3D Mark 2003: The Gamers' Benchmark (?)

The new 3D Mark 2003 is here! After the initial hype, however, users and hardware testers quickly sobered up. The CPU performance doesn't appear to play a very big role for the final result. Only the graphics card is ultimately responsible for the 3D Mark score.

And here's where the real discussion begins. Even NVIDIA is clearly distancing itself from the new release and believes that this benchmark test has no relation to reality. For one thing, the choice of game tests, beginning with the rarely played flight scenes test (Wings of Fury), is nothing close to actual practice. It goes further with the tests GT2 and GT3. The 3D engine that makes up the foundation of the tests is the same, and both tests use pixel shaders based on version v1.4. Here is an excerpt from NVIDIA's statement:

These tests use ps1.4 for all the pixel shaders in the scenes. Fallback versions of the pixel shaders are provided in ps1.1 for hardware that doesn't support ps1.4. Conspicuously absent from these scenes, however, is any ps1.3 pixel shaders. Current DirectX 8.0 (DX8) games, such as Tiger Woods and Unreal Tournament 2003, all use ps1.1 and ps1.3 pixel shaders. Few, if any, are using ps1.4.

These shaders don't only ensure bad results of PS 1.1 cards compared to those that support PS 1.4 (they need more passes for the effect) they are also hardly used in actual 3D games. Xbox can't run PS 1.4 code as well. Even more serious is that 3DMark03 test runs use different shader codes for different cards. This makes comparisons between different 3D-chips close to impossible. In 3D Mark 2001 SE, this was only the case with a special PS1.4 test. Now, however, all tests, including GT4 (Mother Nature), are actually no longer comparable to one another. It will be interesting to hear what Futuremark will officially say about this topic. In the official 3D Mark 2003 white paper, you can read the following:

Futuremark: Vertex and pixel shaders have become an important part of 3D graphics and are accordingly featured prominently in 3DMark03. One of the game tests, the DirectX 9 showcase, uses 2.0 vertex shaders and 2.0 pixel shaders. All other games tests use 1.1 vertex shaders. The DirectX 8 game tests use 1.4 pixel shaders if available; otherwise they default to 1.1 pixel shaders.

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