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Reviewed by: Bryan Pizzuti [03.09.03]
Edited by: Carl Nelson

Card manufacturer: Powercolor
GPU Manufacturer: ATI

MSRP: $370
Street: $240-290

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Well, when only TRUFORMing the models designed with it in mind, they're almost no performance loss whatsoever.  But, when you set it to TRUFORM ALL models, rather than just the TRUFORM-ready ones, you can see quite a lot of performance drop. Though when it's set to "Maximum" for some reason, the performance numbers change dramatically either way.  Notice that the average figures are identical between "All models" and "TRUFORM-ready models."  In the All models mode, it's much FASTER than the rest of the settings, and in the "TRUFORM-only" mode, it's significantly slower.  So we're not going to pay attention to this mode, because I'm not sure WHAT it's doing.

One important note: in this particular demo (Sierra De Chiapas) there is a point where Sammy turns to face 180 degrees from the temple, where the horizon is far away and there are several terrain-looking objects in the distance.  With TRUFORM enabled, this section consistently generated a HUGE frame drop.  It actually looked like it froze for half a second, it was so bad.  Whatever TRUFORM is meant to do, terrain models apparently cause a major framerate hit, and so do models that aren't TRUFORM-optimized.  This can be especially problematic when dealing with an open rather than indoor environment.  Translation: unless the models are TRUFORM-optimized, performance sucks.

So did it do anything for the character and object models?  It's too difficult to get a consistent screenshot of terrain, but we managed to get fairly consistent screen grabs of Sam's weapon, and Sam himself in the demos.  To my eye, there doesn't appear to be any improvement generated, but look for yourself.  In each slideshow, you'll first see a picture using no tessellation at all.  The second shot is of the object at High tessellation, taken with "TRUFORM all models" set, rather than "TRUFORM-ready models only" (since the Maximum numbers looked a bit skewed comparatively, we didn't use that mode for samples).  We're not sure if these particular models are TRUFORM ready, so we want to make sure it's doing something.

See Sam.  See Sam Run.  See Sam Gun. See Sam Run and Gun.  See Sam and Sam's gun not look much better quality-wise.  See Sam Shoot TRUFORM. :)  Admittedly, we can't be certain if these models that we're looking at are TRUFORM-ready or not, but if they are, it's not helping, and if they're not, not only is it not helping to force TRUFORM on them, but it's hurting performance too much. It sure isn't making this stuff look as good as ATI's dolphin, is it?

There just isn't enough implementation yet to make a firm judgment here.  Once we see a game where 100% of the models are TRUFORM ready maybe we can revisit it a bit but for now any improvement that might be gained isn't noticeable, especially when you're busy dodging bullets and flames and assorted monsters.  It might be noticeable in something like Neverwinter Nights, but I don't own that game, and it's the ONLY non-action game with TRUFORM support at this time.  Maybe if ATI had owned as much as the market NVIDIA owned when it was introduced, we might be seeing it put to use.

The main limitation is probably the fact that both input and output are restricted to straight-sided polygons.  Curved surface output would cause games to take a quantum leap forward.  But converting it back to polygons for output is probably what kills everything.  You're spending all of this GPU time converting to and working with curved surfaces, but your output is still straight-sided polygons.

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