For those of you who haven't seen the link stowed away in our Quick Links section, HardOCP released a very interesting article yesterday, detailing the differences between gaming in 32-bit and 64-bit versions of Windows XP Professional with both ATI's and NVIDIA's flagship video cards.

They tested eight game titles in all, which were: Doom 3, Half Life 2, Need For Speed: Underground 2, Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory, Everquest II, World of Warcraft, The Chronicles of Riddick, and The Sims 2.

There were several interesting things to note going through the article, the first being the driver situation. NVIDIA's 64-bit display drivers are slightly behind its latest official 32-bit driver release. If you are running Windows XP Professional x64, you will need to use the slightly older 71.84 driver. We understand that around 95% of the 32-bit driver code is in NVIDIA's 64-bit drivers, so future drivers should, by rights, be released simultaneously. We are awaiting confirmation from NVIDIA on this matter.

ATI's situation is much the same - they are expecting to release a new x86-64 driver every month, as is the case with their current Catalyst program. One thing is missing at the moment - there is no Catalyst Control Center on Windows XP Professional x64, so users will have to make use of the legacy control panel for the time being.

We asked ATI when we can expect to see the Catalyst Control Center arriving on Windows XP Professional x64, and got the following reply: "We are not ready to announce details at this exact time but with Catalyst, as always, you can expect support for the community very shortly."

On the basis of that reply, we expect to see Catalyst Control Center in either Catalyst 5.5, or in Catalyst 5.6. Driver updates for Windows XP Professional x64 will be released at the same time as its 32-bit equivalents.

We have tried to find out some more details from both ATI and NVIDIA as to how they plan to go about releasing new display drivers, new driver features, and improved performance across the top game titles.

The final driver issue is with the chipset drivers on NForce 4 - they are still in beta stages and in the release notes there are problems that will not please gamers. It states that "Audio pops and clicks may occur while playing certain games." and "Occasional hangs may occur with these drivers." It is far from ideal, and now that Windows XP Professional x64 is a final release, there should be WHQL certified drivers available for both NForce 3 and NForce 4 chipsets.

On the whole, the gaming experience was the same across 32-bit and 64-bit platforms. However, two of the game titles resulted in below par performance, Chronicles of Riddick performed better in a 32-bit environment on the ATI Radeon X850 XT Platinum Edition, but performed the same on both platforms with NVIDIA's GeForce 6800 Ultra. ATI will need to look at bringing the performance of Chronicles of Riddick up on par with the 32-bit performance that they are capable of delivering in the title.

Secondly, Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory has issues, whereby it refuses to run under Windows XP Professional x64. Ubisoft, the developers of the title, will need to release a patch in the near future to get the popular title working under the latest operating system. Steam also had problems installing to the default installation directory, but once installed to a user-selected destination the platform ran fine, as did Half-Life 2.

The article is well worth a read if you are considering upgrading to the latest version of Windows XP. Have you already upgraded to the 64-bit version of Windows? Let us know in the discussion thread.
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