Recent times in the video card industry have placed increasing importance on hardware. With NVIDIA creating an almost unheard of 6 month product cycle, video card hardware seems to evolve at lightening fast speeds. Although it was not until recently that other manufacturers were able to match NVIDIA's pace, the pressure to produce faster and more powerful hardware has been on ever since the launch of the TNT2

Although both the video card manufacturers as well as the video card consumers place a large amount of emphasis on hardware, one aspect of a video card's performance is often overlooked and many times swept under the carpet. No matter how much we may deny it, video card drivers actually play a crucial role in card performance. Unfortunately, with increasing importance on hardware, software in the form of drivers was often neglected.

Slowly but surely, however, many manufacturers realized the increased importance of drivers in a product. The most recent example of this was the August announcement of NVIDIA's Detonator3 Drivers that accompanied the release of the GeForce2 Ultra. The announcement of the Detonator3 drivers marked the first time in recent memory that a video card manufacturer mated a new driver with a large product announcement. NVIDIA, knowing that the Detonator3 drivers would increase performance to a noticeable extent in gameplay, found that a "driver launch" would be the perfect way to show that they are still dedicated to "older" products while still working on the newer ones.

Other manufacturers have not made as big of a deal out of new drivers, skipping the "driver launch" idea and choosing to just release the drivers on the support pages. Such drivers are not only often unrecognized by users but many are also untapped when it comes to potential performance increases. All but the very technologically inclined, for example, would notice the naming difference between ATI's initial D7.11-CD01 driver release and the more current D7.14-0831a-62B-SPD build, let alone know which version they are currently using.

The problem with this is these newer and often undownloaded driver builds often result in not only bug fixes but also speed increases. Take 3dfx's most recent products, the Voodoo4 4500 and Voodoo5 5500. The Voodoo5 5500 debuted with driver version 1.00.01 while the Voodoo4 4500 arrived with support in version 1.03.00, yet both cards are supported in the most recent 1.04.01 build. With some users noting large performance increases as well as support for hidden surface removal (HSR), we thought it was about time AnandTech took a look at 3dfx's newest drivers.

The Test Explained

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