IQ Testing

To go further along the lines of the extreme "Average" frames per second scenario, we also need to consider Image Quality. Do we really want to play a game that runs faster on one card than another if it has poor shading techniques or unknowingly (or knowingly?) clips lighting effects? ATI and NVIDIA have both been batted around over "Optimziation" issues. Although the optimization accusations are more or less behind us now, a particular graphics manufacturer will release drivers soon that purposely enable optimizations (but will force you to enable them yourself). As new extra-tweaked driver sets begin to take advantage of these new open optimizations, knowing the image quality between different graphics cards becomes much more critical.

Again, we were extremely blessed with some very bright coders fully capable of abusing every last ounce of the OpenGL and SDL libraries. Below, you can see two side by side images of NVIDIA graphics cards captured at the same frame. On the top is a GeForce FX 5950 Ultra with single pass lighting, and on the bottom is the same card with multipass lighting on low quality. Click to enlarge either image.

Click to enlarge.

Click to enlarge.

Notice that these frames are slightly different. We have one or two bugs to work out in the frame capture program. In any case, we can still make some comparisons. All of our sample frames are captured in a lossless format similar to BMP, and then compressed with another lossless codec, PNG.



The lighting and textures speak volumes alone. Granted, these are extreme cases that we should not see from card to card. When it comes to comparing different card architectures, these are the kind of comparisons that we will take.

Final Words

Hopefully, you feel that our approach to benchmarking Linux games is an improvement over traditional methods. We have put a lot of work into preparing this new utility, and we will continue to perfect it in the future as well. The point here is not to eliminate our old benchmarks, but to augment average frames per second with thorough IQ and time-delimited data to give readers a better way to judge which products are better.

And of course, be prepared for our massive Linux GPU roundup in the coming weeks.

Some Test Cases


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  • quanta - Friday, October 01, 2004 - link

    If you are going to compare image quality, what is the basis of comparison? That means that a reference (software) renderer is needed. But even then, choosing right technique means ones need to draw extremely detailed scenes similar to CAD programs, but such renditions will be too slow. And of course, there's the issue of how to objectively define the 'right' way vs. 'wrong' way of optimization in ways that most can agree, and can be done by computers.

    In any case, we can't afford yet another GPU benchmark that is easily exploited (in bad ways, that is).
  • tygrus - Tuesday, September 28, 2004 - link

    Nice start.
    I get frustrated by companies that delay support for <5% of the market because of small numbers when its the lack of support that is causing the low numbers. If ATI improved the drivers for linux then more people would use their existing ATI cards under linux and more importantly more people will buy ATI for their linux system instead of Nvidia. It's the issue of "what came first, the chicken or the egg", when their attitude should be more like "build it and they will come".
  • TrogdorJW - Tuesday, September 28, 2004 - link

    Just a quick question here, as I see a potential performance issue with the "hacked" OpenGL/SDL framerate utility. You mention that the software will automatically capture screen shots periodically. That ought to increase the demand on the HDD and potentially the rest of the system for brief instants when the screen captures are done. Hopefully there will be multiple benchmarking runs done, one with the screen captures and one without. Although, I suppose we have to see what sort of difference the screen captures actually make in performance first. :) Reply
  • raylpc - Saturday, September 25, 2004 - link

    I agree with fic. I'm going to buy a new AMD64 system and I will get Nvidia just because their linux support is way superior than ATi's, although ATi does make better cards. Reply
  • aaime - Saturday, September 25, 2004 - link

    I hope you can add some 2D benchmarks as well, since, for example, the 2D performance of the ATI drivers really suck! A 2D perf. benchmark should involve also use of Render, text antialiasing and such to be representative.
    Anyway, thank you, it's nice to see some attention to the Linux world from you :-)
  • fic - Friday, September 24, 2004 - link

    Probably the big reason that only 4% of owners of ATI cards run linux is that their support sucks. This is a self fulfilling thing. ATI doesn't support linux therefore if you are going to run linux you don't use ATI. I image that a huge percentage of linux users use Nvidia because they have decent drivers. Reply
  • Brule - Friday, September 24, 2004 - link

    Great article. That's why they call it computer "science". Looking forward to the results on a personal linux-using level as well. Reply
  • javalino - Friday, September 24, 2004 - link

    Well. I hope this type of benchmark didnt effect the continuos windows benchmarks. As the ATI said this week, 4% of owers of ati cards run linux, so, not much people want to see linux benchmarks, unless they are better than windows ones.
  • Illissius - Friday, September 24, 2004 - link

    Amazing. I've been looking for a tool like this for Linux for ages. Gimme now! Gimme now! Reply

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