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Do New Drivers Really Boost Performance?

GeForce 9600 GT: Driver Update From 175.16 to 177.92

The number of driver versions between the last test and the current beta drivers is greater for the GeForce 9600 GT. However, the 175.16, 175.19 (GeForce 9), 177.39 and 177.41 (GeForce GTX) came out in quick succession. Many of the changes affected 3DMark Vantage, which Nvidia regularly optimizes, but the real differences among the versions are few. The most important feature is support and integration of PhysX for older GeForce 8 models.

Assassins Creed in fps12800xAA16800xAA19200xAA12804xAA16804xAA19204xAAOverall
9600 GT (1024 MB) 175.1646.736.130.836.027.523.9201.0
9600 GT (1024 MB) 177.9252.139.634.139.330.225.0220.3
Difference in performance in percentage11.69.710.79.29.84.69.6

The increase in performance of up to 11.6 percent is stunning—the GeForce 9600 GT improves in all the right places thanks to the driver update. With 1920x1200 pixels and anti-aliasing, the frame rate slips up to 25 fps.

Call of Duty 4 in fps12800xAA16800xAA19200xAA12804xAA16804xAA19204xAAOverall
9600 GT (1024 MB) 175.1687.872.260.771.459.447.1398.6
9600 GT (1024 MB) 177.9288.172.458.971.359.347.9397.9
Difference in performance in percentage0.30.3-3.0-0.1-0.21.7-0.2

The results of Call of Duty 4 lie within the measuring tolerances.

Crysis High in fps12800xAA16800xAA19200xAA12804xAA16804xAA19204xAAOverall
9600 GT (1024 MB) 175.1627.420.916.917.213.010.5105.9
9600 GT (1024 MB) 177.9228.822.018.718.414.211.5113.6
Difference in performance in percentage5.15.310.77.09.29.57.3

The increase in performance is measurable in Crysis, but the extra frame isn’t quite noticeable. Still, it represents optimization in the driver, which has probably been implemented for the 1024 MB model.

Crysis Very High in fps12800xAA16800xAA19200xAA12804xAA16804xAA19204xAAOverall
9600 GT (1024 MB) 175.1617.312.39.711.08.26.464.9
9600 GT (1024 MB) 177.9219.014.311.412.99.57.574.6
Difference in performance in percentage9.816.317.517.315.917.214.9

When the GeForce 9600 GT with 512 MB and 1024 MB graphics memory is compared in the Very High setting, you immediately see the optimization of the driver, which now makes better use of the doubled graphics memory. Unfortunately, the frame rates are too low generally, making the GeForce 9600 GT as a single card hardly suitable for Crysis and Very High image quality. Two GeForce 9600 GT cards used as SLI, each equipped with 1 GB, would probably profit more from this optimization.

ET: Quake Wars in fps12800xAA16800xAA19200xAA12804xAA16804xAA19204xAAOverall
9600 GT (1024 MB) 175.1683.378.568.874.360.649.3414.8
9600 GT (1024 MB) 177.9282.679.771.777.563.051.2425.7
Difference in performance in percentage-0.81.54.24.34.03.92.6

At 1920 with anti-aliasing there is a 4 percent increase in 3D speed after the driver update.

Half-Life 2 Episode 2 in fps12800xAA16800xAA19200xAA12804xAA16804xAA19204xAAOverall
9600 GT (1024 MB) 175.16101.096.286.497.680.564.1525.8
9600 GT (1024 MB) 177.92104.498.190.3100.384.366.5543.9
Difference in performance in percentage3.42.04.52.84.73.73.4

Half-Life 2 Episode 2 measures an increase of 2 percent to almost 5 percent, but you can’t feel it, as frame rates are already well over 60 fps.

Mass Effect in fps12800xAA16800xAA19200xAA12804xAA16804xAA19204xAA12808xAA16808xAA19208xAAOverall
9600 GT (1024 MB) 175.1667.952.141.349.938.927.347.837.126.3388.6
9600 GT (1024 MB) 177.9268.152.141.049.938.526.947.936.926.3387.6
Difference in performance in percentage0.30.0-0.70.0-1.0-1.50.2-0.50.0-0.3

Nothing has changed in Mass Effect; the measurements are within the margin of error.

MS Flight Simulator X SP2 in fps12800xAA16800xAA19200xAA12804xAA16804xAA19204xAAOverall
9600 GT (1024 MB) 175.1632.732.631.834.433.033.3197.8
9600 GT (1024 MB) 177.9233.333.032.634.634.234.2201.9
Difference in performance in percentage1.81.22.50.63.62.72.1

The increase in Flight Simulator X can be measured, but is very low. Unlike other graphics chips, the GeForce 9600 GT already gets excellent results with the flight simulator.

World in Conflict in fps12800xAA16800xAA19200xAA12804xAA16804xAA19204xAAOverall
9600 GT (1024 MB) 175.1636.232.427.323.419.116.0154.4
9600 GT (1024 MB) 177.9236.633.128.123.919.816.5158.0
Difference in performance in percentage1.12.22.92.13.73.12.3

The increase in frame rates is measurable, but not particularly impactful.

  • 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.htm
    That 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