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3D Performance Issues and Tradeoffs
Different 3D cards implement different types of 3D acceleration features, and some implement them better than others. To some extent this is a matter of quality versus cost; like everything else in the computer world you generally get more when you pay more. However, there is also a legitimate performance tradeoff in designing a 3D accelerator.
The more effects you add to an image, the more realistic it appears. However, more effects also require more memory and processing time. When the amount of time to render an image increases, the frame rate decreases. The frame rate is the number of times per second that a new 3D image can be computed. (This is not the same as the refresh rate, which is the number of times per second that the current image is sent from the video card to the monitor.)
When the frame rate gets too low, movement in a 3D program appears choppy and uneven, which to many people destroys much of the realism obtained through the 3D effects. Most people find frame rates of 20 Hz or higher to appear reasonably smooth but many don't feel the view is smooth below 30 or even 40 frames per second. For this reason, some video cards intentionally do not support certain 3D functions in order to ensure that they will be able to compute the image fast enough to provide a reasonable frame rate.
Next: 3D Video Cards