Driver Overview

One 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.

Index The Test


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  • Flerbizky - Friday, June 18, 2004 - link

    And where's the 64bit Far Cry part of the article ?... That could've been quite interesting as well..

  • TrogdorJW - Thursday, June 17, 2004 - link

    19: That's the whole point: WoW is an interface that allows for 32-bit applications to run on the 64-bit OS. AMD64 supports a mode where 32-bit applications are run concurrently with 64-bit applications under a 64-bit OS, but you still need to have the 32-bit interface that the old applications understand, and that interface then ties into the 64-bit OS.

    I'm not sure what Pjotr is thinking when he says that you can run 32-bit drivers under 64-bit Linux, though. In my experience with Linux, you need to compile practically every driver/application/utility to get it to work, which of course gives you 64-bit drivers under 64-bit Linux and 32-bit drivers under 32-bit Linux. It's just like Windows: the drives and the OS need to be 64-bit, while you can have a compatibility interface to run 32-bit applications.
  • glennpratt - Thursday, June 17, 2004 - link

    Pjotr: I didn't think you could run 32bit software while running within a 64bit OS (which would be using the processors long mode). If plain 32bit software could be run without WOW, why would M$ be making it? Reply
  • araczynski - Thursday, June 17, 2004 - link

    My only point is that (in my opinion) until EVERYthing is out of beta, any performance data that comes out is completely worthless/meaningless especially in a field as finacky as graphics performance.

    As such, deducing ANYthing from worthless data is in turn, itself worthless and futile.
  • Pjotr - Thursday, June 17, 2004 - link

    The Linux distros have not all come as far. Some are better at AMD64 than others.
    AMD64 also allows direct hardware 32 bit execution, unlike the WoW, so you can run 32 bit drivers in an AMD64 64 bit OS.
  • Shinei - Thursday, June 17, 2004 - link

    Anemone, these are beta drivers, you have to expect the performance to not be as spectacular as the stuff the companies already know (x86-32). And we also have to consider that these results are using yesterday's cards; 64-bit NV40 and R420 should be a great deal more satisfying, especially if paired up with improved drivers. I imagine that nVidia's driver team experience will produce something approaching x86-32 performance by the time XP64 is ready to roll, with ATI pushing out its final beta around the same time; but, what do I know about programming, I just play the games and moan when they don't work right. ;) Reply
  • Anemone - Wednesday, June 16, 2004 - link

    Looks like there is a lot of improvement before they are going to impress gamers...
  • TrogdorJW - Wednesday, June 16, 2004 - link

    At the risk of engaging the wrath of all the Linux fanboys out there, let's just point out that running the latest 64-bit Linux distros right now is perhaps even worse than XP-64 beta in many areas. Sound support is severely lacking, as is 3D accelerated graphics support. Text mode and unaccelerated X work fine, although they don't show massive performance boosts. Still, with sound and graphics support being a difficult proposition for all but the best Linux hackers, 32-bit is still the way to go.

    This, by the way, is based off of personal experience with trying to run Linux on an Athlon 64 3000+ system. 32-bit Linux is running happily now, although with the 2.6 kernel I still can't get Nvidia's drivers to work. I'll try 64-bit Linux again in about three or four months, I think.
  • glennpratt - Wednesday, June 16, 2004 - link

    And WOW is nothing new just so you know. If you run a 16bit app in 32 bit Windows XP you will see WOW in your process lists with programs running in it tabbed out a space. Reply
  • Cygni - Wednesday, June 16, 2004 - link

    The differences between Nvidia and ATI arch when computing 64bit wont really be known until we have 64bit games to look into.

    WoW = Windows on Windows. Think of it as a 32bit emulator. Since Win64 its a native 64bit OS, WoW allows you to run 32bit programs by wrapping or emulating the 32bit calls made by the program into 64bit calls for the OS to understand.

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