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WARP: Use Your PC Even Without a GPU!

Microsoft announced the inclusion of WARP to their upcoming operating system Windows 7 to debuted late 2009.

WARP or Windows Advanced Rasterization Platform enables your system, with proper hardware support, to boot even without a graphics card sitting on your AGP or PCIe slot.  The new software tecnology also enables you to run games that require DirectX 9, 10, 10.1 and 11 to run fully accelerated on an aging GPU as WARP will utilize your CPU to render the required features in software mode.

Microsoft demonstrated the capabilities of WARP by running Crysis in 800×600 screen resolution with the lowest quality settings.

WARP will definitely require you to run on multi-core CPUs especially the newest Nehalem Core i7 CPU released by Intel.

Integrated graphics cards may still be 4 to 5 times faster than WARP and so is not a total replacement.

According to Microsoft’s WARP documentation:

When WARP10 is running on the CPU, we are limited compared to a graphics card in a number of ways. The front side bus speed of a CPU is typically around or under 10 GB/s whereas a graphics card often has dedicated memory that is able to take advantage of 20-100 GB/s or more of graphics bandwidth. Graphics hardware also has fixed function units that can perform complex and expensive tasks like texture filtering, format decompression or conversions asynchronously with very little overhead or power cost. Performing these operations on a typical CPU is expensive in terms of both power consumption and performance cost in cycles.

WARP Capabilities:

  • Fully supports all Direct3D 10 and 10.1 feature
    • Fully supports all the precision requirements of the Direct3D 10 and 10.1 specification
    • Supports Direct3D 11 when used with FeatureLevel 9_1, 9_2, 9_3, 10_0 and 10_1
    • Supports all optional texture formats, such as multi-sample render targets and sampling from float surfaces.
    • Supports anti-aliased, high quality rendering up to 8x MSAA.
    • Supports anisotropic filtering
    • Supports 32 and 64 bit applications as well as large address aware 32 bit applications.
  • The minimum specification for WARP10 is the same as Windows Vista, specifically:
    • Minimum 800MHz CPU.
    • MMX, SSE or SSE2 is *not* required
    • Minimum 512MB of RAM.

Well of course this is not an ideal replacement for your current GPU as WARP might only be good as an emergency replacement for your toasted GPU chip or busted GPU bios due to failed flash. You may, in the mean, time use WARP while waiting for your replacement GPU.

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