NVIDIA GeForce 301.42 WHQL Drivers Add Major Gaming Features & Boost Skyrim Performance By Up To 20%

Drivers

By Andrew Burnes On Tue, May 22 2012


The new NVIDIA GeForce 301.42 WHQL drivers are now available to download. Building upon the well-received 301.24 beta release that enabled our game-changing NVIDIA FXAA, Adaptive VSync, Frame Rate Target and Surround features on all GeForce 8-series and later GPUs, the 301.42 WHQL drivers add official 4-way GTX 670 support and two dozen smaller changes that further enhance your experience. The new 301.42 WHQL drivers also include performance improvements of up to 20% compared to the previous WHQL release, 296.10, in addition to many new 3D Vision and SLI profiles. Read on for full details about each addition and enhancement, or click the links above to jump directly to the relevant section.

NVIDIA FXAA Technology

The majority of today’s games allow players to enable Multisample Anti-Aliasing (MSAA), either as part of a preset as in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, or as an in-game option. If you’re unfamiliar with anti-aliasing, it is a GPU-powered technique used to remove jagged, distracting object edges, and to enhance overall image fidelity. Unfortunately, MSAA is a particularly demanding anti-aliasing technique, reducing frame rates by a significant degree.

With the release of the GeForce 301.42 WHQL driver, a high-speed, shader-based anti-aliasing technique can be applied directly to hundreds of games through the NVIDIA Control Panel. Called NVIDIA FXAA, this technique is up to 60% faster than 4xMSAA, and can produce results equal to or better than the ageing anti-aliasing solution. Furthermore, FXAA is able to anti-alias increasingly-popular transparent textures, as shown in our Batman: Arkham City Graphics Breakdown and Performance Guide, making it the clear winner in many of today’s games.

Using NVIDIA FXAA, we took a number of comparison screenshots to highlight the benefits of the new technique in games that lack anti-aliasing support, and in games that make use of MSAA. If you’re trying this at home, please note that Fraps and other frame grabbing applications cannot display the FXAA improvements as FXAA is a shader-based technique. Instead, run the game in a window, and press Alt and Print Screen simultaneously to grab an FXAA anti-aliased screenshot.

First up on the comparison slate is Dungeon Defenders, an addictive third-person, multiplayer tower defense title. Making use of bright colors, cel-shaded outlines, and plenty of post-processing effects, most players likely haven’t noticed the lack of anti-aliasing, but with FXAA enabled, Dungeon Defenders looks so better.


Click here to view a full size comparison, and here to view a zoomed comparison.

As you can see in the comparison images, the castle’s roof contrasts against the sky, revealing a significant level of aliasing. Further aliasing can be clearly seen on the treasure chests, the character’s outfit and weapon, and on the planters beneath the archway. With FXAA enabled these artifacts are eliminated, resulting in a cleaner, smoother image.

Our second example comes courtesy of Assassin’s Creed: Revelations, the latest Assassin’s Creed release from Ubisoft. In this title, a MSAA option is available in-game, allowing us to directly compare MSAA and FXAA.


Click here to view a 4xMSAA vs. FXAA comparison, here for a No AA vs. FXAA comparison, and here for a zoomed 4xMSAA vs. FXAA comparison.

As in Dungeon Defenders, the contrast between geometry and the sky box allows us to easily measure aliasing: on the full size shots 4xMSAA and FXAA appear on par, but using the zoomed shot we can see that FXAA creates a slightly smoother, less jagged pillar.

However, the real strength of FXAA in Assassin's Creed: Revelations comes from its ability to anti-alias the game's many transparent textures. In our example, these are used to create several bushes, and as you can see in this No AA vs. 4xMSAA zoomed comparison MSAA is unable to anti-alias them, whereas FXAA can, as shown in this 4xMSAA vs. FXAA zoomed comparison. Furthermore, switching to FXAA from MSAA increased the frame rate by 15 on a GeForce GTX 680, which on less powerful hardware could mean the difference between the game being unplayable and playable.

Our final example is from Valve’s Portal 2, which also includes in-game MSAA anti-aliasing options. Admittedly, the screenshot below is the least exciting ever, but it does have a clear contrast between the geometry and a brightly colored background, allowing us to easily gauge the level of aliasing.


Click here to view a 4xMSAA vs. FXAA comparison, here for a No AA vs. FXAA comparison, and here for a zoomed 4xMSAA vs. FXAA comparison.

4xMSAA has an especially tough time in Portal 2, failing to fully anti-alias the broken pieces of the girder at the bottom of the screen, and the large concrete beam in the middle of the screen. At 8x, MSAA is still unable to match the results of FXAA, as shown in this final comparison.

To enhance your games, activate NVIDIA FXAA in the ‘Manage 3D Settings’ section of the NVIDIA Control Panel. Alternatively, enable it on a per-title basis using the ‘Program Settings’ tab.


Please note that Control Panel FXAA will not be used if a game already features built-in NVIDIA FXAA support. In these cases, the FXAA option will be greyed-out in the game’s profile in the Program Settings tab.

NVIDIA Adaptive VSync

Many gamers enable Vertical Synchronization (VSync) to prevent screen-tearing, an unsightly occurrence caused by frame rates exceeding a monitor’s refresh rate. The downside is the occasional and equally annoying stutter when frame rates drop below the locked VSync frame rate, and again when they return to the locked rate.

To fix the problem, the GeForce 301.42 WHQL drivers come loaded with NVIDIA Adaptive VSync, an automated technique that disables VSync when frame rates fall below the locked rate, and re-enables it when they return to the locked rate, significantly reducing stuttering whilst still preventing tearing.

Using Metro 2033’s 100% repeatable benchmark we are able to accurately demonstrate the benefits of NVIDIA Adaptive VSync, as the following charts show. Please note that the measurement artifacts, the points above and below 30 and 60 frames per second, are a result of how frame times are recorded by the benchmark, and are not seen in-game. Despite this ‘noise’, Metro 2033’s benchmark is able to visually capture and display the real world benefits of Adaptive VSync far better than any frame-capturing application we’ve evaluated.


With traditional VSync enabled the frame rate rapidly bounces between 60 and 30 frames per second, resulting in a noticeable micro-stutter each and every time. During the most intensive benchmark scenes, the frame rate remains locked at 30 for several seconds, further reducing the smoothness of the experience.


With Adaptive VSync enabled the frame rate remains as high as possible at all times when below the 60 frames per second VSync cap, eliminating stutters and increasing the smoothness of the gameplay.

To enable NVIDIA Adaptive VSync, open the NVIDIA Control Panel, browse to ‘Manage 3D Settings’, click the ‘Global Settings’ tab, and scroll down the list to the option.


Click to enlarge.

Alternatively, enable it on a per-profile basis through the ‘Program Settings’ tab.

NVIDIA Surround Enhancements

The GeForce 301.42 WHQL drivers introduce several new NVIDIA Surround features for our multi-monitor users. To learn more, click each link below.

NVIDIA Frame Rate Target

Using third-party tools such as EVGA Precision X, all NVIDIA GPU users can now enable NVIDIA Frame Rate Target to limit application frame rates to a specific, pre-defined frame rate. Its uses are many - for example, frame rates in decade-old games can be limited to 30 to prevent incompatibility issues; frame rates in today’s games can be limited to 60, preventing the GPU from working to the max, reducing heat and noise output; and frame rates can be capped to the monitor’s refresh rate, preventing tearing without enabling VSync.

GeForce GTX 680 owners get the added benefit of even greater power savings when using NVIDIA Frame Rate Target, as the card’s GPU Boost technology can work in concert with Frame Rate Target to dynamically overclock and underclock the GPU based on the pre-defined frame rate. For further info, watch a demo of EVGA Precision X here.


A couple of clicks enables Frame Rate Target, and from that point on EVGA Precision X will try its best to hit the mark using real-time overclocking and underclocking on the GeForce GTX 680.

Performance Improvements

Our engineers have once again delved back into the GeForce driver’s code, optimizing and tweaking wherever possible. The result: improved performance on GeForce 400 and 500-series GPUs in the two dozen games we ran through our labs (GeForce GTX 680 users received these improvements as part of the launch-day 301.10 driver).

The largest improvement was again found in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, the world’s most popular role-playing game. As the chart below shows, performance increased by 17-20% at 2560x1600 using the most demanding game settings available (similar gains were recorded at 1920x1080).


Using the less-demanding High detail preset we recorded an indoor improvement of up to 23.5% at the same resolution, and in outdoor environments we saw improvements of up to 17.9% on High, and 16.8% on Ultra. These improvements apply to almost all 400 and 500-series GPUs, not just the ones listed, though your own personal mileage may vary depending on your system configuration.

Other performance improvements were found in Batman: Arkham City, Bulletstorm, Civilization V, Just Cause 2, StarCraft II, and Shogun 2, to name but a few.


On the GeForce GTX 560 Ti, Batman: Arkham City performance increased by 7.88%, Bulletstorm performance increased by 11.87%, Civilization V performance increased by 7.99%, Just Cause 2 performance increased by 3.52%, and Shogun 2: Total War performance increased by 4.24%.

Detail Settings:

  • Batman: Arkham City: 1920x1080, Very High detail level, Tessellation High, PhysX High.
  • Bulletstorm: 2560x1600, max settings.
  • Civilization V: 1900x1200, 8xMSAA, DirectX 11, max settings.
  • Just Cause 2: 1920x1080, DirectX 10, max settings.
  • Shogun 2: Total War: 1920x1080, DirectX 11, max settings.


On the GeForce GTX 580, Batman: Arkham City performance increased by 3.46%, Bulletstorm performance increased by 8.86%, Civilization V performance increased by 7.13%, Deus Ex: Human Revolution performance increased by 4.30%, Just Cause 2 performance increased by 4.19%, and Shogun 2: Total War performance increased by 4.98%.

Detail Settings:

  • Batman: Arkham City: 1920x1080, Very High detail level, Tessellation High, PhysX High, FXAA High.
  • Bulletstorm: 2560x1600, max settings.
  • Civilization V: 2560x1600, 8xMSAA, DirectX 11, max settings.
  • Deus Ex: Human Revolution: 2560x1600, DirectX 11, Tessellation enabled, max settings.
  • Just Cause 2: 1920x1080, 4xMSAA, DirectX 10, max settings.
  • Shogun 2: Total War: 1920x1080, DirectX 11, max settings.

In many of our benchmarks, performance improvements carried across to SLI configurations also, as the following charts show.


On a 2-Way SLI GeForce GTX 560 Ti system, Batman: Arkham City performance increased by 4.48%, Bulletstorm performance improved by 12.07%, Civilization V performance improved by 8.81%, Far Cry 2 performance improved by 12.63%, Just Cause 2 performance improved by 15.17%, and StarCraft II performance improved by 9.28%.

Detail Settings:

  • Bulletstorm: 2560x1600, max settings.
  • Civilization V: 2560x1600, 8xMSAA, DirectX 11, max settings.
  • Far Cry 2: 1920x1080, DirectX 10, max settings.
  • Just Cause 2: 1920x1080, DirectX 10, max settings.
  • StarCraft II: 2560x1600, 4xMSAA, max settings.

Other GTX 560 Ti SLI improvements of note: up to 5.2% extra performance in Batman: Arkham City, up to 3.82% extra performance in Deus Ex: Human Revolution, up to 3.65% extra performance in Dragon Age 2, up to 3.15% extra performance in F1 2011, up to 4.33% extra performance in Metro 2033, and up to 4.15% extra performance in Shogun 2: Total War.


On a 2-Way SLI GeForce GTX 580 system, Bulletstorm performance improved by 8.11%, Civilization V performance improved by 6.43%, Far Cry 2 performance improved by 14.12%, Just Cause 2 performance improved by 23.21%, and StarCraft II performance improved by 16.71%.

Detail Settings:

  • Bulletstorm: 2560x1600, max settings.
  • Far Cry 2: 1920x1080, DirectX 10, max settings.
  • Just Cause 2: 1920x1080, DirectX 10, max settings.
  • Shogun 2: Total War: 1920x1080, DirectX 11, max settings.

Other GTX 580 SLI improvements of note: up to 5.79% extra performance in Deus Ex: Human Revolution, up to 3.91% extra performance in DiRT 3, up to 5.55% extra performance in Dragon Age 2, up to 3.75% extra performance in F1 2011, up to 4.41% extra performance in Hard Reset, up to 4.70% extra performance in Metro 2033, and up to 4.58% extra performance in Total War: Shogun 2.

New & Updated SLI Profiles

As always, our new GeForce driver includes new and updated profiles for today’s top titles, increasing performance and unleashing the full power of SLI systems.

  • Alan Wake
  • Battlefield: Bad Company 2
  • Call of Juarez: The Cartel
  • Counter-Strike: Global Offensive
  • Crusader Kings II
  • Deus Ex: Human Revolution - The Missing Link
  • Left 4 Dead
  • Max Payne 3
  • Orcs Must Die!
  • Portal 2
  • Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City
  • Risen 2: Dark Waters
  • Sniper Elite V2
  • Street Fighter X Tekken
  • The Darkness II

New & Updated 3D Vision Profiles

New and updated 3D Vision profiles are also included in the GeForce 301.42 WHQL drivers, helping you get the best possible experience when playing in stereoscopic 3D using our industry-leading technology.

  • Adam’s Venture Episode 1- Rated Poor
  • All Zombies Must Die! – Rated Fair
  • Blacklight: Retribution – Rated Poor
  • Depth Hunter – Updated profile
  • Dirt: Showdown – Rated Good
  • Ghosts 'n Goblins Online – Rated Good
  • Krater – Rated Poor
  • Oil Rush – Rated 3D Vision Ready
  • Passion Leads Army Benchmark – Rated 3D Vision Ready
  • Postal III – Rated Good
  • Rayman Origins – Rated Good
  • Resident Evil: Operating Raccoon City – Rated Fair
  • rFactor 2 – Changed rating to 3D Vision Ready
  • SevenCore – Rated Fair
  • Stacking – Rated Good
  • The Darkness II – Updated in-game recommended settings
  • Trackmania 2: Canyon – Rated Fair
  • Unigine 3.0 Heaven Benchmark – Updated profile
  • Unigine Heaven Benchmark v3.0 – Rated 3D Vision Ready
  • Wargame: European Escalation – Rated Good
  • Warp – Rated Good
  • Wings of Prey – Rated Fair
  • World of Tanks – Changed rating to Excellent

In conclusion, the 301.42 WHQL drivers improve game performance across the board, improve and unleash SLI performance, improve 3D Vision compatibility and fidelity, and come packed with brand new NVIDIA-exclusive technologies that can be used by almost all GeForce graphics cards dating back to 2006. Previous driver releases have implemented and introduced industry-leading stereoscopic 3D Vision gaming, hardware-accelerated PhysX effects, CUDA-accelerated software support, and more.

Changes Since 301.24 Beta

If you downloaded our 301.24 beta drivers or the releases specifically for the GTX 670, 680 or 690, you'll definitely want to upgrade to the new 301.42 WHQL drivers as we've fixed bugs, improved functionality, added 4-way GTX 670 SLI support, improved Mass Effect 3 override anti-aliasing performance, and listened to user feedback to fine-tune and tweak the elements you care about.

New 3DTV Play Display Support

Add support for the following displays:

  • Mitsubishi HC7800D Projector
  • Samsung UE40ES6530 3DTV
  • Samsung UE40ES6710 3DTV
  • Samsung UE46ES8000 3DTV
  • Samsung UN40ES6500F 3DTV
  • Sharp LC-70C7450U 3DTV

Fixed Single-GPU Fixes

  • GeForce 200 series: 3D Vision - The stereoscopic 3D image capture function (via hotkeys) does not work.
  • GeForce 400 series: There is no picture when using LAV DirectShow Filters on MPC-HC for MPEG4 video playback.
  • GeForce 400/400M series: HDMI displays - Changes made to the NVIDIA Control Panel->Adjust Desktop Color Settings->Content type (ITC) reported to the display setting are not preserved across system reboots or suspend/resume cycles.
  • GeForce 500 series: Mass Effect – Anti-aliasing turns off for some objects at various positions.
  • GeForce 500 series: NEC PA241W - The NEC MultiProfiler Calibration software is unable to communicate with the monitor.
  • GeForce 600 series: ASUS VE278Q - Upon bootup, the DisplayPort display resolution is set to 1680x1050 instead of its native 1920x1080.
  • GeForce 600 series: Bully: Scholarship Edition - The main game character is drawn incorrectly.
  • GeForce 600 series: Dragon Age 2 - Shadows randomly become corrupted as you move characters around.
  • GeForce 600 series: F1 2010 - The bottom edge of the screen eventually turns completely black.
  • GeForce 600 series: The NVIDIA Control Panel incorrectly reports DirectX support as DirectX 11.0 instead of DirectX 11.1.
  • GeForce 600 series: World of Tanks - Red-screen crash occurs when playing the game.
  • When setting a custom resolution on the secondary Dualview (extended mode) display, the display goes blank.

Fixed Multi-GPU Issues

  • 2-way/3-way/4-way SLI: GeForce 500 series, DiRT 3 - Stuttering occurs in the menus and loading screens, and occasionally during a race.
  • 3D Surround, SLI: GeForce GTX 500 series, Batman: Arkham City - There is heavy flickering in the cut-scenes with 3D Surround enabled.
  • 3D Surround: With four displays connected, the displays used for Surround may not match what the Wizard depicts.
  • 3-way/4-way SLI: GeForce 600/500 Series - Certain custom resolutions result in ‘Display Driver Not Responding’ errors when running DirectX 11 games.
  • SLI: GeForce 400 series - If SLI is enabled immediately after installing the driver, there is screen corruption upon system boot up. If SLI is not enabled, then there is no option to enable SLI after the system boots up.
  • SLI: GeForce 500 series, 3D Vision, ASUS VG278H - The 3D monitor does not return to 2D mode when exiting a stereoscopic 3D video or game.
  • SLI: GeForce 500/200 series, 3DTV Play: Black bars appear in the lower right portion of the screen of alternate frames in 3DTV Play for 720p @ 60 Hz.
  • SLI: GeForce 500/400 series - With SLI enabled, the motherboard remains powered on even after shutting down Windows.
  • SLI: GeForce 600 series - When shutting down the system with SLI enabled, the driver hangs and requires the system to be shut off using the power switch.
  • SLI: GeForce 600 series, 3D Surround - The Windows taskbar appears on top of games when viewed in windowed full-screen mode.
  • Surround: GeForce 600 series - The Confine taskbar feature fails when the accessory display is set as the primary display.

This latest release underlines our promise to support your purchases for as many years as possible, improving fidelity, performance, and the overall experience wherever possible.

Thanks for reading; you can download our GeForce 301.42 WHQL drivers with one click from the GeForce.com homepage. If you have any feedback or comments, please drop us a note below.

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