Test System Setup
Processor: Intel Core 2 Extreme E6700 at 2.66GHz (266MHz FSB x 10)
Motherboard: Gigabyte P965-DQ6 (Supplied by Gigabyte)
Memory: 2x 1GB Kingston DDR-2 PC-8000 at 1:1
Hard Disk: 320GB Seagate 7200.10 SATA-2 (Supplied by Seagate)
Graphics Card: PowerColor X1950 Pro (Crossfire - 512MB total) / PowerColor X1950 Pro 512MB (Supplied by PowerColor)
Operating System: Microsoft Windows Vista Premium Home (build 6000, final)
Drivers: Intel INF 188.8.131.521, Catalyst 7.1 for Vista and Catalyst BETA 184.108.40.206.2.1
Alright then, we've finished checking through the PDF document and it's time to check out the performance of the driver.
We had limited time for testing which meant that we couldn't test with our usual full range of Radeon graphics cards but we did manage to test Crossfire. As mentioned, 7.1 is the first Vista driver to support Crossfire, so we are really only providing these numbers, as confirmation that it actually works.
We've compared a single Radeon X1950 Pro 512MB from PowerColor with 7.1 and BETA 220.127.116.11.2.1 (previous public driver) to see what has changed in the first official release Vista driver from AMD. During our testing we needed to download several .dll DX9 files (such as d3dx9_30.dll, d3dx9_29.dll and d3dx9_28.dll) since Vista comes natively with DX10 and misses a bunch of these files that some games ask for. All you need to do is Google the filename and download the file and copy into your Windows/system folder and then you're good to go!
Before we continue though, it's important to discuss OpenGL testing. We opted against providing any OpenGL benchmarking (such as PREY or Quake 4) since the previous public driver lacked OpenGL support. Cat 7.1 brings OpenGL support (but not in Crossfire mode) although performance is not as great as it will be in the future.
As you can see from the image above, D3D performance should be somewhat similar to XP but OpenGL performance is not the focus in the first release driver and at this stage the aim is to just provide a stable gaming experience. AMD intend on improving OpenGL performance in future releases. In a future article and once both AMD and nVidia release their next set of official Vista drivers, we'll compare gaming performance in Vista and XP and see how both fair.
Let's move onto the actual benchmarks now!