NVIDIA's Detonator 3 Drivers


Today the masses will rush to read about NVIDIA new flagship chipset, the GeForce2 Ultra , but that should not be the only thing everyone is interested in. Shipping along with the new powerhouse is a performance-enhanced Detonator 3 driver. NVIDIA is claiming this unified driver boosts performance across all its existing family of chipsets on the market by up to 50%. These are large claims for merely an updated driver so we've decided to investigate. My main goal was to see how much performance was gained by this driver (if any) over the previous one, how it was done and what else was changed with in this driver.

What's New?

I couldn't believe the claims NVIDIA was making so I immediately contacted the folks there and asked for details. Initially I was met with mostly marketing jargon but after a bit of probing, I had found what I wanted and then some. Unfortunately full details of what NVIDIA has done within this driver won't be released for another week or two but until then, this is what we know.

NVIDIA said that it initially releases with a functional driver that provides a properly working product and follows up shortly after with a performance-geared driver. This is something we've seen in the past as early as the TNT2 to TNT2 Ultra. Apparently the extremely talented NVIDIA driver team was doing major enhancements to the driver after the launch of the GeForce2 and the product of their work is just now being released.

Performance gains were seen from optimizing the use of the system platforms (memory, caches, new CPU instructions) to resources on the video cards themselves. Most folks will probably be reporting the general marketing list of enhancements to the driver but what it comes down to was the software engineers enhancing the driver specifically for each card and having the driver allocate resources optimally for the given tasks. These optimizations will benefit the card's performance in situations where the hardware was being pushed hardest such as high resolution and high color scenarios. Technical details on how this was all done should be released in a couple of weeks so stay tuned.

TwinView Broken?

Another interesting thing in this new driver is the fact that TwinView is now functional. Unfortunately, early on I was without a GF2 MX board with multiple video outputs to find out that TwinView wasn't available before the Detonator 3 driver. However, during one of my conversations with a couple of the big board manufacturers, they were quick to make sure I knew that the TwinView feature wouldn't be available on their boards until NVIDIA had it working properly in the reference drivers. I was a bit shocked until I tried one of my newer GF2 MX boards to find out that this was all true. The Detonator 3 driver did indeed fix this problem and I was able to play around with spanning mode (virtual desktop type mode) and clone mode (have the same output on both devices). I would say this is one of the most important fixes in this driver.

Driver Interface

The driver interface has had some changes in both functionality and appearance. Let's take a peek.

This has remained basically the same. The screen provides you with general system information from the driver to the graphic board configuration.

If you have the video out capabilities, the controls will be here. This feature also remains the same.