Our inbox quickly lit up this morning when we received notice about this NGOHQ article, discussing how NVIDIA had removed the heterogeneous GPU restriction on PhysX in their latest beta drivers. This struck us as a bit of an odd reversal of positions from NVIDIA, and now that we've had a chance to chat with them we finally know what's going on.

As a quick matter of background, starting with the Forceware 186 series NVIDIA blocked GPU/PPU-accelerated PhysX from working on NVIDIA GPUs and AGEIA PPUs whenever a non-NVIDIA GPU was detected as being in the system. It's been a polarizing matter for the GPU community for nearly a year now, with a tug-of-war going on between projects editing the drivers to remove the block, and NVIDIA adding further checks in to their drivers to stop those efforts. In any case, there has been no sign that NVIDIA would be changing their position any time soon.

This brings us to this week's Forceware 257.15 beta drivers and today's clarification from NVIDIA. NGOHQ was correct in that the 257.15 drivers lacked the heterogeneous GPU restriction; however there has been a question of intentions. As we stated previously NVIDIA has held steady to their desire to keep PhysX on pure NVIDIA systems, so to make this change without publically announcing it odd - if only because it deprives them of the chance to sell cards as PhysX accelerators.

We just got done talking with NVIDIA about the matter and they clarified the issue for us. In what we expect is going to be a disappointment for many of you, the lack of a PhysX restriction on the current 257.15 beta drivers is a bug, not a feature - the restriction should have been in those drivers and it was not. NVIDIA will be reinstating the restriction in new downloads of the beta driver and in the WHQL build of these drivers.

Update: NVIDIA tells us that they will also be "fixing" the 257.15 beta driver on their site, so new downloads of that driver will have the restriction in place

Yes, this is a bug in the latest build of PhysX that was packaged with the driver. We'll be fixing this issue ASAP - the WHQL driver launching in early June won't have this issue. -NVIDIA

For those of you heterogeneous GPU users out there looking to use PhysX, there is some good news that can be salvaged from this however: this won't change the fact that previously downloaded copies of beta drivers lack this restriction. With these drivers you can still have heterogeneous GPUs with PhysX without modifying NVIDIA’s drivers, but you’ll be stuck on these drivers for the time being.

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  • thekimbobjones - Monday, May 31, 2010 - link

    Just as well PhysX is a load of c#@p. Reply
  • shin0bi272 - Tuesday, June 01, 2010 - link

    Im guessing you never played warmonger operation downtown destruction. The gameplay is simplistic but its on the U3 engine and you can destroy just about everything in that game. Wish they had taken it further though tbh. Physx just makes that game a blast to play. Reply
  • JimmiG - Monday, May 31, 2010 - link

    I sure hope one of the open physics initiatives takes off.. Then no one will care about PhysX anyway. In general, proprietary standards tend to either get opened up or they die away (3dfx Glide). Reply
  • shin0bi272 - Tuesday, June 01, 2010 - link

    I suspect that that bullet physx will be the next big thing. Maybe havok cloth for a while. But either way if what you say is true then havok would have been out of business a long time ago not sitting on their high horse charging 250k per title for their physics engine. Nvidia's physx sdk is free and its hardware accelerated... it just pisses off all the amd fanboys that they cant play physx games. Which also makes it a bad idea for nvidia to pull this move to block amd guys from playing physx games because at this point physx is not a huge reason to buy a game. If physx was the defacto standard for most games then nvidia could announce that they were stopping support for heterogeneous cards. But stopping it now is like going off to war without any ammo... yeah sure youve got a great weapon but it doesnt have any bullets. Reply
  • yannigr - Monday, May 31, 2010 - link

    When PhysX starts to fade all the technical problems with heterogeneous GPU PhysX will go away and NVidia will start talking about a feature and not a bug. But it is going to be too little too late. Reply
  • Shining Arcanine - Monday, May 31, 2010 - link

    Because Nvidia published the same driver version both with and without the restriction, it should be fairly trivial to examine the drivers to determine what is enforcing the restriction, making it easy for people to remove it on their systems. Reply
  • dragunover - Monday, May 31, 2010 - link

    My next GPU will be an ATi graphics card, I've had enough with their driver's BS, I run another computer with ATI drivers and I have NONE of the issues that I have had over the past year with my GTX 260. Reply
  • shin0bi272 - Tuesday, June 01, 2010 - link

    Ive run nvidia cards for over a decade and have not ever had one problem with them ... well except for that one time i froze my tnt2 card to get the epoxied fan off because one of the blades broke off while I was screwing around inside my pc. But that wasnt nvidia's fault Reply
  • BoFox - Tuesday, June 01, 2010 - link

    Nvidia is not the only one caught red-handed with their "lackluster" drivers.

    For starters, ATI here is not giving us an option to disable severe trilinear optimizations with R800 (5xxx) cards. The optimizations, even when 16x AF is enabled, actually make the mipmaps look a tad bit more on the bilinear side than trilinear (hence the term brilinear). In many scenarios, the harsh line of mipmap transistion becomes rather annoying when the camera is in motion (as opposed to still screenshots). Disabling Catalyst A.I. does not resolve this issue on 5xxx GPU's--disabling it would not be a good idea for compatibility issues with some games anyways--especially crossfire.

    For more, see: http://alienbabeltech.com/main/?p=12648&page=2
    Reply
  • shin0bi272 - Tuesday, June 01, 2010 - link

    ew wow that does look like graphics from an old dx7 video game ... you can just watch the models snap from one mip to another. Reply

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