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Mirror's Edge running smooth with Ageia PPU

Mirror's Edge benchmarks with Radeon HD 4870 plus Ageia card - Alternative to Nvidia Physx

Is the Physx card of Ageia still working in modern games? If yes, can Radeon users get the additional effects that are offered by Mirror's Edge for example? We checked it out.
Mirror's Edge running smooth with Ageia PPU
 
Mirror's Edge running smooth with Ageia PPU [Source: view picture gallery]
Mirror's Edge benchmarks - Ageia Card plus Radeon HD 4870: Introduction
Ageia once developed the Novodex physics engine and the appropriate PPU (Physics Processing Unit). The latter was supposed to revolutionize future games with unprecedented physics effects and should become the third main component in gaming PCs besides the graphics card and the processor. While the Novodex Engine is still used today, the PPU wasn't able to establish itself due to poor software support - and finally Ageia was bought by Nvidia. Novodex was renamed to Physx and due to the porting to Nvidia's Cuda it cannot just be run on the processor but also on modern Geforce GPUs.

Old and new Physx Control Panel
 
Old and new Physx Control Panel [Source: view picture gallery]


Mirror's Edge benchmarks - Ageia Card plus Radeon HD 4870: Installation
To use a modern Geforce for Physx calculations you should use the Geforce 181.22 WHQL driver and the Physx software v9.09.0010. You can activate GPU Physx in the control panel - to use a second Geforce is also possible.

If you install v8.09.04 without having deinstlled v9.09.0010 in advance, you will receive this error.
 
If you install v8.09.04 without having deinstlled v9.09.0010 in advance, you will receive this error. [Source: view picture gallery]
But in the case of the Ageia card you cannot use the new Physx software. Uninstall the current version and install the v8.09.04 WHQL after you have installed the PPU into your system. Now you start the "Nvidia Physx Properties” in the Windows start menu and select the Ageia PPU as hardware device in the settings. After that the Ageia card can be used with a Geforce or Radeon graphics card.

The combination of the Ageia PPU plus a Geforce or Radeon card works in older games like Cellfactor and Unreal Tournament 3, but also in the new Mirror's Edge. The idea for testing the Ageia card came up during the benchmarks for our Mirror's Edge: Physx effects benchmark review. Therefore we use the game for our PPU physics test.

Mirror's Edge with additional effects on the Ageia PPU.
 
Mirror's Edge with additional effects on the Ageia PPU. [Source: view picture gallery]
Mirror's Edge benchmarks - Ageia Card plus Radeon HD 4870: Benchmark results
Without additional effects like shattering glass panes and such things all calculations are done by the CPU, even if the Ageia PPU or a Geforce card is selected by hand. This is logical from Nvidia's point of view since the additional calculations would slow the graphics card down.

Mirror's Edge with additional effects on the CPU.
 
Mirror's Edge with additional effects on the CPU. [Source: view picture gallery]
With the additional effects we receive different results: If the CPU has to do the calculations the Radeon HD 4870/1G and the Geforce GTX 260-216 both reach single digit results only. If the Radeon is combined with the Ageia PPU the game runs up to eight times faster - thus the combo beats the Nvidia card with activated GPU Physx. The GTX 260-216 also benefits from the Ageia card and even beats the combination of a GTX 260-216 with a dedicated 9600 GT. It seems like the Ageia PPU calculates faster.






Mirror's Edge running smooth with Ageia PPU
 
Mirror's Edge running smooth with Ageia PPU [Source: view picture gallery]
Mirror's Edge benchmarks - Ageia Card plus Radeon HD 4870: Conclusion
An old broom sweeps clean - Ageia's Physx PPU is faster than a 9600 GT and makes Geforce exclusive physics effects available to Radeon owners. But time will tell if future games will still work with the Physx PPU.

As a Geforce owner you should stick to the GPU(s), since a secondhand passively cooled 9600 GT costs about the same as a actively cooled (and thus louder) Ageia PPU. And in this case the future support with drivers from Nvidia is secured, too.

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Author: Marc Sauter (Jan 26, 2009)






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