Originally posted by Bigus Dickus
NV has had this capability since the GeForce. Do you really think that time constraints were the primary issue? For how many years? Sure, it looks obvious to you that after so many years they should have been able to "figure it out" or "do it right," but in all likelihood there was a reason years ago not to do it that way, and that fundamental reason hasn't changed, hence their implementation hasn't fundamentally changed.
Figuring it out should not be a concern in the least. The math already exists, and is very, very simple. The issue that I see is with priorities. I feel that ATI just has not prioritized this particular issue. The Radeon 8500->9700 move appears to be a natural extension of the move from two texture units per pixel pipeline to one.
The way I see it, these many engineers have been very busy for a very long time on the Radeon 9700's hardware. With such exciting developments as the increased programmability and increased precision, it seems very easy to overlook such "little" things as MIP map and aniso degree selection algorithms.
Of the possible implementation issues, performance is certainly not a significant one. If it were, people with Radeons would notice performance changes in situations such as the rotating room in Serious Sam, or in flight sims.
With performance obviously thrown out, that just leaves engineering-side implementation issues, such as alotted development time, transistor budgets (which I no longer think was a major reason), transistor layout, and so on.
For example, on the transistor layout part, it might be much easier to copy as much of the pipeline from the Radeon 8500 as possible, so that the transistor layout needs as little redesign as possible.
Regardless of the reasons it wasn't done, I'm very certain that performance is not one of them, and nothing can change the fact that ATI should fix the problem once and for all with their next major architectural change (I don't expect any improvement in the Spring...that would be far too much to ask for).
Update: By "should" I don't mean I think they will, I think that it's something they should do to improve the visual quality of their products (and I don't mean to imply that I think they won't, either...).