NVIDIA Driver Comparison


posted 11/11/2002 by Charlie Sinhaseni
other articles by Charlie Sinhaseni
Nvidia has just released their newly WHQL Certified drivers, the Detonator 40.72. Since many of you most likely own an Nvidia-based card, we thought it might be interesting to see how the performance differs from the previous WHQL Certified Drivers, the 38.42.

There are some pretty bold claims that come with the new drivers, including the promise to increase performance by up to 25%. While this claim is grossly exaggerated, we were quite pleased by what the drivers had to offer us.

Here are the specs for our test system:

P4 1.5 Ghz
328MB Ram
Geforce 3 ti200
Windows XP Professional

Tests Ran:

3D Mark 2001SE Professional
Quake III: Arena – Demo 001
Serious Sam The Second Encounter – Elephant Atrium Demo
Unreal Tournament 2003 – Sunsphere Flyby

There are quite a few new additions in the new drivers in terms of interface. The entire interface has been revamped and now looks much cleaner than before.

As you can see, there is now a new dropdown menu that appears on the side. It allows one to access what they need much faster and gives a pretty quick overview of the features that are available.

There is a new feature available in the Anti-Aliasing menu called Texture Sharpening. When highlighted it states: “Click to sharpen textures when running 3D applications with anti-aliasing enabled. This can help improve image quality.”

We decided that we’d test it out for ourselves and see if we could notice any differences. Observe the two screenshots below, both taken from Unreal Tournament 2003. Both are done with 4x AA, the top with texture sharpening and the bottom without.

As you can see, the differences are quite small. If they are there, they’re very hard to discern.

The ability to rotate your desktop makes a return in the detonator drivers. If you have a monitor that can change bases or if you’re running on a projector, this will come in quite handy. You can rotate your desktop in 90 degrees in any direction

Enough with the features, let’s check out the performance.

We decided to use 3D Mark 2001 SE Pro to check out the differences in performance. Two tests were run both in 1024x780, one with no anti-aliasing and one with 4x AA. The higher the score the better.

The red bar is 38.42 while the blue bar is 40.72. To say the least, the numbers jumped by a pretty significant margin. Perhaps even more appealing is that there was only a minor drop when the tests were run with 4x AA. Even though these numbers look like a significant improvement, 3D Mark is not the most accurate gauge when it comes to performance. We decided to run some test on today’s most popular benchmarks.

Here are some of the numbers that came from the Quake 3 Arena benchmark on 1024x780 on high details:

There is a slight increase in performance but it’s not really noticeable to the average gamer. However, if you’re the type of person who just simply needs to squeeze every single ounce of performance out of your drivers then you might want to upgrade.

Next up is Croteam’s Serious Sam 2, running in 1024x780 with all the details cranked to the max:

Again, the improvement isn’t huge but at least it’s there. 5 FPS won’t really make too much of an impact on your gaming, especially when you’re already getting numbers up in the 80’s.

Just for kicks, we wanted to see how the newly released Unreal Tournament 2003 would perform. We ran the Sun Temple flyby and calculated the averages. The results are surprising to say the least:

You read that right, the new drivers actually yielded a slight decrease in performance. It’s very small and un-noticeable, however, so it won’t really affect gameplay too much.

So is the driver worth downloading? Definitely, this is probably the most stable set of Detonator Drivers to date. Though there isn’t much of an increase in terms of performance, the stability and consistency just can’t be matched. These drivers will not only add a few more FPS to your favorite first person shooters, but you’ll also get some new features that will really cater to those with some of the more fancier hardware.