What do we need to render a three dimensional object; 2D on your monitor? We start off by building some sort of structure that has a surface, that surface is being built from triangles and why triangles? They are quick to calculate. How's each triangle being processed? Each triangle has to be transformed according to its relative position and orientation to the viewer. Each of the three vertices the triangle is made up of is transformed to its proper view space position. The next step is to light the triangle by taking the transformed vertices and applying a lighting calculation for every light defined in the scene. At last the triangle needs to be projected to the screen in order to rasterize it. During rasterization the triangle will be shaded and textured.
Graphic processors like the GeForce and Radeon series are able to perform a certain amount of these tasks. The first generation was able to draw shaded and textured triangles in hardware. The CPU still had the burden to feed the graphics processor with transformed and lit vertices, triangle gradients for shading and texturing, etc. Integrating the triangle setup into the chip logic was the next step and finally even transformation and lighting (TnL) was possible in hardware, reducing the CPU load considerably. The big disadvantage was that a game programmer had no direct (i.e. program driven) control over transformation, lighting and pixel rendering because all the calculation models were fixed on the chip. And now we finally get to the stage where we can explain Shaders. Vertex and Pixel shaders allow developers to code customized transformation and lighting calculations as well as pixel coloring functionality. Each shader is basically nothing more than a relatively small program executed on the graphics processor to control either vertex or pixel processing.
Yes Yes .. the usual technology blurb starts again. First up and served, Shader Model three. Shader Model 3 allows the programmer to fire off some very nice shader programs that in certain cases can speed up your game. The world has moved on to SM3, people expect it to be integrated and so it has and had to be been done. Very good integration I might add because SM3 seems to work pretty darn efficiently for ATI. It has to do with dynamic branching, though that matter is too complicated to explain for this article. What you need to know is that it works really well. More efficiency, that really is what the new card is all about. I'll be using that word in this review a lot. According to the chip designers, every transistor in that core is constantly put to use to push the results onto your screen. Yes.. efficiency.
Another feature of the X1000 (and no, it's not new to our ears at all) has to do with texture compression capabilities using the 3Dc technology. Almost any.. well, any graphics card nowadays makes use of texture compression technology. It's been discussed here many times, I'm sure you recognize terms like S3TC and DXTC by now. Basically you reduce the byte-size of a texture while maintaining the best quality possible. However, compression equals artifacts and thus image degradation at some point.
3Dc is a compression technology designed to bring out fine details in games while minimizing memory usage. It's the first compression technique optimized to work with normal maps, which allows fine per-pixel control over how light reflects from a textured surface. With up to a 4:1 compression ratio possible, this means game designers can now include up to 4x the detail without changing the amount of graphics memory required and without impacting performance.
3Dc was upgraded a little and so on the X1000 series of cards we now have 3Dc+ available to us. Let me just get it out of the way and move on. High quality normal map compression can (and could) be handled up to a 4:1 ratio and works on any two-channel texture format.
This updated + edition adds support for single-channel textures with 2:1 compression, which is good enough for stuff like luminance maps, shadow maps, HDR textures and more.
It's HiS Bundle
Included inside the box is pretty much everything you need to get started. You'll receive all the driver CDs, cables and dongles you'll need to get connected. The software bundle is a tad on the sober side though as the game included is still Flat out, and that's flat out outdated. Hey, I know that HiS is working on some new things though. In the near future it might be possible for you to choose a game from a large list and then they send it to you. How cool would that be ? It's an idea at the moment though.
None the less, the bundle is far from cheap folks !
One fine looking X1800 GTO with ICEQ3 cooling
HDTV cable (3-way RCA (component))
Flat out (the full game)
As you can see .. all you need to get started. No really fancy software titles are included though.
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