GeForce 378.78 drivers supercharge DirectX 12 and Vulkan

— 10:30 AM on March 9, 2017

The GeForce GTX 1080 Ti is out, and that means you need a driver that knows what the heck it is. Fortunately Nvidia just released GeForce driver version 378.78, and it supports the "Ultimate GeForce." It's also Game Ready for Ghost Recon: Wildlands, something that could help you keep performance up with all those fancy GameWorks effects the game can use. Neither of those items are the most interesting parts of the new driver, though. Nvidia says the 378.78 driver has the potential to improve performance by as much as 33% in DirectX 12 and 50% in Vulkan.

The emergence of these two low-level graphics APIs has been fraught with contentious discussion. Rival AMD's Radeon GPUs saw much greater improvements than Nvidia's GeForces when running games that use the new APIs. To some folks, this wasn't all that surprising, since Nvidia already had a tightly-optimized DirectX 11 driver, and many believed that further optimization would yield little. As it turns out, Nvidia's software engineers have shown that there are still performance gains on tap.

The new raft of optimizations nets small performance uplifts in DirectX 12 mode for Ashes of the Singularity, The Division, and Gears of War 4. Meanwhile, gamers playing Hitman and Rise of the Tomb Raider should see massive gains. As for Vulkan, it's not exactly clear what game or graphics card Nvidia tested, but the company claims that from June 2016 to now, it has improved Vulkan performance by roughly 50%—making it about 33% faster than OpenGL. We didn't quite see such an uplift in Doom, but it's nice to see the green team paying attention to open standards.

Besides the performance improvements and new product support, the 378.78 driver also fixes some bugs. GeForce Experience's FPS counter should no longer appear in Discord. Notebooks with GTX 1050 Ti cards should stop blue-screening so much. The long-standing "Optimized for Compute Performance" setting that was forcing users to sacrifice game performance if they wanted to run PhysX in hardware should now be fixed, at least on GTX 980 Ti cards. Steam should be able to encode streams using NVENC again, too.

Not every bug has been squashed, though. Don't open Ansel in Ghost: Recond Wildlands if you have FXAA enabled, or the game will crash. For Honor is still crashing if you skip the intro cutscene with Shadowplay enabled. Not as severe a bug, but Civilization VI might suffer video corruption if you skip its intro cutscene. Quantum Break may crash in windowed mode on GM204-based cards. Finally, with these drivers, make sure you do a clean install. Nvidia notes that installing these drivers over a previous version may fail.

Altogether, we're looking forward to seeing the fruits of Nvidia's driver team's labors. GeForce Experience users probably already have the new driver. The rest of us can do things the old-fashioned way at Nvidia's download page.

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