Driver Performance Improvements

UPDATE: After speaking more with NVIDIA about where the performance enhancements come in to play, we were able to confirm that they are definitely there. We ran a few more tests at 2560x1600 with 4xAA and saw some good 10%+ performance improvements. The changes to the driver that make this possible come in handling high memory usage situations better. This means that in cases where memory pressure is a major cause for performance loss, we'll see the promised performance improvements. In older games like Oblivion, even pushing 2560x1600 with 4xAA won't be enough. Newer games will benefit more from this. Of course, the other issue is that some times the performance improvement may not be enough. We tested Far Cry 2 with the GTX 260 and went from 23.4 fps with the 178 driver to 25.8 fps. While this is more than 10% improvement, it's still not playable. Other playable cases like GRID at 2560x1600 with 4xAA did improve as well.

On cards with lower memory we'll see improvement at lower resolutions, but the take away is that the improvement will still come when you are pressing up against memory limitations.

NVIDIA promised between some pretty significant performance gains with this driver, but the caveat is that the performance gains are only with certain hardware on certain games with certain settings. Obviously we didn't have the time or energy to test every permutation of everything. In fact, we just did a brief run down of a few games using the GTX 260 so that we could get a taste of what to expect in the general case.

The picture we see is a little bit dimmer than the best case scenario painted on the driver download page noting performance increases. Here's how performance looked at 1920x1200 under a handful of games we have been (or will be) testing with for a while.

Rel 178 Driver Rel 180 Driver Percent Increase
Crysis 29.7 29.6 -0.34
Far Cry 2 38.2 37.1 -2.88
Race Driver GRID 55.8 56.8 1.79
Oblivion 43.8 40.5 -7.53
Enemy Territory: Quake Wars 85.1 84.5 -0.71

For the most part, performance we are seeing stayed stable. Oblivion saw a decrease in performance which is certainly worth noting. We could spend our time looking for where the performance gains come from, but looking at our highest quality tests at a decent resolution with a card targeted at gamers across 5 games and seeing nothing really doesn't impress us.

Of course, the performance gains are there somewhere. They just might be with corner cases rather than average cases. These are still important, and driver performance consistency has likely improved because of this release. But it would be best not to expect a performance gain but to appreciate it if its there.

Let's Talk about PhysX Baby Tesla, CUDA, and the Future


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  • Intelman07 - Monday, November 24, 2008 - link

    I most certainly do not regret switching from Nvidia to ATI. Nvidia's drivers were horrid in Vista. I've not had too many issues since. I do not mind bashing ATI as much as I mind praising Nvidia.

  • kondor999 - Tuesday, November 25, 2008 - link

    I'm running 3 GTX280's in Tri-SLI under Vista x64 and the 180.xx have made a large difference by greatly increasing the *minimum* framerate in games such as Far Cry 2 and Warhead.

    Of course, be advised that I'm running these at 5040x1050 using a Matrox TH2Go at 4-8x AA.
  • Mr Roboto - Wednesday, November 26, 2008 - link

    Good for you, you poser. I know you're type. The kid at school who thought that by lying about his personal possessions he was somehow cool or that he would gain more friends. It turns out those types are just compulsive liars with NO friends. We called them lietokickits. You don't have to lie to kick it. Especially in the Anand Tech comments section. Reply
  • SiliconDoc - Friday, December 26, 2008 - link

    It really doesn't look like you called that one correctly:
    Note the date, Oct. 30th 2007 kondor999 " got a copy of Vista Ultimate OEM on the day it was released, quickly discovered that performance was poor (specifically - graphics, audio, and file copying) and shelved it after struggling with it for 3 months. I'm now back to my old copy of XP Pro and it's just so much nicer. Simply put, everything works as it should. BTW, I have a nice rig: 3ghz Core2, 2gb RAM, 8800GTX, dual 150gb Raptors. If my rig chokes on Vista..."">
    Then there's the age match > "">
    Join Date
    June 18th, 2008
    Total Posts
    " I'm an older gamer (42) and I remember when games like Longbow 2 and F-15 came with big ring-bound manuals that ensured you *wanted* to buy the physical game " (from the first link)
    Then there's this:">
    Looks like the money is there.

    Oh well, better luck next time.
  • george1976 - Monday, November 24, 2008 - link

    Well, talking about stability, i have problems now with NFS Undercover with this new driver, problems i never had with 178.24.... So much for treats... Reply
  • fausto412 - Monday, November 24, 2008 - link

    Every driver after 178.13 breaks AA in Battlefield 2142. I just downloaded 180.48 drivers and they make left 4 dead stutter so much it is unplayable. I try new drivers and go back to 178.13 everytime. what gives Nvidia? Anyways, perhaps Anandtech can question Nvidia on the stability of their drivers. Reply
  • rocky1234 - Sunday, November 23, 2008 - link

    Wow big deal Nvidia releases a driver & everyone goes crazy yay. They add a few small features & make a big stink about it yippy. Have they fixed the Vista issues yet don't know because I gave up waiting 6 months ago & switched to the red team. PhysX is a nice feature but even a Owner of a ATT card & windows XP can go out & buy a cheap Nvidia card slave it & install these magic drivers & get PhysX in the supported games that is if you got a second PCI-E x16 slot. At least that is what I heard people are doing I own a 9800GTX it is sitting on the floor here I may try it to see it it Now if MS would come out with a patch for Vista that would allow you to do it there too that would rock. Reply
  • Mr Roboto - Saturday, November 22, 2008 - link

    Am I the only one who seems to see through Nvidia'a bullshit? Why is Anand praising them for un-crppling their drivers after five YEARS! When the only reason they're doing it is because AMD is handing them their ass!

    Nvidia is in a free fall so they finally start to pull out all the stops and release features that they should have given their users years ago. I mean it only took ATI to essentially kill their profit margins on the GTX series for them to release dual monitor SLI.

    I'm a long time Nvidia owner (8800GTX) but even I see the way Anand lays on the bullshit real thick. Quit playing nice for Nvidia. Are you afraid they won't send you review hardware or return your phone calls?

    Well since Anand won't do it I guess the readers must.

    Nvidia's Vista drivers were nothing short of fucking atrocious for YEARS (there's that word again). Only in the last 3-4 months have they gotten a little better, coincidence? (4800 launch). Nvidia even had SLI working on the Quadro setups for YEARS. Now that they're falling fast they decide to un-cripple their desktop drivers. This goes hand in hand with gouging their customers, pushing flaky hardware out into market (G92-94), IMAP bullshit, the fucked up, confuse the noobs naming scheme and broken, buggy and just all around shitty drivers.

    Fuck Nvidia and fuck their shit motherboards. I was a loyal Nvidia owner for as long as I can remember but they have taken greed and screwing their customers to another level. I hope

  • Mr Roboto - Saturday, November 22, 2008 - link

    I hope ATI takes them to the brink of bankruptcy but only for the sake of competition. Otherwise I could care less about Nvidia and their busted hardware. Reply
  • JonnyDough - Friday, November 21, 2008 - link

    Is a simple email informing me of new driver release with a link to the page and what it fixes/changes. A VERY simple email. I don't care WHEN they release the driver, but more importantly that it works and that I know it's available for download. Too many releases just gets to be a hassle, not enough means I have to wait forever for my favorite application or game to work properly. Communication between graphic card companies and software companies probably could use some improvement as well. The way I see it, AMD/NVidia/Intel need to get on board with a standardized support of their products using the email method. Software developers should have a single website to access all three in regards to drivers, and end users should have a standardized email platform from all three. When companies get together and provide good support for their products, everyone wins. As long as they don't lie in bed together on making money, hardware and software can advance at a faster and more complete pace than they have previously...and that means smoother computing for all. Reply

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