IntroductionRunning a little late again we have with us what should be the final Catalyst driver for the year. It's been an interesting year - who would have thought that come the end of 2006 that ATI would be well and truly sitting at number two in the graphics card arena.Hopefully next year as the merger of ATI and AMD gets into full swing we begin to see a more interesting line up - we really do have high hopes for the R600. Crossfire is clearly moving in the right direction with the internal bridge setup seen present on the Radeon X1950PRO.ATI mention no performance improvements this month - disappointed? Yes! Last year at this point in time we saw the Catalyst begin to make use of Dual Core processors and huge improvements across the board, unfortunately there isn't anything that major out. While we do have Quad Cores, it's safe to say that it's still going to be a while till they become mainstream with it taking almost 12 months for the Dual Core to become mainstream.There are a huge amount of bug fixes and what not, so the upgrade should be worth it so we would recommend you have a look at the latest release notes while we see if ATI threw us a little extra performance somewhere.
Benchmarks - Test System Setup and 3DMark05
Test System SetupProcessor(s): Intel Core 2 Duo E6600 @ 3150MHz (350MHz FSB 1:1)Motherboard(s): ASUS P5B Deluxe (Supplied by ASUS)Memory: 2 X 1GB G.Skill HZ PC8000 @ 350MHz 4-4-4-12 (Supplied by Bronet)Hard Disk(s): Hitachi 80GB 7200RPM SATA 2 Operating System: Windows XP Professional SP2Continuing with the new cards we will do as usual a straight out comparison against last month's 6.11 drivers. We don't want to ramble and we know you don't really want to read, so let's look at the graphs.3DMark05Version and / or Patch Used: Build 130Developer Homepage:http://www.futuremark.comProduct Homepage:http://www.futuremark.com/products/3dmark05/Buy It Here
3DMark05 is now the second latest version in the popular 3DMark "Gamers Benchmark" series. It includes a complete set of DX9 benchmarks which tests Shader Model 2.0 and above.For more information on the 3DMark05 benchmark, we recommend you read our preview here.
We can see the lower X1300XT and X1650PRO see a slight drop in performance at both resolutions.
3DMark06 is the very latest version of the "Gamers Benchmark" from FutureMark. The newest version of 3DMark expands on the tests in 3DMark05 by adding graphical effects using Shader Model 3.0 and HDR (High Dynamic Range lighting) which will push even the best DX9 graphics cards to the extremes.3DMark06 also focuses on not just the GPU but the CPU using the AGEIA PhysX software physics library to effectively test single and Dual Core processors.
The more intensive 06 sees performance is pretty similar across the board, the X1950XTX has a little jump at both resolutions but nothing we would get too excited about.
By taking the suspense, challenge and visceral charge of the original, and adding startling new realism, responsiveness and new HDR technology, Half-Life 2 Lost Coast opens the door to a world where the player's presence affects everything around him, from the physical environment to the behaviors even the emotions of both friends and enemies.We benchmark Half Life 2 Lost Coast with our own custom timedemos as to avoid possible driver optimizations using the "record demo_name" command and loading the timedemo with the "timedemo demo_name" command - For a full list of the commands, click here.
The X1950XTX sees performance increases at the lower resolution and at the higher resolution the X850XT and X1650PRO see a drop. Everything goes back to normal when we move to our HDR tests though.
PREY is one of the newest games to be added to our benchmark line-up. It is based off the Doom 3 engine and offers stunning graphics passing what we've seen in Quake 4 and does put quite a lot of strain on our test systems.
PREY performance is pretty similar across the board though we do see a bump at the lower resolution using the X850XT.
Company of Heroes, or COH as we're calling it, is one of the latest World War II games to be released and also one of the newest in our lineup of benchmarks. It is a super realistic real-time strategy (RTS) with plenty of cinematic detail and great effects. Because of its detail, it will help stress out even the most impressive computer systems with the best graphics cards - especially when you turn up all the detail. We use the built-in test to measure the frame rates.
Company of Heroes sees absolutely huge gains across the board on all cards and at both resolutions. It's weird that ATI didn't mention this in their release notes but it's clear that this was an intended performance increase.
Benchmarks - High Quality AA and AF
High Quality AA and AFIn our High Quality tests we bump the Antialiasing (AA) and Anisotropic Filtering (AF) up causing the card(s) to be put under more load.
Like our non HQ tests we see no changes across the board.
Again we see that there is no change in our HDR tests.
Leaving with PREY we see again that there are no performance gains across the board.
Final ThoughtsIf there is any time to get a performance increase, it's now - with people getting ready to throw their feet up, install some new games and just generally relax over the Christmas break it's nice to get that little bump in performance.Unfortunately the performance doesn't translate to more games but if you pick yourself up a copy of Company of Heroes over the break and you're on an ATI graphics card, you will see some great performance increases with the latest Catalyst driver AMD and ATI.We hope all our readers have an excellent Christmas and a Happy New Year and enjoy your gaming over the holidays!
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Shawn takes care of all of our video card reviews. From 2009, Shawn is also taking care of our memory reviews, and from May 2011, Shawn also takes care of our CPU, chipset and motherboard reviews. As of December 2011, Shawn is based out of Taipei, Taiwan.
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