Gameplay Stinks with RTM Vista and Current Drivers

Performance Comparison

Various ills plague my testing as I was attempting to review a work in progress in many regards. The operating system might be ready to ship to software and hardware vendors but that does not mean all of the bugs have been worked out. Speaking with the hardware driver teams at Nvidia and AMD (formerly ATI), both companies stated that it is not difficult to build drivers for the new platform. However, both companies acknowledged that there are challenges to developing them.

"You fix certain things, you optimize them and then you break other things," Guennadi Riguer, an AMD ISV engineer, said.

The platform has a hard form but the small pieces change and new working driver builds are developed daily.

I utilized the same hardware platform for my comparative tests. The only variables were the different operating systems and the hardware drivers. As you will see, there are still plenty of things to work out before launch day. One interesting issue I uncovered involved Nvidia’s driver.

Here is what I saw even though Vista "allegedly" installed Nvidia’s English driver.

While I followed standard procedure to install Nvidia’s driver, Vista wanted no part in it. The driver page should have indicated Nvidia GeForce 7900 GTX and not with the (Microsoft Corp.-WDDM) trailer. After several attempts I was able to get Windows Vista to accept the driver. While testing I noticed terrible performance in OpenGL applications even though Nvidia supplied an OpenGL ICD in the Forceware 97.46 build.

I encountered some issues recording with Fraps in OpenGL so I reverted to using a separate capture card for the video. As you can see, the OpenGL driver was not being utilized and I sought help rectifying the situation. Apparently I uncovered an issue with the English version of Forceware 97.46. The conclusion was that the Windows Vista installer was causing problems during installation. I had to use the international driver version for my tests. This cleared the problem and I was able to do the tests.

You will notice from the test setup chart below that I used the Nvidia GeForce 7900GTX and not the GeForce 8800GTX. This is due to the driver situation. There currently isn’t a public driver for the 8000 series cards and I used what the rest of the world can download today. This is a comparison of Vista to XP. The cards tested are irrelevant as they stay the same between the tests.

Test Setup

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System Hardware
Processor(s)Intel Core 2 Extreme X6800 Conroe2.93 GHz, 1,066 MHz FSB, 32 kB + 32 kB L1 , 4 MB L2
PlatformeVGA 122-CK-NF68-AR, LGA 775Nvidia nForce 680i SLI, BIOS version 2.053.57
RAMCorsair CM2X1024-9136C5D2x 1024 MB DDR2 @ 800 MHz (CL5-5-5-15)
Hard DriveWestern Digital Raptor, WD1500ADFD150 GB, 10,000 rpm, 16 MB cache, SATA150
NetworkingOn-Board nForce4 Gigabit Ethernet
Graphics CardsATI Radeon X1950XTX 512 MB GDDR4650 MHz Core1,000 MHz Memory (2.00 GHz DDR)Nvidia GeForce 7900GTX 512 MB GDDR3675 MHz Core820 MHz Memory (1.64 GHz DDR)
Power SupplyPC Power & Cooling Turbo-Cool 1,000W
CPU CoolerZalman CNPS9700 LED
System Software & Drivers
OSMicrosoft Windows XP Professional 5.10.2600, Service Pack 2Microsoft Windows Vista RTM - Ultimate
DirectX VersionWindows XP - 9.0c (4.09.0000.0904)Windows Vista-Ultimate - 10
Graphics Driver(s)ATI - Catalyst Vista 32 RTMNvidia - Forceware 97.46 International