A long time ago, NVIDIA used to get us excited about new driver launches. Back in the GF2 days, we would see features and performance improvements to cheer about coming out all the time. Even in the GeForce 6 series time frame when NVIDIA was playing with dynamic compilers and shader replacement we could at least expect the occasional surprise. But lately we just haven't seen anything to jump up and down about in the average driver drop.

So this time around we were enthusiastic about the possibility of new features and performance boosts that could really make this an important and even exciting driver release. Honestly, NVIDIA needs to step up to the plate and really start getting people interested in their drivers again. While it isn't perfect, we are much happier with the approach NVIDIA takes to driver development than AMD. While monthly driver drops may be popular with end users, there are just too many sacrifices being made. Fixes in one driver don't always make it into the next and very few games are tested with each drop meaning things that were fixed often get broken again.

The transition to Vista was more of a struggle for NVIDIA than AMD, and NVIDIA definitely didn't handle that situation real well leaving GeForce 6 and 7 owners in a bit of a lurch while Vista and GeForce 8 were the focus. NVIDIA's approach to drivers does provide fewer WHQL certified drivers, but now that they are back to unified drivers and done with the Vista transition, we can generally get good results on any card with any beta driver. NVIDIA has one driver trunk and a huge list of games they test with each update (even their beta releases get QA'd quite a bit before release).

The AMD approach spreads the driver team too thin and concentrates efforts on getting the next driver out rather than on making the next driver good. Consider what AMD went through from 8.10 to 8.11, with the transition to X58 and the release of Far Cry 2. From 8.10, after multiple different hotfix revisions we still didn't have a driver that was really complete. When 8.11 came out, we still had no joy. This week finally saw the release of a hotfix that addresses our issues, but the majority of gamers won't see the changes integrated until 8.12. Essentially, the 8.11 driver release is just a placebo and a waste of time and money. It serves only a marketing purpose to make end users feel all warm and squishy inside.

For us, great quality, feature filled, exciting quarterly drivers with frequent beta drops for compatibility and stability is something we'd love to see from both companies. Even if AMD dropped back to an every other month cycle we feel it would be hugely beneficial to the quality and usefulness of their drivers. While we feel NVIDIA has the right approach, they haven't been doing enough in their new driver releases to get us really enthusiastic about them. Hopefully this will change.

Beyond drivers, we've got a bit of talk about an interesting title that will support PhysX in the near future and some GPU computing developments. But mostly this is about drivers. So lets get down to it.

Multi-monitor SLI Users Rejoice!
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  • Intelman07 - Monday, November 24, 2008 - link

    I most certainly do not regret switching from Nvidia to ATI. Nvidia's drivers were horrid in Vista. I've not had too many issues since. I do not mind bashing ATI as much as I mind praising Nvidia.

    Reply
  • kondor999 - Tuesday, November 25, 2008 - link

    I'm running 3 GTX280's in Tri-SLI under Vista x64 and the 180.xx have made a large difference by greatly increasing the *minimum* framerate in games such as Far Cry 2 and Warhead.

    Of course, be advised that I'm running these at 5040x1050 using a Matrox TH2Go at 4-8x AA.
    Reply
  • Mr Roboto - Wednesday, November 26, 2008 - link

    Good for you, you poser. I know you're type. The kid at school who thought that by lying about his personal possessions he was somehow cool or that he would gain more friends. It turns out those types are just compulsive liars with NO friends. We called them lietokickits. You don't have to lie to kick it. Especially in the Anand Tech comments section. Reply
  • SiliconDoc - Friday, December 26, 2008 - link

    It really doesn't look like you called that one correctly:
    Note the date, Oct. 30th 2007 kondor999 " got a copy of Vista Ultimate OEM on the day it was released, quickly discovered that performance was poor (specifically - graphics, audio, and file copying) and shelved it after struggling with it for 3 months. I'm now back to my old copy of XP Pro and it's just so much nicer. Simply put, everything works as it should. BTW, I have a nice rig: 3ghz Core2, 2gb RAM, 8800GTX, dual 150gb Raptors. If my rig chokes on Vista..."
    http://www.firingsquad.com/matrix/comment_view.asp...">http://www.firingsquad.com/matrix/comment_view.asp...
    Then there's the age match > " http://www.ageod.com/forums/member.php?u=4951">http://www.ageod.com/forums/member.php?u=4951
    Age
    42
    Join Date
    June 18th, 2008
    Total Posts
    5
    " I'm an older gamer (42) and I remember when games like Longbow 2 and F-15 came with big ring-bound manuals that ensured you *wanted* to buy the physical game " (from the first link)
    Then there's this:
    http://www.cardomain.com/ride/2626829">http://www.cardomain.com/ride/2626829
    Looks like the money is there.
    __________________________________

    Oh well, better luck next time.
    Reply
  • george1976 - Monday, November 24, 2008 - link

    Well, talking about stability, i have problems now with NFS Undercover with this new driver, problems i never had with 178.24.... So much for treats... Reply
  • fausto412 - Monday, November 24, 2008 - link

    Every driver after 178.13 breaks AA in Battlefield 2142. I just downloaded 180.48 drivers and they make left 4 dead stutter so much it is unplayable. I try new drivers and go back to 178.13 everytime. what gives Nvidia? Anyways, perhaps Anandtech can question Nvidia on the stability of their drivers. Reply
  • rocky1234 - Sunday, November 23, 2008 - link

    Wow big deal Nvidia releases a driver & everyone goes crazy yay. They add a few small features & make a big stink about it yippy. Have they fixed the Vista issues yet don't know because I gave up waiting 6 months ago & switched to the red team. PhysX is a nice feature but even a Owner of a ATT card & windows XP can go out & buy a cheap Nvidia card slave it & install these magic drivers & get PhysX in the supported games that is if you got a second PCI-E x16 slot. At least that is what I heard people are doing I own a 9800GTX it is sitting on the floor here I may try it to see it it works...lol. Now if MS would come out with a patch for Vista that would allow you to do it there too that would rock. Reply
  • Mr Roboto - Saturday, November 22, 2008 - link

    Am I the only one who seems to see through Nvidia'a bullshit? Why is Anand praising them for un-crppling their drivers after five YEARS! When the only reason they're doing it is because AMD is handing them their ass!

    Nvidia is in a free fall so they finally start to pull out all the stops and release features that they should have given their users years ago. I mean it only took ATI to essentially kill their profit margins on the GTX series for them to release dual monitor SLI.

    I'm a long time Nvidia owner (8800GTX) but even I see the way Anand lays on the bullshit real thick. Quit playing nice for Nvidia. Are you afraid they won't send you review hardware or return your phone calls?

    Well since Anand won't do it I guess the readers must.

    Nvidia's Vista drivers were nothing short of fucking atrocious for YEARS (there's that word again). Only in the last 3-4 months have they gotten a little better, coincidence? (4800 launch). Nvidia even had SLI working on the Quadro setups for YEARS. Now that they're falling fast they decide to un-cripple their desktop drivers. This goes hand in hand with gouging their customers, pushing flaky hardware out into market (G92-94), IMAP bullshit, the fucked up, confuse the noobs naming scheme and broken, buggy and just all around shitty drivers.

    Fuck Nvidia and fuck their shit motherboards. I was a loyal Nvidia owner for as long as I can remember but they have taken greed and screwing their customers to another level. I hope

    Reply
  • Mr Roboto - Saturday, November 22, 2008 - link

    I hope ATI takes them to the brink of bankruptcy but only for the sake of competition. Otherwise I could care less about Nvidia and their busted hardware. Reply
  • JonnyDough - Friday, November 21, 2008 - link

    Is a simple email informing me of new driver release with a link to the page and what it fixes/changes. A VERY simple email. I don't care WHEN they release the driver, but more importantly that it works and that I know it's available for download. Too many releases just gets to be a hassle, not enough means I have to wait forever for my favorite application or game to work properly. Communication between graphic card companies and software companies probably could use some improvement as well. The way I see it, AMD/NVidia/Intel need to get on board with a standardized support of their products using the email method. Software developers should have a single website to access all three in regards to drivers, and end users should have a standardized email platform from all three. When companies get together and provide good support for their products, everyone wins. As long as they don't lie in bed together on making money, hardware and software can advance at a faster and more complete pace than they have previously...and that means smoother computing for all. Reply

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