Nvidia rolled out its latest Game Ready drivers for GeForce graphics cards on Tuesday. We don’t normally cover the hot-and-heavy world of graphics drivers releases (just keep them updated, okay?), but this one features a notable milestone: Game Ready driver 451.48 is fully DirectX 12 Ultimate compliant, meaning Nvidia’s GeForce RTX 20-series graphics cards are the first hardware to support Microsoft’s next-gen graphics API.
While it’s notable, it’s no surprise. DirectX 12 Ultimate unifies graphics support across PCs and the forthcoming Xbox Series X, rolling in features like an updated version of Microsoft’s DXR ray tracing API, variable rate shading tier 2, mesh shaders, and sampler feedback. Most of those technologies appeared first in Nvidia’s “Turing” graphics cards—the RTX 20-series and GTX 16-series—but haven’t been seen often in games, as they’ve been limited to Nvidia hardware.
Now that they’re enshrined in the new DX12 Ultimate standard across consoles and PC GPUs alike, expect the features to gain more traction. Microsoft calls the unified API “a force multiplier for the entire gaming ecosystem.”
It’s also vindication for Nvidia’s design decisions for its latest graphics card architecture. You can learn more in our Turing GPU deep-dive if you’re curious, and more about these specific features in our coverage of the DirectX 12 Ultimate announcement. They’re nifty stuff.
Future AMD Radeon GPUs will no doubt also support DirectX 12 Ultimate, because the company’s RDNA graphics architecture powers the Xbox One X and ray tracing’s been confirmed for RDNA2 graphics cards launching later this year. Current Radeon offerings lack ray tracing capabilities, however.
Speaking of the latest APIs, Nvidia’s new driver also rolls out full support for Vulkan 1.2.
Hardware-accelerated GPU scheduling, new G-Sync Compatible monitors
That’s not all. Nvidia’s latest Game Ready drivers also let your existing hardware perform new tricks.
A new hardware-accelerated GPU scheduling feature might be even more interesting at the user level than DirectX 12 Ultimate, at least for now. Microsoft added the feature in the Windows 10 2020 May Update (which is also required for DX12 Ultimate), and this driver unlocks Nvidia’s support. Hardware-accelerated GPU scheduling hands VRAM management over to the graphics card itself, rather than having Windows handle the reins.
Here’s how Nvidia’s public relations blast described its benefits:
“Hardware-accelerated GPU scheduling allows GPUs to handle video playback and games calculations more efficiently by directly managing its video memory. This new feature can also help improve performance and reduce latency on supported hardware. Hardware scheduling works regardless of the API (DirectX, Vulkan, OpenGL) so a wide variety of applications and games can see a benefit from this new feature, including Movies & TV app, Netflix, and games.”
Given that Nvidia isn’t touting huge performance gains, don’t expect it to work some sort of black magic that suddenly supercharges GPU performance. Nonetheless, it sounds like a solid feature addition.
Search for “Graphics Settings: Change Default Graphics Settings” in Windows and toggle the feature on to enable it, assuming you’ve already upgraded to the May 2020 Update. You don’t turn it on in Nvidia’s Control Panel.
Shifting gears, the new driver also adds automatic support for nine more G-Sync Compatible displays, Nvidia’s marketing term for Adaptive Sync (read: FreeSync) monitors that pass a stricter Nvidia certification process. Official G-Sync Compatible displays automatically have their variable refresh rate capabilities turned on by the drivers, rather than requiring a Control Panel workaround like other FreeSync monitors.
The new driver activates support for the following monitors:
Finally, this driver adds one-click optimization for 12 more games. The optimization tool in GeForce Experience scans your computer’s hardware and automatically configures a game’s visual options based on their capabilities, though its decisions can be…odd…sometimes. Still, it works well more often than not, and is a valuable tool for people who aren’t comfortable tinkering with arcane graphics options themselves. Here are the newly supported games:
Age of Empires III: Complete Collection
Command & Conquer Remastered Collection
Mafia II: Definitive Edition
ONE PIECE: PIRATE WARRIORS 4
Streets of Rage 4
Total Tank Simulator
If you’re running GeForce Experience, look for the new driver update today; I’m already seeing in on my system. You can also download the drivers manually from Nvidia’s website. Again, while you can download the Game Ready 451.48 drivers no matter which version of Windows 10 you’re using, the DirectX 12 Ultimate and hardware-accelerated GPU scheduling features require the Windows 10 May 2020 Update to work.
Brad Chacos spends his days digging through desktop PCs and tweeting too much. He specializes in graphics cards and gaming, but covers everything from security to Windows tips and all manner of PC hardware.