In the context of ATI’s “Shader Day” event that’s currently running in Seattle, game company Valve showed its first Half-Life 2 benchmark numbers of actual DirectX 9 cards currently on the market. Aside from these numbers, Valve’s Gabe Newell also spoke about the problems that graphics card driver optimizations cause for consumers.
The test results show ATI cards way ahead of NVIDIA’s GeForce FX cards. Even the Radeon 9600 was able to beat the FX 5900 Ultra. Valve implemented a special DX9 codepath (Mixed Mode) which uses a lower floating point precission (FP16 instead Fp32) but only the FX 5900 Ultra is able to deliver good framerates with that mode. FX 5200 and 5600 are still horribly slow so Valve descited to set the DX8 codepath as default for those cards in Halflife 2.
Gabe Newell also was very concerned about benchmark specific driver optimizations. He said: “Our customers will be pissed”, because those kind of optimizations result in a peformance that is never present when playing the game.
We will be able to run our own benchmark test with Half-Life 2 tomorrow. Stay tuned for updates on the situation.