NVIDIA Fall Driver Update (rel 180) and Other Treatsby Derek Wilson on November 20, 2008 8:00 AM EST
- Posted in
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.