updated 11:55 am EDT, Tue August 12, 2008
NVIDIA GeForce Power Pack
NVIDIA on Tuesday gave its existing customers a bonus through the GeForce Power Pack, a new set of drivers that expose new features to certain GeForce cards. The upgrade takes advantage of the more universal nature of the effects processing cores in GeForce 8-, 9- and GTX-series cards to drive tasks that would normally depend on the main CPU. All these cards can now speed up physics in games and other apps that support PhysX; in specially enabled game maps with the new physics turned on, a mid-range GeForce 9800 GTX+ is nearly three times faster than the ATI Radeon HD 4850 that NVIDIA hopes to beat.
The driver upgrade also adds support for general-purpose code using NVIDIA's CUDA language, which has previously been reserved for its Quadro line of video chips. Previously meant for workstations and servers, the feature is being repurposed for tasks that are more likely to appeal to home users. An optimized video encoder is claimed as capable of reducing a two-hour movie to iPod size about 18 times faster than a CPU alone. Home cluster computing apps such as Folding@Home also benefit, NVIDIA says.
The Power Pack is freely available and comes bundled with the full game Warmonger, special Unreal Tournament 3 maps, technology demos, and general tools that include the Badaboom video transcoder as well as Folding@Home. NVIDIA currently supplies the drivers for Windows and hasn't said whether the features will be available to other operating systems.