NVIDIA To Unify Desktop and Notebook Drivers

Over the last few years, both ATI and NVIDIA have implemented plans to release mobile graphics driver updates at more regular intervals. Historically, notebook users have been at the mercy of the notebook OEM with regard to mobile graphics driver updates, and OEMs have typically lagged way behind the GPU manufacturers. This left many notebook users out in the cold, while desktop users were treated to performance enhancements, new features, and increased compatibility with the latest games.

NVIDIA, however, is making another move in the mobile GPU space, that takes things a step further, with the ultimate goal of unifying desktop and mobile GPU drivers. NVIDIA's Verde GPU drivers, as they are called, will bring the company's mobile GPU drivers up to feature parity with desktop GeForce drivers. This is particularly important as of late, because the GPU is being used for more than just gaming. Owners of notebooks with discrete NVIDIA GPUs that wanted to take advantage of the increasing number of CUDA-enabled applications, for example, can't do so if their notebook drivers didn't enable CUDA.

The Verde drivers aren't only about CUDA-support, however. With recent driver releases, NVIDIA has also implemented features like ambient occlusion and included compatibility updates and SLI profiles for many new games, in addition to 3D Vision support (with a compatible notebook).  NVIDIA will also be releasing a feature called 3D TV Play, which will allow notebook users to connect their systems to 3D TVs, to exploit the benefits of 3D Vision and 3D multimedia content using the glasses included with the TV. And let's not forget about performance. NVIDIA's 197 series drivers also offer significantly increased performance in a number of games and applications, over the old 17x / 18x series drivers. And those performance increases can sometimes make a game that was previously unplayable on the mobile GPU, playable.

Things will really get interesting in a few months when NVIDIA releases their 256 series drivers. At that point, NVIDIA's plans are to completely unify their GPU drivers, so mobile and desktop users will be able to get the latest releases simultaneously. The drivers won't be released in a single package, but the download should be made available at the same time.

While NVIDIA's Verde drivers aim to unify mobile and desktop GPU drivers, they will not be universally compatible. Notebooks with discrete GPUs, hybrid solutions that feature NVIDIA IGPs, and Optimus enabled notebooks will be compatible. Notebooks with multi-vendor hybrid solutions, i.e. those with integrated Intel graphics and discrete NVIDIA graphics, will not be supported. That's somewhat of a letdown, when you consider how many really popular notebooks have been released in the last few years which feature multi-vendor hybrid graphics--the Alienware M11x comes to mind--but NVIDIA is still moving in the right direction and should be commended for making the effort to better support mobile users, when the OEMs won't.