Not long ago we looked at AMD’s Catalyst Omega driver release, the first major driver package for some time and heralded by AMD themselves as a big step forward in terms of driver stability and performance. In scant few months between it and a viable previous release driver compatible with our test system AMD were able to squeeze out substantial performance despite the relatively age of the GCN architecture. Today we’re putting Nvidia’s driver package through similar paces, primarily to see just how far they’ve come in optimising for their new Maxwell architecture since September’s hardware launch.
Nvidia are well known for an extremely fast turnaround time for new drivers, even WHQL-certified drivers. Game Day drivers – GeForce 347.52, the drivers we're focusing on, among them – tend to be issued on the day of every major game release. AMD by contrast tend to rely on progressive beta candidates before rolling in changes to a major update later in the month. By working closely with game developers Nvidia tend to have access to game release candidates early on, allowing their driver team some lead time prior to release to smooth out any problems.
In the not so distant past Nvidia drivers were stand-alone packages, just the sort of software you install and then forget about. In 2013 however Nvidia unveiled GeForce Experience, a desktop application which not only kept all Nvidia product drivers up to date, but also served as a platform for delivering new technologies and quality of life improvements.
GeForce Experience is currently a must-have application for both Shadowplay and GameStream recording and streaming functionality, whilst also offering automated performance optimisation for a plethora of games both old and new. Compared to the previous status quo, the application now means that users appreciate and interfaced with their hardware just a little bit more.
GeForce Experience is not critical though; users can still opt to download a stand-alone driver package. Even those who choose not to install the GeForce Experience application can take advantage of the Nvidia-exclusive DSR and MFAA technologies via the Nvidia Control Panel, whilst advanced user can make fine setting tweaks and adjust application profiles. Nvidia’s software can thus be considered a great jack-of-all-trades, whilst still having key areas of improvement left open in which additional functionality can be incorporated.
Today we’ll be looking at two key factors for Nvidia’s latest 347.52 driver software: performance improvements and DSR.