Nelson's log

MacOS third party graphics drivers

I did something I never thought I’d do and installed third party graphics drivers for my Mac, which has an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 660M graphics card. I was motivated to do that because the new game Stellaris was crashing frequently. The cargo cult advice for another game from the same publisher was that the third party drivers seem to have helped and I’ll be damned, they do.

NVIDIA couldn’t make it more confusing what these drivers are for, saying “This driver update is for Mac Pro 5,1 (2010), Mac Pro 4,1 (2009) and Mac Pro 3,1 (2008) users.” I don’t have some ancient Mac Pro with a video card, I have a modern iMac with a stock apple GPU. But the fine print indicates that really these drivers are for pretty much any Mac with an NVIDIA GPU. Also it’s called the “Web Driver”, which is an insane name for a kernel module. Note that there’s no index for all NVIDIA releases; you have to go this reseller page to find all the versions. And don’t be confused by the CUDA drivers; those are for high end number crunching, not graphics and gaming.

The installer seems well behaved. Worked fine on reboot for me, and the drivers have only seemed to be an improvement so far. Also it includes a control panel where you can switch back to the default MacOS drivers or uninstall the NVIDIA stuff entirely.

No idea what’s going on with Apple and MacOS that the stock El Capitan drivers aren’t good enough. Or with Paradox, the game publisher, that their games are sold for Macs without testing on standard machine configs. The whole point of paying the Apple premium is this stuff is supposed to work out of the box.

Update Dec 2016: the NVidia drivers are responsible for some graphics lag in League of Legends. With them installed, when Thresh drops a lantern my FPS drops from a solid 60 to 45 FPS or so. With the stock OS X drivers there’s no FPS drop. I don’t know if this is a bug in LoL or the drivers or an unfortunate interaction between the two. It may also be related to vsync.