Subject: Graphics Cards | April 14, 2016 - 06:44 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: nvidia, graphics drivers
The GeForce 364.xx line of graphics drivers hasn't been smooth for NVIDIA. Granted, they tried to merge Vulkan support into their main branch at the same time as several new games, including DirectX 12 ones, launched. It was probably a very difficult period for NVIDIA, but WHQL-certified drivers should be better than this.
Regardless, they're trying, and today they released GeForce Hot Fix Driver 364.96. Some of the early reactions mock NVIDIA for adding “Support for DOOM Open Beta” as the only listed feature of a “hotfix” driver, but I don't see it. It's entirely possible that the current drivers have a known issue with DOOM Open Beta and, thus, they require a hotfix. It's not necessarily “just a profile,” and “profiles” isn't exactly what a hardware vendor does to support a new title.
But anyway, Manuel Guzman, one of the faces for NVIDIA Customer Care, also says that this driver includes fixes for FPS drops in Dark Souls 3. According to some forum-goers, despite its numbering, it also does not contain the Vulkan updates from 364.91. This is probably a good thing, because it would be a bit silly to merge developer-branch features into a customer driver that only intends to solve problems before an official driver can be certified. I mean, that's like patching a flat tire, then drilling a hole in one of the good ones to mess around with it, too.
The GeForce 364.96 Hotfix Drivers are available at NVIDIA's website. If you're having problems, then it might be your solution. Otherwise? Wait until NVIDIA has an official release (or you start getting said problems).
Subject: Graphics Cards | April 10, 2016 - 09:04 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: nvidia, vulkan, graphics drivers
This is not a main-line, WHQL driver. This is not even a mainstream beta driver. The beta GeForce 364.91 drivers (364.16 on Linux) are only available on the NVIDIA developer website, which, yes, is publicly accessible, but should probably not be installed unless you are intending to write software and every day counts. Also, some who have installed it claim that certain Vulkan demos stop working. I'm not sure whether that means the demo is out-of-date due to a rare conformance ambiguity, the driver has bugs, or the reports themselves are simply unreliable.
That said, if you are a software developer, and you don't mind rolling back if things go awry, you can check out the new version at NVIDIA's website. It updates Vulkan to 1.0.8, which is just documentation bugs and conformance tweaks. These things happen over time. In fact, the initial Vulkan release was actually Vulkan 1.0.3, if I remember correctly.
The driver also addresses issues with Vulkan and NVIDIA Optimus technologies, which is interesting. Optimus controls which GPU acts as primary in a laptop, switching between the discrete NVIDIA one and the Intel integrated one, depending on load and power. Vulkan and DirectX 12, however, expose all GPUs to the system. I'm curious how NVIDIA knows whether to sleep one or the other, and what that would look like to software that enumerates all compatible devices. Would it omit listing one of the GPUs? Or would it allow the software to wake the system out of Optimus should it want more performance?
Anywho, the driver is available now, but you probably should wait for official releases. The interesting thing is this seems to mean that NVIDIA will continue to release non-public Vulkan drivers. Hmm.
Subject: Graphics Cards | March 9, 2016 - 07:42 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: amd, radeon, graphics drivers, vulkan, dx12, DirectX 12
New graphics drivers from AMD have just been published, and it's a fairly big release. First, Catalyst 16.3 adds Vulkan support to main-branch drivers, which they claim is conformant to the 1.0 specification. The Khronos Group website still doesn't list AMD as conforming, but I assume that they will be added shortly (rather than some semantic “conformant” “fully conformant” thing going on). This is great for the platform, as we are still in the launch window of DirectX 12.
Performance has apparently increased as well, significantly. This is especially true in the DirectX 12 title, Gears of War Ultimate Edition. AMD claims that FuryX will see up to a 60% increase in that title, and the R9 380 will gain up to 44%. It's unclear how much that is in real world performance, especially in terms of stutter and jank, which apparently plagues that game.
The driver also has a few other interesting features. One that I don't quite understand is “Power Efficiency Toggle”. This supposedly “allows the user to disable some power efficiency optimizations”. I would assume that means keeping you GPU up-clocked under certain conditions, but I don't believe that was much of an issue for the last few generations. That said, the resolved issues section claims that some games were choppy because of core clock fluctuation, and lists this option as the solution, so maybe it was. It is only available on “select” Radeon 300 GPUs and Fury X. That is, Fury X specifically, not the regular Fury or the Nano. I expect Ryan will be playing around with it in the next little while.
Last of the main features, the driver adds support for XConnect, which is AMD's new external graphics standard. It requires a BIOS that support external GPUs, which AMD lists the Razer Blade Stealth as. Also noteworthy, Eyefinity can now be enabled with just two displays, and Display Scaling can be set per-game. I avoid manually controlling drivers, even my Wacom tablet, to target specific applications, but that's probably great for those who do.
As a final note: the Ashes of the Singularity 2.0 benchmark now supports DirectFlip.
If you have a recent AMD GPU, grab the drivers from AMD's website.
Subject: Graphics Cards | March 9, 2016 - 03:30 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: ubuntu, graphics drivers, graphics driver, amd
AMD has been transitioning their kernel driver from the closed-source fglrx to the open-source AMDGPU driver that was announced last year. This forms the base that both closed and open user-mode drivers will utilize. For the upcoming Ubuntu 16.04 LTS, Canonical has decided to deprecate fglrx and remove it from the system upon upgrade. Users can then choose to install an AMDGPU-based one, or reinstall the Radeon driver. That will need to be done without Canonical's support, though.
It makes sense that they would choose Ubuntu 16.04 to pull the plug. This is the version that Canonical will be maintaining for the next five years, which could give a headache when AMD has spent the last year trying to get rid of it. AMDGPU is a much safer target as the years roll forward. On the other hand, GPUs prior to Fiji will not have the luxury of choosing, because AMD still hasn't announced AMDGPU for
GDC (Update March 9th @ 6pm: Fixed typo) GCN 1.0 and 1.1.
Subject: Graphics Cards | March 9, 2016 - 11:55 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: nvidia, graphics drivers
The last couple of days were not too great for software patches. Microsoft released a Windows 10 update that breaks 5K monitors, and NVIDIA's driver bug, mentioned in the last post, was bigger than they realized. It turns out that the issue is not isolated to multiple monitors, but rather had something to do with choosing “Express Install” in the setup screen.
In response, NVIDIA has removed 364.47 from their website. For those who want “Game Ready” drivers with games like “The Division,” NVIDIA has provided a 364.51 beta driver that supposedly corrects this issue. People on the forums still claim to have problems with this driver, but nothing has been confirmed yet. It's difficult to tell whether other issues exist with the drivers, whether users are having unrelated issues that are attributed to the drivers, or if it's just a few hoaxes. ((Update on March 9th @ 12:41pm: Still nothing confirmed, but one of our comments claim that they've experienced issues personally.)) If you are concerned, then you can roll back to 362.00.
Fortunately for me, I chose to clean install 364.47 and have not had any issues with them. I asked a representative from NVIDIA on Twitter whether I should upgrade to 364.51, and he said that a few other bugs were fixed but I shouldn't bother.
If you managed to properly install 364.47, then you should be fine staying there.
Subject: Graphics Cards | March 7, 2016 - 06:15 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: vulkan, nvidia, graphics drivers, game ready
This new driver for NVIDIA brings Vulkan support to their current, supported branch. This is particularly interesting for me, because the Vulkan branch used to pre-date fixes for Adobe Creative Cloud, which meant that things like “Export As...” in Photoshop CC didn't work and After Effects CC would crash. They are also WHQL-certified, and they roll in all of the “Game Ready” fixes and optimizations that were released since ~October, which would be mostly new for Vulkan's branch.
... This is going to be annoying to temporarily disable...
Speaking of which, GeForce Game Ready 364.47 drivers is classified as “Game Ready” itself. The four titles optimized with this release are: Tom Clancy's The Division, Need For Speed, Hitman, and Ashes of the Singularity. If you are interested in playing those games, then this driver is what NVIDIA recommends that you use.
Note that an installation bug has been reported, however. When installing with multiple monitors, NVIDIA suggests that you disable all but one during the setup process, but you can safely re-enable them after. For me, with four monitors and a fairly meticulous desktop icon layout, this was highly annoying, but something I've had to deal with over time (especially the last two, beta Vulkan drivers). It's probably a good idea to close all applications and screenshot your icons before running the installer.
Subject: Graphics Cards | January 13, 2016 - 07:42 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: graphics drivers, amd
AMD's recent “Hotfix” drivers don't seem to mean what NVIDIA's does. In the Green Team's case, they usually fix one or two issues that slipped past QA. While they likely won't break anything, they are probably a bad idea to install if you're not experiencing the listed problems. The changelog on AMD's drivers are significantly longer with a list of known issues that is roughly the same size.
So should you install it? That depends. It's a little less cut-and-dry than NVIDIA's hotfixes, which are only useful for a handful of people. It sounds like the worst known issue is “Game stuttering may be experienced when running two Radeon R9 295X2 graphics cards in CrossFire mode” and “Display corruption may occur on multiple display systems when it has been running idle for some time.” The latter would affect me greatly, because I run four displays and basically never sleep or shutdown (except for updates). On the other hand, it fixes a variety of crash, hang, and flicker issues.
Check it out. If it sounds good, then pick it up. Otherwise, wait for the next Beta or WHQL driver.
Subject: Graphics Cards | January 12, 2016 - 08:11 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: graphics drivers, graphics driver, nvidia
NVIDIA has been pushing for WHQL certification for their drivers, but sometimes issues slip through QA, both at Microsoft and their own, internal team(s). Sometimes these issues will be fixed in a future release, but sometimes they push out a “HotFix” driver immediately. This is often great for people who experience the problems, but they should not be installed otherwise.
In this case, GeForce Hotfix driver 361.60 fixes two issues. One is listed as “install & clocking related issues,” which refers to the GPU memory clock. According to Manuel Guzman of NVIDIA, some games and software was not causing the driver to fully wake the memory clock to a high-performance state. The other issue is “Crashes in Photoshop & Illustrator,” which fixes blue screen issues in both software, and possibly other programs that use the GPU in similar ways. I've never seen GeForce Driver 361.43 cause a BSOD in Photoshop, but I am a few versions behind with CS5.5.
Download links are available at NVIDIA Support, but unaffected users should just wait for an official driver in case the patch causes other issues, due to its minimal QA.
Subject: Graphics Cards, Mobile | December 6, 2015 - 08:10 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: nvidia, graphics drivers, 860m
Users of notebooks with the GeForce GTX 860M GPU have apparently been experiencing crashes in many new titles. To remedy these issues, NVIDIA has published GeForce Hotfix Driver 359.12. If you do not have the GeForce GTX 860M, and all of your games work correctly, then you probably shouldn't install this. It has not been tested as much as official releases, by either Microsoft or NVIDIA, so other issues could have been introduced and no-one would know.
If you do have that specific GPU though, and you are having problems running certain titles, then you can install the driver now. Otherwise, you can wait for future, WHQL-certified drivers too. Some users are apparently claiming that the issues were fixed, while others complain about crashes in games like Mad Max and Shadow of Mordor.
Subject: Graphics Cards | November 26, 2015 - 03:09 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: amd, graphics drivers, GCN, terascale
The Graphics Core Next (GCN) architecture is now a minimum requirement for upcoming AMD graphics drivers. If your graphics card (or APU) uses the TeraScale family of microarchitectures, then your last expected WHQL driver is AMD Catalyst 15.7.1 for Windows 7, 8.x, and 10. You aren't entirely left out of Radeon Software Crimson Edition, however. The latest Crimson Edition Beta driver is compatible with TeraScale, but the upcoming certified one will not be.
GCN was introduced with the AMD Radeon HD 7000 series, although it was only used in the Radeon HD 7700 series GPUs and above. The language doesn't seem to rule out an emergency driver release, such as if Microsoft breaks something in a Windows 10 update that causes bluescreens and fire on older hardware, but they also don't say that they will either. NVIDIA made a similar decision to deprecate pre-Fermi architectures back in March of 2014, which applied to the release of GeForce 343 Drivers in September of that year. Extended support for NVIDIA's old cards end on April 1st, 2016.
I wonder why AMD chose a beta driver to stop with, though. If AMD intended to support TeraScale with Crimson, then why wouldn't they keep it supported until at the first WHQL-certified version? If they didn't intend to support TeraScale, then why go through the effort of supporting it with the beta driver? This implies that AMD reached a hurdle with TeraScale that they didn't want to overcome. That may not be the case, but it's the first thing that comes to my mind none-the-less. Probably the best way to tell is to see how people with Radeon HD 6000-series (or lower-end 7000/8000-series) cards work with Radeon Software Crimson Beta.
Likely the last drivers that users with Radeon HD 6000-series graphics need are 15.7.1 or Radeon Software Crimson Edition Beta. We will soon learn which of the two will be best long-term.
Or, of course, you can buy a newer GPU / APU when you get a chance.