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CheckDeviceType with D3DDEVTYPE_REF?

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--noob alert-- I'm confused about what it takes to figure out hardware capabilities through Direct3D. For example: IDirect3D9::CheckDeviceType says it "Verifies wether a hardware accelerated device can be used on this adapter." - so one would think the only logical value to pass in as a device type would be D3DDEVTYPE_HAL, right? The return of D3D_OK says that "the device can be used on this adapter"...which muddies the explanation of CheckDeviceType. Is it used to check whether the desired device will have hardware support...or just if the combination of device type, formats, and window mode are available on the adapter? What does hardware acceleration mean for a device if the requested device type is anything other than D3DDEVTYPE_HAL? (...ps...I also posted this on 'Beginner' before seeing there was a DirectX specific forum. Ignore that one..)

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I found this....

http://www.gamedev.net/community/forums/topic.asp?topic_id=179557

...which suggests to me that the use of "hardware acceleration" in the method description refers to the hardware color conversion from the backbuffer format to the display format, which is important only in windowed mode.

...but the result of a call to EnumAdapterModes returns D3DERR_NOTAVAILABLE if the format is not supported by hardware ...??

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