The last version of Nvidia GeForce driver that we reviewed on our site was 182.08 WHQL. Besides performance improvement in a number of games, Nvidia provided all GeForce 8, 9 and 200 solutions with full OpenGL 3.0 and hardware PhysX acceleration support. Judging by the results of those tests we concluded that Nvidia was not focusing on optimizing their drivers for specific games or multi-GPU solutions, but was trying to improve the performance in general.
Unfortunately, we didn’t have enough time to check out the GeForce 185.85 version that became a new milestone in Nvidia Drivers evolution. However, this driver does increase the performance in the following games quite significantly:
- Up to 25% increase in The Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena.
- Up to 22% increase in Crysis Warhead with enabled FSAA.
- Up to 11% increase in Fallout 3 with enabled FSAA.
- Up to 14% increase in Far Cry 2.
- Up to 30% increase in games on Source engine in 3-way and 4-way SLI systems.
- Up to 45% increase in Mirror’s Edge with enabled FSAA.
Besides, there appeared Ambient Occlusion support that could improve shadows and lighting quality by calculating the intensity of light reaching a certain spot on the surface in question. This method is somewhat like “global lighting”, because it also works on the global level – the lighting of an object depends on other objects present in the scene.
Unfortunately, there is nothing free in this world and the price we pay for significantly improved lighting is noticeable performance drop with Ambient Occlusion enabled. Moreover, the ability to force this option makes it ideologically similar to ATI Truform technology that could potentially improve models level of detail by applying tessellation, but in reality made all models look somewhat “blown out”, even those that didn’t seem to need any tessellation at all. As a result, it is quite possible that enabling Ambient Occlusion may in fact worsen the image quality in a game, which engine is not designed to support this lighting model. Nevertheless, it is good to have this option available, because it offers gamers a choice. So far 22 games support this technology and there is a corresponding Ambient Occlusion profile in the driver for them. You can check out the list of games on nZone web-site.
The new Nvidia GeForce driver version 186.18 for some reason was renamed from 185 to 186 even though the release notes only mentioned resolving some of the existing issues, but not improving the performance. Nevertheless, we decided to check if any performance changes actually took place. We also ran the tests for the previous version GeForce 185.85 and took GeForce 182.08 as a starting point for our comparative analysis, as it was the first version to support GeForce GTS 250 family.