Stardate: September, 1999. Multiprocessor Heaven.
Two years ago 3d hardware was in it's infancy, and dual processor heaven meant a Pentium MMX 200 in tandem with another. But what games were there that could make use of that hot hardware?
It's September, 1999. I've just purchased and assembled my first multiprocessor system using dual AMD K7 500 MHz processors running under WIN2000. WOW! I thought Falcon 4 was fast on my old Voodoo2 SLI boards on my CeleronA at 450 Mhz, but with this TNT2 SLI configuration my F4 benchmark has gone from average 20 fps in campaign (1024x768 with detail cranked and volumetric clouds ON) to average 40! I assembled this system last night, transferring the dual TNT2 configuration from my PII system.
You have to understand a little background here. The bus speed on this system is 200 MHz. Now I know the technonuts know that this is technically not a bus, but in spite of that this 500MHz part is fully 25% faster than a PII 450, for a ton of reasons including the 200MHz bus (based on Digital Alpha's EV6 bus, bandwidth of 2.6 GB/sec). But you may not know that this is the FIRST production CPU using the copper process at .25 microns out of the new Dresden fab plant. It runs cool, lean and mean!
Now adding the twin TNT2s to this mix is sheer delight, with raw power in the neighborhood of 650 Mpixels per second. This is double the raw horsepower of Voodoo3, and more than three times the power of Voodoo2 SLI. The total pixel pushing under WIN2000 is unbelievable, with the campaign AI of Falcon 4 running on a dedicated CPU.
I do have a few special features on this board. Each CPU has 256K L1 cache onboard (2x the PII cache), and each has access to a 512K L2 cache without tag RAM, and up to 8 MEG of L2 cache with tag RAM chips. The cache on my system runs at 250MHz, but can be adjusted up to full processor speed with faster cache.
Don't forget that under DX7 I am also running with 3DNOW support and a fully pipelined FPU. This thing actually peaks at two instructions per clock. Yikes! 3DNOW is AMD's enhanced instruction set, more or less equivalent to an FPU MMX.
3DNow provides SIMD (Single Instruction, Multiple Data) replacements for common FPU instructions. Since this is essentially the math needed for 3d games to perform transformations, it's the ultimate FPU enhancement.
Click to continue
. . .
Dual CPUs, Dual Video: Oh My!
Okay, so I am somewhere in the order of 3500 MIPS, but twin TNT2s are also in the picture.
Dual processors have become the ultimate gamers edge. With Falcon 4.0 already here, and other coming games also adding multi-threading, and with WIN2000 now with DX7 support, there is a huge speed gain to be had by using dual CPUs.
The bump mapping in Falcon 4 1.2 is incredible, and suddenly low level flight feels very fast and scary. The terrain detail down low must be about 4x higher than the first release, and combined with the new clouds I can only wish that I could fly the Comanche Gunship in this one! Too bad Voodoo 4 hasn't arrived. Rumor has it that it will show up in November, finally achieving 32 bits per pixel and addressing 32 meg of memory.
Back to the Future
The technical specs found here regarding CPUs are fact, not fiction. Even the relative performance of the K7 is mostly fact. Engineering samples are showing a 20% speed increase over the Pentium II, but this does not take into account the 3DNOW features of the chip, and maximum performance will be seen in games, not business applications.
I don't know if bump mapping will make it into Falcon 4 this summer, but I do know that volumetric clouds will show up sometime soon. And if bump mapping doesn't show in F4, it will show soon in some other sim like EF2000 v.3.
The AMD K6-2 arrived last year, and the K6-3 will hit the streets in April. A generation beyond the K6-3, the AMD K7 may be your story in the summer of 1999. The K7 is the first AMD part that will be configurable with dual processors, and it is likely to redefine the meaning of "screaming" speed under WIN2000. By the way, this new CPU will also use a new proprietary "Slot A," that is similar to Intel's Slot 1.
Since spring will also see the arrival of hot new 3d boards with chips like the TNT2, it should prove to be a hotter than usual summer!