Nvidia misses OpenGL 4.0 promises

Presidency of Khronos can’t save them

Nvidia worldNVIDIA SEEMS TO BE telling porkies again, this time in an area where it is quick to criticize others. Its OpenGL 4.0 driver promises once again suggest that honesty is not a core corporate value at Nvidia.

Note: Update at bottom

Nvidia keeps sleazing out PR pieces, usually picking a word or two out of context, purposefully misinterpreting them, and banging a drum about others’ alleged ‘failures’. Its schtick has become so lame it is annoying, but then again, this is Nvidia. When it comes to delivering on its own promises however, the company seems to come up well short of the mark.

If you recall, a month and a day ago, March 11, 2010 to be exact, Nvidia promised an OpenGL 4.0 driver for its GTX470 and GTX480 graphics cards on launch day. Specifically, Barthold Lichtenbelt, OpenGL ARB working group chair and senior manager of Core OpenGL at Nvidia said, “Nvidia is pleased to announce that its upcoming Fermi-based graphics accelerators will fully support OpenGL 4.0 at launch.

Fair enough, he should know, and if he doesn’t, Neil Trevett is president of the Khronos Group and a vice president at Nvidia, so this release should be a slam dunk.

For those who have been locked in a cave, the launch day(s) have moved around quite a bit, but officially it is today, April 12, 2010. For the up to 8,000 lucky souls who might have both scored a GF100 based card and have a power supply beefy enough to run it, the OpenGL 4.0 driver is, well, a bit lacking. Yup, holding the presidency of the Khronos Working Group and the OpenGL 4.0 ARB working group chaimanship doesn’t seem to be enough for Nvidia to actually deliver on its promised software drivers.


3.2 does not equal 4.0 in most numbering systems

If you look here, the ‘Specifications’ tab lists OpenGL 3.2 for the GTX480. The driver ‘Release Highlights’ page for the 197 drivers, updated 2010.04.09, that is, April 9, 2010, also known as last Friday, says it, “Supports OpenGL 3.2.” Just to make sure the multitude of web pages on the Nvidia site are simply not just a few hundred typos, you can look at the full release notes for the 197.41 drivers. The “What’s New in Version 197.41” section on page 7 of the PDF is curiously devoid of any OpenGL 4.0 references as well.

So it looks like Nvidia failed again. It would seem that all those people who bought into Nvidia’s promise of 512 shader GTX480s in 2009 will have to put up with OpenGL 3.2 for a while longer. Should you not want to wait any longer, the AMD OpenGL 4.0 beta driver has been out for almost two weeks. You can grab that here.

No love for devs either

Once again, not quite there.

If you want the Nvidia version, click here and hit F5 a lot. Given how long you might have to wait, SemiAccurate does not recommend holding your breath while doing so. SemiAccurate also disclaims any liability for worn or broken F5 keys. You’ve been warned.S|A

Note: Nvidia has an uncanny mastery of splitting hairs while spinning. The SemiAccurate PR response pool for Nvidia has an inordinate number of entries in the “We meant professional cards, not consumer ones” category.

Update: It looks like there are SOME updates out, but not all of them, and not ‘fully’ by any stretch of the imagination. Something is really odd, it looks like Nvidia is desperately trying to not look stupid here, but they failed rather spectacularly. As of this writing, about 4pm EST on April 13th, 2010, the main Nvidia driver page still has the v197.41 drivers listed, which do not support OpenGL4.0. This holds true for XP, XP/64, Win7, and Win7/64.

There are ‘leaked’ v197.45 drivers here (http://www.nvidia.com/object/win7_winvista_64bit_197.45_whql.html) that are specifically NOT linked from the Nvidia driver page. The v197.45 do NOT support 4xx cards, do NOT support OpenGL 3.3 or 4.0, and had to be ‘leaked’, they are not ‘official’. These drivers are dated April 13, 2010, or the day after “full support”.

197.44, not 197.45

Which is bigger, 197.44 or 197.45? April 12 or April 13?

To make matters more complex, the Nvidia OpenGL 4.0 developer site DOES have drivers up that do support OpenGL 4.0, you can get them here. The page is dated April 12, 2010, but it was updated hours after our original story went live a few minutes after 5pm EST on April 12, 2010. That is not ‘At launch’, it is after launch. The problem with these new ‘official’ drivers? They are v197.44, and have been ‘superceded’ by the 197.45 drivers above that specifically do NOT support OpenGL 4.0.

The fact of the matter is that upon ‘release’, whether you call that Black Friday 2009, Q4/2009, before the end of 2009, Q1/2010, March 26 2010, April 6 2010, April 12 2010, or any promised date you would like, there were no OpenGL 4.0 supporting drivers when the cards ‘launched’. Period. “At launch” is a specific term, and Nvidia failed.

Luckily, we still have a mess. The interim v197.44 drivers are only on the Nvidia developer site, hardly “fully supported” by any stretch of the imagination. The ones after that, 197.45, have the OpenGL 4.0 functionality removed. Curious that, I sense spin.

Update 2: According to the Nvidia press web site, the card was officially launched on either March 26th or March 29th, 2010, depending on how you interpret this release. It specifically states that it was launched on the 29th or before, and “They will be available in mid-April”. There were no drivers that supported OpenGL 4.0 on at any time during March 2010, and for two weeks following the launch.

The first three paragraphs of the release reads as follows:

SANTA CLARA, California—March 29, 2010—Hot off the heels of PAX East, the consumer gaming show held this past weekend in Boston, NVIDIA today officially launched its new flagship graphics processors, the NVIDIA® GeForce® GTX 480 and GeForce GTX 470.

The top-of-the line in a new family of enthusiast-class GPUs, the GeForce GTX 480 was designed from the ground up to deliver the industry’s most potent tessellation performance, which is the key component of Microsoft’s DirectX 11 development platform for PC games. Tessellation allows game developers to take advantage of the GeForce GTX 480 GPU’s ability to increase the geometric complexity of models and characters to deliver far more realistic and visually compelling gaming environments.

The GeForce GTX 480 is joined by the GeForce GTX 470 as the first products in NVIDIA’s Fermi line of consumer products. They will be available in mid-April, from the world’s leading add-in card partners and PC system builders. The remainder of the GeForce 400-series lineup will be announced in the coming months, filling out additional performance and price segments.”

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Charlie Demerjian

Roving engine of chaos and snide remarks at SemiAccurate
Charlie Demerjian is the founder of Stone Arch Networking Services and SemiAccurate.com. SemiAccurate.com is a technology news site; addressing hardware design, software selection, customization, securing and maintenance, with over one million views per month. He is a technologist and analyst specializing in semiconductors, system and network architecture. As head writer of SemiAccurate.com, he regularly advises writers, analysts, and industry executives on technical matters and long lead industry trends. Charlie is also a council member with Gerson Lehman Group. FullyAccurate