Putting this PhysX Business to Rest

Let me put things in perspective. Remember our Radeon HD 4870/4850 article that went up last year? It was a straight crown-robbing on ATI’s part, NVIDIA had no competitively priced response at the time.

About two hours before the NDA lifted on the Radeon HD 4800 series we got an urgent call from NVIDIA. The purpose of the call? To attempt to persuade us to weigh PhysX and CUDA support as major benefits of GeForce GPUs. A performance win by ATI shouldn’t matter, ATI can’t accelerate PhysX in hardware and can’t run CUDA applications.

The argument NVIDIA gave us was preposterous. The global economy was weakening and NVIDIA cautioned us against recommending a card that in 12 months would not be the right choice because new titles supporting PhysX and new CUDA applications would be coming right around the corner.

The tactics didn’t work obviously, and history showed us that despite NVIDIA’s doomsday warnings - Radeon HD 4800 series owners didn’t live to regret their purchases. Yes, the global economy did take a turn for the worst, but no - NVIDIA’s PhysX and CUDA support hadn’t done anything to incite buyer’s remorse for anyone who has purchased a 4800 series card. The only thing those users got were higher frame rates. (Note that if you did buy a Radeon HD 4870/4850 and severely regretted your purchase due to a lack of PhysX/CUDA support, please post in the comments).

This wasn’t a one time thing. NVIDIA has delivered the same tired message at every single opportunity. NVIDIA’s latest attempt was to punish those reviewers who haven’t been sold on the PhysX/CUDA messages by not sending them GeForce GTS 250 cards for review. The plan seemed to backfire thanks to one vigilant Inquirer reporter.

More recently we had our briefing for the GeForce GTX 275. The presentation for the briefing was 53 slides long, now the length wasn’t bothersome, but let’s look at the content of the slides:

Slides About... Number of Slides in NVIDIA's GTX 275 Presentation
The GeForce GTX 275 8
PhysX/CUDA 34
Miscellaneous (DX11, Title Slides, etc...) 11


You could argue that NVIDIA truly believes that PhysX and CUDA support are the strongest features of its GPUs. You could also argue that NVIDIA is trying to justify a premium for its much larger GPUs rather than having to sell them as cheap as possible to stand up to an unusually competitive ATI.

NVIDIA’s stance is that when you buy a GeForce GPU, it’s more than just how well it runs games. It’s about everything else you can run on it, whether that means in-game GPU accelerated PhysX or CUDA applications.

Maybe we’ve been wrong this entire time. Maybe instead of just presenting you with bar charts of which GPU is faster we should be penalizing ATI GPUs for not being able to run CUDA code or accelerate PhysX. Self reflection is a very important human trait, let’s see if NVIDIA is truly right about the value of PhysX and CUDA today.

Another Look at the $180 Price Point: 260 core 216 vs. 4870 1GB The Widespread Support Fallacy


View All Comments

  • johnjames - Monday, May 18, 2009 - link

    I don't get it, I started reading this review and decided to get a 4890, then I read the following reviews:


    And they all state the GTX 275 gives a lot more fps in all games bar Grid.
  • genetix - Wednesday, September 23, 2009 - link

    This is actually really funny you mention multiple sites. Since it's pretty hard to find an site these days which actually doesn't review/preview without sponsors. Meaning lean to one side to other is pretty simplistic just need to review right games and voila either can win. Lol, looking ATI videos damn those are so well selected that damn.

    We are definedly getting back to 80s where games where made to GPU. Not to all. The funny thing is even our so trusted Benchmarks like any Futuremark production fakes the results of GPUs. Their so called ORB is pretty far from reality what the hardware is really capable.
  • Asianman - Tuesday, June 16, 2009 - link

    most of those use either NV biased games or most likely didn't upgrade the 4890's drivers. All reviews show that 4890 loses its initial advantage at higher resolutions, and the fact that it is now much cheaper. Take your pick, you'd get good value either way. Reply
  • Patrick Wolf - Sunday, August 2, 2009 - link

    Well the 4890 isn't exactly kicking the 275's butt here.

    Let me break it down:
    Age of Conan: 0-3 fps difference. It's a wash
    CoD: WaW: 275 is at or above 60 fps on all resolutions, beats 4890 at 2560. 275 wins.
    Crysis Warhead: 0-2 fps difference. It's a wash.
    Fallout 3: 4890 wins.
    Far Cry 2: 0-2 fps difference. It's a wash.
    Left 4 Dead: Again, 275 is at or above 60 fps on all resolutions, beats 4890 at 2560. 275 wins.
    Grid: 4890 wins.

    That's 2 for nvidia, 2 for ATI. And on COD, Crysis, Far Cry, and L4D the 4890 wins at 1680 and 1920, then at 2560 the 275 suddenly pulls ahead? That's supposed to make sense? Not to mention both drivers used were beta. And the 185.65 drivers have been pulled from nvidia's archives.
  • pinguw - Friday, April 17, 2009 - link

    yes, you said the one that is getting the benefit are the end user, but I think you have a short vision, because when things getting cheapper means we have more chance to get lower quality product. for example, the GTX260 that I bought several month a go, I can see that the image was worse than the 8800GTS that I had 2 years. At beggining I thought it was a defect so I changed other one and other brand and had the same result. so I say, instead of fighting for price, why dont they just make a better product?? lowering the price would just get our product worse and worse, like most of the product sold in US are now made in China... and then everybody are complaining about the product is bad... that is poisoned etc, what a joke what do you expect when the price go down? the answer is easy to get right? So I would suggest you stopping saing the one is getting the benefit are the users, what a brainless comment
  • joeysfb - Tuesday, April 28, 2009 - link

    Something is not right here, are you linking the lowering of product quality to ficere competition???

    That's why people read reviews, comments from Neweggs, Amazons... to find out the user experience before buying a desired product...

    Almost everythings is made in china now...like it or not.
  • 8KCABrett - Thursday, April 16, 2009 - link

    Those of us that buy the latest hardware to fly our flight sims have been pretty much left to using the outdated Tom's Hardware charts (which still show the 8800GTS being the fastest card around). I would love to know how the Q9650s and i7s are doing in FSX since the service packs, and it would be great to learn if the GTX 260/280s and now the refreshes are still slower than an 8800GTS in those sims. . .not to mention the abysmal performance of ATI cards! Has anyone found such a review anywhere?

  • joeysfb - Friday, April 17, 2009 - link

    just stick to 8800GTS then (money saved)... besides there not many sim titles these days. Reply
  • BikeDude - Friday, April 17, 2009 - link

    Stick with the 8800GTS?

    I do not think you realize the problem. A year ago, FSX ate all the hardware you could throw at it.

    FSX is a very difficult animal to feed.

    It loves fast CPUs, but it also needs a fast GPU. Unfortunately, as was pointed out, there exists few recent comparisons. It is not easy figuring out the correct hw balance for FSX, since few includes it in a review.

    Comparing dozens of FPS games is pointless. They perform similar. There are some small differences, but to evaluate a given card, you don't have to review that many games. FSX however poses some unique challenges, and deserves some attention.

    Oh... I'd also like to know which of these cards will play nicely with HD video.
  • 8KCABrett - Tuesday, April 21, 2009 - link

    Well, every now and then I like to have a little shooter fun, and the GTS is certainly lagging behind in the new titles.

    I'm currently beta testing a new sim and it really utilizes the GPU which is nice to see, but my 8800GTS limits me quite a lot, and it's also nicely multi-threaded. I decided it's time to update my system, and really have nothing to guide me. Is ATI still really weak in sims? Have the GTX 280s gotten any better with the recent drivers? What about SP2 in FSX? I just don't have any source of this info, and I've looked everywhere for a legit source.

    I've got a GTX 285 on the way and will just end up doing my own testing since that's apparently the only way to get the info.

    There are hundreds of review sites out there posting these same four or five titles in their benchmarks and not a single one that includes any of the flight sims, even the new releases. I know sims are a niche market, but flight simmers are left to test for themselves, and they use what is perhaps one of the more demanding titles out there! My complaint isn't directed at Anandtech per se, I favor this site and have seen and appreciated the helpfulness of Gary Key time and again, especially over at the Abit forums, I just wish that Anandtech could employ their testing discipline in titles that really do need a legit place to evaluate them. It could really be a benefit to many people that really aren't catered to at all currently.

    OK. . .back to lurking.

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