As regularly featured by BabelTechReviews, this evaluation charts the performance of 32 games using the latest GeForce WHQL 353.62 driver that was released the day before Windows 10 was launched on July 29, versus the last Geforce WHQL 353.30 driver that was released the day before Batman: Arkham Knights was first launched on June 23.
We want to document the performance changes of this current WHQL 353.62 driver on Windows 8.1 immediately before we upgrade to Windows 10. We are also benching for an upcoming evaluation of the new AMD Windows 10 15.7.1 driver to be published here this weekend. This mini series will culminate in a comparison of the performance of the latest AMD and Nvidia drivers on Windows 8.1 versus running them on Windows 10, next week.
This driver performance analysis features Nvidia’s top Maxwell gaming GeForce card, the GTX 980 Ti, and we also benchmark GTX 980 Ti SLI. Our results should be proportionally similar for the TITAN X, the GTX 980, and other Maxwell cards. We are going to give you the performance results of the GTX 980 Ti and 980 Ti SLI at 1920×1080, 2560×1440, and at 3840×2160 resolutions. This driver performance evaluation will chart a natural comparison of the performance changes since Nvidia’s last WHQL driver set.
We are going to test GeForce WHQL 353.62 using our current benchmark suite of 32 games plus 3 synthetic benchmarks. We have added the “Kite Demo” on Unreal Engine 4 at 1920×1080 and Batman: Arkham Knight although it has not yet been patched. Our testing platform is Windows 8.1 64-bit, using an Intel Core i7-4790K at 4.00GHz which turbos to 4.4GHz for all cores, an ASUS Z97E motherboard, and 16GB of Kingston “Beast” HyperX RAM at 2133MHz. The settings and hardware are identical except for the drivers being tested.
At GTX 760 and above, we test at higher settings and resolutions generally than we test midrange and lower-end cards. Although all of our games are now tested at three resolutions: 3840×2160, 2560×1440 and 1920×1080 at 60Hz, and we use DX11 whenever possible with a very strong emphasis on the latest DX11 games.
Let’s get right to the test configuration, the driver release notes, and then to the results.
Test Configuration & Driver Release Notes
Test Configuration – Hardware
- Intel Core i7-4790K (reference 4.0GHz, HyperThreading and Turbo boost is on to 4.4GHz; DX11 CPU graphics), supplied by Intel.
- ASUS Z97-E motherboard (Intel Z97 chipset, latest BIOS, PCOe 3.0 specification, CrossFire/SLI 8x+8x)
- Kingston 16 GB HyperX Beast DDR3 RAM (2×8 GB, dual-channel at 2133MHz, supplied by Kingston)
- GeForce GTX 980 Ti, 6GB reference clocks, supplied by Nvidia
- EVGA GTX 980 Ti, 6GB, reference clocks, supplied by EVGA
- 2TB Toshiba 7200 rpm HDD
- EVGA 1000G 1000W power supply unit
- Cooler Master 2.0 Seidon, supplied by Cooler Master
- Onboard Realtek Audio
- Genius SP-D150 speakers, supplied by Genius
- Thermaltake Overseer RX-I full tower case, supplied by Thermaltake
- ASUS 12X Blu-ray writer
- Monoprice Crystal Pro 4K
Test Configuration – Software
- Nvidia GeForce 353.62 WHQL drivers and GeForce 353.30 WHQL drivers for the GTX 980 Ti including for SLI. High Quality, prefer maximum performance, single display.
- VSync is off in the control panel.
- AA enabled as noted in games; all in-game settings are specified with 16xAF always applied; 16xAF forced in control panel for Crysis.
- All results show average, minimum and maximum frame rates except as noted.
- Highest quality sound (stereo) used in all games.
- Windows 8.1 64, all DX10 titles were run under DX10 render paths; DX11 titles under DX11 render paths. Latest DirectX
- All games are patched to their latest versions at time of publication.
The 32 Game benchmarks & 3 synthetic tests
- Firestrike – Basic & Extreme
- Heaven 4.0
- Kite Demo, Unreal Engine 4
- STALKER, Call of Pripyat
- Max Payne 3
- the Secret World
- Sleeping Dogs
- Hitman: Absolution
- Tomb Raider: 2013
- Crysis 3
- BioShock: Infinite
- Metro: Last Light Redux (2014)
- Battlefield 4
- ArmA 3
- Batman: Arkham Origins
- Sniper Elite 3
- GRID: Autosport
- Middle Earth: Shadows of Mordor
- Alien Isolation
- Assassin’s Creed Unity
- Civilization Beyond Earth
- Far Cry 4
- Dragon’s Age: Inquisition
- Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes
- The Crew
- Total War: Attila
- Wolfenstein: The Old Blood
- Grand Theft Auto V
- the Witcher 3
- Batman: Arkham Origins
Since Batman: Arkham Knight is still a new benchmark for BTR which replaced Batman: Arkham Origins, the settings we use are completely maxed-out, with every setting on, and at the highest settings. Since GameWorks Interactive Smoke/Fog as well as Interactive Paper Debris depend on GPU PhysX and CUDA, they cannot be run on Radeons, we are now benching with those two settings On versus Off, much as we benchmark Metro Last Light Redux with PhysX On vs Off and the Witcher 3 with HairWorks On versus Off.
Batman: Arkham Knights was released last month and sales were halted due to bugs and performance issues that do not affect our PC. The game itself is outstanding and we hope to have a performance/IQ evaluation of it when the game is finally rereleased next month.
The “Kite demo” is an Unreal 4 demo based on a custom dev version allowing use of the console that was put together by psolord at AnandTech VC&G forums. We run it at its default settings at 1920×1080 and use Fraps to measure its frame rates.
Lets look at Nvidia’s release highlights regarding the GeForce 353.62 WHQL driver before we head to performance testing.
Release Notes Highlights for GeForce 353.62
This is a really short list highlighting the fact that Nvidia’s WHQL driver release schedule is tied to the release of new operating systems as well as to AAA game releases. This driver claims the “best gaming experience for Windows …. ”
For the comprehensive release notes, you will need to download the .pdf
NVIDIA has been working closely with Microsoft on the development of Windows 10 and DirectX 12. Coinciding with the arrival of Windows 10, this Game Ready driver includes the latest tweaks, bug fixes, and optimizations to ensure you have the best possible gaming experience.
Best gaming experience for Windows 10, Windows 8.1, Windows 7, Windows Vista, and Windows XP.
Let’s head to the charts and compare the driver progress with the GTX 980 Ti and with the GTX 980 Ti SLI since we tested the last time.
Benchmarks & Performance Analysis
Here are our results of thirty-two games and 3 synthetics compared between GeForce 353.30 WHQL drivers, and GeForce 353.62 WHQL drivers using GTX 980 Ti and GTX 980 Ti SLI. Each set of WHQL drivers is compared against the other in adjoining results column and the higher performance number is in bold. If there is a tie, both results are given in bold type.
We note mostly minor improvements with Nvidia’s new GeForce 353.62 over the older 353.30 drivers, however, there are a few standouts in a few games. However, we generally see improvement and especially with SLI.
For example, formerly playing with GTX 980 Ti SLI on GeForce 353.30 drivers, Evolve was plagued with flashing textures that are now completely fixed by the latest drivers.
The Witcher 3 got some nice performance increases with the latest driver for GTX 980 Ti although the single GPU results did not fare as well.
So far, we would recommend upgrading to the latest GeForce 353.62 driver because there are generally incremental advantages, and no large performance-impacting negatives that we encountered. It is Nvidia’s WHQL driver for Windows 10, and we will be using it next to compare performance of Windows 8.1 with Windows 10.
It is also the driver to use for the latest really fun games that we are playing including the Witcher 3, ProjectCARS and Batman: Arkham Knight. It appears that Nvidia intends to release a WHQL driver with each new major PC release and we are looking forward to evaluating the next one. We are using it now to play Van Helsing II with no issues as we tend to also visit older games that we missed.
Stay tuned, next up we are benching for an upcoming driver performance evaluation of AMD’s newest Windows 10 driver, due this weekend.