Hot on the heels of the first 3D Vision Surround Beta driver comes Nvidia's new 258.96 driver, which is currently going through Microsoft's WHQL-certification process.
Assuming Microsoft gives it the thumbs up, the driver will soon be up on Nvidia's main download page but, in the meantime, Nvidia has put up a pre-release version. The main reason for this, of course, is because it's just released the new GeForce GTX 460 GPU, and it's not a lot of good having a new graphics card without a working driver of some description.
As well as supporting Nvidia's new mid-range GPU, the 258.96 driver will also be the first WHQL package to support Nvidia's 3D Vision Surround technology.
Enabling stereoscopic 3D effects in games across three monitors, 3D Vision Surround has so far only been supported by Nvidia's 258.69 Beta driver, but it now looks set to get the full WHQL treatment. However, Nvidia notes that the new driver still doesn't enable 3D Vision Surround on 3-Way SLI systems using GeForce GTX 200-series GPUs yet.
There are a few other new bits and pieces in the new package too. These include an upgrade of the PhysX system software to version 9.10.0224, as well as an HD audio driver upgrade to version 220.127.116.11 on supported graphics chips. Nvidia has also taken this opportunity to add in support for its GeForce GTX 400M-series laptop GPUs.
However, one technology that's being shown the exit door is Hybrid Power on GeForce 9800 GX2 and GeForce 9800 GTX cards. Hybrid Power enables owners of Nvidia motherboard chip sets to switch off their discrete GPU and use the integrated graphics when they don't need the extra power, resulting in lower power consumption, as well as reduced heat and noise.
Nvidia claims the new driver also provides a few speed boosts when using GeForce GTX 400-series GPUs. Using a GeForce GTX 480, the company claims you can see a performance increase of up to 11 per cent in Aliens vs Predator at 1920 x 1200 with 4x AA and 16x AF, with tessellation enabled. At the same settings (minus tessellation), Nvidia also reckons you could see up to a ten per cent performance boost in S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Call of Pripyat.
You can download the 64-bit version of the driver for Windows Vista and 7 here, and the 32-bit version here. For more information on the various bug fixes and performance improvements, it's also worth checking out the release notes.