Software Driver Features
For this round of testing, we used the WHQL-certified Nvidia 182.08 drivers. There are two packages for this series, one for GeForce cards and the other for Quadro FX models. Despite identical version numbers, Nvidia asserts that it's impossible to install the Quadro drivers on the GeForce models.
The focus of our test series here is on genuine workstation applications. Nevertheless, we included a comparable GTX 280 from the gaming world in our comparisons to help document the differences between the two product families. You'll find more on this subject in the section entitled "Performance: Gaming vs. Workstation" later in this article. Nvidia also offers special performance plug-ins for various applications. For our tests we used the MAXtreme plug-in to run the 3ds Max benchmark scripts. This led directly to a noticeable performance boost.
On the Nvidia Web site, you can also find its OpenGL 3.0/3.1 drivers (version 182.27). Unfortunately, we didn't have any benchmark-enabled applications that use this standard at our disposal to put these new developments to the test.
One area where Nvidia could improve its drivers is for automatic application recognition (ATI's drivers do this already). But to get the best performance from these drivers, some manual intervention/tweaking is required. As long as you're only working with one workstation app, this is no big deal, because it needs to be configured only once. But if you use several such applications, you must work through the tweaking process each time you make a change. Under those circumstances we expect that most users will declare themselves happy with the predefined defaults and leave such things otherwise alone.