Forceware 260 & Bitstreaming Audio

Launching alongside the GTS 450 is NVIDIA’s Forceware 260 driver series, which should be available for download later this morning. This release brings an interesting mix of changes to performance, features, and even the installation routine.

We’ll start with the installer. The old Installshield installer is out in favor of a new NVIDIA-developed installer. By moving to their own installer, NVIDIA was able to do some consolidation and some simplification of the install process. Consolidation comes in the form of all of NVIDIA’s major driver packages being in the same installer. Previously the 3D Vision driver set was a separate download from the main drivers; now they’re part of the main driver bundle. In exchange for consolidating their drivers, NVIDIA now offers the ability to pick & choose which driver components to wish to install; currently there are the main drivers, PhysX, the audio drivers, and the 3D Vision drivers. If you’ve used the AMD Catalyst installer, then you should be familiar with this.


Meanwhile simplification comes from a few different changes. When doing a custom installation NVIDIA offers the ability to do a clean install straight from the driver installer, vastly simplifying the clean install process and eliminating the need for a 3rd party utility to do this. Do keep in mind however that a clean install cleans everything including saved profiles, and under normal circumstances a clean install should not be required.

The other reason we call these drivers simple is that the new installer is much faster than the old Installshield installer. NVIDIA specifically cites SLI situations – where the old installer would install the same drivers twice (once for each card) – but even in a single card situation the process is noticeably faster; we shaved 15 seconds off of the installation process compared to the 258.96 drivers. With any luck you aren’t installing drivers often enough that 15 seconds makes a huge difference (and if you are, you’re probably me) but if you are, then there’s definitely a perk for you in these drivers.

Finally, the size of the driver package remains virtually unchanged from the previous driver release. Our 64bit 260.52 international beta installer is 154MB, while the 64bit 258.96 international installer is 153MB; if anything it’s slightly smaller after factoring in the fact that it now contains the 3D Vision drivers too. But it goes without saying that modern video drivers from both AMD and NVIDIA are ridiculously huge, and this new installer doesn’t do anything to change that.

Meanwhile NVIDIA is also pushing this driver release as another big performance-boosting release. Compared to the 256 release for the GTX 460 it’s not nearly as large or as widespread of a performance boost, but there are several targeted titles that got performance boosts, mostly in SLI mode. As far as our own benchmark suite is concerned, the only titles we saw receiving a major improvement in single-GPU operation were Mass Effect 2 where performance improved 11% with our 768MB GTX 460, and STALKER: Call of Pripyat where performance improved 5% on the same card at the same resolution.

Finally, this release enabled bitstreaming audio for the newer members of the 400 series. As you may recall in our GTX 460 article, starting with GF104 NVIDIA has given the hardware the capability to bitstream the lossless audio formats DTS-HD Master Audio and Dolby TrueHD; GF100 and GT21x were limited to 8 channel LPCM. When the GTX 460 launched the drivers weren’t ready, and only unprotected bitstreaming was working. With this release the protected audio path is working, allowing bitstreaming of lossless audio from protected sources such as Blu-Ray discs.

We didn’t have the chance to test this on a GTS 450 as we had to catch a flight to IDF, however we did test this against a GTX 460 with the new drivers and it worked as it was supposed to.


Cheese Slices: GTS 450 Deinterlacing

Cheese Slices: Radeon HD 5670 Deinterlacing

For those of you looking at a GTS 450 as an HTPC card, we also quickly ran our favorite Cheese Slices test as a quick look at deinterlacing quality. As this is a test of computer power (if you have enough shaders, you can pass the test) there aren’t any huge surprises here. When compared to the Radeon HD 5670, the GTS 450 does a slightly better job properly deinterlacing the angled lines within the shapes at the bottom of the screen, but it does a poorer job deinterlacing a box full of angled lines elsewhere on the screen. Overall this is a wash between the two cards and par for the course for modern cards with this test.

On one last note, these don’t appear to be NVIDIA’s best drivers with respect to everything working. The 260.52 beta drivers we’re using have a bug in OpenCL that keeps it from working, which is why you will see that we have dropped OpenCL benchmarks in today’s review. NVIDIA tells us that the version of the 260 drivers being released later this morning have the issue fixed, but it’s not a particularly encouraging sign since we don’t normally run in to issues with their beta drivers.

Meet the GTS 450 The Test
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  • kallogan - Monday, September 13, 2010 - link

    "Furthermore our pre-release version of Badaboom with Fermi support doesn’t work either, so that also was dropped"

    I knew you had a special version of badaboom for your GTX 400s reviews ;)
  • tviceman - Monday, September 13, 2010 - link

    Great job on the article. Well written, well informed. But man, you guys really need to update your benchmark suite. I think Wolfenstein sold maybe about a two dozen copies on PC. Metro2033 now has an excellent built-in benchmark buried within it's directories. L4D2 is a more demanding, and more played game, than L4D1.

    Since we're entering the DX11 era, incorporating as many DX11 games as possible would make sense.
  • Taft12 - Monday, September 13, 2010 - link

    Agreed, there are a number of titles that even low-end cards can play comfortably. Consider those "case closed"

    Ryan said the benchmark selections are being updated in the fall, so bring on the SC2!!!
  • juampavalverde - Monday, September 13, 2010 - link

    240mm2 for this kind of performance and power consumption? laaaaame
  • Goty - Monday, September 13, 2010 - link

    So they STILL have yet to release a full Fermi-derived chip? How long has it been, now? That's just sad.
  • loeakaodas - Monday, September 13, 2010 - link

    Did AMD release a new card or is that a mistype?

    "Cheese Slices: Radeon HD 5760 Deinterlacing" on the 3rd page.
  • Etern205 - Monday, September 13, 2010 - link

    In the article, the 3-4 paragraph (quote)
    "entering the world as a 192 CUDA core part but with 3 sets of memory controllers and ROPs, for a combined total of a 192bit memory bus,..."

    It was mentioned the card has a 192bit memory bus, but on the chart it says it's has 192 CUDA cores with a 128bit memory bus. So which is correct?
  • Etern205 - Monday, September 13, 2010 - link

    nevermind :)
  • Conficio - Monday, September 13, 2010 - link

    Cheese Slices: Radeon HD 5760 Deinterlacing
    When compared to the Radeon HD 5670, the GTS
  • thedeffox - Monday, September 13, 2010 - link

    Over twenty different configurations, and you didn't include the card it's supposed to replace? Really?

    It seems a rather obvious card to include. More relevant than cards far outside its price bracket.

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