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Do New Drivers Really Boost Performance?

GeForce 9600 GT: The Benefit Of CPU Overclocking

In the ’CPU against graphics card’ test, it’s clear that the GeForce 9600 GT is well-served by a 2.4 GHz to 3.2 GHz processor. In the following evaluations it has been allowed access to a 3.47 GHz overclocked model, which it is able to utilize in a handful of games.

Assassins Creed in fps12800xAA16800xAA19200xAA12804xAA16804xAA19204xAAOverall
9600 GT (1024 MB) 177.9252.139.634.139.330.225.0220.3
9600 GT (1024 MB) CPU@3.4751.839.834.538.930.326.0221.3
Difference in performance in percentage-0.60.51.2-1.00.34.00.5

Here, the results are interesting yet again: in the higher resolutions, the frame rate increases contradict the other measurements. This may have something to do with the 1 GB graphics memory, which works better under more load. But in terms of overall performance, a faster CPU doesn’t make much difference.

Call of Duty 4 in fps12800xAA16800xAA19200xAA12804xAA16804xAA19204xAAOverall
9600 GT (1024 MB) 177.9288.172.458.971.359.347.9397.9
9600 GT (1024 MB) CPU@3.4789.573.660.078.363.952.5417.8
Difference in performance in percentage1.61.71.99.87.89.65.0

Also interesting is the performance in Call of Duty 4. While the faster GTX 280 loses a little, the GeForce 9600 GT with anti-aliasing gains almost 10 percent. These results fly in the face of what we’d expect, as the lower resolutions without AA usually see the greatest increase and anti-aliasing tends to limit the graphics card.

Crysis High in fps12800xAA16800xAA19200xAA12804xAA16804xAA19204xAAOverall
9600 GT (1024 MB) 177.9228.822.018.718.414.211.5113.6
9600 GT (1024 MB) CPU@3.4728.622.317.818.314.211.1112.3
Difference in performance in percentage-0.71.4-4.8-0.50.0-3.5-1.1

The increased CPU performance actually hurts frame rates, and what the driver optimizes is subsequently destroyed by the 3.47 GHz of the test system.

Crysis Very High in fps12800xAA16800xAA19200xAA12804xAA16804xAA19204xAAOverall
9600 GT (1024 MB) 177.9219.014.311.412.99.57.574.6
9600 GT (1024 MB) CPU@3.4717.713.310.612.88.97.570.8
Difference in performance in percentage-6.8-7.0-7.0-0.8-6.30.0-5.1

With Very High image quality it is even clearer that the higher CPU power has a negative effect on frame rate.

ET: Quake Wars in fps12800xAA16800xAA19200xAA12804xAA16804xAA19204xAAOverall
9600 GT (1024 MB) 177.9282.679.771.777.563.051.2425.7
9600 GT (1024 MB) CPU@3.4792.789.773.179.063.651.2449.3
Difference in performance in percentage12.212.52.01.91.00.05.5

Additional CPU clock rates make a difference only in the lower resolutions without anti-aliasing. At 1920x1200 pixels or with the anti-aliasing activated, the GeForce 9600 GT reaches its limit. The frame rate improves with the increased CPU performance. With anti-aliasing activated, the graphics card is the reason for the limitations.

Half-Life 2 Episode 2 in fps12800xAA16800xAA19200xAA12804xAA16804xAA19204xAAOverall
9600 GT (1024 MB) 177.92104.498.190.3100.384.366.5543.9
9600 GT (1024 MB) CPU@3.47115.5108.092.0106.384.666.7573.1
Difference in performance in percentage10.610.11.96.00.40.35.4

The 18.2 percent increased CPU clock rate is transferred to the game with 6 percent to 10 percent, but at the higher resolutions, the 9-series graphics chip reaches its limits.

Mass Effect in fps12800xAA16800xAA19200xAA12804xAA16804xAA19204xAA12808xAA16808xAA19208xAAOverall
9600 GT (1024 MB) 177.9268.152.141.049.938.526.947.936.926.3387.6
9600 GT (1024 MB) CPU@3.4768.352.241.050.038.526.948.037.026.3388.2
Difference in performance in percentage0.30.20.00.20.00.00.20.30.00.2

Mass Effect and the UT3 Engine run with 100 percent CPU load, so if there is no increase in frame rate, the graphics chip is at its limits. The driver update does not show any increase; for more power, you need a more powerful graphics chip or a second card for SLI.

MS Flight Simulator X SP2 in fps12800xAA16800xAA19200xAA12804xAA16804xAA19204xAAOverall
9600 GT (1024 MB) 177.9233.333.032.634.634.234.2201.9
9600 GT (1024 MB) CPU@3.4737.538.837.839.139.235.5227.9
Difference in performance in percentage12.617.616.013.014.63.812.9

The GeForce 9600 GT reaches its limits only in the 1920 resolution with anti-aliasing (4xAA); below this it has reserves and can probably take advantage of more CPU performance.

World in Conflict in fps12800xAA16800xAA19200xAA12804xAA16804xAA19204xAAOverall
9600 GT (1024 MB) 177.9236.633.128.123.919.816.5158.0
9600 GT (1024 MB) CPU@3.4736.533.427.923.619.816.2157.4
Difference in performance in percentage-0.30.9-0.7-1.30.0-1.8-0.4

In World in Conflict the graphics card is the limitation; the GeForce 9600 GT can do nothing with the additional CPU power—the results are within the measuring tolerance.

  • 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