It would appear that on top of everything else going on this week, this is also a big week for video drivers. Following AMD’s major release of Catalyst 12.11 earlier this week, NVIDIA has their own driver release this week with the release of their 310.33 beta drivers. These drivers are the first public release of the previously announced R310 family, making this the 4th major driver family release for NVIDIA this year (R295, R300, R304, R310).

From a feature standpoint these drivers won’t offer a big change for most end users right away, but Windows 8 users will be in for a treat. Thanks to Windows 8’s new stereoscopic 3D functionality, these drivers add windowed S3D support for a multitude of applications and games, including YouTube 3D, various Blu-Ray players, and all DX9 games. Meanwhile developers will want to play close attention to these drivers for new API functionality they expose. These are the first drivers to support OpenGL 4.3, which among other things means this is the first GeForce driver set to have support for new features such as OpenGL compute shaders, along with full OpenGL ES 3.0 superset functionality. As for CUDA developers these are the first GeForce drivers that will support the recently released CUDA 5.

Feature additions aside, for most users the biggest benefit these drivers will bring will be performance improvements, bug fixes, and new game profiles, and like any new NVIDIA driver branch 310.33 comes with a mix of all of those. On the performance side of things NVIDIA is claiming that these drivers offer notable performance improvements for GeForce 600 users in Skyrim, Starcraft II, and Batman: Arkham City, among other games. Interesting the former two tend to be quite CPU limited (and Batman isn’t far behind), so it’s not where we’d typically expect to see significant performance improvements. We haven’t had a chance to test these drivers, but NVIDIA’s own performance analysis is available over at Going by NVIDIA’s numbers this isn’t going to be the kind of major performance boost that AMD’s Catalyst 12.11 was – and we weren’t expecting it to be – but it’s a decent performance boost all the same.

As for bug fixes and profile improvements, the most notable change is the return of MSAA support for Diablo III.  Otherwise it’s a fairly typical (and extensive) collection of profile updates, including an updated SLI profile for DiRT: Showdown and an updated Ambient Occlusion profile for CS:GO.

GeForce 6800 Ultra: April 2004 - October 2012

Finally, with these drivers we’ll be bidding adieu to support for the last of NVIDIA’s DirectX 9 GPUs. As previously announced by NVIIDA, starting with R310 NVIDIA is formally moving the GeForce 6 and 7 series to legacy status. NVIDIA retired their earlier NV30 architecture based GeForce 5 FX series relatively quickly with R175 back in 2008, but they have supported the newer and far more successful NV40 based 6 and 7 series for much longer. By our count it has been nearly 8 years since the first of those cards was released and 5 years since the last, marking the end of what has been the longest support cycle for consumer GPUs that we have yet to see. We’re still waiting to get confirmation from NVIDIA about what legacy status entails in this case – whether it means reduced driver updates (ala AMD HD 2000-4000) or a complete end to driver updates – but given how long NVIDIA has supported these cards it’s likely the latter.

Starting with R310 NVIDIA’s minimum supported hardware will be the GeForce 8 series. If NVIDIA’s DX9 GPU support is anything to go by, then considering the slower pace of upgrades in recent years and just how long NVIDIA has sold GeForce 8 GPUs – particularly G92 – we wouldn’t be surprised to see them support their DX10 GPUs for as long as or longer than they did their DX9 GPUs.

Source: NVIDIA (Driver Download)

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  • DanNeely - Wednesday, October 24, 2012 - link

    I guess it's a good thing than when my 6800 died a few years ago XFX replaced it with an 8500. thankfully they've added a 3rd concurrent video out in Kepler; by the time they retire their 8xxx cards I probably won't need a spare low power card to run an additional monitor.
  • CeriseCogburn - Friday, October 26, 2012 - link

    Here's what a driver team with their act together does:

    " Thanks to Windows 8’s new stereoscopic 3D functionality, these drivers add windowed S3D support for a multitude of applications and games, including YouTube 3D, various Blu-Ray players, and all DX9 games. "

    LOL - ALL, THAT'S ALL, DX9 games.

    nVidia, you freaking ROCK.
  • TheElMoIsEviL - Monday, October 29, 2012 - link

    This... is... just... why... what... ?!

    Like... dude chill man.
  • CeriseCogburn - Tuesday, October 30, 2012 - link

    Talk your ghetto trash lingo to someone else loser.
  • TheElMoIsEviL - Tuesday, October 30, 2012 - link

    Ghetto Trash?

    I was going for the Stoner and/or Surfer speak. Not sure how you got Ghetto from that.
  • BallBond - Tuesday, October 30, 2012 - link

    Love my job, since I've been bringing in $5600… I sit at home, music playing while I work in front of my new iMac that I got now that I'm making it online(Click on menu Home)
  • lambchowder - Thursday, November 1, 2012 - link

    "nVidia, you freaking ROCK."

    lmao youre such a fan boy. ever benchmark for 2 years youve flooded nvidia cards with emotional praise. i bet you post on reddit
  • lambchowder - Thursday, November 1, 2012 - link

    WOO1!!!1111!1111 MY VIDEO CARD SUPPORTS ALL TWO GENERATION OLD DRIVER USING GAMES!!!!! NVIDIA AND DIRECTX 7, WE DO IT EVERYTIME. Are you also super loyal to energy drinks? I'm, thinking yes
  • Kevin G - Wednesday, October 24, 2012 - link

    All and all, a pretty good run for nVidia in terms of support. 8 years for a Geforce 6800. The last of the series came out in 2007 though. Even then 5 year support on the short end still isn't bad.

    There was likely some pressure to keep support from oddball fields as the Geforce 6800 line was the first card to support two dual-link DVI ports. Several ultra high resolution displays were sold with the Quadro variants since they were the only cards that could drive such resolutions at the time.

    One of nVidia's alternative motivations for keeping Geforce 7 series support was that it was the basis for the RSX chip used in the Playstation 3.

    This likely means that their next Tegra chip will finally move to a unified shader architecture. One of the little known things about Tegra 2 and Tegra 3 is that it uses separate pixel and vertex shaders, often believed to be inherited from the Geforce 6/7 lineage. Dropping support on the for the Geforce 6/7 series may also mean an end to updates in the Tegra line. I can see this being an issue as Tegra 3 devices are still currently on the market. nVidia isn't dropping support for the Tegra line but it makes me wonder if future updates are going to be focused on maintaining compatibility with OS updates.
  • DJTryHard - Wednesday, October 24, 2012 - link

    Good post, I hope they do move to a unified shader architecture, for there sake and the sake of competition. Tegra 2 and 3 were both slightly underwhelming compared to the competition.

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