NVIDIA has been cooking up a new set of graphics drivers, ForceWare release 55, for release soon. In fact, the drivers have been WHQL'ed and will be available from NVIDIA-based card manufacturers shortly. The original plan had been for NVIDIA to release these drivers today on NVIDIA.com, but apparently, a problem with UT2004 caused NVIDIA to delay the release for a couple weeks. Card makers will move ahead with the WHQL 56.56 drivers, though, so you should be able to find 'em online.
Release 55 includes a number of new features and enhancements, including application/game profiles that allow GPU settings for things like antialiasing, texture filtering, vertical sync, and the like to be set and stored individually. In fact, users may stores multiple profiles for use with an application, so one could have a "pretty" setup for single-player gaming and a "quick-and-dirty" setup for multiplayer games. If it works as advertised, this feature should be incredibly helpful to us tweakin' types.
To complement profiles and make NVIDIA's settings more accessible, release 55 initiates a conscious effort from NVIDIA to make its control panel available from context menus and the like. The incessant "Display -> Settings -> Advanced..." dance may be coming to an end. Also, NVIDIA has expanded mouse-over help balloons to include more detail about what the settings actually do. Another enhancement on the usability front in release 55 is a "Play on my TV" option available in Explorer context menus for various types of video files. Choosing this item will expand the video to full screen on a connected TV display.
Additionally, Forceware 55 includes version 3.5 of NVIDIA's nView display management software. The biggest addition here is a pop-up ad blocker, built right in to the video drivers. NVIDIA's fancy-pants blocker will even preview a pop-up window for a user-controllable number of seconds, then fade it out. I find this rather amusing.
nView also gets the usability treatment, with simplified setup of the display gridlines feature and revamped graphical representations of different display types in the monitor configuration dialogs.
Of course, it wouldn't be an NVIDIA driver update without some outrageous performance claims, so how's this? Compared to its 53.03 driver release, NVIDIA claims up to 108% better performance in F1 Challenge on the GeForce FX 5200 and 5900XT, and up to 48% more FPS in Neverwinter Nights on a 5950 Ultra. If you think this driver is going to make your FX 5200 into a Giant of Gaming, though, we need to talk.
Finally, this latest driver includes hooks to support NVIDIA's PCI Express-based GeForce PCX products, for those out on the bleeding edge.
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