NVIDIA has taken a fancy to having a significant driver release whenever it announces a new product. The GeForce 2 GTS announcement brought us the 5.X drivers which drastically improved performance over the older 3.X drivers.
This time around NVIDIA has the Detonator 3 drivers ready for the GeForce 2 Ultra announcement. Detonator 3 is just the marketing name. Those of us who talk about version numbers would identify the Detonator 3 drivers as the 6.16 drivers.
We have to credit NVIDIA for having such an elegant driver solution. The single set of Detonator drivers work with all NVIDIA cards. You can swap out your TNT2 and replace it with a GeForce 2 and Windows should be able to automatically install your new card with the existing Detonator drivers. That's definitely the main reason why we tend to use NVIDIA cards for our various test setups -they're easy to install and you don't have to look around for specific drivers whenever you want to change cards.
NVIDIA's driver and chip architectures are designed to make driver development fairly simple. Instead of working from the ground up with each new chip, NVIDIA's software team can build on already existing drivers.
What's new with Detonator 3? First of all, the driver gives you the Digital Vibrance Control feature. Digital Vibrance Control basically allows you to adjust your color, gamma, etc. Previously, DVC was only available with GeForce 2 MX and Quadro 2 products.
Detonator 3 also offers improved menus, including a much improved FSAA selection menu. You'll no longer have to deal with that cryptic, unlabeled FSAA slider.
New features and improved menus are fine and dandy, but what we really want to know about is performance. According to the list of performance enhancements NVIDIA gave us, the Detonator 3 drivers certainly sound impressive. Check out the list:
Enhanced for the full range of Intel chipsets, including the i815, i820 and i840
Takes advantage of advanced CPU instruction sets, such as AMD's 3DNOW! and Intel's SSE and SSE2
Highly efficient blending modes implemented in both Direct3D and OpenGL
Reduced OpenGL driver call overhead over previous driver revisions
Improved OpenGL asynchronous command processing
Advanced vertex buffer support in Direct3D
Advanced vertex array support in OpenGL
Improved Direct3D texture management
Do these enhancements translate into increased performance? Read on and find out!