It can be safely said that when ATI released Catalyst Control Centre it received less than a stellar reception by many of the companies core enthusiast gamers. Load times were slow, memory overheads were high and many felt it was perhaps a step in the wrong direction. Currently while ATI still back this .net based driver interface as the way forward many enthusiast users feel the memory overhead is still high and it is slower in operation that the older standard style Control Panel. There has been heated debate on our forums since the inception of CCC with .net framework and if you visit any active tech based forum there will still be debate on the matter. "Are nVidia going to go down the same road?" was a question often asked.

Nvidia have countered with their new look panels and while many people have already unlocked these via registry hacks, it is only today that they have "officially" released them as a beta.

So what exactly is new?

Release Highlights:

*Beta driver – for a full list of fixed and known issues please view the Release Notes.
*Adds support for GeForce 7900 GS, GeForce 7300 GT, Quadro FX 4500 X2, Quadro FX 5500, Quadro FX 3500, Quadro FX 1500, and Quadro FX 560.
*Includes the new NVIDIA Control Panel. Please visit the NVIDIA Control Panel website for more information.
*New NVIDIA PureVideo features and enhancements. Please visit the NVIDIA PureVideo website for more information on PureVideo technology and system requirements.
*Adds noise reduction post processing
*Adds image sharpening post processing
*Improved Inverse telecine algorithm
*Improved de-interlacing algorithm
*Improved compatibility with third party MPEG-2 decoders
*Microsoft® DirectX® 9.0c and OpenGL® 2.0 support

Installing the drivers is a simple double click process and before you ask, no you do not need to install .net framework.

We felt it would be more beneficial to test the driver panels on an SLI based system, so we used a high end FX-60 powered 7900GTX system. As you can see in the image above, the panel is considerably different compared to the older style. We are presented with three primary options, 3D settings, display and video and television.

Basic 3d settings menu options.

Viewing changes with a preview is a similar option which will be familiar to many ATI users, except this time we are not presented with a 3d car but the corporate nVidia logo, ideal for a user to toggle "quality" or "speed" settings. The layout is neat and clicking the advanced 3d options takes you to a new panel which will be more beneficial to the enthusiast user.

This is more like it, all the options we need to customize our gaming experience, again this is well laid out with everything tailored for the experienced user. It is worth pointing out at this stage, on our test system the panels loaded instantly with no wait times.

Program settings is another tab within this particular panel and allows us to change application specific driver settings. This can come in exceptionally useful for troubleshooting or for experimenting with various options.

As we have an SLI solution we were delighted to see that the driver immediately picked up upon the fact our setup could support dual rendering. In fact the driver immediately detected this and configured the driver accordingly.

This is where it gets really interesting as Nvidia have given the end user without any registry hacks, full access to rendering modes for SLI, split frame rendering, two methods of alternative frame rendering and single card rendering mode. This option is something that I value tremendously as you can experiment with game titles that are not yet supported within the driver profile. Quite frequently you find a rendering mode that a game will support with SLI, meaning you do not have to wait for Nvidia to support this in a forthcoming driver release. After spending substantial time battling with ATI's crossfire and Catalyst Control Centre this is a welcome addition and one I feel ATi should have unlocked long ago.

Transparency antialiasing is also supported out of the box with Multisampling and supersampling modes available.

Powerstrip has for many years had the option of defining custom resolutions and this has proven a very popular facet to many end users, especially those on large CRT screens or those on laptops who are having problems getting a particular driver to recognize a specific resolution. nVidia have given the end user total control in making their own custom screen resolutions and I applaud them for making this possible.

Next: Page 2



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