My thoughts on "Optimization"
I have been reading about this 3dmark03 "Rendering Issue".
For one, I think the journalism at Extremetech and Beyond3d was a bit odd. Never do they mention the following relevant points:
1) Image quality was NOT compromised with the new FX 44.03 driver. In fact, most people have noted improvements in Image Quality, even in 3dmark03.
2) All images in 3dmark03 that we actually SEE are rendered correctly.
These points might sound obvious to some, but to someone casually reading or to someone who isn't very familiar with graphics card terminology, these points wouldn't be so obvious.
Now, ask yourself this question:
If we can get smoother and faster performance, without any loss of image quality, isn't that a good thing?
If I had an FX NVIDIA card, I would be happy that NVIDIA could "optimize" for 3dmark03 without any loss of image quality and without affecting any images that we actually see on screen
It is no secret that both NVIDIA and ATI "optimize" their drivers for a benchmark like 3dmark03. If they can do it without compromising image quality, all the better (IMO).
Some other points that are worth noting:
1) NVIDIA does not have authorized access to the developer's build of 3dmark, while ATI (and Extremetech, Beyond3d, etc) does, where they can roam around anywhere even off-center of the actual image displayed.
2) Futuremark strangely only allows WHQL certified drivers for published online results for their 3dmark program, but they allow overclocked graphics cards and cpu's (and note how Futuremark buries the Detonator FX driver underneath the others on their homepage annoucements, not even mentioning about how it is WHQL certified for GeForce FX cards).
3) [H]OCP talked with ATI privately about the quake/quack driver cheat issue for more than a month before writing their article. ATI repeatedly denied cheating, and [H]OCP released their article after they proved them wrong (showing that image quality was compromised on Quake 3 while enhancing performance).
4) The NVIDIA FX Detonator driver increased both performance and IQ noticeably for a variety of benchmarks and games on the FX graphics cards, not simply 3dmark03.
5) The Doom3 benchmark's used in the latest tests were chosen by ID and were not seen by NVIDIA in advance.
All in all, it boils down to what one considers an "optimization" vs. a "cheat". If a graphics card company can make performance smoother and faster without compromising image quality and without affecting what we actually see, then I would say this is a good thing (especially considering that NVIDIA and ATI both optimize for benchmarks in the first place).