Gearing Up For 64bit: Beta Graphics Driver Comparisonby Derek Wilson on June 16, 2004 8:00 AM EST
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Driver OverviewOne thing that needs to be mentioned right off the bat is OpenGL support. While we could run most of the OpenGL based games that we had on NVIDIA hardware, ATI's drivers couldn't load up a single OpenGL based game that we tested. While just about everything here is pre-release beta software, the fact that Warcraft III (which ran fine under DirectX) couldn't start up in OpenGL mode seems to indicate that it isn't a game support issue, but an API support issue.
Both NVIDIA and ATI have their strong and weak points (as we will see from the tests), but they are both continually refining these drivers in preparation for the final version of the 64bit edition of Windows XP. Having played around with the first versions of the OS to make it onto the street, and the first versions of drivers for everything, we can honestly say that we are seeing some promising improvements. It's not quite time to migrate over, but the time is coming when it won't make sense for Athlon 64 users to be running a 32bit operating system.
The other major issue that we had was with hardware support. ATI claims in the release notes for their first 64bit beta driver that the X800 series of cards are supported. We tried multiple platforms including VIA and NVIDIA chipsets and multiple software configurations, but we could not ever get an X800 based card to load ATI's 64bit Catalyst driver. The install would not find the card, and when we specifically selected the ATI driver for use with our card via the hardware manager, the system would crash before the install could complete. If we, instead, attempted the install from safe mode, we could avoid the crash, but immediately we entered into an infinite loop of rebooting, which could only be fixed by going back into safe mode and uninstalling the driver.
This is beta software, to be sure. But we had at least hoped for a little more luck knowing that ATI had listed it as supported hardware.
Of course, the beta driver with which we have to work from NVIDIA came out earlier than the 6800, so there is no support for NV40 under 64bit Windows yet, but we have been speaking with them about the possibility of grabbing a beta with NV40 support for testing. If there is any demand for it, we are considering a follow up article when we get our hands on 64bit drivers that support both R420 and NV40.