It also seems that the graphics chip at the center of the storm does seem to achieve higher benchmark scores than its rival, based on tests at ZDNet Labs.
The furore began last week when FutureMark announced on its Web site that Nvidia had unfairly tweaked the software that runs its new GeForce FX 5900 processor so as to achieve higher-than-normal scores with 3DMark03, a benchmarking application owned by FutureMark.
In a statement posted yesterday on the PC hardware enthusiast site Hardavenue, Tero Sarkkinen, executive vice president of sales and marketing at Futuremark said that Nvidia's claims are "irrelevant, and to us it seems like an attempt to shift discussion to a different topic."
He was replying to Nvidia's charge that Futuremark, a small Finnish firm, singled out the graphics card maker for criticism because it declined to buy into the software firm's beta testing program.
The Nvidia spokesman had said: "Since Nvidia is not part of the Futuremark beta program (a program which costs of hundreds of thousands of dollars to participate in), we do not get a chance to work with Futuremark on writing the shaders like we would with a real applications developer."
"We don't know what they did, but it looks like they have intentionally tried to create a scenario that makes our products look bad."
Sarkinnen replied that the topic being discussed is that Nvidia's drivers can detect when 3DMark03 is being run. This results "in an incorrect score which made false representation of their product's performance in 3DMark03," he said.
He went on to say that his firm has a responsibility to be a custodian of fair play and that to "weed out cheating" was a key task. "This is a business opportunity for us, since due to our role and position we are better suited to act in this role than e.g. game benchmark providers. We welcome all interested parties to work with us in this important initiative," he said.
Nvidia scores higher in tests
Nvidia is amid a hard-fought battle with rival ATI Technologies to claim the performance lead in PC graphics processors. After years of Nvidia dominating both in market share and performance, ATI took the speed lead last year with new versions of its Radeon chips. After settling manufacturing issues that resulted in ongoing delays of product launches, Nvidia hoped to regain the performance lead this year with the 5900.
Nvidia's latest high-end graphics processor appears to have caught up to ATI's latest Radeon chip in performance, even allowing for alleged dirty tricks in the way Nvidia's drivers handle benchmarks, according to new tests from ZDNet Labs in the U.K..
Nvidia and ATI are battling for the right to call their technology the fastest, a right which carries prestige with high-end gamers, even if it does not translate directly into sales in the more lucrative mass market.
The new set of benchmarks pitted the new Nvidia GeForce FX 5900 Ultra against ATI's latest, the Radeon 9800 Pro 256MB. Nvidia holds a substantial market share lead over ATI, but ATI has until now held a performance lead in the current generation of GPUs (graphics processing units).
ZDNet's tests found that Nvidia's improvements to its new chip have given it an edge over the Radeon in some areas, such as 3DMark03 benchmark tests. In other tests, such as parts of the Unreal Tournament 2003 test and the Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell test, results were more mixed or the lead went to the Radeon.
The results are a big improvement over Nvidia's first iteration of the GeForce FX, the 5800 Ultra, which was delayed and then showed disappointing performance.
However, some uncertainty hangs over the benchmark tests, since Nvidia has been accused of tweaking the way its drivers handle benchmarks in order to give an artificially high score. Even so, ZDNet's testers concluded that Nvidia has at least caught up with ATI in terms of sheer 3D performance.
ZDNet U.K.'s Matthew Broersma contributed to this report.