Driver Questions

Besides the preinstalled software, there's another aspect of software that we need to discuss: drivers. Drivers on Windows Vista are still a bit hit and miss, but for the most part any modern computer should have up-to-date drivers available. That's partially the case with the Toshiba X205. Why only partially?

Given that the Toshiba X205 uses NVIDIA's latest and most powerful mobile DirectX 10 graphics chip, the 8700M GT, you might expect that the drivers have been updated recently. If you go to NVIDIA's web site, of course, you're instructed to go to your notebook manufacturer's web site for drivers. Unlike their desktop GPUs, NVIDIA doesn't release reference drivers for laptops. So head on over to Toshiba's web page, and what drivers do you find for the graphics chip? The last update was in mid-June, which doesn't seem too bad, except that the actual version number is 101.68. NVIDIA has moved on to versions 15x.xx and now 16x.xx with improved performance and features, so it's not too surprising that the older drivers do not offer optimal performance.

Slightly reduced performance would be acceptable, but we actually ran into a bigger problem. Bioshock refused to run on the official 101.68 drivers - we could watch the opening movies, but as soon as the 3D engine tried to initialize the game would crash. So what do you do when the official drivers don't work and NVIDIA hasn't released any beta drivers? You turn to the Internet, naturally.

One of the best places to get unofficial laptop video card drivers is LaptopVideo2Go, a site that regularly releases updated laptop drivers with modified INF files so that NVIDIA's latest reference drivers can be used on any laptop chipset. Of course, this doesn't always work perfectly, and in many cases the hacked drivers will not be properly optimized for laptop GPUs. We picked up the latest 163.44 "Bioshock" driver release and the necessary INF file from that site and were eventually able to get everything working properly - yes, we even managed to get Bioshock to run.

While it's good that we were able to work around the problem, it would be even better if we didn't have to result to hacked drivers. It seems likely that NVIDIA is at the mercy of the OEMs in terms of releasing reference drivers, as there are many OEMs that don't want to have extra features enabled. If that's the case, we would definitely encourage Toshiba and other OEMs to relax this restriction, since it's only causing problems for end-users. If that's not a viable option, then NVIDIA and the various notebook OEMs really need to work on getting more regular driver updates released. This is particularly true for anyone running Windows Vista, because there have been quite a few performance improvements over the past few months and we expect to see additional improvements in the near future. With Windows Vista being the only DirectX 10 platform currently available, and considering the early nature of DirectX 10 titles, it becomes even more important for users to be able to get regular driver updates.

Index Driver Performance Comparison
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  • johnscott - Thursday, November 29, 2007 - link

    this fixes the screen from not coming back after idle and lets youDL from nvidia
    http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&...">http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?Vi...amp;ssPa...
    Reply
  • Inkjammer - Saturday, September 8, 2007 - link

    I remember Anandtech running an article on the 2GB issues people were running into on Vista. While the X205 comes with 2GB of memory, 256MB of that memory are taken by the graphics card by default. Between Vista's overhead and the Turbomemory, the system runs with a memory hit, which may affect games like Oblivion.

    I ultimately broke down and bought 4GB of memory for the laptop to make up for this "gap", as you hit memory limits faster. It's something to take into consideration on systems shipping with Turbomemory enabled gaming cards.
    Reply
  • Inkjammer - Saturday, September 8, 2007 - link

    While I had previously recommended the 164.33 drivers in the first review, I did discover something interesting: the HD-DVD drive would refuse to play video when using them. THe only way to re-instate the HD-DVD video was to revert back to the OEM drivers Toshiba ships with, which was... dissapointing.

    So, I guess there are pros and cons to the drivers that I hadn't noticed after all, and it went back to what you said about incompatibilities. But the HD-DVD playback was NOT a compatibility problem I'd have thought of. I've been running the 163.44 so far and have had no game problems. The HD video is the only issue thus far.
    Reply
  • customcoms - Thursday, September 6, 2007 - link

    http://anandtech.com/mobile/showdoc.aspx?i=3085&am...">http://anandtech.com/mobile/showdoc.aspx?i=3085&am...,

    quote:

    Considering that users can always turn down the brightness level if they need more battery power, we would like to see more laptops follow the example of the ASUS G2P. While the white levels weren't particularly noteworthy, the black levels are the darkest we've encountered on a laptop so far, and the result is a higher than advertised 874:1 contrast ratio


    I believe you are speaking about the Toshiba X205 in this sentence, as it has the lowest black level and achieves a contrast ratio of 874:1.
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Thursday, September 6, 2007 - link

    I mean that I want the option for the brighter whites, like the ASUS G2P. I'll edit for clarity. :) Reply
  • SpaceRanger - Thursday, September 6, 2007 - link

    Oblivion 18.19 18.01 -4.04%

    How is that a -4.04% reduction???
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Thursday, September 6, 2007 - link

    It is an average of all three tested resolutions (1280x800, 1440x900, and 1680x1050). I left out the lower resolutions in the table, but they are present in the scaling charts. Here are the specifics for Oblivion:

    Oblivion,v101.68,v163.44,%Change
    1280x800,26,24.4,-6.19%
    1440x900,21.1,20.1,-4.92%
    1680x1050,18.2,18,-1.01%
    ,,,-4.04%

    (Sorry - no good way to do a table in our comments, so cut and paste that into a CSV file for proper viewing of the columns if you need to.) Basically, there was a sizable performance drop at 1280x800, which counterbalances the small drop at 1680x1050.

    Take care,
    Jarred
    Reply

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