Detonator 3 goes with a bang

Our Gordon goes for it with the BFG

Yesterday we reported that Nvidia had posted its latest Detonator 3 drivers, and already the hardware Web sites have had a field day putting them through their paces, writes Gordon Laing.

Anandtech reckoned they made a worthwhile difference to all GeForce owners (SDR, DDR and 2 GTS), although TNT owners didn't fare so well.

The good Doctor Tom would only say that the Detonator 3 "improves performance of all supported chips in a tremendous fashion" but left the real juicy details to a forthcoming article.

So does updating a graphics card driver really make all the difference? We thought we'd use the arrival of Detonator 3 as a fine excuse to fire up Quake III Arena and see what happened.

Our benchmarking system consisted of an Intel 866MHz Pentium III FC-PGA CPU, housed in an Iwill Slocket II, itself popped into an Asus P2B motherboard with its BX chipset naughtily overclocked to 133MHz FSB. We used 128MB PC-133 SDRAM and, most crucially of all, a Creative Labs 3D Blaster GeForce 2 GTS graphics card (running on an AGP bus overclocked to 88MHz).

Finally, we also used a VideoLogic SonicVortex 2 sound card - it's important to mention this, as different sound cards can have quite an impact on overall gaming performance.

Tests were run using Quake III Arena under both Windows 98 SE and Windows 2000 (using a dual-boot system) set to 1024x768 pixels and 16-bit colour. Colour depth and texture quality were set to 16-bit within Quake, and texture detail to maximum, while sound quality was left at the default low setting. We ran the standard demo001 three times and averaged the result.

First up with the supplied Creative Labs drivers, we achieved 101.4fps in Windows 98 SE and 94.1fps in Windows 2000. Switching to Nvidia's Detonator 2 drivers released only a short time ago, we suffered a fail in Windows 98 SE, but enjoyed an increase under Windows 2000 to 103.2fps.

Now with the latest Detonator 3 drivers, Windows 98 SE turned out an impressive 121.3fps, while Windows 2000 mustered a still impressive 110.4fps. Incidentally, we did try overclocking the graphics chipset and memory clock too, but only managed to achieve an extra couple of frames per second at the cost of instability.

Admittedly it may cost you a few pennies to download the 2.5MB Detonator 3 drivers, but as our results and others prove, it's well worth it. Our GeForce 2 GTS card enjoyed around 20 per cent better performance under both Windows 98 SE and 2000, using the new drivers compared to those which came supplied with it.

Considering it's essentially a free upgrade, we reckon Detonator 3 is not at all a bad result for Nvidia and its followers. ®

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