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Performance-wise, we weren't able to determine any increase with the new driver except in 3D Mark 2003 and Unreal Tournament at 4xFSAA and a 1600x1200 resolution. Instead, the driver seemed to be somewhat slower with GeForce FX cards, while this is insignificant at values of 1 to 3 fps. There were also no differences worthy of mention with the GeForce 4 Ti.
The Futuremark optimizations, which are deactivated through the 3D Mark 2003 Patch v330, seem to be active again in the new driver. However, the extent of those optimizations is not clear to us, since THG is not a member of Futuremark's beta program and we therefore do not have access to the 3D Mark 2003 developer's version, which would be required to determine optimizations such as clipping frames and unperformed buffer clears that have been under criticism. NVIDIA assures us, however, that these are no longer in the new driver-its own rules forbid it. It's questionable as to whether this will win back the trust of users in the benchmark 3D Mark 2003.
NVIDIA's new optimization guidelines represent a step in the right direction following the massive amount of criticism the company has received during the past few months. NVIDIA shows it is taking buyers' wishes and considerations into account and is taking action (similar to how it made efforts in the past to remedy the loud noise level of the FX 5800 Ultra's (NV30) fans).
Only one question remains unanswered: What about the possibility of using unoptimized and real filtering? NVIDIA should react to users' demands by integrating the corresponding option into the driver. And they should do this, if possible, through a global quality setting through which the optimizations can also be completely unselected. This could prevent conflicts with the settings that can be made with the applications, thus also allowing maximum quality in games that don't have settings for filtering.
The same goes for ATI. Here, real trilinear filtering is possible only if an application can invoke it. This feature should be made abundantly clear in the driver.
It would be nice to hear ATI's official stance on driver optimizations. Although ATI already stated months ago that it would do away with "unfair" driver optimizations, they have not yet announced any pertinent guidelines.
NVIDIA gives extensive information about the individual changes to the driver compared to its predecessor in its release notes .