NVidia & ATI vs Futuremark

By Steve Gibson, May 23, 2003 3:42pm PDT A while back many of you may recall ATI getting caught red-handed having their drivers detect Quake3 firing up and they would drop the image quality slightly to improve benchmark scores. That was just a tiny bit of a scandal. Well now Futuremark is accusing NVidia of playing naughty when it comes to their benchmark suite:

"Recently, there have been questions and some confusion regarding 3DMark 03 results obtained with certain Nvidia" products, Futuremark said in the statement. "We have now established that Nvidia's Detonator FX drivers contain certain detection mechanisms that cause an artificially high score when using 3DMark 03."

The real question being, is NVidia dropping image quality to inflate those scores? If NVidia is simply adjusting how their driver reacts to the application to improve performance without hindering the quality, then I dont see the problem. Just about all hardware vendors do this to make sure their stuff works with the most popular game engines. Also keep in mind that NVidia (among others) has been vocal in the past about the latest 3DMark not being a very good benchmark, that could play a part in Futuremark not exactly being thrilled with NVidia and perhaps trying throw some bad mojo their way. update: It seems that ATI is also being looked at and I'm just blind (Thanks Rick):

Our investigations reveal that some drivers from ATI also produce a slightly lower total score on this new build of 3DMark03. The drop in performance on the same test system with a Radeon 9800 Pro using the Catalyst 3.4 drivers is 1.9%. This performance drop is almost entirely due to 8.2% difference in the game test 4 result, which means that the test was also detected and somehow altered by the ATI drivers. We are currently investigating this further.

update: Here is some stuff NVidia is accused of doing.

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  • Nvidia needs to rejoin the Futuremark beta program because:
    a) They are altering their drivers for it, which means nvidia cares about what futuremark does.
    b) Futuremark isn't going out of business any time soon.
    c) People are going to continue to use futuremark to tweak their systems because it's a great tool for comparing computers. (Rephrase: Scores between other comps are not important. eg. Switching from 2x agp to 4x agp and witnessing the difference in 3dmark scores is useful. It will remain a great tool to see how each tweak you make on your own comp affects your own futuremark score.)

    However, there is a tinge of black mail that can be called into question. eg:
    - futuremark says Nvidia cheats
    - nvidia says they don't
    - futuremark forces Nvidia to participate in the beta program by announcing off colour news blips
    I don't like that futuremark says these things, but nvidia put themselves in this position by Llema a) from above.

    Conclusion:
    Nvidia marketting (The nvidia tech/h/w doods are excellent) doods are retards. They've boxed themselves in the corner by saying: We don't like/use futuremark, yet we have tweaked our drivers purposely for futuremark. The sooner nvidia gets back to beta'ing with futuremark, the sooner this PR fiasco will be over.

    b.