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Rage Fury MAXX, Continued

Preview of the Double Whopper - ATI's Rage Fury MAXX
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32 bit Color Rendering
ATI Rage128 Pro AFR NVIDIA GeForce256
Switches down to 16 bit deep Z-buffer if 'game doesn't request 32 bit deep Z-buffer' always using 32 bit deep Z-buffer with 32 bit color

This little trick used by ATI and Matrox can make Fury MAXX look a lot better at 32 bit color in many games that don't use 32 bit Z-buffer.

Hardware Transform & Lighting
ATI Rage128 Pro AFR NVIDIA GeForce256
not available implemented

Here Fury MAXX is clearly at loss. GeForce will look a lot better at upcoming T&L-titles, especially with a slower CPU. With fast CPUs Fury MAXX could look pretty much the same as GeForce, if the T&L computed by the processor is as fast as GeForce's internal T&L-engine

Game Responsiveness or 'Lag'
ATI Rage128 Pro AFR NVIDIA GeForce256
The time it takes until a user-input is actually displayed on the screen is at least two frames with the AFR-technology. GeForce renders one frame after another with the same chip, thus it takes at least one frame for a user input to become visible on the screen.

This topic is particularly important for hard-core gamers. I recently received an email from a reader who beat me up for my statement that frame rates above 60 fps are rather meaningless. He is correct to say that he wants to get as many fps as possible, when he e.g. makes a very fast 180 degrees turn. The more frames he sees in the time the turn takes, the more he sees of the game environment around him. With few frames he could miss the enemy approaching him from the side, with many frames he will spot it. It's just as important to see the turn you make on the screen as soon as possible. In case of the Rage Fury MAXX, you will have to wait for at least 2 frames until you will see your turn actually happening on the screen, because the rendering time (the time it takes until a new frame is displayed on the screen) for a frame is still the same as with only one Rage 128 Pro chip. GeForce will most likely have a better game responsiveness, because it can render the same frame in pretty much half the time.

This graphic shall make it easier to understand this issue:

The green or red boxes are supposed to show the time it takes to render a frame. At the right end of each box the rendered frame is displayed on your screen. In this simplified graph it takes the same time for each frame. Now you can see that each Rage 128 Pro chip requires double the time for rendering one frame than GeForce needs. In this example Fury MAXX is still scoring the same frame rate by displaying the frames from each Rage 128 Pro chip alternatively.

Now see what happens if there comes a user input. Although in this example both 3D-solutions offer the exact same frame rate, it takes ATI's Rage 128 Pro a lot longer to display the frame that was generated in response to the user input. At the time of the user input, GeForce can start rendering the changed frame right after the last frame was finished.

It's a bit different in case of ATi's AFR-solution. One of the two chips is the one that's closer to finishing its current frame and this one will then start rendering the new frame that's the response to the user input. By this time, the other chip is still busy rendering the previous frame, which has already been displayed by the GeForce at this time. You could also say that ATi's AFR-solution is always lagging behind the actual game by one frame.

Now you might say that this little time it takes for one frame might not be noticeable, but consider the following. Let's say the game is running at an average frame rate of 60 fps. This means that it takes 16.7 ms for each frame in average, more realistically 15-20 ms. Now it really depends what kind of gamer you are. If you are used to playing multi-player games on a LAN with a ping of 10-20 ms, an additional lag of 15-20 ms is definitely noticeable. Even if your ping is usually 50 ms you will still be able to feel a graphics card that adds another 15-20 ms. People that play single-player games or modem-users with pings of up to 200 ms won't be bothered by Fury MAXX' additional lag. It's up to you to decide if the immanent lag of ATi's AFR-architecture is able to bother you or not.

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