NVIDIA AYiR 2005
In continuation of our previous piece entitled ATI AYiR 2005 (A Year in Review), where we looked at ATI's features implemented this year into their Linux drivers as well as thoroughly examining the frame-rate performance, today we have turned the tables yet again and are taking another look at NVIDIA's gains this year. In addition, due to popular request, and keeping with the standards set by the previous ATI article, we will also be comparing our results against that of the latest NVIDIA ForceWare Windows display drivers. Once again, some of NVIDIA's Linux advancements for 2005 have been OpenGL 2.0 support, CoolBits implementation, 7800GTX support, nvidia-xconfig utility, and SLI (Scalable Link Interface) support. Due to a four month void in the schedule for the Rel80 Linux drivers, only seven official drivers were released this year compared to nine from the red team or the nine for Windows XP/2000 ForceWare 32-bit, which is not even counting the BETA, Quadro, or WDM drivers. Although debated, two of the largest implementations in the Linux drivers would likely be the support for GeForce 7 series and Scalable Link Interface. With the abilities to run a GeForce 7800 card under Linux or two run two GPUs in SLI, if you are looking after the best performance possible NVIDIA has it over ATI, as the red team has yet to implement official support for the X1000 series or CrossFire. As we have delivered through dozens of NVIDIA centric articles this year, there has been significant strides by the green team to improve the quality of its alternative OS drivers not only for UNIX/Linux but also FreeBSD x86 and Solaris x64/x86. However, as we had mentioned in the ATI AYiR 2005 piece, NVIDIA still has a lot of work ahead of them for 2006 if they wish their Linux and Windows drivers to compete on the same playing field. The Linux proprietary drivers continue to lack critical components found in its Windows drivers as well as delivering additional compatibility and features for SLI support. At this time, there is no SLI profile or dedicated control panel with options except for using nvidia-xconfig to enable SLI in automatic, Alternate Frame Rendering (AFR), Split Frame Rendering (SFR), and SLI Antialiasing (SLIAA). However, all of this is only a small portion of what is on NVIDIA's internal TODO list.
Although in our ATI AYiR 2005 article we turned to a Lenovo ThinkPad R52 mobile solution for its Mobility RADEON X300 64MB, we stuck with a desktop system for our entire NVIDIA Linux and Windows driver testing. Due to the mainstream status of the GeForce 6600GT 128MB PCI Express part, and Linux support for the card since last year, we used the card for all of our NVIDIA testing. Like our recent ATI piece, we went with Red Hat Fedora Core 4 and the same software selection.
As with the benchmarks for our ATI article, we used Enemy Territory, Unreal Tournament 2004 (UMark), and Doom 3 for all of our frame-rate testing. All three benchmarks are available on both Linux and Windows with similar versions. In addition to the same benchmarking settings, we also ran Doom 3 at 1280 x 1024 with high quality settings to greater stress the 6600GT. The NVIDIA Linux driver versions used in the testing was 1.0-7167, 1.0-7174, 1.0-7664, 1.0-7667, 1.0-7676, 1.0-8174, and 1.0-8178. The Microsoft Windows XP Professional Service Pack 2 drivers we used were NVIDIA's ForceWare 81.98 and 82.12 BETA drivers both of which were released around the same time as the Linux 1.0-8178 drivers. On the following pages are our results.
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