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Microprocessor Forum 1997 - Second Day

Microprocessor Forum 1997 - First Day

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Microprocessor Forum 1997 - First Day
Краткое содержание статьи: The first day of MPC Forum 1997 consisted of two different seminars which you've got to choose from

Microprocessor Forum 1997 - First Day

Редакция THG,  13 октября 1997
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The first day of MPC Forum 1997 consisted of two different seminars which you've got to choose from. Whilst Larry was attending Michael Slater's 'Microprocessor for PCs: A Critical Look at Technologies and Future Directions', I went to '3D Graphic and Multimedia: Chips and Choices' by Peter N. Glaskowsky, satisfying my new strong interest into this exiting subject.

3D Graphic and Multimedia: Chips and Choices

After the introduction, which didn't really supply us with any new insights, Peter was going into 3D processing detail. As you all know, currently the FPU of the used microprocessor is of paramount importance for the 3D performance of a system, even if 3D accelerators are used. This is shown fairly extremely if you benchmark systems with 3D Winbench 97. Now Peter's opinion as well as mine is to move the FPU intensive geometry calculations from the main CPU to the graphic processor on the 3D accelerator. Peter says on slide 31 "Fundamentally, however, the CPU is the wrong place to do geometry processing." Now you can imagine that this is not exactly in the interest of Intel. The strong FPU of Intel CPUs is one reason why Intel CPUs are the best ones to use for 3D applications. If the FPU is losing its importance in 3D geometry processing, Intel's competitors would look much better in 3D applications than they do now. One of the keys to the enabling of 3D processors doing the work of geometry processing instead of the CPU and hence supplying the FPU power needed for this topic is the 3D API that's used, since it has to allow this kind of 'work load sharing'. The most important 3D API today is Direct3D and this will most likely stay this way. Microsoft is currently deciding if they want allow the shift of the geometry processing from the CPU to the 3D chip whilst planning their next version of DirectX, revision 6.0. Obviously the decision of Microsoft will take place tomorrow, October 14th, and so far the favors seem to lie at not supporting 3D chips processing geometry instead of the CPU. This may be based on Microsoft's close relationship to Intel, at least it doesn't seem too hard to guess. I guess that most of you would prefer competitors of Intel to be able performing well in 3D applications as well, particularly as it seems possible. Peter Glaskowsky's words were "if you've got any influence on Microsoft's decisions, please tell them to implement the 3D chip's geometry processing support into Direct3D 6.0. The CPU shouldn't have to do this calculations." I think I'm doing what I can to influence this decision as good as I can by asking you to let Microsoft know what you think. If you want to give non-Intel CPUs, that might have a weaker FPU, a chance in the future, then let Microsoft know that you want them to implement the geometry processing support of 3D chips.

Peter also shares my concerns about the insufficiency of the AGP architecture. He demands that textures should be processes from the local graphic memory, since the bandwidth of local graphic memory is still much higher than what AGP offers. It's actually even worse than what you could read in my 'AGP - The Theory', section 'Critical Thoughts'. Even with x4 mode (probably not available before 1999) there's one peculiar problem. Whilst the AGP device can read from main memory with 512 MB/s (x2 mode) or even 1 GB/s (x4 mode), the CPU can only write to the AGP device via a 66 MHz PCI like technique, offering not more than 264 MB/s bandwidth. If the x2 or x4 modes shall be used, the CPU would have to write the e.g. geometry data first to main memory, let the AGP device know that it's there and then the AGP device has to read it from main memory via the x2 or x4 mode. That is obviously kind of crazy and jeopardizes the whole idea of the fast x2 or x4 modes.

Evaluating 3D chips, Peter Glaskowsky was covering the several products. I will go into more detail about his evaluation of the chips as soon as the Microprocessor Forum is over, but I'd like to mention a few of his basic opinions. He didn't include Matrox into his graphic chip overview, because he also doesn't think that Matrox has got any real 3D accelerator available right now. The add-on card for the Millennium II which will released in the future is actually using the Power VR PCX2 chip, not the 3Dfx Voodoo as some of you seem to think. This chip is manufactured by NEC, where the Matrox chips are manufactured as well and this is probably the reason why they are using it ... they'll probably get a very attractive price. So far Power VR cards (Intergraph Apocalypse 3D) haven't been too convincing. Peter Glaskowsky is currently favoring the 3DLabs Permedia 2 cards, probably because he also thinks that the NVidia Riva 128 chip is unfortunately supporting too little video memory (only 4 MB as you know). Unfortunately neither Matrox' upcoming 'Twister' nor 3Dfx' upcoming Voodoo 2 chipset were mentioned at all.

Microsoft's 'Talisman' high end 3D chip architecture model was also covered and I will supply you with more information about this interesting project after MPF as well.

The rest of the afternoon was dedicated to multimedia, particularly sound stuff. So far this is not really one of my highest interests and I hope you'll forgive me that I won't get into this by any big detail.
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