Just a week ago, Microsoft released the long-awaited first Service Pack for Windows Vista and, as a result of its release, we felt it was right to move all of our test systems to Windows Vista Service Pack 1 as soon as possible. There will be a few reviews published during the transition period that don’t use Windows Vista SP1, but starting from this week you will start to see our first hardware reviews using the new Service Pack.
Today, Nvidia has released a driver that enables Quad SLI support on the GeForce 9800 GX2 – something that we’d normally be interested in covering the moment it launches. However, because of the arrival of Windows Vista Service Pack 1, there’s the big question of performance surrounding it.
We also decided that, with the many man hours of benchmarks required for a full-blown GeForce 9800 GX2 Quad SLI evaluation, it was highly unlikely that we were going to deliver the article we felt both Quad SLI and AMD’s recently-released CrossFire X solutions really deserved. As a result of this, we’ll be focusing today’s article on Windows Vista Service Pack 1 gaming performance—and not on the latest crop of Quad GPU behemoths that very few gamers honestly sink money into.
We have tested our systems with all of the pre-SP1 updates installed—including the five hotfixes recommended for optimal performance in today’s latest games—and then again after installing Service Pack 1, to get an idea of the benefits of moving to SP1 from a gamers’ perspective. After all, many of you said that you wouldn’t upgrade to Vista until after the first Service Pack was released, so today we’ll find out whether it was worth waiting for…
Of course, 3D application performance isn’t the only thing to consider with Windows Vista Service Pack 1, as there are said to be improvements in 2D application performance as well. For those eagerly waiting for 2D application performance benchmarks with SP1, this will follow in another article later this week – for now, the focus is on Windows Vista SP1 gaming performance. But before we get onto performance though, we’ll make some brief notes about the installation process.
First of all, there are different ways to install Windows Vista Service Pack 1: you can either get hold of it via Windows Update—the method that Microsoft recommends for installation on single systems—or you can alternatively download the standalone packages from the Microsoft Download Center if you’re installing the update on multiple machines.
We installed the update on three systems in total—two test machines and my office workstation—and each took different amounts of time to install. Despite all three systems being fairly highly specced, the fastest machine was the one that took the longest time to update: my dual quad-core Intel Xeon workstation. On this machine, the process took about 40 minutes to complete (not including the download time), while the two test systems ran through the entire procedure in around 25 to 30 minutes.