ASUS W90Vp: ATI Mobility Radeon HD 4870... with CrossFireby Jarred Walton on May 29, 2009 5:00 AM EST
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NVIDIA Achieves Holy Grail of Drivers
Okay, it's time for a short tangent. Gary mentioned recently that NVIDIA posted new Windows 7 compatible drivers on their website. What he neglected to mention is that new drivers are also available for Windows Vista and XP. Note that all of these are "beta" drivers, so there may be a few bugs left to work out, but we often feel that way about official drivers as well. So what makes these new drivers so special that they deserve a second mention? What exactly is the "Holy Grail" of this driver release?
Given this is a laptop article, you've probably already guessed, but the new drivers are available for notebooks as well. That's right, NVIDIA managed to release updated drivers for all major platforms on the same day! The drivers are available for all users whether they run the latest Windows 7 Release Candidate, Windows Vista, or Windows XP -- in both 32-bit and 64-bit flavors. If that's not enough, NVIDIA updated their drivers again one week later with the 185.85 WHQL release, once again available for all the major platforms and cards.
If you're running an older laptop, we do have to curb our enthusiasm. Users of GeForce Go 7 series hardware will have to continue using the last 179.48 beta drivers. Of course, it's also very unlikely that the latest drivers will contain any optimizations for older DirectX 9 hardware, so the 179.48 release should continue to work fine for the time being. (It's interesting to note that in quite a few titles we test with, performance has actually dropped somewhat over the past six months of mobile driver releases, so GeForce Go 7 users have even less incentive to want to upgrade.) Everyone else that runs a laptop with NVIDIA graphics will probably want to update... well, almost everyone.
As in the past, NVIDIA's mobile reference drivers only work with laptops from participating vendors. That covers the vast majority of users that have laptops, but some vendors/models are not supported:
- Hybrid SLI notebooks:
- Acer Aspire 7530
- BenQ Joybook S42
- Fujitsu Siemens Amilo Xi 3650
- MSI EX630
- Qosmio X305-Q706
- Qosmio X305-Q708
- Acer Aspire 7530
- Fujitsu notebooks -- (please contact the notebook OEM for driver support for these notebooks). Note: Fujitsu Siemens (FSC) notebooks are supported in this release
- Lenovo ThinkPad notebooks (please contact the notebook OEM for driver support for these notebooks)
- Sony VAIO notebooks (please contact the notebook OEM for driver support for these notebooks)
- Any notebook that is launched after the release date of this driver (Ed: naturally)
If you've been following NVIDIA's mobile driver releases, you may notice that Dell's Vostro line is no longer on the unsupported list -- most likely Dell heard your complaints. We're not sure why the Hybrid SLI notebooks aren't supported, but a far bigger concern is that several major vendors are apparently unwilling to participate in NVIDIA's mobile driver program. So let's make this clear: Lenovo, Sony, and Fujitsu, get with the program! Granted, none of those companies focuses on gaming laptops, but updated drivers are still important for other reasons -- for example, if you want to run the release candidate for Windows 7 with optimal performance. For reference, the latest driver currently available from Sony appears to be the 176 series, Lenovo offers the 178 series, and Fujitsu is still serving up 174 series drivers.
Is this going to be the way of all driver releases from the green team going forward? We certainly hope so, and if that's the case their competitors are in a difficult bind. It's absolutely great that notebook users won't have to wait several extra months before they get updated drivers for once. Put another way: NVIDIA has just moved all-in with pocket aces and there's another ace on the flop. ATI has their work cut out for them if they want to match that high standard, and that goes double for gaming laptops where driver updates are even more crucial. We can basically state that any game launched after a driver release is not likely to have any specific optimizations. Sometimes that will matter and other times it won't, but newer drivers are particularly helpful for multi-GPU configurations running new titles, which brings us back to the ASUS W90Vp.