Introduction

In the seemingly never-ending wait for a final version of 64bit MS Windows to hit the streets, the only recourse for those who want a stable and reliable 64bit operating system on their desktop is Linux (or Apple's OS X, if x86 isn't a prerequisite). While support for x86-64 under Linux is solid, neither 32bit nor 64bit Linux can run the vast majority of computer games on the market, and many die-hard Linux fans still use a dual boot set-up in order to get their gaming fix. The hope for gamers and 64bit (fortunately or not) lies in the 64bit version of Windows.

Recently, ATI released a beta version of their 64bit Catalyst drivers, and we spent some time playing around with various hardware and games on this new platform. There is some good, and there is some bad (as is always the case), but it is definitely a good thing that ATI has joined NVIDIA in the 64bit public beta department. The more testing that can get done on these drivers before their release, the smoother the transition should be when final versions of everything become available.

What we eventually expect to see when running 32bit games under a 64bit OS is a slight improvement in performance, but nothing to write home about. The main reason for this is the availability of extra resources to the operating system and drivers running on the system. The increased availability of registers and other enhancements of x86-64 will provide the operating system with a slightly more efficient means of managing processes and resources. Drivers will also have this added benefit when bridging the gap between software and hardware. The 32bit software is still limited by what it percieves as the limitations of the hardware, so it won't be able to really take hold of the possibilities for performance improvement.

Until 64bit versions of the software that we know (and love) will come along, we won't be able to tell what the true benefit of the once again reworked architecture will be. But for the purposes of this review, we want to see equivalent or slightly improved performance. This will tell us whether or not Microsoft is on track with WoW, and how far along the ATI and NVIDIA driver teams are in producing a solid 64bit product.

Driver Overview
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  • kcbaltz - Wednesday, June 16, 2004 - link

    Pardon my ignorance, but what's "WoW"? Reply
  • Pumpkinierre - Wednesday, June 16, 2004 - link

    I wonder if the nVidia architecture with its 16bit/32bit FPU lends itself better to 64bit computation than ATI's 24bit FP. The nVidias certainly show the sort of performance improvements we were expecting.
    Reply
  • ZobarStyl - Wednesday, June 16, 2004 - link

    Beta or not the point is seeing if actual current hardware will benefit from the increased efficiency of a 64 bit OS...I think it's a perfectly reasonable article and I liked it, if WoW emulation can post any benefits and not hinder any programs then it will be a godsend to A64 owners. Reply
  • araczynski - Wednesday, June 16, 2004 - link

    #6: I think only the fanboi community is interested in data that is mostly based on Beta sources. The geek community would be interested in actual release data, not this stuff. You might as well start comparing the 5.0ghz offerings from AMD and Intel at this point. Reply
  • Pjotr - Wednesday, June 16, 2004 - link

    BTW, UT2004 64 bit:

    http://www.fileshack.com/browse.x?cat=2226
    Reply
  • RyanVM - Wednesday, June 16, 2004 - link

    RE: NV40. "If there's demand" - HAH! Like you even have to say that :-)

    I think the entire geek community is interested in seeing how well the latest and greatest hardware performs in a 64bit environment. Do it up!
    Reply
  • Stuke - Wednesday, June 16, 2004 - link

    On your test platform, under dxdiag, did it show that it had AGP support? Whenever I install the via 4in1 on my system and the video drivers, I get no AGP texture acceleration. Maybe thats a cause for lower performance too. Reply
  • DerekWilson - Wednesday, June 16, 2004 - link

    I appologize for messing up the graphs. It really should be the 5950 in the graphs.

    The latest versions of the drivers when the tests were performed didn't support X800 and 6800 yet.

    I'll correct the error ASAP. Sorry for any confusion.
    Reply
  • Illissius - Wednesday, June 16, 2004 - link

    You put 6800 Ultra instead of 5959 Ultra on all the graphs :/
    OTOH it's odd that the 5950U is faster at Halo, which is DX9. Is it using a special codepath (one sans any actual DX9 stuff :) ) or something?
    And yeah, NV40 vs. R420 would be nice, but other things are prob. more important. (Such as the Far Cry SM 3.0 patch and whether or not NV40 gets a performance boost on nForce3 as nVidia says it does.)
    Reply
  • Pjotr - Wednesday, June 16, 2004 - link

    UT2004 is available in 64 bit server and client versions now, although beta. Any chance of adding these to the test? Reply

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