The ASUS PhysX P1 card was able to enhance our gaming experience by adding more debris and realistic effects into the game. The technology did tend to wear off after an afternoon of game play though. While shooting trees in GRAW to watch the bark fly off, and throwing grenades into closed newspaper stands to watch them blow up those actions are not required in the game, hence why I said enhance. Another thing that has always bugged me about games is debris. We constantly blow stuff up in games and the debris falls down and in a matter of seconds disappears from the screen. For some reason I was expecting that debris to stay put when using the AGEIA PhysX card, but that wasn’t the case. I figured since I’m running a pair of GeForce 7800 GTX 512’s and an AGEIA PPU along with an AMD FX-60 processor that my gaming system would have more than enough power to render and keep debris. Let me blow up a building and have debris in the way that I have to navigate through and I’ll be in seventh heaven.
During gameplay, GRAW definitely had more physics effects when showing explosions, and shooting destructible objects when the AGEIA PhysX card was installed. I was impressed with the way the debris effected eachother while flying through the air, then bouncing on the ground before coming to a stand still. It was also obvious that GRAW was able to display many more objects with the PhysX card installed. These are all definite benefits to using a PPU.
Playing the CellFactor demo was a good indicator of what features will be available to developers in future titles, but it’s hard to judge a product by the demo that it came with. That would be like reviewing a video card using the Ruby or Nalu demos! As we all know AGEIA needs to have one killer application come out that makes everyone go “Holy Crap” and then these cards are going to take off like ice cold lemonade on a hot summer day.
In closing there have been some rumors going around the internet that the AGEIA PhysX card will actually lower gaming performance in other applications. We have spent days with the ASUS PhysX P1 card on the latest gaming platforms and upcoming platforms and did find that when running SLI that some performance benchmarks like Futuremark’s 3DMark06 did get a performance hit when running an AGEIA card in the system even though it wasn’t used in the benchmarks. After testing on the latest publicly released NVIDIA drivers we were stumped about the nearly 10% performance hit on our test system. After contacting AGEIA they too were stumped and asked us to do a number of tests to what could be causing it. Around this time we got our hands on NVIDIA’s upcoming driver and the problems were fixed. After running 20+ hours of WorldBench, DOOM 3, FarCry, 3DMark06 and many more benchmarks we are happy to report that we can no longer find any impact on gaming when using applications that don’t take advantage of the PhysX SDK.
(UPDATE: I’ve gotten a number of e-mails and instant messages asking about these findings and let me try to clear this up a bit. When running GRAW with the software the frames per second performance will be better without the card. Since less is being rendered the FPS score will be higher than with an AGEIA card installed. I am talking about other applications that don’t use the SDK by AGEIA at all like DOOM 3 and Far Cry. There was an issuse I observed when running cards in SLI that will be fixed in the next NVIDIA driver release)
I’d like to thank AGEIA and ASUS for getting us a test card to run through the paces and letting us voice our honest thoughts on their impressive PhysX Processor Unit. The ASUS PhysX P1 card represents the start of physics in gaming and we like what the future holds for upcoming game titles like:
The Legit Bottom Line: The ASUS PhysX P1 card is the first PPU from ASUS and works out of the box with a select few game titles. Over time game titles will increase and the return on your investment will mean enhanced gaming.