Introduction

A little over a year ago, we first heard about a company called AGEIA whose goal was to bring high quality physics processing power to the desktop. Today they have succeeded in their mission. For a short while, systems with the PhysX PPU (physics processing unit) have been shipping from Dell, Alienware, and Falcon Northwest. Soon, PhysX add-in cards will be available in retail channels. Today, the very first PhysX accelerated game has been released: Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter, and to top off the excitement, ASUS has given us an exclusive look at their hardware.

We have put together a couple benchmarks designed to illustrate the impact of AGEIA's PhysX technology on game performance, and we will certainly comment heavily on our experience while playing the game. The potential benefits have been discussed quite a bit over the past year, but now we finally get a taste of what the first PhysX accelerated games can do.

With NVIDIA and ATI starting to dip their toes into physics acceleration as well (with Havok FX and in-house demos of other technology), knowing the playing field is very important for all parties involved. Many developers and hardware manufacturers will definitely give this technology some time before jumping on the bandwagon, as should be expected. Will our exploration show enough added benefit for PhysX to be worth the investment?

Before we hit the numbers, we want to take another look at the technology behind the hardware.

AGEIA PhysX Technology and GPU Hardware
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  • bob661 - Friday, May 5, 2006 - link

    Joe SixPacks aren't gamers. They're email and Word users. People that game know what hardware is required. Reply
  • nullpointerus - Friday, May 5, 2006 - link

    That's not how it works. New types of hardware are initially luxury items both in the sense that they are affordable only by a few and way overpriced. When the rich adopt these things, the middle class end up wanting them, and manufacturers find ways to bring the prices down by scaling down the hardware or using technological improvements. So in other words, pipe down, let those who can afford them buy them, and in an few years we may see $50-75 versions for ordinary gamers. Reply
  • Mr Perfect - Saturday, May 6, 2006 - link

    I wish I could find the article now, but back a ways there was an interview with Ageia where it was said that prices would span a similar range as video cards. So yes, there will probably be low-end, minrange, and highend card.

    What I'm concerned about is the people who already are fighting a budget to game. These are the highschool kids with little to no income, the 40 year old with two kids and a morgage, and the casual gamer who's probably just as interested in a $170 PS2. What happens when they have to buy no only an enty level $150 video card, but also a $150 physics card? I can only imagine if gaming was currently limited to only those people with a $300 budget for a 7900GT or X1800 XL that we'd see PC gaming become a very elite selection for "enthusiasts" only.

    Hopefully we can get some snazzy physics without increasing the cost of admision so much, either by taking advantage of the dual core CPUs that are even now worming their way into the mainstream PCs, or some sort of new video card technology.
    Reply
  • nullpointerus - Sunday, May 7, 2006 - link

    Game developers have to eat, too. They won't produce games requiring extravagant hardware. Your fear is irrational. When you go into a doctor's office to get a shot, do you insist that the needle be sterilized right in front of your eyes before it comes anywhere near your skin? No. The doctor wants to eat, so he's not going to blow his eduction and license by reusing needles... Reply
  • Mr Perfect - Monday, May 8, 2006 - link

    Well obviously it won't be a problem if it's not required. If it becomes an unnecessary enhancment card, like an X-Fi, then all is well. All I've been saying is if it DOES become a required card there is the possibility for monetary problems for the bread-and-butter casual gamers who fill the servers. Reply
  • Googer - Friday, May 5, 2006 - link

    I for one will not be an early adopter for one of these. First generation hardware is always so cool to look at but it's almost always something you do not want to own. DX9 Video Cards are a great example: ATi 9700 PRO Was a great card if you played DX8 games but by the time software rolled around to take advantage of DX9 hardware, the 9700PRO just was not truly cut to handle it. The 9700PRO lacked a ton of features that second generation DX9 Cards had. My point is you should wait for the revision/version 2.0 of this card and you wont regret it. By then programs should be on store shelves to take full advandage of PhysX hardware. Reply
  • Jedi2155 - Monday, May 8, 2006 - link

    I think it handled the first gen dx9 games relatively well. Farcry was a great example as it played quite well on my 9700 pro (which lasted me till Sept. '05 when I upgraded to a refurb. x800 pro). It also was able to run most games on max details (although crappy framerates but it was able to do it!). I think the 9700 pro offered it lot for its time and was able to play the 1st gen Dx9 games well enough. Reply
  • munky - Friday, May 5, 2006 - link

    Sure, the 9x00 series could handle DX9, just not at maxed out settings. I played Farcry on a 9800xt, and it ran smoothly at medium-high settings. But the physx card is just plain disappointing, since it causes such a performance hit in GRAW, even at cpu-limited resolutions. Either the developers did not code the physics properly, or the physx card is not all that it's hyped up to be. We'll need more games using the ppu to know for sure. Reply
  • rqle - Friday, May 5, 2006 - link

    I bought a 9700 Pro, i saw it as so far ahead of ti4600 with its 4x the proformance when AA was apply. First card to play games with AA and AF even if wasnt directx9 games. BUT this ageia thing seem little pointless to me, i actually rather have 2 ATI or 2 Nvidia card, at least this gives you an option, less physics or better graphic experience. comes in handle for those 98% of games that not ageia compatible yet. Reply
  • PeteRoy - Friday, May 5, 2006 - link

    I hope this thing will be integrated into video cards mobo or CPU instead of seperated card. Reply

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