Gearing Up For 64bit: Beta Graphics Driver Comparisonby Derek Wilson on June 16, 2004 8:00 AM EST
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IntroductionIn 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.