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GeForce3 Under Attack: ATi's Radeon 8500 Previewed

'SmartShader' - Another Programmable Vertex And Pixel Processor

While NVIDIA in unison with Microsoft called GeForce3's programmable vertex processor 'Vertex Shader ' and the programmable pixel processor 'Pixel Shader ', ATi came up with the name 'SmartShader' for both. The programmable vertex processor of Radeon 8500 comes with the same functionality as GeForce3's. The reason why ATi considers Radeon 8500's pixel shader 'smarter' than NVIDIA's, is the fact that ATi listened to the complaints of developers, who considered GeForce3's pixel shader as not sophisticated enough, especially in comparison to the rather sophisticated vertex shader of GeForce3. 'Smartshader' is able to use up to six texel-inputs per pixel shader program, adds a new instruction set and allows longer programs (22 instead of 12 instructions per program). The specifications of Smartshader's different programmable pixel processor are implemented into DirectX 8.1 and while GeForce3 will remain unable to allow six texel-inputs per pass, it should communicate with the other instruction set once it runs under DirectX 8.1. All in all, 'Smartshader' is a good thing and will certainly be welcomed by developers.

SmartShader allows stuff like:

  • Procedural deformation
  • Geometry compression
  • Morphing
  • Fur rendering
  • Skeletal animation
  • Keyframe interpolation
  • Full bump mapping support: environment mapped (Blinn), emboss, dot3
  • Anisotropic lighting
  • Phong shading
  • Light and gloss maps
  • Reflections, shadows, spotlights, texture morphing
  • Texture coordinate transformation
  • Texture coordinate generation for spherical, dual paraboloid and cubic environment mapping
  • Projected textures
  • Video textures