ForceWare's new features
Although the VT2DR256's bundle isn't full of must-have titles and utilities, the card gets a big software boost from NVIDIA's latest ForceWare driver package. The ForceWare 56.64s don't promise a performance revolution, but they do add a number of useful features that give the VT2DR256 a little extra polish.
For gamers, the ForceWare drivers offer a number of different image quality presets to make managing antialiasing and anisotropic filtering levels a breeze. Users can take advantage of pre-programmed image quality levels for a number of different games, or roll their own. The drivers can handle multiple profiles for each game to allow users to crank up the eye candy for a more visually stunning single-player experience, but also ensure buttah-smooth frame rates for competitive multiplayer gaming. Currently, the user must activate a desired profile before launching a game. However, NVIDIA plans to have future driver revisions launch image quality profiles automatically when games are loaded.
Image quality profiles are really only useful for 3D applications, but the ForceWare drivers also offer plenty of neat little tools for desktop applications with the nView desktop manager.
nView starts out with a number of helpful wizards that make configuring multiple monitors and desktop preferences a snap. Those looking to dig deeper can browse through one of nView's tabbed screens to control properties for multiple desktops, window transparency effects, hot keys, zooming, and even mouse kinematics.
The mouse kinematics are a personal favorite of mine because they allow you to "throw" an application window from one screen to another in a multimonitor environment by simply flicking the mouse. Users can also associate actions with a number of different mouse gestures and even control the sensitivity of those gestures to match their reflexes.
In the eye candy department, nView lets users control the transparency of the Windows task bar. Users can also enable transparency for window dragging, though there's no way to dictate transparency levels for stationary windows.
Transparency effects also make an appearance in nView's pop-up blocker, which can briefly preview and then fade out pop-up windows. Users can also choose to completely block pop-ups or only allow certain sites to launch new windows.
At first glance, it might seem a little odd that NVIDIA has integrated a pop-up blocker into its graphics driver. However, since nView is all about desktop and window management, it makes sense to block pop-ups that could otherwise pollute a finely tuned desktop environment.
Speaking of which, nView gridlines let users segment desktop space into distinct regions to help organize multiple windows.
Drawing out gridlines to define screen regions is a simple click-and-drag affair, and once the grid is in place, users can maximize application windows within distinct screen regions to avoid window overlap.
Tabbed browsing may be a better bet for navigating multiple web sites, but gridlines are perfect for reserving screen real estate for instant messaging apps, IRC windows, and Winamp playlists. Gridlines also work with multiple monitors, though individual gridlines may not span multiple screens. Overall, that's not a crippling limitation, especially since neither ATI nor Matrox offers anything even remotely like gridlines.
As much as I love all the features and functionality that NVIDIA's ForceWare drivers and nView desktop management software bring to the table, I have one nit to pick: nView doesn't offer a "smart" taskbar. Realtime Soft's UltraMon software has a nifty little feature that allows each screen in a multimonitor environment to have its own "smart" Windows taskbar. Each screen's taskbar shows tabs for only those windows that are currently open on that screen, which makes organizing multiple applications on multiple screens much easier. For me, the "smart" taskbar is a must-have feature for any multimonitor Windows environment, and I'd like to see similar functionality integrated into nView.