Looking Back Pt. 3: The 6800 Ultra, ForceWare, and the Futureby Ryan Smith on May 11, 2006 4:00 AM EST
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IntroductionPicking up from where we left off with the X800 Pro, we are back again to wrap up our Looking Back series on the evolution of driver performance. As we saw previously, ATI posted some significant performance gains for both the R420 architecture and it's relatively similar R300 predecessor. Improving performance over 20% in most games, and in some cases doubling it entirely, ATI showed they were capable of working a great deal of performance out of their drivers long after the hardware was formed.
Of course taking apart the Catalyst drivers is just the beginning. NVIDIA, with their even more infamous reputation for driver-based performance increases, can't be ignored, so as promised we are back to take a look at just what NVIDIA managed to do with their ForceWare drivers and their NV40-based 6800 Ultra. With a new architecture behind their products as opposed to ATI's more time-tested R300/R420 architecture, we've certainly had high hopes for what NVIDIA could do with the NV40. As we mentioned previously, ATI managed to set a very high bar with the X800 Pro, so now with the 6800 Ultra taking its turn under the knife, we finally get a chance to answer the burning question: who really got more performance out of their drivers in the last generation, and does it really make a difference?
With that in mind, our overall objective in doing this still has not changed. As a recap from our first article:
When the optimizations, the tweaks, the bug fixes, and the cheats are all said and done, just how much faster has all of this work made a product? Are these driver improvements really all that substantial, or is much of this over-exuberance and distraction over only minor issues? Do we have any way of predicting what future drivers for new products will do?