Introduction

Last week, we took a first look at the new PhysX add-in physics accelerator from AGEIA. After our article was published, AGEIA released an update to their driver that addresses some of the framerate issues in Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter. While our main focus this time around will be on BFG's retail part, we will explore the effectiveness of this patch and go a little further in-depth with the details behind our performance analysis.


In addition to the BFG retail PhysX card and Ghost Recon update, we will take a look at a few demos that require the PhysX card to run. While there aren't any games scheduled to come out in the near future that will take this new technology to the extreme, it will be nice to get a glimpse into the vision AGEIA has for the future. Getting there will certainly be a hard road to travel. Until more games come out that support the hardware, we certainly can't recommend PhysX to anyone but the wealthy enthusiasts who enjoy the novelty of hardware for hardware's sake. Even if PhysX significantly enhances the experience of a few games right now, it will be a tough sell to most users until there is either much wider software support, good games which require the hardware, or a killer app with a PhysX hardware accelerated feature that everyone wants to have.

As for games which will include PhysX hardware support, the only three out as of this week are Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter (GRAW), Rise of Nations: Rise of Legends (ROL) and City of Villains (COV). Rise of Legends came out last week, and we have been extensively testing it. Unfortunately, PhysX hardware support will only be added in an upcoming patch for which we have no real ETA.

We worked very hard to test City of Villains, and we finally succeeded in creating a repeatable benchmark. The specific content in City of Villains which supports the AGEIA PhysX PPU (physics processing unit) is a series of events called the Mayhem Missions. This is a very small subset of the game consisting of timed (15 minute) missions. Currently these missions are being added in Issue 7 which is still on the test server and is not ready for primetime. Full support for PhysX was included on the test server as of May 10th, so we have benchmarks and videos available.

Before we jump into the numbers, we are going to take a look at the BFG card itself. As this is a full retail part, we will give it a full retail workup: power, noise, drivers, and pricing will all be explored. Our investigations haven't turned up an on-chip or on-board thermistor, so we won't be reporting heat for this review. Our power draw numbers and the size of the heat sink lead us to believe that heat should not be a big issue for PhysX add-in boards.

BFG PhysX and the AGEIA Driver
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  • apesoccer - Wednesday, May 17, 2006 - link

    That's a good question as well...especially for those of us using other additional pci cards... Reply
  • mbhame - Wednesday, May 17, 2006 - link

    You guys are giving Ageia WAY too much slack. :(
    Call a spade a spade and save face.
    Reply
  • apesoccer - Wednesday, May 17, 2006 - link

    There's no use in throwing in the towel before we get in the ring... Reply
  • mbhame - Wednesday, May 17, 2006 - link

    Throwing in the towel...? How do you infer that from what I said?

    I said "Call a spade a spade". Whether Anandtech.com chooses an easy-out path of "Currently the PPU sucks..." (not in so many words) or not, there is tremendous grace extended to Ageia around here, and frankly, it stinks.

    Obviously there is a fine line between journalism with respect (which 99% of other websites are ignorant of) and brown-nosing, or needing to get a pair. All I'm saying is it's not very clear where this site's stand is amongst these possibilities.
    Reply
  • Trisped - Wednesday, May 17, 2006 - link

    I think everyone is being cautiously optimistic that the tech will improve. I wasn't on the 3d accelerator screen when that first happened, but from what I hear those cards were expensive and actually were worse then not having them. But now they are required for every game and windows vista.

    We want to wait to see if they can work out the bugs, give us better comparisons, and to compare it to the GPU only systems that are suppose to be coming. Once we have all the facts we can pass a final verdict, until then everything is guess work.
    Reply
  • apesoccer - Wednesday, May 17, 2006 - link

    There's alot of grace given to it everywhere...I have yet to see an article bash them. There has been a lot of interest in this product, and frankly, the general concensis is that we want to see it succeed. That aside, i don't think they can make a precise statement saying...This product is going to suck balls...or this is going to be the next Sliced Bread...

    My problem with it, is the lack of depth to the findings (and your statement "Call a spade a spade"...), I wish they had tried more kinds of CPU's with different kinds of GPU's, at several resolutions at both the same settings hardware/software and different ones. Without those tests, you can't really say you've tested the product.

    Basically...because they haven't done enough work with it yet [imo](due to time restraints or whatever...), we can't make any real statements about this product. Other then, at the one hardware setting they ran it at, compared to the different software setting ( >< ), the software setting scored better in fps. Which tells us what? The ppu uses overhead cpu cycles when doing at least 3x the amount of work the cpu would be doing at the lower sofware settings. So lets see some different settings (and some of the hardware/software running at the same), so we can get a better idea of the big picture.
    Reply
  • mbhame - Wednesday, May 17, 2006 - link

    I don't agree with your assessment on the general consensus. My circles vehemently want it to fail as it's an additional cost to our PCs, an additional heat source, an additional power requirement... and for what?

    I think you're kidding yourself if you think some other CPU:GPU combination would yield appreciably-different results.
    Reply
  • DerekWilson - Wednesday, May 17, 2006 - link

    we're working very hard to find ways to more extensively test the hardware. you've hit the nail on the head with why people haven't been tearing this part up. we are certainly suspicious of its capabilities at this point, but we just don't have the facts to draw a hard line on its real value (exept in the context of "right now"). Reply
  • mbhame - Wednesday, May 17, 2006 - link

    Well then make stronger statements in the present-tense. Just because someone makes a product designed to do "X", it doesn't mean that they'll succeed in doing so. You guys come across as if it's a given the PPU *will be* a success and in doing so generate a level of expectation of success. As it stands now this is a total flop - treat it as such. Then IF and when they DO make it worthwhile for some appreciable reason then we can marvel at their about-face collectively.

    It's not cynicism, it's reality.
    Reply
  • AnnonymousCoward - Friday, May 19, 2006 - link

    Why do you need stronger criticism? You've been able to determine what's going on, and that's because the performance charts speak for themselves. I'd rather read what's currently on the conclusion page, instead of the obvious "This product's performance sucks with current games." Reply

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