The nVIDIA GeForce2 GTS Ultra and Detonator 3 Drivers
nVIDIA's Technology War Machine Rolls On

By Dave "Davo" Altavilla


Today we unveil the latest software technology to come from nVidia, the Detonator 3 driver set and their new 3D powerhouse, the GeForce 2 GTS Ultra.  The combination of these new products yields the most impressive 3D experience for the PC yet.  The Detonator 3 drivers, as was the case with older Detonator driver revisions, are a unified set that works across all nVidia products from the TNT2 line and up
The driver interface for the GeForce2 GTS Ultra in various settings, he been tweaked and enhanced with more functionality.  We are finally given the tools needed to adjust more of the features that have been marketed, like FSAA for instance.

Installation and the drivers of the "new" GeForce2
What the first release should have been

The driver interface and functionality itself hasn't changed at all.  In fact, nVIDIA has just made available settings to the user in OpenGL, that were unavailable, unless you were willing to do some registry hacking.  Direct 3D driver control has pretty much the same look and feel but a little more descriptive interface.

Detonator 3 Drivers and Direct 3D FSAA Settings 

OpenGL FSAA and Texture Colot Depth Settings

As you can see here, you are now able to adjust OpenGL FSAA levels within its control panel.  What most users didn't know is that the drivers historically defaulted to 1.5x1.5 FSAA which is essentially equivalent to nVIDIA's 2X FSAA.  This resulted in an image quality that was hardly worth the performance hit at the time.  Now you have the ability to change to 2x2 LOD BIAS and 2x2 mode as well.  2x2 LOD has mipmaps drawn at the normal screen resolution and 2x2 has them at the super-sampled or higher resolution.  The latter of the two theoretically gives you nVIDIA's best OpenGL FSAA quality at present.  We couldn't see much of a difference frankly, between the two.

In Direct 3D mode with respect to FSAA, you get a myriad of options beyond the 1.5x.1.5 (or 2X) setting, all the way up to 16X sample FSAA.  Here is a chart describing all of the settings.

Starting from slider position 1 as slider position 0 is no FSAA at all.  From left to right...

  • 1x2 - 2 sample FSAA, mipmaps at super-sampled screen resolution
  • 2x2 - 4 sample FSAA, mipmaps at normal screen resolution
  • 2x2 - 4 sample FSAA, mipmaps at super-sampled resolution
  • 2x2 - 4 sample FSAA, mipmaps at super-sampled screen resolution special filter
  • 3x3 - 9 sample FSAA, mipmaps at normal screen resolution
  • 3x3 - 9 sample FSAA, mipmaps at super-sampled screen resolution
  • 4x4 - 16 sample FSAA, mipsmaps at normal screen resolution
  • 4x4 - 16 sample FSAA, mipmaps at super-sampled screen resolution

We aren't exactly sure what the "special filter" is but it was hard to see a difference in our testing.  In any event, a 32MB GeForce2 card will only be able to handle up to the 4 sample FSAA settings, as it will run out of memory at higher levels.  On the other hand, 64MB cards like this GeForce2 Ultra we tested, will run all the way up to 16X FSAA.

What is more important about these drivers is the optimization they went through.  In the following pages, you will see that in addition to having new levels of FSAA in OpenGL available, performance has been greatly enhanced across the board.

More on this later.  For now, we'll just ease into this slowly with a little eye candy.

Direct 3D FSAA Visuals:

Nascar Heat No FSAA
GeForce2 Ultra

Nascar Heat 2x2 (4X) FSAA
GeForce2 Ultra

Nascar Heat 3dfx 4X FSAA

The nVIDIAFSAA shot was taken at the 2x2 with mipmaps at the super-sampled setting.  A racing game like "Nascar Heat" really shows off the power of good FSAA.  From top left to bottom, you are looking at shots with no FSAA, nVIDIA brand 4X FSAA and 3dfx brand 4X FSAA.  Obviously, the shot without FSAA looks the worst.  Beyond that it is your call which looks better, 3dfx or nVIDIA's 4X FSAA, in this Direct 3D based Racing Sim.  For us, the FSAA quality on the 3dfx Voodoo5 card is slightly better.  What you also need to consider is the frame rate.  The nVIDIA GeForce2 Ultra was running at about 43 fps on our P3-866 and the 3dfx card was running at 30 fps.  From that perspective, nVIDIA has the edge.  Again, you make the call here.

OpenGL FSAA and Tech Demos