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Review: AMD and Nvidia's 2014 driver progress

by Ryan Martin on 8 January 2015, 14:00

Tags: AMD (NYSE:AMD), NVIDIA (NASDAQ:NVDA)

Quick Link: HEXUS.net/qacnmn

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Conclusion

There has been a flurry of numbers to digest thus far so below is a summary table to sharpen the focus. The results demonstrate that, for 1080p gaming at least, a year's worth of driver updates roughly equates to a five per cent increase in graphics performance. In our particular suite of tests both Nvidia cards yielded higher average increases than their AMD counterparts, although, margin of error makes it too close to call a 'winner,' for want of a better term.

 
AMD Radeon R9 290 4GB
AMD Radeon R7 265 2GB
Nvidia GeForce GTX 780 Ti 3GB
Nvidia GeForce GTX 750 Ti 2GB
3DMark Fire Strike
+3.2%
+0.1%
+1.6%
+1.8%
3DMark Fire Strike Extreme
0.0%
+2.0%
+2.3%
+4.1%
Bioshock Infinite
+13.0%
+13.5%
+3.6%
+0.1%
Crysis 3
+3.3%
+4.7%
+3.0%
+2.2%
Grid Autosport
+5.0%
+3.2%
+27.0%
+6.6%
Tomb Raider
+0.1%
+0.1%
+3.8%
+12.2%
Total War: Rome II
+4.4%
+1.6%
+1.9%
+6.5%
Average Increase
+4.1%
+3.6%
+6.2%
+4.8%

Both AMD and Nvidia GPUs revealed modest results in the grand scheme of things. An explanation for this phenomenon could be that AMD's GCN and Nvidia's Kepler architectures are both already mature and well-served by driver updates from the previous year. The Maxwell-powered GTX 750 Ti defies that argument to a certain extent, although, Maxwell isn't immensely different from Kepler at an architectural level.

From a performance standpoint there's little evidence that points towards the superiority of either AMD or Nvidia drivers, both companies delivered equivalent performance boosts to their customers throughout 2014. It's worth considering that there is another side to this story that numbers and graphs simply can't account for; bug fixes and new features are both crucial responsibilities of driver releases.

During 2014 both AMD and Nvidia had essay-length release notes for most driver revisions, making it hard to quantify which company has squashed more bugs. In any case, a higher or lower number wouldn't necessarily prove anything. More bugs fixes aren't always good, it could simply mean more bugs slipped through pre-release quality controls.

In terms of new features AMD and Nvidia have battled each other with like-for-like offerings. Both companies have continued to update and expand the reach of their driver-companion software, Nvidia with its GeForce Experience and AMD with its Gaming Evolved client. Nvidia's launch of Dynamic Super Resolution (DSR) was matched with an AMD-equivalent, Virtual Super Resolution (VSR), within just a few months.

As we push into the new year the state of drivers will likely be much of the same. That is, slight performance improvements across the board but primarily driver updates will be delivered for new game releases, unresolved bugs and to add support for new graphics features.

Time for a driver update anyone?



HEXUS Forums :: 18 Comments

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Good article, but hell no - not time for a driver update! I think the Omega driver from AMD is the way things should go - a really concentrated effort on getting rid of bugs and things that detract from user experience. For 5% improvement you should just OC the card if you need it.
After reading the article I couldn't help but think that there was nothing surprising in the outcome or the results.

Though I'm happy to see that both camps have shown almost equal gains and I feel that both brands are now a lot better at producing quality drivers for great graphics cards all around.
I switched over to Nvidia just before the Omega driver came out and i'd have like to have seen how it fared with my old card.

this is all good news for the PC master race though. Things will only get better this year….we hope.
Now I'm curious as to the Intel drivers performance gains.
As above, I'd rather have a bug fix. Currently plagued with 1440p issues on my 760. Random crashes, no overclocking capability etc