When we say that the HD 5870 and HD 5970 are very different to the ones we tested at launch, we don't mean in a physical way. Monthly driver releases mean a number of updates are given and a number of small performance increases have happened. When you compare month to month, it's only an FPS here and an FPS there. Compare the March driver to the original Beta drivers and you can see all those little bumps translate to a big bump over the months.
We're not sure if NVIDIA intended to launch the GTX 400 series in November, but we expected it then. You can clearly see that if NVIDIA had worked to even beat the HD 5870 or HD 5970 by 10% back then, they could well be trailing behind at launch.
That's not to say that the driver team at NVIDIA haven't been working on improving on how the GTX 400 series performs now as opposed to if it was released last year, but it's clear they could've had bigger problems to deal with.
When reading GTX 400 reviews in the coming week or two, make sure you keep an eye on the driver version that people are using. The GTX 400 series should be tested on a 197 driver. The same goes for the GTX 200 series models. As for the ATI models, make sure they're tested on either the Catalyst 10.3 or the 10.3a Preview Driver.
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