Gaming on Windows Vista – ATI versus NVIDIA

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NVIDIA – ForceWare 96.33 Drivers

While NVIDIA hasn’t recently sent out any recent press releases about support for Microsoft Windows Vista that doesn’t mean their driver team isn’t working. I’m not sure how many hamsters NVIDIA has in the wheel these days, but their GeForce drivers for Windows XP Pro have been far and few this year. NVIDIA has drivers for already in Windows Vista RC1, but they lack OpenGL support and can’t play a number of games correctly.

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We went ahead and installed and the 96.33 drivers that are available to download from the NVIDIA FTP and found them to be able to play OpenGL game titles unlike the drivers that come from Microsoft, but they still had some faults.

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Games like Quake 4 would lock up with AA was enabled and although Call of Duty 2 would now run the environment wouldn’t be displayed at all. Here is what our benchmark looked like when running it on Windows Vista RC1 with the NVIDIA ForceWare 96.33 drivers.

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The Forceware 96.33 Vista drivers were found to be pretty stable for us, but still lacked support for SLI. This means that even single PCI Express slot graphic cards like the GeForce 7950 GX2 are useless with Vista RC1. It seems strange that Vista RC1 lacks support for SLI as I figured NVIDIA would want support for their flagship card in RC1. For our testing we stuck with the tried and true GeForce 7800 GTX 512MB graphics card for our game benchmarking. We were able to run Far Cry, F.E.A.R. and Serious Sam 2 on our GeForce 7800 series card, but was unable to get Call of Duty 2 to run correctly due to driver issues. With 4X AA and 8X AF some artifacts were seen F.E.A.R., but they were far and few. The chart below shows the average Frames Per Second (FPS) that each system scored for the game shown.  For a more detailed and larger chart click the image below.

F.E.A.R. Benchmark

For the few games that would work the performance on Vista was far from stellar.  For the four games we were able to test performance from Windows XP Professional to Windows Vista RC1 performance went south by 20% once the dust finally settled.  The two test systems were identical other than the operating system, so the difference between the scores is due to the OS and drivers alone. One shocker was DOOM 3 with 16X AA enabled Vista RC1 was actually 85% faster at 1600×1200 and we triple checked the numbers making sure it wasn’t just a fluke.

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