Nvidia upgrades software to 64-bit

Nvidia has released its first drivers for the Athlon 64 and Opteron, giving its chips the ability to tap into 64-bit computing

Nvidia has released its first graphics drivers that take advantage of the 64-bit processing capabilities of AMD's latest processors; the Athlon 64 and the Opteron.

As part of the launch on Thursday of a new set of Windows drivers, called Forceware Unified Driver Architecture, Nvidia launched a version of Forceware tuned for 64-bit Windows on AMD's platform -- an operating system called Windows XP 64-Bit Edition Version 2003.

The catch is that 64-bit Windows is only at the preview stage; Nvidia's software will only work with build 1060 and higher. The final release of 64-bit Windows for Athlon and Opteron has been delayed until sometime next year.

AMD's launch of the Athlon 64 earlier this month is considered by many analysts to be a watershed in the Windows PC business -- a 64-bit processor that also doubles as a fast 32-bit processor. AMD aims to sell millions of the chips to users running conventional 32-bit programs, creating a ready-made market for 64-bit software when it becomes available. Apple made a similar move with its 64-bit G5 chip, launched earlier this year.

One hitch in the upgrade strategy could be the availability of drivers that work with the 64-bit version of Windows. The operating system itself is likely to lack many features available in the 32-bit version when it finally arrives, but it will also need entirely new drivers to connect with hardware devices such as printers, scanners and graphics cards. AMD published a white paper on porting drivers to the AMD64 architecture in March.

The operating system can, however, run 32-bit applications without modification.

Like the 32-bit version of Forceware, the new driver improves the rendering of graphics using anisotropic filtering and anti-aliasing. The release includes a new set-up wizard for multiple displays, customised user profiles for saving the settings of users or individual games, and improved performance on DirectX 9.0 titles such as HalfLife 2, HaloPC and Microsoft Flight Simulator 9.

The drivers are available from Nvidia's Web site.