Summary: With the official arrival of NVIDIA’s GeForce FX 5900 XT and their special Call of Duty bundle that was also announced this month, the release of ForceWare 53.03 at the beginning of December was quickly forgotten. In today’s article we continue our series of driver reports, this time reporting on ForceWare 53.03. NVIDIA implemented a few performance enhancements with this release. Find out where inside!
NVIDIA’s ForceWare 53.03 release arrived with little fanfare earlier this month. This was due in part because the driver had already been available for quite some time on the Internet; a handful of NVIDIA’s board partners had already provided ForceWare 53.03 for release on their respective websites. No PR statements or announcements were made at the time the driver was originally released by these manufacturers, but it’s essentially the same driver that has provided on NVIDIA's website (with the sole addition being WHQL certification on the official NVIDIA driver).
As a result, these drivers have been thoroughly dissected in newsgroups and message boards throughout the ‘net, but we still wanted to take a look at them.
NVIDIA’s Release Highlights for ForceWare 53.03 mention “Increased graphics performance when using nForce3 systems.” But we actually found some performance improvements on our 875P test bed. Of course, the other major addition was official support for the GeForce FX 5900 XT, which we reviewed earlier this month in the form of eVGA’s e-GeForce FX 5900 SE.
However if you look a little further in ForceWare 53.03’s documents, you’ll find a few more interesting tidbits in the v53.03 Release Notes. For instance, on page 5 NVIDIA notes it has “re-enabled NVIDIA’s compiler technology for 3DMark 03 Patch 340 performance” as an “issue resolved” in v53.03. If you recall, FutureMark released a patch for 3DMark 03 (Patch 340), that, according to FutureMark’s Tero Sarkkinen, was released in order to “make sure that our customers can get an objective 3DMark03 performance comparison with the latest hardware and drivers. Our customers will be able to perform apples-to-apples performance comparisons between the various IHVs’ graphics cards.” FutureMark went on to state that:
“Parts of the program code have been changed so that possible 3DMark03 specific optimizations in current drivers will not work. 3DMark03 specific optimizations in drivers are against run rules of 3DMark03, because they invalidate the performance measurement results and thus make it impossible to compare performances of different hardware. A list of drivers that have been tested - and confirmed to produce valid 3DMark03 scores - has been published on Futuremark’s website.”
Of course, Patch 340 has only been approved for use with ForceWare 52.16. If you look over FutureMark’s list of approved drivers, you’ll see that ForceWare 53.03 has not been approved by FutureMark, while ATI’s CATALYST 3.9 and CATALYST 3.10 have, despite the fact that CATALYST 3.10 was released over a week after ForceWare 53.03.
With NVIDIA’s suggestion that Patch 340 disables their compiler, and FutureMark’s counter that it doesn’t, we probably haven’t seen the end of this story. Whether or not either company takes this issue public or not is another story however, we’ve already seen the two sides quarreling over this issue earlier this year. This is a subject that may possibly go well into 2004 before both sides come to an agreement, if at all.
Other than this topic, the other big issue is Battlefield 1942, specifically the popular Desert Combat mod. NVIDIA has resolved the rendering issues present in 52.16, but the problems with Splinter Cell’s shadow buffer mode we first mentioned in our Detonator 52.16 driver report are still present. We run all of our Splinter Cell tests in “projector” mode in order to run apples-to-apples comparisons with ATI cards, so shadows and dynamic lights render correctly for our benchmarking tests.
A growing number of NVIDIA users are complaining about this issue however, as the shadow buffer mode is offered exclusively to NVIDIA card users, but currently doesn’t work.
SIDEBAR: Download the ForceWare drivers for Windows XP here.
NASCAR Racing 2003 Season (Bristol custom demo)
Nascar 2003: OpenGL (for NV cards)
IL-2 Sturmovik: FB: OpenGL
Quake III - OpenGL
After seeing the Quake 3 performance enhancements, you’re probably wanting to see screenshots. NVIDIA’s impressive performance improvements would mean nothing if image quality is compromised after all. Up first we have ForceWare release 52.16:
And now, ForceWare 53.03:
Taking a closer look at NVIDIA’s 4xAA implementation, we can’t see any differences between ForceWare release 52.16 and ForceWare 53.03. Here are the images zoomed at 400%:
Likewise, we zoomed in on the 8xAF screenshots:
SIDEBAR: DOOM turned 10 earlier this month.
Unreal Tournament 2003 – Direct3D
Unreal Tournament 2003
Splinter Cell – Direct3D
Tomb Raider – Direct3D
Halo – Direct3D
DirectX 7 owners:
DirectX 8 card owners
Like the GeForce2 class cards (and GeForce4 MX), there’s really nothing noteworthy for GeForce3/GeForce4 card owners in ForceWare 53.03. You won’t find any huge performance increases, and other than a few compatibility issues that have been fixed, ForceWare 53.03 is a pretty mild upgrade.
DirectX 9 card owners
If you own a GeForce FX class card, ForceWare 53.03 is certainly a worthy upgrade, more so than ForceWare 52.16 in fact, due to its greater compatibility and enhanced OpenGL performance. ForceWare 52.16 really focused on improving performance in DX9 applications.
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