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Two chipsets, two graphics cores

DailyTech has received a July 2006 Intel specification update on G965 and Q965 Express chipsets that reveals final details of Intel’s GMA X3000 and GMA 3000 integrated graphics cores. Intel originally intended for the G965 and Q965 Express chipsets to have the same graphics core but have since changed its mind. The result is two separate graphics core—GMA X3000 for G965 Express and GMA 3000 for Q965 Express. As Intel is appealing to the mainstream consumer with G965 Express the GMA X3000 graphics core will have greater graphics processing capabilities.

G965 Express with its GMA X3000 graphics core will support DirectX 9c, DirectX 10 and OpenGL 1.5 features. The supported features include:
  • Hardware vertex shader model 3.0
  • Hardware pixel shader model 3.0
  • 32-bit and 16-bit full precision floating point operations
  • Up to 8 multiple render targets
  • Occlusion Query
  • 128-bit floating point texture formats
  • Bilinear, trilinear and anisotropic mipmap filtering
  • Shadow maps and double sided stencils
There’s no mention of the amount of vertex or pixel shaders available on GMA X3000 graphics cores. However, the shaders are fully programmable which can be adapted to varying amounts of vertex or pixel shaders. As previously reported the GMA X3000 will have a 667 MHz graphics core clock with support for high dynamic range and Intel Clear Video Technology for enhanced video playback.

Q965 Express chipsets will receive a less powerful graphics core in the form of the GMA 3000. GMA 3000 will meet the minimums to support Microsoft’s upcoming Windows Vista Premium with Aero Glass interface with support for DirectX 9c and OpenGL 1.4 plus. The following features are supported:
  • Software vertex shader model 2.0/3.0
  • Hardware pixel shader model 2.0
  • 32-bit and 16-bit fixed point operations
  • Up to 8 multiple render targets
  • Occlusion query
  • 128-bit floating point texture formats
  • Bilinear, trilinear and anisotropic mipmap filtering
  • Shadow maps and double sided stencils
With the exception of hardware pixel shader model 2.0 support the GMA 3000 graphics core has similar specifications as the outgoing GMA 950 graphics core. Since Intel is catering Q965 Express chipsets towards business users as part of its vPro platform initiative it doesn’t exactly need gaming capable graphics power.

Availability of G965 Express based products is expected sometime this month while Q965 Express based products will have a formal launch in early September.

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By Targon on 8/7/2006 8:01:57 AM , Rating: 2
There is a big difference between DX 10 support(meaning the drivers will work with DX 10), and having hardware acceleration of DX 10 features. This is something that many people don't seem to realize has been going on with Intel, ATI, NVIDIA, and SiS graphics for a long time now.

Any company can make new drivers for old cards that work with DirectX 10, that's not the problem. The issue really comes down to providing either hardware support or software support for the new DX 10 functions.

In most games for example, you can run them on OLD video cards with DirectX 9 installed and the latest drivers. That doesn't mean that the cards will accelerate DirectX 9 code, so the performance is VERY poor. Anything lower than a Radeon 9500 from ATI, or Geforce FX 5200 won't have DirectX 9 support in hardware, and as a result, anything that uses DirectX 9 functions will be VERY slow. In many cases, games and applications also test the hardware features and will disable certain features that the video cards just can't handle(which is why some features are disabled and can't be turned on).

So, just because Intel is going to provide software support for DX 10 doesn't mean that their new GPU will have DX 10 acceleration in hardware.

Now, it could be said that if ATI and NVIDIA would invest the time in drivers, we could see DX 10 feature support for most older cards by having those features be supported in the drivers to compensate for not having those features in the hardware, but that would give many people an excuse for not buying new video cards. A Radeon 9800 pro may not have unified shaders in hardware for example, but drivers could fool the software into thinking the video card supports it if properly coded. SM 4.0 support could be added to older cards in the same way, though performance would be very poor.

By having the drivers do more on older video cards, a top of the line card from 2 years ago might slow down a lot on DX 10 stuff it doesn't accelerate in hardware, but at the same time, it would still be at least as fast as the bottom of the line DX 10 accelerated cards we will see released in November/December and may still provide decent support for the other functions.

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