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Nvidia releases latest GeForce drivers

Nvidia releases latest GeForce drivers

Nvidia releases latest GeForce drivers

The green side of the graphics divide today released a new driver designed to snatch back even more gaming performance for their GPUs. They do this in much the same way that AMD’s proprietary Mantle API drives things for the red team.

A new version called 337.50 is available now and is designed to make the existing DirectX 11 API more efficient for Nvidia graphics cards. They do this by reducing the CPU overhead generated by drivers and APIs, which in turn means you can get all the performance your graphics card can achieve without being hindered by DirectX distracting your CPU.

A few weeks ago, I spoke with Ashu Rege, Nvidia’s vice president of managing gaming content and technology, at the GPU Technology Conference about the new update. “The goal is to reduce overhead — which is the biggest thing — CPU cycles are used up in the driver rather than in the application.”

“We believe in improving the efficiency of all industry standard APIs, whether DirectX or OpenGL,” he said. “We’re going to keep improving them, there’s no need to throw the baby out with the bathwater, as they say, there’s no need to start from scratch. We already have pretty solid APIs, we just want to make them better.”

I’ve run through some numbers and when you run at 1920 x 1080 settings the performance gain is definitely tangible. Higher resolution games will still be heavily GPU limited, so any CPU efficiency fixes won’t really yield any additional FPS fun.

Take the synthetic StarSwarm benchmark for example, although I saw frame rates rise from an average of 52FPS to 73FPS with the latest DirectX 11 Nvidia driver — a 40% performance boost on the GeForce GTX 780 Ti.

Comparing this to a Radeon R9 290X with Mantle, it delivered about 62FPS on average. The large number of draw calls on StarSwarm are designed to really showcase what Mantle can do as an API, so it’s clear that with DirectX’s CPU efficiency improvements, Nvidia’s drivers can outperform AMD’s proprietary Mantle technology.

Looking at the raw data from the StarSwarm tests does show that AMD’s API still provides a smoother experience. The Mantle benchmark has a minimum frame rate of 20FPS, and the GTX 780 Ti with the new drivers still only hits 13FPS.

This is similar to the recently released Thief reboot. When running in Mantle, the R9 290X hit an average of 73FPS at its highest settings at 1080p and a minimum of 61FPS. The GTX 780 Ti hit 64FPS with the previous generation drivers, but is now able to approach the Mantle’s 71FPS score. Again, the Nvidia card hit a low of 48FPS in the latest driver update, although it fell behind in the lowest score.

All this increased CPU efficiency is very exciting for people running a graphics card at 1920 x 1080, but what about high-resolution people where the CPU is hardly the bottleneck? This update holds a bit of promise for them too, but only if they’re rocking multi-GPU setups to hit their high-res frame rates.

The new 337.50 driver is also optimized for SLI, and Nvidia has shown some impressive performance gains over its GTX 770 and GTX 780 Ti in select games. I haven’t had a chance to check it out for myself yet, but the Twin Titans in my main rig will soon be doing some serious benchmarking of them.

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Wilbert Wood
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