I dont see the difference with having a compiler in a driver making shaders work better, or a driver engineer making shaders work better. Ideally the former is preferred, but until they get a miracle compiler built, it aint gonna happen.
The whole issue of benchmarks is just totally flawed. I thought everyone agree'd ages ago to stop paying attention to PenisMarks.. sorry 3dmarks?
There's a HUGE difference.
In one case, there is some probability that when a new game comes out, the increased performance will be seen in that game. After all, that's what a proper benchmark is all about - predicting performance in other applications.
In the other case, the performance gain was 'faked', and the new game won't benefit.
Now, unless you trust your IHV enough to believe they will continue to dedicate engineering talent to optimizing future games for your hardware, you should care about the difference. Saying you don't care is somewhat short-sighted.
There seems to be two camps on this issue. One can see that cheating on benchmarks does no one any good except the IHV doing the cheating. The other camp just says 'I am smart enough to realize that benchmark X means nothing, and will base my buying decisions on games, so I don't care if they cheat <yawn>'.
I don't think there's much hope for converting people in one camp to the other, and I certainly won't try. What bothers me most is when the people in the second camp use a condescending tone in their arguments, implying that to care about benchmark integrity is somehow 'nerdy', or a waste of time. It's particularly ironic when they say 'don't waste your time - play games instead'.