Arriving in April was the NVIDIA 173.08 driver with the first release of the year carrying some real changes. This release had added support for the Quadro FX 3600M, GeForce 9800GX2, GeForce 9800GTX, GeForce 9500M GS, GeForce 8400, and GeForce 8400GS. Support for the Quadro FX 4600/5600 SDI and Quadro G-Sync II were also appended. Aside from support for new ASICs there was improved hot-key switching for GeForce 8 GPUs and the rest of the changes were made up of driver fixes.
Following the availability of the 173.08 driver were several months without any stable driver release but just a series of beta drivers that added a few features here and there and other fixes. The next official release came just a month ago with the 177.82 driver, which succeeded the 177.13, 177.67, 177.68, 177.70, 177.76, 177.78, and 177.80 betas.
The NVIDIA 177.82 driver officially added support for the Quadro NVS 450, Quadro FX 370 LP, Quadro FX 4800, Quadro FX 5800, Quadro FX 470, and Quadro CX. The other highlights included a power management fix when resuming from S3 suspend mode, more improved hotkey switching, and image corruption on Firefox 3.
The NVIDIA 180.xx series driver introduced support for OpenGL 3.0, brought VDPAU for PureVideo-like features, improved X pixmap placement, and a few other minor features. The latest available release at the time of our testing was the 180.11 beta driver, but last Friday NVIDIA had released a 180.16 beta with a revised VDPAU implementation and a couple of fixes.
We had used the same test system as our AMD Linux 2008 Year in Review for testing. This consisted of an Intel Core 2 Duo E8400 that's overclocked to 4.00GHz, an ASUS P5E64 WS Professional motherboard, 2GB of OCZ DDR3-1333MHz memory, Western Digital WD1600JS-00MHB0 SATA HDD, and an OCZ EliteXStream 800W power supply. The graphics card used for testing was a Gigabyte GeForce 8600GTS 256MB. For maintaining compatibility with the older drivers we had used Ubuntu 7.10 with the Linux 2.6.22 kernel, GNOME 2.20, X Server 1.3.0, and GCC 4.1.3.
Testing was automated through the Phoronix Test Suite (specifically Tydal Alpha 3) and we ran the same tests as in our yearly AMD article. These tests included GtkPerf, QGears2, Enemy Territory: Quake Wars, Planet Penguin Racer, Tremulous, OpenArena, World of Padman, Unreal Tournament 2004, GLMark, Norsetto Shadow, and the WINE Humus tests.