Nvidia's GeForce GTX 480: Before And After A Year Of Driver Updates

Are you dutiful about keeping your drivers up-to-date? Nvidia does a pretty good job of maintaining a regular release schedule. Today we look at how much performance you can expect from an old card in new games using four driver packages.

Everyone is looking for more performance, which is the main reason why anyone bothers to update their graphics driver. We already analyzed AMD's driver-based performance gains in AMD's Radeon HD 5870: Before And After A Year Of Driver Updates. Over the course of a year, someone gaming on the Radeon HD 5870 can look forward to a roughly 5% bump in performance with a few rare exceptions. More important, grabbing each of AMD's Catalyst updates ensures proper compatibility with games like Lost Planet 2, F1 2010, and Metro 2033.

That's the case for AMD and its cards. But what about Nvidia?

The company has spent a great deal of time and money cultivating partnerships with game developers, often to the bemoaning of non-Nvidia owners who feel their gaming experience gets unfairly penalized. You have to wonder exactly what this means. Is this just a matter of getting more face time before a game launches? Or does this translate into early optimization in driver development? More precisely, if you own Nvidia hardware, you want to know if you are going to see more improvements than if you had bought a Radeon.

Let’s put this into perspective. If we look back to the last generation of GeForce cards as an example, the GeForce GTX 480 was released in late March 2010. It’s still a decent card, performing close to the more recently released GeForce GTX 570. But do you remember how long you waited for Nvidia’s first DX11 GPU? It was released seven months after AMD launched the Radeon HD 5870.

GeForce/Ion Driver 266.581/18/11
GeForce/Ion Driver 260.9910/25/10
GeForce/Ion Driver 260.8910/18/10
GeForce/Ion Driver 258.967/29/10
GeForce/Ion Driver 257.216/15/10
GeForce Driver 197.755/10/10
GeForce Driver 197.414/9/10

After waiting seven months and spending a too-expensive $500, you are probably holding off on your next upgrade. Until that time, you must rely on drivers to improve your performance beyond where it sits today. Unlike AMD, Nvidia doesn’t release drivers on a monthly basis. For example, since the GTX 480 was released, we have had seven drivers posted.

If you update drivers regularly, then you are probably familiar with the Nvidia's performance claims. You see them every time you download a new software package. We want to know exactly how much these updates really matter to real-world gaming. Have all of the company's downloads been worthwhile installations? We’re selecting four drivers spanning the GeForce GTX 480’s current life to find out.

Create a new thread in the US Reviews comments forum about this subject
This thread is closed for comments
Comment from the forums
    Your comment
  • Yuka
    Heh, now it cooks my steaks 5 secs faster.

    Oh wait... I'm using a GT425M on my notebook... Damn!

  • theyohan
    I hear good things about that new Nvidia 270.51 beta driver.
  • dragonsqrrl
    Impressive results to say the least... well, except for WOW. That has to be a bit of a disappointment for the people who care about that title. But otherwise quite remarkable performance optimizations from the driver team.

    I have to agree with the conclusion, due to the recent nature of the Fermi architecture it probably took both Nvidia and developers time to get used to the new hardware. It just wasn't well optimized upon launch. Although I think it's worth noting that it still managed to perform well even on those early drivers.
  • andy5174
    GTX480/470/465.... Fail
  • ezodagrom
    In the World of Warcraft page instead of saying "Percent Gain from 197.41 to 266.58" it says "Percent Gain from 9.10 to 11.1". ;P
  • acku
    Anonymous said:
    In the World of Warcraft page instead of saying "Percent Gain from 197.41 to 266.58" it says "Percent Gain from 9.10 to 11.1". ;P

    Oops! My motto: Pobody's Nerfect. :kaola:

  • cpy
    257.21 looks best for me as wow player and sc2 player :)
  • gofasterstripes
    TBH it looks like good work from the green team. Cool, my 470 is getting bumped for free [and it's already overclocked to 788/1950 :) ]

    On second thoughts, maybe 'cool' is the wrong word.....
  • Mario75
    andy5174GTX480/470/465.... Fail

    Nope - trolls actually FAIL.Also your "comment" FAIL
  • nforce4max
    mayankleoboy1only 465 was fail. just like the 5830.

    Cough 6790
    aww i wish you guys did a left 4 dead bench.. since the source engine is one of the must played engines!
  • vvhocare5
    hmmm an article about graphics and we dont have someone asking which graphics card is best or which one to buy for their next build??
  • srgess
    i have the gtx 480 with gelid cooler and i idle at 36 and load 55 degree and decibel lower then my other pc case fan wich are very silent. it only fail cuz of the original nvidia cooling design, if you had a vapor chamber like the 570 on the gtx480 i bet you its gonna be cooler then 570/580
  • grody
    Quite a lengthy article for a card that TH basically told everyone to skip in favor of the 570/580.
  • randyzie
    Awh...was hoping the 270 beta would be in here :(
  • dgingeri
    I'm sticking with my 260.99 drivers for my dual GTX 470s. the 266.58 drivers have given me no end of problems, with SLi only being enabled sometimes, while the control panel won't even give me the option to enable it other times. Constant quality issues as well. the 266.58 drivers are horrible. Now I find out the newer drivers drive down my performance on my favorite game. Nvidia is really slacking off on driver quality lately.
  • Ogdin
    LATTEHaww i wish you guys did a left 4 dead bench.. since the source engine is one of the must played engines!

    Ya but a 4 slice toaster can run the source engine at over 100 fps no point in using it here.
  • travish82
    Great article, but I have one slight bone to pick. Can you explain why you chose to use the 2500K processor? A year ago, that processor wasn't available, so these charts don't really present a real-world situation. I think it would have made a lot more sense if you had used a processor that was in computers a year ago.
  • 17seconds
    It seems like it's always a good idea to at least try out new WHQL and beta drivers, since the trend seems to be progressively improved performance overall. This is another area where Nvidia has an advantage in the fact that there are more driver versions available to download, both official and unofficial ones released by board partners.
  • dalta centauri
    nforce4maxCough 6790

    6790? If it launched in the replacement of the 5830 it wouldn't have been a fail, or even if they launched around the same time. Overall, it appears the 6790 doesn't have the same issues as the 5830 oriignally had (Or still do).
    So, it's a fail although it's a fail mainly due to it's release date.