VGA Charts IV: AGP Graphics Cards

The Drivers

It's difficult to find a perfect point at which to start the testing phase for the VGA Charts. Announcements of new products that would be nice to include and missing WHQL drivers delay the start of the testing process again and again. Beta and leaked drivers are not suitable for the Charts.

Even NVIDIA is giving us cause for driver-related worries at the moment. Its last driver update was made a few months back. NVIDIA only makes various beta drivers available for product and benchmark launches. The newest is version number 66.52 - while its Web site only has v61.77 officially available, which has been long outdated, both technically and performance-wise. For the VGA Charts, we therefore decided to compromise by choosing the driver 65.75, which is WHQL-certified for the GeForce 6x00 series of cards. In addition, NVIDIA has declared it to be the driver to be used for graphics card comparisons.

With ATI, the choice was easier, since it typically offers driver updates on a monthly basis. For the tests, we used Catalyst v4.9. We did not include the other drivers released by ATI, such as the beta and hotfix drivers, which, despite their sometimes low version numbers, correspond to the level of drivers two generations down the line.

What's responsible for the driver chaos is the grim battle between ATI and NVIDIA. With the launch of each benchmark or product, special drivers are distributed to the press so that their own products can reach the top of the benchmark rankings. However, these hastily-made drivers contain bugs that more or less provide for frustration, rather than positive results. Especially when the reviewer doesn't use the "typical" games for the benchmark tests.

The only serious driver problems were with XGI. Most of the games with this driver either couldn't be run at all or crashed after a short time. The S3 Deltachrome S8 fared better, although it too had problems with two titles.