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Nvidia's new GPU driver promises big performance gains and new features

(Image credit: Nvidia)
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Driver updates are rarely exciting these days, which is partially the result of an aggressive release schedule. Nvidia's latest 436.02 GPU driver is an exception. It packs some new features, including an ultra-low latency mode, and comes with a claim of up to 23 percent faster performance.

Nvidia is dubbing this latest release as a "special Gamescom Game Ready" driver. Part of that is tied to the performance claim. Specifically, Nvidia's driver team tuned the 436.02 release for Apex Legends, Battlefield V, Forza Horizon 4, Strange Brigade, and World War Z.

The biggest performance gains are found in Apex Legends, according to Nvidia's own internal testing and benchmarking. Bear in mind that we have not tested this driver release ourselves. That said, here's a performance chart from Nvidia's labs:

(Image credit: Nvidia)

All of the benchmarks reflect runs made on Nvidia's recently introduced GeForce RTX Super series cards. There are more graphs to digest, but as far as the 23 percent performance claim goes, that applies to running Apex Legends at 1920x1080, with a 2080 Super card.

While Apex Legends is where the biggest performance claims are attached, Nvidia touts double-digit percentage bumps in Forza Horizon 4. For example, Nvidia shows a 2060 Super running anywhere from 12.5 percent (4K) to a bit over 17 percent (1440p and 1080p) faster.

Raw performance aside, the latest driver release adds a couple of beta features. One is a new ultra-low latency mode.

"The Nvidia Control Panel has—for over 10 years—enabled GeForce gamers to adjust the 'Maximum Pre-Rendered Frames', the number of frames buffered in the render queue. By reducing the number of frames in the render queue, new frames are sent to your GPU sooner, reducing latency and improving responsiveness," Nvidia explains.

"With the release of our Gamescom Game Ready driver, we’re introducing a new ultra-low latency mode that enables ‘just in time’ frame scheduling, submitting frames to be rendered just before the GPU needs them. This further reduces latency by up to 33%," Nvidia continues.

Here's another graph (from Nvidia):

(Image credit: Nvidia)

This looks to be in response to AMD's Radeon Anti-Lag feature. According to Nvidia, this new mode works best when a game is GPU bound, with framerates between 60-100fps. With this driver release, the beta feature works with all GPUs in DX9 and DX11 games. In DX12 and Vulkan titles, the game decides when to queue the frame.

The other beta feature is GPU Integer Scaling.

"Our community requested an image scaling mode called Integer Scaling, which preserves detail on pixel-art games when the resolution is increased. Well, we’ve heard the call, and thanks to a hardware-accelerated programmable scaling filter available in Turing, GPU Integer Scaling is finally possible!," Nvidia says.

For now (and maybe forever) this only works with Turing GPUs, including both RTX cards and GTX 16 series parts. Where this potentially has the biggest impact is when playing retro games that lack resolution scaling filters.

(Image credit: Nvidia)

The image above compares a 4K screenshot with traditional scaling versus Nvidia's GPU Integer Scaling. It's a dramatic improvement, though of course we'll reserve judgement until we've had a chance to play with it ourselves.

Nvidia also added a new image sharpening filter for Freestyle, the post-process filter included with GeForce Experience. This is not entirely brand new, though according to Nvidia, this implementation offers better image quality and performance compared to its "Detail" Freestyle filter.

In addition to all this, Nvidia has ported over 30-bit color support from its Studio driver to its Game Ready driver, with support across all product lines.

"Multiple creative applications currently take advantage of 30-bit color, including Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Premiere Pro, Autodesk RV, Colorfront Transkoder, Assimilate Scratch, and Foundry Nuke," Nvidia says.

Finally, the 436.02 driver package introduces a handful of newly validated G-Sync compatible monitors to the mix. They include the Asus VG27A and Acer's CP3271 an XB273K GP.

There is quite a bit packed into this release, and as always, bugs can rear their ugly heads. It's why some people prefer to wait a few days before applying a new driver update, GPU or otherwise. In this case, Nvidia actually pulled the driver yesterday because it was always installing GeForce Experience (even if you opted out). That has apparently been remedied and the driver is back up.

If you're ready to jump on the new driver, you can update your GPU driver through GeForce Experience, or follow this link to grab and install it manually.