I’ve talked in the past about how installing the latest available drivers for any given old graphics card, could occasionally not be the best idea.
Today I decided to test my cards again with a new game for the benchmark suite – MDK2. It is one of the most demanding tests included, especially since the only other OpenGL game I’ve got is Quake 2, which is not that difficult to run nowadays. It is, in fact, demanding enough that on default settings you need 15MBs just for textures. Most old cards won’t have that much, but AGP texturing is obviously an option. Except when it’s not…. and also when it should be, but it isn’t.
My first test brought me to benchmark the STB Velocity 128, using the proprietary drivers with OGL support. As it turns out, it wasn’t a good idea. After one hour of suffering, I got my results: 0.36fps. Clearly there was something wrong. Attempting again with the newest universal drivers, I got a far more acceptable 27.8fps, albeit with some transparency issues. Most likely, the older drivers were unable to use system memory for textures. The score was effectively the same on the 128ZX in spite of its halved bus width and SDRAM, proving that the game wasn’t really using the card’s onboard memory at all. Though I suspect something else was at play too – other cards similarly unable to use system memory, still got better results (for example, the SiS 6326 8MB reached 2.2fps even though it should be slower than a Riva).
Moving onto the oft-maligned Trident Blade 3D, I initially noticed a similar behavior – horrendously slow framerates. This didn’t make sense, since I knew the Blade 3D was supposed to support AGP texturing just fine. I once again tried reverting to an older drivers set, which wasn’t so easy to find. Just about every site around will offer only the 6.50.5452-95 drivers, which are the latest ones. After a while, I was able to dig out these 6.50.5452-73 ones, which may sound similar but are really one year older. And now MDK2 works. Well, somewhat. While it’s now acceptable on 800×600 (though an average of 19fps isn’t anything to write home about), other resolutions will cause huge CPU frametime spikes for no apparent reason. Anyway, still better than 0.3fps. And the older drivers also gave me slightly better framerates in Quake 2, even though the OpenGL ICD included was supposedly still in beta, and solved some picture quality issues in Final Reality and Shadows of the Empire!
It’s a shame these drivers were hidden in the depths of the internet. The most commonly found ones tend to have more issues. I don’t think many people will care about old video cards anymore, but just in case there are other weirdos like me around, they oughta remember not to stop at what you see on the surface.
In other news, I’ve just ordered an Oxygen GVX1, which of course will need to go through the entire benchmark suite. Let’s hope I can do that without swapping drivers between tests.