So, many people that buy graphics cards severely underestimate the value of updating GPU drivers. This past week has been a perfect example of how important graphics drivers are to the overall performance and experience of the GPU you buy. You could buy a GPU for a certain purpose because it’s the best GPU on paper, but if one of the things that you need it to do simply doesn’t work, it’s worthless. As such has been the case with some of Nvidia’s and AMD’s GPUs.
Nvidia has had some interesting experiences with 4K displays, as I noted here when we had an EIZO 4K display in our testing lab. We noted that the only game that we could really test successfully with an Nvidia GPU was Battlefield 3 and that was because there was an application that helped stretch the game in windowed mode to the maximum resolution of the display. Since our initial complaints and Nvidia’s response to them, it looks like they’ve had a change of heart and decided that 4K tiled displays do indeed need support on consumer graphics cards as well as professional cards. They recently released the 326.41 Beta driver, which enables the ability to support tiled 4K displays and expands the amount of 4K displays supported. This very same driver also adds the PC streaming functionality to the GeForce Experience which enables for game streaming from the PC to Nvidia’s SHIELD.
AMD has also had some interesting experiences that their customers have been experiencing, namely when it comes to the terminology known as micro-stuttering with mutliple GPU configurations, which include multiple HD 7970s or a dual GPU card like the HD 7990. Personally, when testing an AMD 7990 we only notice micro-stuttering in one of the games that we tested, which was admittedly a little disappointing since it was originally associated with lower frame rates. With AMD’s new CrossFire Frame Pacing in their 13.8 Beta driver, they are able to significantly improve this problem which they’ve been criticized by Nvidia, their main competitor, of having. Currently, it’s supported for DirectX 10 and DirectX 11 applications, and resolutions up to and including 2560×1600 (single display). This means that for now, people with DX9 games or multi-monitor (Eyefinity) setups or 4K could still experience this issue, we haven’t had a chance to test it in 4K yet, but we’ll get to that soon. AMD states that this is phase one, and that phase two should come shortly with OpenGL, resolutions above 2560×1600 and DX9.
What does this mean? Both companies are finally acknowledging issues that they’ve had with their GPUs and actually resolving them instead of sweeping them under the rug. While I would say that Nvidia’s issue is less crucial than AMD’s, both companies are improving parts of their graphics drivers that their competitors have been visibly stronger than they have been. With Nvidia’s improved 4K support, we can finally test more games in 4K and test multiple GeForce GPUs against AMD’s in more than one or two games. Hopefully AMD continues to improve upon their CrossFire Frame Pacing tool and that both companies find new places to improve their drivers.