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Nvidia Readies Driver 'Big Bang' September, Brings OpenGL 3.0 and SLI Multi-monitor Support

By - Source: Tom's Hardware US | B 15 comments

Santa Clara (CA) - Nvidia is prepping a major driver release that the company is calling "Big Bang II." As one can expect from such a lofty name, the drivers bring several improvements including the latest OpenGL support and SLI with multiple monitors.

Big Bang II is codename for ForceWare Release 180 or R180. The biggest improvement is the introduction of SLI multi-monitor. Yes, you’ve read it correctly, Nvidia has finally allowed more than one monitor to use multiple video cards at once, something it’s been trying to do since SLI’s introduction back in 2004.

Owners of SLI systems should now celebrate, since R180 finally brings end to second monitor going dark after a 3D game was loaded. Given the fact that we work in multi-monitor environment, and for years our multi-monitor configurations with ATI CrossFire and Nvidia SLI were a pain in the a**. All that we can say is this feature was long overdue.

The second "big one" improvement is introduction of OpenGL 3.0 API, after almost a year in delays. OpenGL 3.0 brings updated hardware support for new technologies such as geometry shaders, texture arrays and other features introduced with DirectX 10 hardware. From our side, it is sad to see how OpenGL ended up. From a leading 3D API to API that is almost two years lagging behind hardware - these features were introduced with first DX10 GPU in November 2006.

The third "bang" is introduction of new SLI connectivity features. We were told that there is a possibility of mixing and matching Nvidia cards similar to what’s being done by AMD/ATI (3870 X2 + single 3870), but we’ll see if that means users can pair one 9800GX2 with one 9800GTX. When it comes to new hardware, expect to see support for new high-end and mainstream chips by Nvidia.

Moving on to video features, R180 supports 10-bit DisplayPort on Windows Vista, bringing DisplayPort up to color level offered by HDMI 1.3 - "billion colors" is marketing spiel for this one.

There’s also a GPU-accelerated video encoder, the PureVideo Transcoder. Companies like Elemental are bringing GPU-accelerated video transcoding to life and with Big Bang II, Nvidia will also debut a new codec library. This library promises at least a 10X encoding speed increase over quad-core processors, according to Nvidia.

Furthermore, Release 180 brings a set of performance optimizations for Quadro cards. Since new Quadro family is expected any week now, it is not surprising to see R180 focusing on improving performance of existing and future parts.

Nvidia is developing its drivers on quarterly basis and current roadmap calls for R(elease) 180 to be released around September timeframe, R185 will follow between December and February 2009, while R190 will follow anywhere between March 23 and May 20. R195 is scheduled for release between Jun 15 and August 14, while R200 "Big Bang III" drivers are expected to deliver a big one - DirectX 11.

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  • 1 Hide
    alvine , August 4, 2008 6:12 PM
    seems promising
  • -1 Hide
    swifty_morgan , August 4, 2008 6:27 PM
    where's the big bang ? Didn't the work station cards already provide this ?
  • 2 Hide
    JimmyJimmington , August 4, 2008 7:00 PM
    SLI multi-monitor support. finally
  • Display all 15 comments.
  • 0 Hide
    hawler , August 4, 2008 7:17 PM
    GPU-Transcoding!? Sweet, I just hope it supports a lot of the useful formats and not just one or two. I have a HUUUUGE collection and some of my files won't stream properly to my 360, even with transcode 360 but I didn't want to spend tens of hours transcoding them..I may however spend hours doing it if this really is that much faster.
  • -4 Hide
    shalayka , August 4, 2008 7:57 PM
    OK, seriously... get your act together.

    It's obvious that you have no knowledge of 3D graphics programming, or even how to use google for that matter.

    It took me two seconds to type "opengl geometry shader" in google, and to click on the first link, which shows that nvidia has provided a geometry shader EXTENSION since November 2006. That's almost 2 years ago, and two months before DirectX 10 / Vista came out.

    So really, how about the facts. You make it out to sound like OpenGL programmers have been missing out, when it's completely the other way around. Get with it.
  • 1 Hide
    jaragon13 , August 4, 2008 9:51 PM
    shalaykaOK, seriously... get your act together.It's obvious that you have no knowledge of 3D graphics programming, or even how to use google for that matter.It took me two seconds to type "opengl geometry shader" in google, and to click on the first link, which shows that nvidia has provided a geometry shader EXTENSION since November 2006. That's almost 2 years ago, and two months before DirectX 10 / Vista came out.So really, how about the facts. You make it out to sound like OpenGL programmers have been missing out, when it's completely the other way around. Get with it.
    Really? So why haven't I seen any new games written with opengl compatability? Hmm...Plus,it will add features that direct-x 10 doesn't have.Infact,I'm sure if you want to contact me,I can show you to some actual(yes,actual) programmers who have been dying to see OpenGL 3 released..
  • 0 Hide
    Master Exon , August 4, 2008 9:53 PM
    Aw what? I've been trying to figure out how to get the second monitor to turn off during games with one video card. All I had to do was buy a second video card?
  • 0 Hide
    shalayka , August 5, 2008 1:41 AM
    jaragon13Really? So why haven't I seen any new games written with opengl compatability? Hmm...Plus,it will add features that direct-x 10 doesn't have.Infact,I'm sure if you want to contact me,I can show you to some actual(yes,actual) programmers who have been dying to see OpenGL 3 released..


    Note when this article was written:

    http://www.ozone3d.net/tutorials/g80_opengl_programming/index.php

    Note that geometry shaders and texture arrays are two features specifically listed.

    No one said anything about OpenGL 3.0 being unwanted. Please ask your programmer acquaintances what an OpenGL extension is, and why it generally makes new hardware capabilities available to OpenGL programmers on the same day that the hardware comes out. Also ask them about the trivial change to one's code once the extension becomes part of the standard.
  • 0 Hide
    HazardousSmoker , August 5, 2008 4:10 AM
    Where's the Hardware PhysX support that they talked about earlier? I realize not many games support it, but it was mentioned to be included in an upcoming driver. Perhaps that happens this month instead, dunno.
  • 0 Hide
    rsrandom , August 5, 2008 6:44 AM
    I think they said they are going to update the drivers on the fifth of august, which is today.
  • 1 Hide
    bounty , August 5, 2008 5:01 PM
    I'm still waiting for DX10 games that look significantly better than DX9 games.
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , August 5, 2008 8:06 PM
    bountyI'm still waiting for DX10 games that look significantly better than DX9 games.

    seriously
  • 0 Hide
    jaragon13 , August 6, 2008 12:06 AM
    I'd rather have games that can look better and not run like a flip-book page,and hopefully Direct-X 11 can do that,aslong as make a good purpose of those quads.
  • 1 Hide
    Anonymous , August 6, 2008 6:40 AM
    I am a graphics programmer in the video game industry using OpenGL. Would have loved to have GL3 last year when we expected the spec to be ratified. The reason is that the new driver model will allow for some better performance in some cases, simplifies the API, and allows for us to have less code required, as you need to write some code to support the extensions (or use an extension library, like I do GLee). It has nothing to do with support for features, I'm writting against GL 2.1 w/ appropriate extensions and I've got a nice shiny set of features.

    Geometry shaders are cool, and have some interesting uses, but are not as huge a step forward as vert/fragment shaders were, though I'm hoping nVidia picks up some form of tesselation like ATi, that'll really improve the image quality of future games, replace those normal maps with displacement maps.
  • 0 Hide
    Groovounet , August 6, 2008 9:30 AM
    "OpenGL 3.0 brings updated hardware support for new technologies such as geometry shaders, texture arrays and other features introduced with DirectX DirectX 10 hardware."

    OpenGL 3 isn't about features, those are already supported in OpenGL 2.1 thought OpenGL extensions. I don't even think that OpenGL 3 will support those feature, it will probably be extension as well, maybe integrated in OpenGL 3.1.