Ever since 3DMark 11 came out, NVIDIA was not happy with the benchmark and the reaction ranged from sending notes to journalists (not to use the benchmark) and its own manufacturing partners. One of reasons for that was the fact that Futuremark’s benchmark isn’t riding on Tessellation such as Crysis 2 and Unigine Heaven benchmark, and the company switched from NVIDIA PhysX to a more open Bullet physics engine.

As we all know, Unigine Heaven uses Tessellation to the point that just kills the competing AMD cards, and even though AMD was the company that heavily promoted Heaven benchmark at first, NVIDIA rode in and there is no doubt in our mind that Tessellator on GeForce Fermi hardware works much more efficient and faster than the nth generation Tessellator inside the AMD Radeon hardware (AMD i.e. ATI has put Tessellators inside their GPUs for the past decade, but game developers refused to use them on the ground of commonality and performance).

Tessellated water showing all over Crysis 2 in DirectX 11 mode... even where there is no water at all. Credit: TechReport
Tessellated water showing all over Crysis 2 in DirectX 11 mode… even where there is no water at all. Credit: TechReport

On the other hand, the way how CryTek implemented Tessellation in their originally console-targeted DirectX 9 engine is definitely a textbook case of Tessellation not being done right. As you can read in Scott’s excellent article on TechReport, Crysis 2 DirectX 11 mode puts a not-so-nice tessellated overlay on all parts of the map, wasting GPU resources – especially visible on lower end hardware.

Coming back to Futuremark, we spoke with multiple graphics card manufacturers over the past couple of weeks and learned that there is quite an interesting scenario. According to graphics manufacturers that play on both sides, allegedly members of NVIDIA APAC Sales team are giving an exact directive that if a graphics card manufacturer chooses to use 3DMark to compare its products vs. the Red team, the company will not provide any marketing funds to promote the product (MDF i.e. Market Development Fund). One of the sources we spoke with compared this tactic to the antitrust antics that were infamously used by Intel to discredit AMD’s products in the past, but such use is now forbidden by the terms of Intel’s settlements with AMD and especially the FTC.

Graphics card makers are instructed to use Unigine Heaven to compare GeForce cards and competing Radeon products, as well as Crysis 2 DirectX 11. While some board vendors cried that as a foul, we don’t see the big issue with that. After all, if you expect money from a company to promote your product, you have to dance that company’s tune.

The fact that lower-end GeForce cards get soundly beaten by lower-end Radeons and even Fusion APUs in 3DMark 11 solely relies on the fact that NVIDIA’s implementation of Tessellator had its cost in die space and there is nothing NVIDIA can do to make 3DMark scores faster. However, in applications such as Crysis 2, that die space will result in a significant win for the GeForce hardware.

Futuremark representatives did not want to give the official comment on the matter.