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What method is the quickest for depth testing?

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I thought depth testing meant having a depth buffer (as an array) where the depth of pixel chunks were stored. But I've seen somewhere (I don't remember where) that depth testing might have been spatial sorting (using nodes I think). So, which method would be quicker: sorting polygons by distance from the camera, or using an extra screen buffer? I'm thinking that the load is around a couple hundred triangles. And are there faster methods?

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Simply sorting polygons isn't good enough if it's possible for two polygons to intersect - in that case (if you didn't have a depth buffer) you would have to split the polygons into smaller ones and re-sort.

Modern depth buffers (in graphics cards) aren't implemented as arrays any-more; they're hierarchical, like a quad-tree, so they can quickly reject hidden pixels.

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