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GeForce3 Under Attack: ATi's Radeon 8500 Previewed

Features, Features, Features

Normal people with sensible interests and serious problems would be petrified by the pure feature-list of ATi's upcoming 3D chip. It's so much stuff that I didn't even contemplate explaining it all here in this article. Luckily ATi has released a lot of technology info about Radeon 8500 in the last weeks and months already, so that those of you, who really need to know all about those features with their funky names, can find a wealth of information all over the web, including right here. All the ones of you blessed with a minimal amount of common sense should be satisfied with this short summary of Radeon 8500's features: 'It's a beefed up GeForce3 and then some'. OK?

I know, the majority of you is of course not satisfied with that, which does not mean that I am daring to draw any conclusions about your common sense. To keep everyone happy I will quickly summarize the most important issues of each feature, to give you a pretty good idea what it actually really is.

'Truform' - Canadian For 'N-Patches'

ATi's 'Truform' stand for a special, and actually rather sensible as well as exciting way of implementing 'higher order surfaces ' into 3D-games, regardless if new or old. It is capable of making a 'curved surface' out of a 'flat triangle'. Now we, the informed minority of this planet, always knew that triangles happen to be flat, even flatter than pancakes. For the others, who thought that triangles weren't flat before, ATi introduced their version of DX8's N-patches, which uses the normals (surface vectors) of each vertex that describes a triangle to calculate a curved surface that of course consists of more triangles. This procedure is also called 'tesselation' and 'Truform' allows the adjustment of how many new (and of course smaller) triangles will be generated out of the original 'flat' triangle. ATi (and fellow journalists) claim that this procedure does not cost any performance, but it is logical that this is not quite the whole truth. Once a triangle has been replaced by a lot of smaller triangles, the rendering pipeline has to handle the smaller triangles, which does of course cost performance. The catch of "Truform" however is that it has the ability to make 3D-objects look much more realistic while carrying the risk of creating artifacts (not every flat surface wants to be curved). It can be used in any 3D-game, regardless if old or new and thus it seems to be a smarter approach than NVIDIA's spline-stuff, but we'll have to see what developers think about it. One thing is for sure; I doubt that 'Truform' will indeed come for free in terms of performance.