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Performance Tip: Leverage Early Z feature to reduce fill requirements


The GMA X3000 hardware can perform a Z test on a pixel before it is sent to the pixel shader or the render target; this feature is referred to as Early Z. If the fragment fails the Z test it can be immediately discarded thus eliminating any additional texture or frame buffer accesses.

Early Z automatically works for you whenever possible. To maximize the benefit of Early Z you should avoid manipulation of the Z buffer via pixel shaders when a standard Z test would work. Obviously if no Z test is performed before running the pixel shader you can not avoid running the pixel shader via early Z. Another common method of boosting early Z performance is to render the scene from front to back. If this can be done, it effectively reduces the depth complexity to one and thus saves substantial fill rate. However the benefits of this approach need to be balanced against the additional state changes and texture cache misses that may be incurred by forcing a total front to back ordering. Because of this it is often better to only group and sort objects that share common textures and other rendering states. Keep in mind that front to back rendering and early Z offer little benefit when depth complexity is low and or when using very simple single texture shaders.

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For more on this topic, see the Intel GMA 3000 and X3000 Developer's Guide.


Lexi S.

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