IntroductionWe are late! We know!Not really sure what happened but there seemed to be a snowball of events that caused us to run a little behind this month.Anyway, you know what they say - "better late than never". Let us have a quick look at the main pieces of the release notes and move on to the benchmarks.New FeaturesThis release of Catalyst introduces the ATI DirectX 10 driver for the Radeon HD 2900 XT, for both single cards and CrossFire configurations. The ATI DirectX 10 driver used in combination with the Radeon HD 2900 XT (and an application designed to take advantage of the power of the DirectX 10 API) delivers incredible graphics effects never seen before on the PC.Performance ImprovementsOpenGL performance is improved on the ATI Radeon X1950 XTX at high resolutions (1920x1200 or greater) with anti-aliasing and anisotropic filtering enabled. Doom 3 and Quake 4 improves as much as 13-18%, and Prey improves at least 15.6%. The ATI Radeon X1950 Pro and X1650 XT also sees improvements in Doom 3 and Quake 4 of up to 14.1% at higher resolutions with anti-aliasing and anisotropic filtering enabled.Alright, time for the benchmarks!
Benchmarks - Test System Setup and 3DMark05
Test System SetupProcessor(s): Intel Core 2 Duo E6600 @ 3GHz (333MHz x 9)Motherboard(s): ASUS P5K3 Deluxe (Supplied by ASUS)Memory: 2 X 1GB Corsair XMS3 DDR-3 1066MHz 7-7-7-21 (Supplied by Corsair)Hard Disk(s): Hitachi 80GB 7200RPM SATA-2 Operating System: Microsoft Windows XP Professional SP2Drivers: ATI Catalyst 7.4, ATI Catalyst 7.5, HD2900XT 47096 and DX9cWe have done a temporary reshuffle of our cards this month, we have got rid of the X1650, because honestly, who bought one?In its place the HD 2900 XT has come in but instead of being tested on the Catalyst 7.4 drivers which did not support it, we used the 47096 driver which was the one previously on the AMD/ATI site.Let us begin and see what has changed in the newest driver.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.
Straight away across the board we cannot see any difference with the latest incarnation of Catalyst drivers.
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 much of the same picture with no difference across the board although the new HD 2900 XT is a little bit quicker at all resolutions.
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.
At the lower resolutions the HD 2900 XT goes slightly backwards while it sneaks ahead of the older revision at the highest resolution.Last generation cards continue to see no difference again.
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 down on the HD 2900 XT while the X1950XTX and X1950PRO remain roughly unchanged.
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.
Performance is generally up or the same across the board.
Benchmarks - High Quality AA and AF
High Quality AA and AFOur high quality tests let us separate the men from the boys and the ladies from the girls. If the cards weren't struggling before they will start to now.
Much like our non-HQ tests we do not see any changes with the new drivers.
We again see no difference across the board.
We manage to leave with the HD 2900 XT getting a slight bump in Prey which equates to an almost 10% performance increase.
Final ThoughtsNothing too exciting, at all!We hoped for the HD 2900 XT to get another speed bump but the bottom line is that these drivers were squeezed out at the very last minute of last month and it seems that it was probably more to bring the HD 2900 XT under the Catalyst suite while continuing to keep the reputation on monthly driver updates, which we have no doubt in our mind, is a hard task.No doubt this month's release will also be running a little later and hopefully the driver team has managed to squeeze some more performance out of the HD 2900 XT to make it even more competitive.If you have been waiting for the article to see if it is worth upgrading or not, we would probably say do not worry as there will be a new set within the next two weeks but head over to their website and check the release notes, as there might just be a bug fix for that game you are having troubles with.Until later this month, Happy 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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