Before closing out this review, we would like to leave you with two more aspects of graphics cards that have been in development over time and are becoming more prominent. The first is video playback. Under the old regime of GeForce 7, ATI Radeon X1900 cards dominated the video playback quality arena. This reign comes to an end with the advent of unified shaders with a dedicated Pure Video core.
With smarter algorithms and 128 shaders to pick from, the GeForce 8800GTX was able to score a 128 out of 130 points in HQV. We will be doing some updated image quality test of our own as we just visited this topic, so stay tuned for more on this subject.
Last but not least on our tour of G80 enabled treats is what Nvidia calls CUDA. This was one of the things that blew me out of the water. For years there have been enthusiasts and academicians looking for ways to do more on powerful parallel processors. When a Beowulf cluster was out of reach for the budget conscience, people started looking to graphics cards for more horsepower.
The problem with using graphics is that it is great at parallel processing but can be lousy at high-branching problems. This is where a CPU is better. To top things off, one has to program shaders like a game developer just to get the problems solved on a graphics card. Nvidia once again pulled out a trump card with Compute Unified Device Architecture or CUDA.
Here is a breakdown of what CUDA can do with a fluid simulation.
Nvidia created a C+ compiler that scales with GPU horsepower (like the 96 SPs in 8800GTS vs. 128 in 8800GTX). Now programmers have the ability to create programs that scale on both the CPU and the graphics processor. Protein folding at home and other applications requiring massive amounts of computational power and precision will fall in love CUDA. Not only can CUDA help invent programs to solve the world's ills but it can be used to blow things up better or simulate other things like volumetric fluids, cloth and hair. Effects physics and even other game play features could be potentially ported back to the graphics processor via CUDA.