|ASUS ENGTX260 Matrix GeForce GTX 260 Video Card|
|Reviews - Featured Reviews: Video Cards|
|Written by Bruce Normann - Edited by Olin Coles|
|Friday, 15 May 2009|
Page 14 of 15
GTX260 Final Thoughts
One of the enduring differentiators between NVIDIA and ATI GPU products is the quality and quantity of drivers that are available to support the latest hardware. You might think that quality is the only relevant consideration, but that ignores the fourth dimension of product development: Time. It's impossible to produce a driver package that is all things, to all people, all at once. It takes time to get everything right, and to incorporate all the desired features and enhancements that the customer wants.
At the risk of offending all the software engineers reading this.... there are two major methodologies for S/W development; waterfall and spiral. At the end of the waterfall process, everything that was planned to go in the S/W is in there, the software is released, and the project is finished. Just like a real waterfall, once you start, you don't stop until you reach the end. There are no intermediate steps; you get into the barrel at the beginning and you get out of the barrel (one way or another) at the end.
In spiral development, you zero in on the goal in a continuous spiral path. Every 360 degrees or so (one iteration of the design cycle), you release a partially complete, functional version of the desired final product. Every time you complete one loop, you either enhance existing features, or you add new ones. For a number of reasons, spiral development is the norm in driver software for video cards. Life as a computer enthusiast would certainly be simpler if the manufacturers all followed the waterfall development process, but we would still probably be waiting for the 8800GT drivers if they did. We have to live with a far greater amount of diversity and some instability in the video card market than we would prefer, just so we can get the ultimate payoff, like the 14% increase in frames per second that the latest NVIDIA driver (v185.85) delivers for Far Cry 2 players. Next month, Cryis might get the bump, after that WOW and L4D, and so it goes.
To get back to the beginning of this section, where I mentioned Quality and Quantity, now you can see why it's pretty much impossible to have one without the other. This is where NVIDIA distinguishes itself, they consistently provide more rapid, and consequently, more optimized driver updates for their products. Sometimes this is maddening; some of us don't feel like checking every week to see if a new driver's been released, but if you're willing to put in the effort, you will generally be rewarded with a more highly optimized video system.
During this review, I used six different driver packages, four NVIDIA, and two ATI (see what I mean...). I'm only reporting the results from three; the standard results all use a common ATI or NVIDIA driver, chosen for compatibility with recent articles published here on Benchmark Reviews. The overclocked results below utilized the best driver available, just because I wanted to show what was possible, as of today.