Review: The old vs. the new drivers
Regardless of profession, everyone likes kicking back and playing a game for a while. In order to enjoy graphics and today’s stunning effects, you’ll need an adequate card capable of handling the massive data processing burden. If you encounter stuttering, it usually means that your card can’t take handle the task. In that case, you should lower the resolution or detail settings, but not before you try one often overlooked thing – installing new drivers.
The more advanced users might think it’s funny that we’d even discuss this issue, but many users never update their drivers after installing the card for the first time. However, the better the drivers, the better you’ll utilize the actual hardware.
This is where the ultimate question comes in – the graphics card of choice. If you take your pick wisely, it will do you a world of good.
In order to display all the special effects, a strong graphics processor is a must. It will process data fast enough and display the picture on your screen, whereas incapability to refresh the screen fast enough results in visible stuttering or even freezing. The rule is simple – more processing power results in faster data processing.
We played many good games and sequels these days. Sometimes, one graphics card can score 60fps in one game, whereas in others it will barely manage 25 fps, so we picked the card that will handle the latter, more demanding game.
Christmas and New Year’s are on our doorstep, and this means many will want to buy a new graphics card. The offer is as grand as ever, but we opted on the current top two contenders – Geforce GTX 260 and Radeon HD 4870. Nvidia launched a new driver for their GTX 360 with 216 shader processors, but if you missed our previous comparisons with HD 4870 you can jog your memory here.
Today, we’ll find out whether the new driver is responsible for GTX 260’s success.
Zotac GTX 260 AMP2 was our test subject, and we used three versions of drivers – ForceWare 177.42 (shipped with the CD), last month’s ForceWare 178.24 and the latest ForceWare 180.47.
Geforce GTX 260 AMP2 has 216 stream processors, unlike GTX 260 AMP which comes with 192. Increasing the number of stream processors was Nvidia’s answer to Radeon HD 4870’s tremendous success. Now the situation is more evened out, although Geforce has a slight performance advantage, and the only thing making these cards less desirable is the steep price, for most users at least. Geforce GTX 260 is priced at €230 whereas Radeon HD 4870 1GB costs about €200.
Nvidia’s advantage lies in larger frame buffers compared to most HD 4870 cards that come with 512MB of memory. GTX 260 features 896MB of memory and the 448bit memory interface that gives it a gaming advantage compared to ATI’s competitors. We’ve seen some partners, such as Gainward, that offer HD 4870 with 1GB of memory, but these card’s are a bit more expensive than 512MB versions.
Of course, Zotac pushed their AMP2 version with some overclocking.
The core speeds are up from reference 575MHz to 650MHz, and the same goes for shader speeds that are up from reference 1242MHz to 1400MHz. Memory didn’t get such serious overclocks, only by about 100MHz over reference 1998MHz.
The card features the reference dual slot cooling that performs well and isn’t loud. Powering the card is done via two 6-pin PCI Express connectors. The I/O panel features two dual-link DVI outs that support HDCP and with an adequate adapter can be used as HDMI outs. The adapter is shipped in the box, together with the SPDIF cable used for routing sound to the card. That way you’ll be able to use just one cable to get HDMI with sound on your HDTV device. The cable connects to the motherboard’s SPDIF out on one whereas the other end goes into the graphics card (the connector is placed next to the power connectors).
With their GTX 260 AMP2, Zotac ships a gift game Racedriver GRID.