Driver direction for OpenGL cards
One thing right at the beginning: If you think that buying an expensive OpenGL graphics card gives you a better performance for games, think again. Generally the graphics cards we tested are optimized for professional applications. Quake players still get a very good price/performance ratio with GeForce graphics cards and should not expect a significantly better performance from our test candidates. On top of that the manufacturers of the products tested below have very little interest in supporting Direct3D games. Accordingly there are not even any Direct 3D drivers for Windows 95/98 and 2000 available for the Diamond Fire GL 1 Pro and the Evans & Sutherland Lightning 1200. The main reason is the OpenGL API for applications and also the operating system architecture. Windows 95/98 does not support multiprocessor systems; for this you need NT 4.0 or the recently launched Windows 2000. Additionally many high-end applications do not run under Windows 95/98. However, even though it might not seem to make any sense from a theoretical point of view, there are quite a few practical reasons for the lack of support for Windows 9x.
1. Windows NT 4 and now Windows 2000 automatically offer a higher system stability, that reduces the support costs for graphic cards manufacturers to a bearable level.
2. Many midsize and large companies changed to Windows NT in the last two years.
3. NT 4 or Windows 2000 (formerly known under NT 5) allow the effective use of the so-called multi-threading. If there is another CPU present the computing processes can be distributed among the processors, increasing the overall performance.
The User Side
We interviewed a few companies that use professional OpenGL applications. We discovered a certain trend during the conversations: Contrary to 3D games, graphics projects hardly have a need for rendering large textures. Modeling of objects often only requires high polygon rates. As long as objects and scenes are still 'under construction', many designers are satisfied with displaying it in a wireframe model. And simple shading models are sufficient for viewing individual scenes during the production phase. A higher rendering performance is only necessary when the project enters the last stage. However, we were somewhat surprised when we heard that quite a few 3D scenes in the finishing phase are only rendered by the CPU and not by the graphics card. Many customers demand finished 3D animations in form of a movie presentation. The situation is different though, if the 3D scenes need to be interactive. These simulations follow the same rules as games: high fill rates combined with details requiring high polygon rates are a must. Because the user base is much wider in the OpenGL space than in the classic game environment, the cards are tested with a variety of application and synthetic benchmarks.