Nascar Racing 2003 Season is tested using a crowded Daytona replay, with the camera set inside Earnhardt’s cockpit. All graphical options are set to their highest level and sound disabled.
As in previous testing, Nascar’s frame rate continues to be largely bottlenecked by the CPU. Fortunately for fans, the game remains playable at 1600×1200 with AA or AF enabled and looks fantastic. Anti-aliasing in particular has a large impact on improving the game’s visuals.
Since the Gainwards Ultra/2100 is based on NVIDIA’s 6800 chip, its output is on par with that of the reference PCIe 6800 GT SimHQ reviewed earlier this summer. Anti-aliasing for the 6800s has been improved over past NVIDIA offerings, now using a rotated grid sample pattern that can be seen below:
4x AA Sampling Pattern
Due to a hardware ROP (render output) limitation in the 6800 chips, only 2x and 4x multi-sampling is supported by the Ultra/2100, yet a hybrid super- and multi-sampling option known as 8xS is available within the ForceWare control panel. The sampling pattern for 8xS anti-aliasing displays an additional sub-sample possessing color data, which will help reduce texture aliasing in certain games:
8xS Sampling Pattern
Texture filtering is also identical to that of the 6800 GT. As shown above, even in a genre such as simulations that has historically shown its titles to be largely dependent upon system processor speeds for high performance, many of the games used in SimHQ’s benchmark suite saw a steeper frame rate loss with anisotropic filtering enabled than anti-aliasing. Frame buffer compression, present in these new graphics chips, helps ameliorate multi-sampling AA’s performance penalties, leaving IHVs such as NVIDIA looking for ways to improve texture filtering performance. One example of this is the default filtering settings when the ForceWare 61.77s are installed, which is both trilinear and anisotropic optimizations enabled. The Direct3D AF Tester utility allows us to clearly see the impact these optimization settings have on base texture filtering:
Direct3D Anisotropic Filtering (AF) Test Results
|Optimizations Off||Optimizations On|
The trilinear optimization’s reduction of MIP map blending is the most noticeable difference in the above picture. This reduced filtering is apparent during take-offs and in a game like Call of Duty and it does result in an increase of texture aliasing on ground terrain in titles like IL-2 and FS: 2004. These optimizations, however, do give roughly a 20% performance increase across the suite of tested games, so for those looking to lend a particularly title a slight frame rate nudge and who won’t notice the reduced filtering quality, they are available as an option.