Nvidia has a new videcoard driver available for download, and for you poor saps on dial-up, it will come as a double-edged sword. On the one hand, the 86.9MB download checks in at more than the twice the size of previously released drivers. But added bulk brings PhysX acceleration to the table for owners of Nvidia's GeForce 8, 9, and 200 series of videocards outfitted with a minimum of 256MB of video memory.
If you're anxious to see what potential lies in PhysX support, Nvidia offers a free GeForce Power Pack containing several demos, a full game (Warmonger), an Unreal Tournament 3 mod, and more.
The new driver also contains the usual assortment 3D application compatibility fixes, along with purported performance boosts in a handful of games. For example, Nvidia says single-GPU gamers can expect a 15 percent increase in Bioshock (DX10), 11 percent in Assassin's Creed (DX10), and 15 percent in Call of Duty 4, among other titles.
Last month Nvidia said it planned to tweak its 9800GTX videocard with a die shrink and faster clockspeeds resulting in the 9800GTX+, and today the release becomes official with immediate availability. Along with the 9800GTX+, Nvidia fleshes out its GeForce 9-series line with two other videocards, the 9800GT and 9500GT.
All three cards are available now, and each one brings support for Nvidia's PhysX and CUDA technologies, two areas currently exclusive to Nvidia.
"The addition of the new 9800GTX+, 9800GT, and the 9500GT GPUs brings a new level of visual computing capability to additional mainstream market segments," said Ujesh Desai, general manger of desktop GPUs at Nvidia. "Nvidia GPUs deliver the best bang for the buck in each price category, and with support for CUDA, PhysX, and 3D stereoscopic technology, consumers can now experience the unique, innovative, and immersive computing experience that only Nvidia can deliver."
Claiming victory in the bang-for-buck war would have been a tough sell just weeks ago, but such claims become easier to swallow with the 9500GT taking residence in the sub-$70 pricing tier. Both the 9800GT and GTX+ can be bought for under $200, with the latter going head to head against ATI's HD 4850 videocard. For you old schoolers, it hasn't been this fun to shop for a GPU since the TI4200 days.
Nvidia is preparing to release their WHQL certified PhysX driver on August 5th for GeForce 8, 9, and GTX series videocards. The new ForceWare driver will expand PhysX support to currently available PhysX titles like Ghost Recon 2: Advanced Warfighter, Warmonger and Cell Factor: Revolution.
WHQL or Windows Hardware Quality Labs is a testing process that when passed allows vendors to use a "Certified for Windows" logo, which certifies that the hardware or software has had testing by Microsoft to ensure compatibility with Windows. Many vendors like being able to hang that logo on their products, so we will see more videocards touting PhysX support and the Windows certified logo hitting big box store shelves soon.
Nvidia acquired PhysX when they bought Ageia. PhysX is now part of CUDA (Compute Unified Device Architecture) that Nvidia developed. CUDA may take off in a big way if some driver modders succeed in getting it to run on Radeon videocards. No word yet if ATI plans to support the project at all.
Yet another reason to upgrade my trusty 7900GT. Is PhysX support enough to make you upgrade your older card?
Tomshardware.com is reporting that Eran Badit editor-in-chief of ngohq.com has had some success running Nvidia’s CUDA platform and PhysX drivers on a Radeon video card. Apparently adding Radeon support to CUDA was not a big deal, but adding Radeon support for CUDA at the driver level is more challenging.
Badit says he needs support from ATI to finish out Radeon’s support for CUDA, but ATI has been slow to answer him, taking several days to reply. Surprisingly, Nvidia has been much more helpful and opened access to their Developer Relations and is providing assistance, including access to documentation, SDKs, hardware and actual engineers.
Nvidia’s official position is now that it doesn’t mind PhysX running on the Radeon an interesting change from when Justin Kerr reported that Nvidia wanted to license PhysX support to ATI pennies a GPU. This looks like additional pressure from Nvidia to make it’s platform dominant over ATI and Intel’s planned platforms. Third party implementation of CUDA on the Radeon is sure to rattle ATI’s cage.
Tom’s Hardware pinged ATI on the issue, but hadn’t heard anything back as of yet. The longer we wait for a competing platform from ATI, will only help Nvidia’s platform capture more market share. ATI looks to have an uphill battle against the already established
Recently in both the print and online versions of Maximum PC we looked at Nvidia’s CUDA API and what a GP-GPU future might look like. The one wild card in this equitation is the other big player in the graphics card market, ATI. Will ATI play nice by supporting CUDA and licensing PhysX? Or will it go its own way, a result which may end up killing both companies initiatives.
Nvidia is preparing to roll out full support for hardware accelerated physics on its high end graphics cards including the 9800 & 200 series. New beta drivers which enable this functionality can now be found using the advanced driver search tool. Version 177.39 installs PhysX drivers that will enable the graphics card to emulate Ageia hardware. Physics acceleration is part of Nvidia’s new CUDA initiative aimed at convincing gamers that graphics hardware is more capable and valuable then CPU’s. Games of note that currently support PhysX include Gears of War, Mass Effect, Rainbow Six Vegas, and Unreal Tournament 3. The list of supported titles is expected to grow exponentially as Nvidia rolls this feature out to older hardware in the coming months.
Hit the jump to learn how to really put PhysX to the test.
Computers are a cutthroat business, and often times compatibility has nothing to do with the technology at hand, but licensing agreements and corporate politics. All that stands between SLI on an Intel motherboard (or CrossFireX on Nvidia silicon) are drivers and a BIOS tweak. Don't believe it? Look at HP's Blackbird 002.
Now take that same concept and apply it to the heated GPU wars. With AMD gobbling up Havok and Nvidia acquiring AGEIA, the race is on to not only deliver the fastest graphics card, but physics acceleration too. Of course, developers would prefer one standard, and Nvidia indicated it would make PhysX available for free through its CUDA SDK, but if ATI had any plans of going that route, it appears they've been beaten to the punch.
To learn more about the modified drivers and where and when you can get them, click through the jump.