Support the Nvidia GeforceFX Users

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We are the users of Nvidias GeforceFX series of video cards.

Over the course of the last two years, certain issues came into light regarding the inherent limitations of the GeforceFX chipset while performing in DirectX 9.0 applications. Throughout this period Nvidia continued to market the GeforceFX video card as having industry leading performance in DirectX 9.0 and beyond.

During the third quarter of 2003, Valve Software released benchmarks of their highly anticipated PC game title Half-Life 2 which showed GeforceFX cards performing at barely 50\% the speed of competing graphics cards from ATI. This gave the GeforceFX cards a lot of negative publicity, and its issues regarding poor full precision DirectX 9.0 performance were explored in detail on various computer hardware sites on the internet.

The GeforceFXs main shortcoming was its use of FP32 precision for applications which requested full precision in DirectX 9.0 shading tasks. Full precision underlined in Microsofts DirectX 9.0 specifications was to be a minimum of FP24. The only precision mode of the GeforceFX with respectable performance was FP16, but since it was partial precision, it was sidelined by application developers. The GeforceFX was then forced to run in FP32 where applications requested FP24 and hence performance was negatively effected to a very tangible extent.

Nvidia responded back with a rather fiery press/email statement, rebuking these issues, and promising Forceware drivers which would work around them. This official release from Nvidia contained statements such as Our goal is to provide our consumers the best experience possible, and that means games must both look and run great and We are committed to working with Gabe to fully understand his concerns and with Valve to ensure that 100+ million NVIDIA consumers get the best possible experience with Half Life 2 on NVIDIA hardware. The full text of this email statement is freely and easily available on popular hardware review sites on the web.

The first quote implies optimized drivers which use lower precision shaders for better performance at no obvious visual quality loss in applications which request higher precision. This involves software optimisations which should 'work around' the inherent limitations of the GeforceFX chipset architecture. It has been over a year since this statement, and to this day Nvidia has made no efforts to work with developers to implement PS2.0a which is the new standard that supports partial precision in DirectX 9.0, and was introduced in the last generation of Forceware drivers, Rel. 50.XX.

The second quote implies Nvidia cooperating with Valve Software to address these issues and explore suitable work arounds for them. Half-Life 2 was released on November 15th 2004, and there was no such mode in which GeforceFX cards provided similar image quality as comparable hardware from rival chipmaker ATI, at an acceptable performance level.

Apparently, Valve Software also discarded the mixed mode which they worked on especially for GeforceFX cards. This mixed mode forced lower precision shaders on GeforceFX cards which improved their image quality at only a slight performance loss. The retail release of Half-Life 2 contained no such mixed mode, and GeforceFX cards were treated as DirectX 8.1 hardware which is three year old technology. The mixed mode was to allow GeforceFX card users to run the game at level that offered a tangible image quality gain over DirectX 8.1 mode but at a much smaller performance penalty compared to full precision DirectX 9.0 mode.

The shortcomings of the GeforceFX architecture are well evident, we now understand Nvidias silent stance that its not possible to completely rewrite the Forceware drivers to address these shortcomings by software alone. However, the abilities of the GeforceFX chipset are well beyond DirectX 8.1, and we reserve the right to manipulate the features of the hardware that belongs to us. Till now there is no option to force the precision to lower levels in the drivers which could improve performance for GeforceFX cards.

It is the contractual right of the GeforceFX users, implied in Nvidias aggressive The Way Its Meant To Be Played marketing campaign and the press/email statement in response to Valve Software's Half-Life 2 benchmarks, that GeforceFX users be at least be given the chance to run their hardware at its maximum potential, rather than being forced to run on three year old application specifications.

Now, the year 2005 approaches. Nvidia appears to have completely sidelined GeforceFX users. Nvidias new Geforce6 technology has managed to win widespread acclaim, but there are still a lot of individuals who cant afford to upgrade their video cards regularly, and in essence will not be able to upgrade GeforceFX cards in the foreseeable future.

We expect a lot from Nvidia and will continue to have faith in them.


It is our request to Nvidia:

1) To live up to their promise.
2) To allow us options in the Forceware drivers to manipulate the precision levels of our GeforceFX hardware at our own will.
3) To work with Valve Software and explore the possibility of re-introducing the mixed mode in titles that use Valve Software's 'Source engine'.
4) To work with software developers and ensure that the shortcomings of the GeforceFX architecture do not bear negatively upon the end-users experience.
5) To ensure that the shortcomings of the GeforceFX card architecture do not bear negatively on then end-users experience in future Forceware driver releases.