ATI Catalyst 7.1 Performance Analysis

We check out the newest Catalyst drivers in 2007 from ATI and AMD for users with Radeon graphics cards. Worth updating?

Manufacturer: none
5 minutes & 15 seconds read time


You have to wonder what the boys over at AMD did over the New Year's break - did they fix a few minor issues in the drivers and put their feet up and relax for the rest or did they find some new way to squeeze some extra performance out of those Radeon cards?

As we roll into 2007 and a new month we of course have with us a new set of Catalyst drivers for Radeon graphics cards. Coming in the shape of the 7.1 they are the first driver of the year and we hope that there is something a little more exciting than some bug fixes but we'll find out soon enough.

First up let's check out some information from the release notes!

Performance improvements

As with most Catalyst releases, performance has increased in various situations. In this release of Catalyst Dark Messiah: Might and Magic performance improves as much as 12% on all ATI Radeon X1000 Series products.

Crossfire enhancements

Catalyst 7.1 includes Crossfire enhancements that enable the Alternate Frame Rendering (AFR) Crossfire rendering mode by default, enabling performance benefits for all AFR compatible applications immediately (including newly released applications that have not been officially profiled for Crossfire). Future Catalyst releases will add further Crossfire performance gains once new applications have been profiled specifically for Crossfire. Please note that applications already profiled for AFR will not see any performance benefits from this feature.

Let's get started and check out the performance!

Benchmarks - Test System Setup and 3DMark05

Test System Setup

Processor(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 SP2

Using some new graphics cards this month, we are looking at the high-end Radeon X1950XTX which we have seen for a few weeks now, the more common bang for buck Radeon X1950PRO which is a very common card amount people not wanting to break the bank and Radeon X1650PRO which sits around the same performance of the X1300XT as well.

Let's continue on and see if the boys at AMD have managed to change anything in terms of performance this month.


Version and / or Patch Used: Build 130
Developer Homepage:
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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.

Straight away we can see that across the board there is really no difference between the cards.

Benchmarks - 3DMark06


Version and / or Patch Used: Build 110
Developer Homepage:
Product Homepage:
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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 3DMark06 paints a similar picture again seeing no difference across the board.

Benchmarks - Half Life 2 (Lost Coast)

Half Life 2 (Lost Coast)

Version and / or Patch Used: Unpatched
Timedemo or Level Used: Custom Timedemo
Developer Homepage:
Product Homepage:
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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.

Lost Coast HDR and non-HDR tests show us again that there is no performance difference in our first real world game.

Benchmarks - PREY


Version and / or Patch Used: Unpatched
Timedemo or Level Used: HardwareOC Custom Benchmark
Developer Homepage:
Product Homepage:
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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.

The higher-end cards see nice performance gains at the lower resolution though when we move to the higher resolution there is no difference between the cards.

While the Radeon X1650PRO does see an increase, it is quite minor.

Benchmarks - Company of Heroes

Company of Heroes

Version and / or Patch Used: Demo
Timedemo or Level Used: Built-in Test
Developer Homepage:
Product Homepage:
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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 saw a very large boost in performance last month with this month showing results very similar minus the average FPS on the X1950XTX. The higher resolution sees another little bump while the lower resolution sees a small decrease.

Benchmarks - High Quality AA and AF

High Quality AA and AF

In our High Quality tests we bump the Antialiasing (AA) and Anisotropic Filtering (AF) up causing the card(s) to be put under more load. This helps us remove the CPU limitation.

Our non HQ tests saw no difference and as you can see turning on the AA and AF also sees no gain.

Lost Coast also continues to show no difference when we turn on AA and AF.

While the lower resolution non AA/AF tests for PREY saw an increase, we have the opposite here, as soon as we turn on AA and AF the performance is impacted.

Final Thoughts

The latest drivers are pretty uneventful which was to be expected - we normally see that the first driver of the New Year doesn't do whole lot in the performance arena.

While the release noted mentioned that a increase would be seen it was for a game that we don't have, if you are a player of Dark Messiah: Might and Magic and are experiencing some low frame rates on your Radeon X1K series graphics card, we would recommend the upgrade. If you're a Crossfire user, you should also pay attention to the new features.

If you cannot be bothered uninstalling the current drivers to get the new version up and running, you shouldn't be too fussed, as mentioned there isn't a whole lot new Catalyst 7.1. If you're about to reinstall or format your system, we would recommend you place the latest drivers on as they always bring bug fixes but we wouldn't go too far out of the way this month.

Hopefully everyone had a good new year and till next month's Catalyst driver is released, happy benchmarking and gaming!

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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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