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   Review : nVIDIA Detonator 3 Reference Drivers »  


nVIDIA Detonator 3 Reference Drivers - Preamble
 Date  : Sept 24th, 2000
 Category  : Drivers
 Publisher   : nVIDIA
 Author  : Jin-Wei Tioh
nVIDIA has the habit of releasing a major driver revision whenever it announces/launches a new product. Take the 5.xx drivers, which were released upon the announcement of the GeForce2 GTS. The 5.xx drivers offered some new features (eg. S3TC support) while significantly improving performance over the older 3.xx drivers.

Now, with the announcement of the GeForce2 Ultra, nVIDIA has locked and loaded the Detonator 3. For those of us that are acquainted with version numbers, the 1st version of the Detonator 3 drivers are the 6.16 drivers. The drivers utilized in this review are the 5.30 and 6.18 drivers.

Unified Driver Architecture

nVIDIA is one of the companies that uses a unified driver architechture. Basically, this means that a single set of drivers are able to function for the entire line of nVIDIA products, from the TNT right until the GeForce2 Ultra. Small wonder that nVIDIA is able to stick to its 6-month product cycle, since much less time has to be spent developing drivers. Of course, optimizations for the individual products still have to be made, but at least their new products will function reliably.

What does this mean for the end user? When you upgrade from say, a TNT2 to a GeForce2, your new card should be able to be automatically installed with the existing drivers on your system. Needless to say, this cuts down on reviewing hassles since all we have to do is plug in the new card, reboot once, and presto!

What's New

The Detonator 3 drivers offer mainly 3 new features. Firstly, the driver gives nVIDIA cards the Digital Vibrance Control (DVC) feature, which was previously only available with the GeForce2 MX and Quadro2 MX. According to nVIDIA :

“Digital Vibrance Control (DVC) was designed to make all PC visuals crisp, bright and clean. This patent pending technology is built into the GeForce2 MX graphics subsystem and allows the user to manage the digital bitstream between the graphics pipeline and the display subsystem. Through a simple user interface the user can control color separation and intensity resulting in bold, dynamic visuals with sharp, balanced color. Since DVC digitally accesses data before it reaches the display subsystem, its benefits apply to all forms of output including TV, digital flat panels, monitors, and LCD projectors.”

The next main feature is really a fix. Up until now, the TwinView feature on the GeForce2 MX had not been able to be utilized, as nVIDIA had not been able to get it working in the reference. The TwinView feature is now fully functional, and it is one of the more important features of the Detonator 3 drivers.

Lastly, the FSAA control panels for Direct3D and OpenGL have been much improved. Under OpenGL, you can now adjust the FSAA method utilized without spelunking around the registry. Under Direct3D, the anti-aliasing method being used at each slider point is actually listed. All this is well and good. But what about performance? According to nVIDIA, the list of performance enhancements are :

  • Takes advantage of advanced CPU instruction sets, such as AMD's 3DNOW! and Intel's SSE and SSE2
  • Enhanced for the full range of Intel chipsets, including the i815, i820 and i840
  • Highly efficient blending modes implemented in both Direct3D and OpenGL Reduced OpenGL driver call overhead over previous driver revisions
  • Improved Direct3D texture management
  • Improved OpenGL asynchronous command processing
  • Advanced vertex buffer support in Direct3D
  • Advanced vertex array support in OpenGL
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