NVIDIA will launch a new version of its ForceWare graphics drivers in September, and its unusual name is causing some ripples. GPUCafe claims to have information on what the new update will include, and if they're right, it will be quite an update indeed.
The new release, properly called ForceWare release 180, is being referred to in NVIDIA documentation as "Big Bang 2." This name evokes an earlier driver launch, Big Bang, which first allowed multi-GPU support on the GeForce 6000 series. The name implies that this driver release will be similarly huge, and the declared feature list is pretty compelling. GPUCafe says ForceWare release 180 will bring the following features:
Multimonitor support for SLIDisplay Port supportOpenGL 3.0Hardware video transcodingGPU PhysX supportPerformance optimizations
The performance optimizations are a continuing process, and a matter of routine. Support for the new standards is a good thing, and HTPC users will like the transcoding support. DisplayPort may now begin to appear on NVIDIA cards. The big news, however, is the PhysX and multimonitor announcements.
NVIDIA promised to release PhysX support for 8-series and 9-series cards in February, and this release will make good on that promise. Users will be able to use a second card, possibly a different kind, for Physics calculations while another handles graphics, in something similar to demos from both NVIDIA and ATI in years past. It may drive sales of new cards, or merely allow reutilization of older cards. SLI has been a bit of a thoroughbred for some time now, and these restrictions are gradually coming apart.
In the beginning, SLI required the two cards to be from the same exact model and same memory size, and later allowed any two cards with the same GPU to be chain-ganged. Similarly, Crossfire once required a special Crossfire-edition card and now does not. AMD has been making baby steps in the direction of allowing different GPUs to cooperate with its Hybrid Crossfire on the 780G, but NVIDIA's PhysX announcement takes it a bit further by allowing different discrete cards to cooperate, and to drive multiple monitors.
It is probable that at some time in the future, coordination will be able to use any number of different cards from the same manufacturer, driving any combination of monitors. This announcement brings that day a bit closer.