ATI. It's been known for years that ATI image quality is better. Nvidia plays a nasty game for sure. They also throttle the new cards at idle so you can't use the cards with any 3D modeling program.
  • 0 Hide
    rantoc , November 24, 2010 11:00 AM
    I don't care what GPU i have in my rig as long as it provides good frame rate AND good image quality, cheating in a benchmark like this is wrong.

    Its like saying look our car does average 120mhp while the competition only average 110mhp... not telling you run your test on a straight road while the competitions car had to run at a mixed road with extra turns.

    This IS wrong - Negative one point to Ati for this!
  • -9 Hide
    alterecho , November 24, 2010 11:01 AM
    Does this mean nvda is trying to figure out how ati is performing better?
  • 17 Hide
    chunkymonster , November 24, 2010 11:02 AM
    This reminds of the same lame tit-for-tat arguments about image quality, benchmarks, and driver tweeks between nVidia and ATI from 3-4 years ago. I suppose now nVidia has reverted back to infantile accusations to make excuses for their being on the losing end of the gpu wars.

    Meh, whatever...both nVidia and ATI/AMD are making kick-a$s gpu's nowadays and not sure why nVidia is resorting to these attack tactics.
  • 10 Hide
    damasvara , November 24, 2010 11:02 AM
    Nevertheless, I still want that $78 HD5670 from Digital Alliance. DirectX 11 at an affordable price. Sorry nVanboys, but nVidia just can't cut it...
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