Let's start off by using Futuremark's 3DMark05 benchmark to determine the performance impact of moving from an image setting of quality to high quality. The overall 3DMark05 performance, which is based on three different game tests, will be used to determine the impact.
The ForceWare drivers contain standard applets to configure various features of the graphics card. The right column is a list of configurable items that are present when NVIDIA's nView Desktop Manager is enabled.
ForceWare Driver Applets
The image setting is updated using the Performance and Quality Settings applet. Click the check box next to Image settings, move the slider bar to High quality and click the Apply button.
I am looking forward to the debut of the new ForceWare driver control panel, which I understand will be very soon. The revamped interface has the look and feel of a Windows application. The limited amount of space that was given to change driver settings in the current control panel is extremely limited. For example, in the image below, only three of the sixteen settings available to be changed, are in view at a time. I spend a lot of time scrolling in this area.
Configure Image Setting
Under the high quality image setting, trilinear optimizations, anisotropic mip filter optimizations, and anisotropic sample optimizations are automatically turned off.
Texture Filtering Optimization Settings
The idea behind texture filtering optimizations is to increase performance at the expense of image quality. In many cases, differences in image quality while gaming at 30 frames per second will be insignificant. As an example, consider the following demonstration, which is based on comparing a static image. The demonstration allows you to compare screenshots from a scene in 3DMark05 that was taken under the quality and high quality image settings.
Clicking the Quality Image and High Quality Image links at the bottom of the applet will display the respective screenshot. As you alternate between the two, you probably won't notice any difference between them even though they are present. It takes a utility like The Compressonator to actually see the differences between the quality and high quality images.
Clicking on the View Differences links - Normal, 200% Brighter, and 400% Brighter in that order, and the differences will become increasingly noticeable as the brightness setting increases. With the differences shown at 400% over their original brightness, you might now be able to locate them while alternating between the quality and high quality screenshots. But you will also need to be very close to the monitor - much closer than you would be while gaming.
Note that there are cases when a high quality image setting is required in order to remove or reduce texture filtering artifacts such as aliasing, or shimmering.
The following overall 3DMark05 scores, which are measured in 3DMarks, are from the Athlon 64 X2 4800+ system running in SLI (dark blue bar) and single GPU mode (light blue bar). Performance was measured at the default 3DMark05 setting and at 1600x1200 with 4X antialiasing (AA) and 8X anisotropic filtering (AF) enabled under the quality and high quality image setting as labeled on the chart.
Athlon 64 - 3DMark05 Results
At 1600x1200 with 4X AA and 8X AF, enabling the high image quality setting caused performance to drop by 5% with SLI (from 11,146 to 10,592) and by 8.4% with a single GPU (from 6,569 to 6,016).
The Pentium 4 3.4GHz system results below were similar in that performance decreased, but only in single GPU mode. Although the impact on performance will vary by game, I continue to use high quality as the default on high-end graphics cards.
Pentium 4 - 3DMark05 Results
Comparing the results of the Athlon 64 X2 4800+ to the Pentium 4 3.4GHz yields the following observations:
In a single GPU configuration, you don't always need the fastest processor to benefit from a high-end graphics card. Compare the 1600x1200 with 4X AA and 8X AF results between the two systems (6,569 vs 6,335 at quality) and (6,016 vs. 5,903) at high quality.
In an SLI configuration, you should get the fastest processor you can afford in order to maximize performance. This point is apparent when comparing the single and SLI results on both systems. Comparing the quality image results at 1600x1200 with 4X AA and 8X AF. On the Athlon 64 X2 4800+, SLI provided an increase of 70% (from 6,569 to 11,146), compared to an increase of only 26% (from 6,335 to 7,961) on the Pentium 4 3.4GHz.
Maximize screen real estate by investing in a monitor that supports resolutions over 1600x1200. The Dell 2405FPW has a native resolution of 1920x1200 while the newer 30-inch 3007WFP runs at 2560x1600 resolution. Many 21-inch CRTs are capable of displaying a resolution of 2048x1536, although flickering will be an issue if the refresh rate is limited to 60Hz.