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GeForce GTX 280: Driver Update from 177.39 to 177.92

Do New Drivers Really Boost Performance?
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A wide range of performance numbers is necessary in order to hash out detailed differences between software builds. The following tables show you which resolutions and games contain the optimizations now rolled into Nvidia’s latest WHQL release. Following the individual evaluations of the each tested card, you’ll find a summary containing the collated values. The overall result shows the general effect on 3D performance. Tables at the end of the article show these items arranged separately by resolution and anti-aliasing.

 The GeForce GTX 280 is Nvidia’s fastest single-chip card.

The driver versions are listed directly after the chip name. The resolutions go from 1280x1024 to 1680x1050 to 1920x1200 pixels, first without anti-aliasing (0xAA), then in the same order with anti-aliasing (4xAA, and in Mass Effect with 8xAA as well). The two upper lines of figures represent the frame rates. The lower line is the difference in performance in percentage.

Assassins Creed in fps 1280
0xAA
1680
0xAA
1920
0xAA
1280
4xAA
1680
4xAA
1920
4xAA
Overall
GTX 280 (1024 MB) 177.39 63.6 62.5 62.1 49.8 49.0 47.8 334.8
GTX 280 (1024 MB) 177.92 63.3 63.3 63.3 50.2 49.8 48.2 338.1
Difference in performance in percentage -0.5 1.3 1.9 0.8 1.6 0.8 1.0

Though the results here span within an acceptable margin of error, a minimal increase can be seen.

Call of Duty 4 in fps 1280
0xAA
1680
0xAA
1920
0xAA
1280
4xAA
1680
4xAA
1920
4xAA
Overall
GTX 280 (1024 MB) 177.39 172.2 149.4 129.5 135.1 118.2 103.2 807.6
GTX 280 (1024 MB) 177.92 169.9 150.2 132.3 149.9 130.3 112.7 845.3
Difference in performance in percentage -1.3 0.5 2.2 11.0 10.2 9.2 4.7

The new driver clearly has an effect with anti-aliasing enabled. Nvidia promises up to 15 percent; the 11 percent actually achieved can be considered a good result.

Crysis High in fps 1280
0xAA
1680
0xAA
1920
0xAA
1280
4xAA
1680
4xAA
1920
4xAA
Overall
GTX 280 (1024 MB) 177.39 35.5 34.8 31.3 29.9 26.0 23.5 181.0
GTX 280 (1024 MB) 177.92 37.3 33.1 31.5 29.4 26.2 23.3 180.8
Difference in performance in percentage 5.1 -4.9 0.6 -1.7 0.8 -0.9 -0.1

As we have come to expect from Crysis, the frame rates fluctuate 2 fps to 3 fps depending on the driver version used. Generally, the driver update doesn’t help much. Only the 1280x1024-pixel resolution without anti-aliasing profits from 5 percent more performance.

Crysis Very High in fps 1280
0xAA
1680
0xAA
1920
0xAA
1280
4xAA
1680
4xAA
1920
4xAA
Overall
GTX 280 (1024 MB) 177.39 31.9 29.1 24.9 25.8 20.3 16.3 148.3
GTX 280 (1024 MB) 177.92 32.4 27.6 23.2 25.2 19.1 15.2 142.7
Difference in performance in percentage 1.6 -5.2 -6.8 -2.3 -5.9 -6.7 -3.8

With Very High image quality, performance drops visibly, thanks to the new driver.

ET: Quake Wars in fps 1280
0xAA
1680
0xAA
1920
0xAA
1280
4xAA
1680
4xAA
1920
4xAA
Overall
GTX 280 (1024 MB) 177.39 82.6 81.8 81.3 82.7 81.9 81.2 491.5
GTX 280 (1024 MB) 177.92 85.5 82.1 82.5 84.4 82.8 81.9 499.2
Difference in performance in percentage 3.5 0.4 1.5 2.1 1.1 0.9 1.6

In Quake Wars there is a minimal improvement. The differences within a margin of error, which is considerably higher with this game—fluctuations of up to 3 fps are normal.

Half-Life 2 Episode 2 in fps 1280
0xAA
1680
0xAA
1920
0xAA
1280
4xAA
1680
4xAA
1920
4xAA
Overall
GTX 280 (1024 MB) 177.39 104.2 99.3 98.7 103.4 99.1 99.0 603.7
GTX 280 (1024 MB) 177.92 103.8 98.6 98.3 102.9 98.6 98.4 600.6
Difference in performance in percentage -0.4 -0.7 -0.4 -0.5 -0.5 -0.6 -0.5

Half-Life 2 Episode 2 shows a gentle tendency downward with the new driver.

Mass Effect in fps 1280
0xAA
1680
0xAA
1920
0xAA
1280
4xAA
1680
4xAA
1920
4xAA
1280
8xAA
1680
8xAA
1920
8xAA
Overall
GTX 280 (1024 MB) 177.39 93.6 92.8 90.1 90.3 85.6 62.6 93.4 82.7 60.6 751.7
GTX 280 (1024 MB) 177.92 96.7 94.8 92.0 96.7 84.8 62.0 93.7 82.5 60.1 763.3
Difference in performance in percentage 3.3 2.2 2.1 7.1 -0.9 -1.0 0.3 -0.2 -0.8 1.5

Mass Effect improves the most in the 1280 resolution, both without and with anti-aliasing (4xAA). However, the old values do not fit into the expected measurement range; this optimization is probably lower due to an error correction.

MS Flight Simulator X SP2 in fps 1280
0xAA
1680
0xAA
1920
0xAA
1280
4xAA
1680
4xAA
1920
4xAA
Overall
GTX 280 (1024 MB) 177.39 31.9 31.6 30.1 32.6 31.8 31.3 189.3
GTX 280 (1024 MB) 177.92 32.7 32.7 32.2 34.6 34.4 33.7 200.3
Difference in performance in percentage 2.5 3.5 7.0 6.1 8.2 7.7 5.8

Performance improvement is high in terms of percentage but low in terms of frames. However, the new driver version provides a visible improvement.

World in Conflict in fps 1280
0xAA
1680
0xAA
1920
0xAA
1280
4xAA
1680
4xAA
1920
4xAA
Overall
GTX 280 (1024 MB) 177.39 48.8 50.7 46.9 42.2 36.3 32.8 257.7
GTX 280 (1024 MB) 177.92 51.3 49.6 46.6 44.2 37.3 33.2 262.2
Difference in performance in percentage 5.1 -2.2 -0.6 4.7 2.8 1.2 1.7

World in Conflict shows the same performance increases in the 1280 resolution as Mass Effect, and here it is probably also more of an adjustment due to an error correction. The measured values and frame rates are more realistic with the new driver.

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