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Evolution of ATI Catalyst Driver

Catalyst 8.7 (07.21.2008) is the first official drive for the Radeon HD 48xx series. It introduced a lot of corrections for a dozen of then-popular games and was meant to increase performance in the following benchmarks and games:

  • 3DMark Vantage: up to 20% performance growth for the entire Radeon HD 3600 and 3400 series
  • Company of Heroes (DirectX 10): 3 to 12% performance growth on specific game levels for Radeon HD 4800, 3800 and 3600 series
  • Lost Planet (DirectX 10): 4 to 15% performance growth on specific game levels for Radeon HD 4800, 3800 and 3600 series
  • Lost Planet (DirectX 9): up to 80% performance growth for all Radeon series cards when using CrossFire technology together with full-screen antialiasing and anisotropic filtering
  • Call of Duty 4 (DirectX 9): up to 4% performance growth on specific game levels for Radeon HD 4800 series

Besides, the driver’s control panel (Catalyst Control Center) was updated and the operation of the distributed computing client Folding@Home was improved.

The Catalyst 8.8 driver released in the middle of August did not bring about any performance-related improvements. This release was meant to improve Avivo technology (processing of video content) in the first place. At the same time, the driver claimed to correct various issues in as many as 18 games for Windows Vista and XP. The subsequent Catalyst 8.9 driver (09.17.2008) was not meant to make graphics cards faster, either. It introduced minor improvements into Catalyst Control Center and partial support for OpenGL 3.0. This version corrected fewer bugs in games than the previous version. Since the driver developers did not declare any performance-related improvements, I will not test these drivers in this review.

Catalyst 8.10 (10.15.2008) was not declared to provide any improvements in terms of speed as you can learn from the official release notes. However, user reports and my personal experience suggest that this driver ensures performance benefits in popular benchmarks as well as in games. Therefore, Catalyst 8.10 is included into the test list. This version is not declared to have many bug corrections. Most of them are limited to processing video. New in this version is the option of controlling the graphics card’s fan speed from the driver’s Control Panel.

Catalyst 8.11 (11.12.2008) is the fifth official driver since the release of the Radeon HD 48xx series. It had been preceded by at least two beta versions targeted at increasing performance in newer games. The release notes promise a 3-10% performance growth in Far Cry 2 on Radeon HD 3xxx and 4xxx series in CrossFire mode and a 6-10% performance growth in single-card mode. A performance gain of 10-30% is also promised for Radeon 3xxx and 4xxx cards in CrossFireX mode running S.T.A.L.K.E.R. This release also corrected some bugs in modern games.

Catalyst 8.12 (12.10.2008) is the long-anticipated driver with lots of performance-related improvements. Here they are:

  • 3DMark Vantage (DirectX 10): performance gains of up to 5% in single and CrossFire modes for Radeon HD 46xx, HD 4550 and HD 4350 cards
  • Call of Duty: World at War (DirectX 9): performance gains of up to 21% in single and CrossFire modes for Radeon HD 48xx series
  • Crysis (DirectX 10): performance gains of up to 25% in single and CrossFire modes for Radeon HD 4xxx cards
  • Crysis Warhead (DirectX 10): performance gains of up to 13% in single card mode and up to 16% in CrossFire mode for Radeon HD 4xxx cards
  • Devil May Cry 4 (DirectX 10): performance gains of up to 6% in single and CrossFire modes for Radeon HD 4xxx and HD 38xx cards
  • Fallout 3: performance gains of up to 15% in single card mode
  • Far Cry 2 (DirectX 10): performance gains of up to 10% in single card mode and up to 57% in CrossFire mode for all Radeon HD 4xxx and HD 38xx cards
  • FEAR (DirectX 9): performance gains of up to 6% in single and CrossFire modes for Radeon HD 4870 X2 and HD 4870
  • Hellgate: London (DirectX 10): performance gains of up to 6% in single card mode and up to 10% in CrossFire mode for all Radeon HD 4xxx
  • Left 4 Dead (DirectX 9): performance gains of up to 10% in single card mode and up to 5% in CrossFire mode for all Radeon HD 4870 series cards
  • Lost Planet: Colonies (DirectX 10): performance gains of up to 10% in single and CrossFire modes for all Radeon HD 4xxx and HD 38xx cards
  • Prey (OpenGL): performance gains of up to 15% in CrossFire mode for Radeon HD 4870 1GB, HD 46xx and HD 45xx cards
  • S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Clear Sky: performance gains of up to 10% in CrossFire mode for all Radeon HD4xxx and HD38xx cards
  • Unreal Tournament 3 (DirectX 9): performance gains of up to 18% in single card mode and up to 15% in CrossFire mode, especially in cases where AA is enabled, for all Radeon HD 4xxx and HD 38xx cards

The list is long and impressive indeed. Besides, this driver corrects some bugs and optimizes the processing of video content.

That’s how the ATI Catalyst driver has been evolving since the introduction of the Radeon HD 48xx series. The next section describes the testbed I performed my tests on.

 
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