updated 05:20 pm EST, Mon December 1, 2008
WARP10 software graphics
Windows 7 promises to bring with it a pair of programs that will enable users to process Direct3D 10 graphics on Direct3D 9 hardware as well as processing Direct3D 9-level graphics with no hardware at all, according to an MSDN article. The former feat is made possible with software called Direct3D 10 Level9, while the latter comes courtesy of Direct3D Windows Advanced Rasterization Platform (WARP10). The new standard is a high-speed, fully compatible software rasterizer that has already shipped in beta form in the November 2008 DirectX SDK.
Previously, users could still play native Direct3D 10 games such as Crysis with a graphics chipset that is only Direct3D 9-capable but at reduced performance levels. Direct 3D 10Level9 will carry with it a similar penalty. WARP10, however, will enable users with low-performance graphics or even none at all to use the power of the new Core i7 CPUs to bring performance that is on par with that provided by a basic Direct3D 10-level graphics chipset. It should also be capable of anti-aliasing up to 8X in multi-sampling as well as anisotropic filtering.
This reveals that the new Intel chips combined with Windows 7 are particularly powerful, as the CPU is not only capable of rendering such advanced graphics but also of processing its regular tasks. The software's developers didn't envision it to replace graphics hardware completely, however, as the intention is chiefly to allow applications to perform at Direct3D 10 levels without relying on largely different code paths or testing system requirements when running on either dedicated hardware or software.
Regardless, the combination is thought to have significantly better graphics performance that users will appreciate when using programs that involve 3D CAD design work, debugging 3D applications, running medical applications and playing games, among other duties.
Benchmarks are available below of WARP10 running on 800×600 with lowest quality settings, first measured against other CPUs, then dedicated graphics cards. [via IStartedSomething]
Direct3D WARP10 flowchart
Direct3D WARP10 benchmark results at 800x600 with lowest quality on various CPUs
Direct3D WARP10 benchmark results at 800x600 with lowest quality against graphics cards