Wednesday, January 31, 2007

NVIDIA redeems itself... almost

I am glad that I held my fire and did not post yesterday.

As promised, NVIDIA delivered a device driver for its 8800GTX and 8800GTS graphics cards by the end of January. It is still Beta, but Version 100.59 was delivered today as promised, right on the heels of Version 100.54, which was released just the day before when Vista was officially launched to the public.

What has angered a lot of NVIDIA's customers about this entire Vista driver episode, which continues today, is NVIDIA's arrogance towards its customers.

It would have been so easy for NVIDIA to explain to its customers why a Vista driver for its G80-based graphics cards was not made available earlier. Its weak excuse that NVIDIA needed the time to test the driver to assure a high quality, working driver is belied by its release of a beta Version 100.54 on the Vista launch date, a driver that according to most, performed worse and had more defects than the leaked Version 100.30. Then to follow it up the very next day with another beta Version 100.59 without any explanation adds insult to injury.

This arrogance appears to be symptomatic of today's large corporations. NVIDIA is not alone, and the only way to correct this type of behavior is for consumers to speak out with their purse strings. Rant off.

The first sign of good news is the size of the Version 100.59 driver versus Version 100.30 - it is 47,026 KB versus 20,747 KB in size.

I uninstalled Version 100.30 using the Control Panel "Uninstall or change a program" of Vista which required a system restart.

At the start of installing Version 100.50, Vista displayed the Windows Security message: "Windows can't verify the publisher of this driver software."

I guess NVIDIA still does not have the appropriate trusted certificate for its drivers. In fairness to NVIDIA, the Version 100.59 driver installation completed without a hitch.

The "swapped monitors" problem that was present in Version 100.30 has not been fixed in Version 100.59.

And I am not about to test the problem of the video driver unable to turn the monitor(s) back on after powering them off under a power plan. I'll leave that for others to test.

The first test I ran was 3DMark06. To be honest, I did not expect it to run. I was surprised that it actually ran and completed.

I was even more surprised with the resulting performance score of 8731 3DMarks which bested the score of 8409 3DMarks on Windows XP MCE 2005 under almost the same exact conditions. Actually, Vista was handicapped with the Windows "Sidebar" running during the test. That is a promising start for the NVIDIA driver. Here's the 3DMark comparison.

The next test I tried was to run the new Vista Ultimate Extra "Hold 'Em" poker game which did not run properly with Version 100.30. It still does not run properly with Version 100.59, resulting in the same problem: flashing text.

At least for now, I have a working video driver which I can use to conduct further testing.

Thanks NVIDIA, but you could have made it so much easier on yourself and your customers if you simply took the time to inform them. No news is worse than bad news.

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