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Do New Drivers Really Boost Performance?

3D Performance Sorted According To Resolution And Anti-Aliasing

Below are the results of the frame rate and percentage evaluations split according to resolution and anti-aliasing. This makes a comparison easier if you’re looking for a graphics card suited to a particular screen size or resolution.

The image quality of liquid crystal displays looks best in the native resolution (for example, a 22-inch display with 1680x1050 pixels).

1280x1024 0AAfpsPercent
GeForce GTX 280 (1024 MB) 177.92 CPU3.47727.4145.4
Radeon HD 4870 (512 MB) 8.8 CPU3.47700.4140.0
GeForce GTX 280 (1024 MB) 177.92669.9133.9
GeForce GTX 280 (1024 MB) 177.39662.3132.4
Radeon HD 4870 CF (512 MB) 8.8 CPU3.47643.7128.7
Radeon HD 4870 (512 MB) 8.8642.6128.5
Radeon HD 4870 (512 MB) 8.6633.9126.7
Radeon HD 4870 CF (512 MB) 8.8589.2117.8
Radeon HD 4870 CF (512 MB) 8.6584.4116.8
GeForce 9600 GT (1024 MB) 177.92 CPU3.47538.7107.7
GeForce 9600 GT (1024 MB) 177.92512.4102.4
GeForce 9600 GT (1024 MB) 175.16500.2100.0

The driver updates had an effect of 1 percent to 2 percent improvement. Overclocking the CPU ensured a large increase for all cards.

1280x1024 with AAfpsPercent
GeForce GTX 280 (1024 MB) 177.92 CPU3.47762.9164.7
GeForce GTX 280 (1024 MB) 177.92714.2154.2
Radeon HD 4870 CF (512 MB) 8.8 CPU3.47689.5148.9
GeForce GTX 280 (1024 MB) 177.39687.2148.4
Radeon HD 4870 (512 MB) 8.8 CPU3.47637.7137.7
Radeon HD 4870 CF (512 MB) 8.8635.1137.1
Radeon HD 4870 CF (512 MB) 8.6632.5136.6
Radeon HD 4870 (512 MB) 8.8601.0129.8
Radeon HD 4870 (512 MB) 8.6595.1128.5
GeForce 9600 GT (1024 MB) 177.92 CPU3.47493.7106.6
GeForce 9600 GT (1024 MB) 177.92476.6102.9
GeForce 9600 GT (1024 MB) 175.16463.1100.0

With anti-aliasing, the driver update for the GTX 280 can be measured clearly; the increased CPU clock rate results in a clear frame rate boost as well.

1680x1050 0AAfpsPercent
GeForce GTX 280 (1024 MB) 177.92 CPU3.47685.5157.9
Radeon HD 4870 (512 MB) 8.8 CPU3.47649.1149.6
GeForce GTX 280 (1024 MB) 177.92630.6145.3
Radeon HD 4870 CF (512 MB) 8.8 CPU3.47629.1145.0
GeForce GTX 280 (1024 MB) 177.39628.9144.9
Radeon HD 4870 (512 MB) 8.8596.5137.4
Radeon HD 4870 (512 MB) 8.6595.8137.3
Radeon HD 4870 CF (512 MB) 8.8571.6131.7
Radeon HD 4870 CF (512 MB) 8.6560.5129.1
GeForce 9600 GT (1024 MB) 177.92 CPU3.47472.0108.8
GeForce 9600 GT (1024 MB) 177.92444.2102.4
GeForce 9600 GT (1024 MB) 175.16434.0100.0

Even in the 1680 resolution, the greater CPU power has an effect. The driver update doesn’t do anything for the HD 4870, but the other cards all perform around two percent faster.

1680x1050 with AAfpsPercent
GeForce GTX 280 (1024 MB) 177.92 CPU3.47677.7180.0
Radeon HD 4870 CF (512 MB) 8.8 CPU3.47660.8175.5
GeForce GTX 280 (1024 MB) 177.92647.2171.9
GeForce GTX 280 (1024 MB) 177.39634.0168.3
Radeon HD 4870 CF (512 MB) 8.8604.6160.5
Radeon HD 4870 CF (512 MB) 8.6602.8160.1
Radeon HD 4870 (512 MB) 8.8 CPU3.47544.6144.6
Radeon HD 4870 (512 MB) 8.8515.9137.0
Radeon HD 4870 (512 MB) 8.6512.7136.1
GeForce 9600 GT (1024 MB) 177.92 CPU3.47399.1106.0
GeForce 9600 GT (1024 MB) 177.92390.0103.6
GeForce 9600 GT (1024 MB) 175.16376.6100.0

The driver update has very little effect on the Radeon HD 4870. With the GeForce 9600 GT, the optimizations for the 1 GB graphics memory start to work, and it gains about 3.6 percent; the rest are about 2 percent faster. CrossFire profits considerably from the CPU overclocking.

1920x1200 0AAfpsPercent
GeForce GTX 280 (1024 MB) 177.92 CPU3.47644.4172.1
Radeon HD 4870 CF (512 MB) 8.8 CPU3.47608.6162.5
GeForce GTX 280 (1024 MB) 177.92602.0160.7
GeForce GTX 280 (1024 MB) 177.39593.5158.5
Radeon HD 4870 (512 MB) 8.8 CPU3.47590.6157.7
Radeon HD 4870 (512 MB) 8.8556.8148.7
Radeon HD 4870 CF (512 MB) 8.8556.2148.5
Radeon HD 4870 (512 MB) 8.6550.4147.0
Radeon HD 4870 CF (512 MB) 8.6545.2145.6
GeForce 9600 GT (1024 MB) 177.92 CPU3.47395.2105.5
GeForce 9600 GT (1024 MB) 177.92386.9103.3
GeForce 9600 GT (1024 MB) 175.16374.5100.0

The faster graphics chips accept the additional CPU performance well, but the GeForce 9600 GT starts to run out of steam.

1920x1200 with AAfpsPercent
Radeon HD 4870 CF (512 MB) 8.8 CPU3.47608.0200.4
GeForce GTX 280 (1024 MB) 177.92 CPU3.47592.7195.4
GeForce GTX 280 (1024 MB) 177.92568.6187.4
GeForce GTX 280 (1024 MB) 177.39559.7184.5
Radeon HD 4870 CF (512 MB) 8.8558.9184.2
Radeon HD 4870 CF (512 MB) 8.6557.5183.8
Radeon HD 4870 (512 MB) 8.8 CPU3.47493.1162.5
Radeon HD 4870 (512 MB) 8.6467.8154.2
Radeon HD 4870 (512 MB) 8.8465.5153.4
GeForce 9600 GT (1024 MB) 177.92 CPU3.47319.4105.3
GeForce 9600 GT (1024 MB) 177.92313.4103.3
GeForce 9600 GT (1024 MB) 175.16303.4100.0

The driver update slows the HD 4870 slightly. CrossFire doesn’t show much of a gain, but is able to do more with the CPU overclocking—it tops the table.

  • pcgamer12
    Great article.
    Reply
  • cangelini
    LedrosTo bad you used 8.8 drivers instead of the 8.9 ones. Real smart people.
    This is observed in the piece and should not affect performance.
    Reply
  • curnel_D
    Lol.
    Reply
  • neiroatopelcc
    SoulLance"Unfortunately for AMD and its customers, the PowerPlay optimization for energy-efficient 2D operation is not included in the Catalyst 8.8 driver for the Radeon HD 4870. Quake Wars refuses to start using the Catalyst 8.8, but it works fine with the Catalyst 8.6 and 8.7."But neither should comments like this appear when everyone on the planet reads a labels that clearly say "Use latest drivers from manufacturer".
    Can you please translate this into english?
    I have no idea what you mean to say with your comment, other than the obvious (that you disagree on some level with the article)
    Reply
  • randomizer
    He's saying you shouldn't criticise newer drivers because most hardware and software packaging has a label, or a section in the manual, telling you to use the latest drivers. So latest = best as far as he is concerned.
    Reply
  • In reference to overclocking graphics cards, I'm pretty sure that XFX card warranties cover overclocking to some degree, though you'd have to double check their warranty fine print.
    Reply
  • neiroatopelcc
    SneppyIn reference to overclocking graphics cards, I'm pretty sure that XFX card warranties cover overclocking to some degree, though you'd have to double check their warranty fine print.Having had experience with two failing xfx cards (both 8800gtx's actually), I've got to warn you though, that their warranty is a bit fictional. While they may actually cover broken products, you can easily risk waiting months for a replacement.
    Proof of my claim in case someone unexpectedly doubts it : http://www.opel.cc/xfx8800gtx/xfx.htmThat was the first failing card. The second I haven't even bothered sending in, and just bought an 4870 instead of waiting months.
    Reply
  • cryogenic
    We all know there were cases in the past when "Newer drivers provided substantial performance improvements" in various applications or games. Analyzing performance with a few select driver sets can can't lead to the conclusion that drivers are irrelevant, or that from a "professional" stand point the latest drivers shouldn't be chosen.
    Reply
  • randomizer
    CryogenicAnalyzing performance with a few select driver sets can can't lead to the conclusion that drivers are irrelevantBut it can lead to the conclusion that current drivers are irrelevant, or rather less relevant.
    Reply
  • cryogenic
    randomizer
    That's a good,true and useful conclusion, but it's not a general one, only specific to this particular set of drivers.
    Reply