Update: SUMA GF2 GTS SE and Detonator 3

Just last week we had released the article Full Review of SUMA's GeForce2 GTS 64 MB SE at an odd time where we were unable to provide results using the latest Detonator driver. During this time I was flooded with tons of feedback on this driver; most of which was negative. Taking the need for an update to the SUMA review and the confusion that the Detonator 3 driver has been causing to some users, I decided to provide you with this update. I'll go over the Detonator 3 driver situation as well as the updated scores for the SUMA GF2 SE card.

Detonator 3 - Friend Or Foe?

The reviews came out, the files became available, and everyone jumped on the FTP bandwagon to download NVIDIA's latest creation, the Detonator 3 drivers. Apparently many of you didn't get what you expected.

TNT2x owners eagerly downloaded the drivers anticipating the lovely 20% bonus seen on average with the newest GF family to only find out that the driver caused them to lose performance in most cases and stability dropped dramatically. Every single email that I received in reference to the TNTx and Detonator 3 driver, expressed how horrible the performance loss was when they had switched. A bit of spot-checking on my side of things supported what readers were seeing. I had either matched or less performance across most of our standard tests.

GeForce and GeForce2 owners experienced similar headaches as their systems became unstable to flat out failing to work at times. Reports of random crashing to serious boot issues started surfacing once the new driver was installed. A few also noticed a small decrease in performance for the software they ran most often. Minor performance drops (if you look at the percentages) in general were also seen in the lower resolutions for games like Quake 3.

I personally had no compatibility issues with my software testing when the Ultra and Detonator 3 performance numbers were being generated but that was due to the platform I used and the limited scope of software being run. Running a wider variety of compatibility testing to find issues would have required much more time than was available at the time and it still wouldn't have compared to the amount of testing that went on the day of release to the public. After the review, however, I was able to find a few problems while testing other game software as quickly as starting Diablo 2 and Quake 3 Arena Multiplayer. If two of the most popular 3D games being played right now are having problems, I wouldn't be surprised if many others did too.

Performance was another general concern with this release in the lower resolutions. People complained about the performance dropping from 150-170 FPS to the 130 FPS range in the 640x480x16 Quake3 setting. I did notice this in some spot testing but didn't feel it was worthy to note since an average score of well over 100 FPS is sufficient. Had the scores dropped to the point that was not optimal, I would have made a clear note in the reviews. I know many others have blown this out of proportion but I personally think it's very silly. I agree that the compatibility issues are a serious problem that wasn't caught initially and I can understand the disappointment and anger of the ones affected, but complaining about a frame rate 'drop' from 170 to 130 fps at low resolutions seems rather pathetic.

Obviously NVIDIA didn't expect to cause such commotion when it had released its newest breakthrough driver and I'm sure it's working on a new driver release to iron out the issues. My greatest concern is the performance hit we'll see once the drivers are fixed to run properly on most machines. Apparently there are more than a few people out there having problems. NVIDIA has an insanely talented driver group but nobody is perfect. Time will tell what happens with the next release of the driver. I advise all the ones that had problems with the first Detonator 3 release to wait for the next driver update before finally switching over to Detonator 3. Until then, you might want to go back to your previous drivers.

SUMA GF2 GTS SE Update

Before getting to the performance update that you're all looking for, I wanted to address a few common questions. The most popular inquiry was the release date and availability of this board. SUMA has yet to let me know that they've shipped and which retail stores will carry their product. The next concern was that this product is showing up to be a standard clocked GF2 on their website but people are failing to realize that the model we reviewed is an "SE" version. The other issue was a bit of detail on the DVI connector. It addresses the general situation with the GF2 and the DFP use.

Flat Panels And The GeForce2

Uproars of complaints have been the focus of attention lately when users of the Prophet II had experienced less than satisfactory results when attempting to use their DVI FP output. Problems from flat out failure to visual defects were seen. After a few of the larger NVIDIA fan-sites investigated this, everyone seemed to be pointing fingers elsewhere. Seeking the truth, I contacted NVIDIA about this and asked for an explanation. The GeForce2 has an internal TMDS that allows for the chipset itself to support a flat panel 1024x768 resolution but NVIDIA decided that since external transmitters were supporting much higher resolution, they wouldn't support it in their reference drivers. They chose to do this because they felt that high-end consumers would want the superior display resolution of the external TMDS over what the chip had internally. So, if a company wanted to support a flat panel output on their graphics solution, they'd technically need to add an external TMDS. Apparently Guillemot went the path of external TMDS (I assume so since they support up to 1600x1200 resolution) so the problems seen are the issues of Guillemot's driver and not NVIDIA's chipset. However, I find it very odd that NVIDIA never planned to support the internal TMDS in the GF2 even if a company chose to use it. The product was marketed as having the benefit of an internal TMDS but when companies want to use it now (because the consumer demand is growing), they cannot.

Test Setup

Graphics Cards and Drivers
SUMA GF2 GTS SE
GeForce2 Ultra
GeForce2 GTS 32/64 MB
GeForce2 MX
GeForce DDR 32 MB
4.12.01.0616
Radeon DDR 64 MB 4.12.3044
Voodoo5 5500 4.12.01.0543
Platform Information
CPU PIII 1 GHz
Motherboard Asus CUSL2
Memory Crucial PC133 CAS2
Network Netgear FA310TX
Environment Settings
OS Version Windows 98 SE 4.10.2222 A
DirectX Version 7.0
Quake 3 Arena Retail version
command line = +set cd_nocd 1 +set s_initsound 0
Evolva Rolling Demo v1.2 Build 944
Standard command line = -benchmark
Bump Mapped command line = -benchmark -dotbump
MDK2 Demo Downloadable Demo Version
T&L = On
Texture Quality = Max setting
MipMap = On
Trilinear Filtering

Performance Expectations

I don't expect to see much of a percentage difference between what we saw before with the old driver and now with the update. The thing to keep in mind here is that the SUMA GF2 GTS SE does offer some excellent performance with the new driver for much less than the Ultra. Let's keep our fingers crossed hoping that SUMA gets their product to the US relatively soon, if at all.

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