For quite some time we've been mentioning in various articles that the NVIDIA Linux 1.0-8XXX drivers are expected to be phenomenal and include a long list of awaited features such as SLI and improved graphical support. Now that various other sources have begun reporting on the Windows Forceware Rel80 (Release 80) features, we've managed to acquire some additional Linux information in the process and will share this information with you today. Among the Windows features that are expected to make their way into the next official driver release is improved TV-out/HDTV support, vertical sync capabilities, and multi-threading support. Of course what all of you have been waiting to hear, NVIDIA SLI (Scalable Link Interface) Linux support. On top of that, there are some additional features we expect NVIDIA to further develop and bundle into future revisions of its proprietary Linux drivers.
Multi-threaded Support: It was back in June of this year that the Windows-based tech site The Tech Report had spoken with Ben de Waal, and for those of you unfamiliar with his operations at NVIDIA he currently is vice president of GPU software. In this article, they had exposed NVIDIA's intentions on creating multi-threaded drivers and with their Windows internal build at the time had experienced between a five to 30% improvement in performance compared against their single-threaded counterpart. Of course with Intel's Hyper-Threading and dual-core processors we knew it would only be a matter of time before these multi-threaded drivers would come about to Linux/Windows from NVIDIA, and we expect ATI will soon follow suit. For SMP (Symmetric Multi-Processing) users these future NVIDIA display drivers will definitely make an improvement in almost any environment.
NVIDIA Linux SLI: For almost a year now Windows gamers have been able to benefit from the advantages of Scalable Link Interface, or better known as SLI, while up until now alternative OS folks like us haven't had any such luck utilizing this innovative technology. Shipping with the NVIDIA 1.0-8XXX drivers, as we've already reported several times, will finally be Linux SLI support on the eve of ATI's CrossFire launch. This is also to keep in mind that we have yet to hear any confirmation from any ATI spokesperson whether their multi-GPU CrossFire technology will offer any support with its Linux display drivers in the near future. As Windows users had experienced with the initial SLI-enabled drivers, it will probably take a few revisions for NVIDIA engineers to work out all of the bugs and profiles but hopefully we'll see solid application profiles for such games as Unreal Tournament 2004, Doom 3, America's Army 2, Return To Castle Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory, and various other popular titles that offer Linux-native support. Although there had been rudimentary SLI support in the Windows Forceware drivers since about the 66.93 revision, the current-generation drivers require that the two SLI-compatible graphics cards be a matched pair but this is expected to change with the next major release. As long as the two graphics cards use the same GPU, they can run in tandem under SLI no matter the vendor or memory amount. Also, these upcoming drivers are expected to allow CoolBits to dynamically overclock the SLI cards dynamically meaning you could overclock both of the cards to their true potential while they're different values for both the core and memory frequencies. It's important to note that it's crucial they be the same GPU as it will not support different GeForce cards, such as running a GeForce 7800GTX with a 6600GT. This mix-and-match ability is quite appealing to most users and is expected to be similar for ATI's CrossFire, but we hope the same will hold true for NVIDIA's initial Linux 1.0-8XXX release.
Linux Antialiasing/Anisotropic Filtering: Premiering with the GeForce 7 series cards was a brand spanking new set of Antialiasing algorithms for further enhancing realistic rendering of game-play edges. Transparency Adaptive Supersampling and Transparency Adaptive Multisampling are the new AA modes that are supported by the latest GPUs but we have yet to see much of an advantage under Linux using these latest display technologies. It is expected NVIDIA will unveil some additional support and options for utilizing various modes of Antialiasing as well as Anisotropic Filtering in its 1.0-8XXX release. It's also predicted NVIDIA will append software support and improvements for similar graphical advancements like pixel shading techniques and the much-talked-about HDR (High Dynamic Range) Rendering, which is utilized in the Unreal Engine 3 that is the game-engine powering Unreal Tournament 2007. Unfortunately at this time, we don't have any definitive specifics as what other technologies will be ported to the Linux NVIDIA drivers but we do expect some vast improvements.
Although in this article we were only able to scratch the surface of what the NVIDIA Linux 1.0-8XXX/Release 80 drivers will hold, we expect these drivers will be a definitive bang and a big plus for Linux and Windows users alike. To recap, NVIDIA is expected to finally unveil Linux SLI capabilities with the new upcoming driver set and will also allow users to partake in mixing-and-matching GeForce cards from various vendors and dynamic overclocking abilities. Another one of the attractive additions to the display drivers is multi-threading capabilities for Symmetric Multi-Processing systems, which should yield a high boost in overall performance. Among the less talked about features but still very much noteworthy is the HDTV (High Definition TV) improvements, auto-detection advancements, and SLI vertical synchronization capabilities among other major creations. What remains to be heard at this point is whether NVIDIA will introduce support for SLI on alternative Chipsets, such as the Intel i945P with motherboards that offer dual PCI Express slots and SLI bridge such as the ASUS P5LD2 Deluxe. If all of these Linux display driver features remain true, you can expect to see a large driver performance roundup shortly thereafter the official release here on Phoronix. As Linux users haven't seen a major display driver release in months since the 1.0-7667 revision, as the 1.0-7676 version simply contained 7800GTX improvements, which was released in late June, the next and much anticipated 1.0-8XXX drivers should be released relatively soon and will be ameliorated. With the ATI R520 cards going to be available immediately upon its early October release, similar to the GeForce 7800GTX initial availability, we suspect NVIDIA will be publicly releasing their Forceware 80 and Linux 1.0-8XXX display drivers a few days prior to ATI's big launch in hopes of hindering ATI's sales.