ATI Catalyst 7.6 Performance Analysis

AMD has just released a new set of ATI Catalyst 7.6 drivers for Radeon graphics cards - we check out performance under Win XP.

Manufacturer: none
4 minutes & 44 seconds read time


As we come to the mid-year hump, we have the release of yet another monthly driver from the team over at AMD and ATI.

The HD 2900 XT graphics card is well and truly out there and we imagine it would be on top of the to-do list for the driver folks in Canada when it comes to increasing performance - suffice to say, hopefully we see a good bump this month.

Before we move on to the benchmarks, let's have a quick look at the latest release notes and take it from there.

Performance Improvements

Half-Life 2: Episode 1 and Dark Messiah Might and Magic performance improves on the ATI Radeon™ HD2900 XT Crossfire configurations. Improvements of 16% or more can be seen with HDR enabled.

Moving on!

Benchmarks - Test System Setup and 3DMark05

Test System Setup

Processor(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 SP2
Drivers: ATI Catalyst 7.4, ATI Catalyst 7.6 and DX9c

Keeping with our HD 2900 XT and X1950PRO and XTX, we continue to look at the performance of these cards at three resolutions across a range of benchmarks that cover everything from OpenGL to HDR and everything in between.

Hopefully we see a boost for the HD 2900 XT this month. Let's continue on and see what happens with the latest Catalyst drivers!


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

HD 2900 XT sees a small bump across the board along with the X1950XTX while the X1950PRO shows no changes.

Benchmarks - 3DMark06


Version and / or Patch Used: Build 110
Developer Homepage:
Product Homepage:
Buy It Here

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.

3DMark06 follows suit with a small bump for the top two cards while the X1950PRO doesn't really move at all.

Benchmarks - Half Life 2 (Lost Coast HDR)

Half Life 2 (Lost Coast HDR)

Version and / or Patch Used: Latest from Steam
Timedemo or Level Used: Custom Timedemo
Developer Homepage:
Product Homepage:
Buy It Here

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.

We again see that the top two cards see a slight boost in performance across the board while the X1950PRO remains about the same.

Benchmarks - Prey


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

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.

OpenGL has always been a weak point for ATI but it is an area the driver team consistently tries to improve.

We can see that the HD 2900 XT and X1950XTX both manage to get speed bumps with the HD 2900 XT getting it across the board varying from 5% - 10%.

Benchmarks - Company of Heroes

Company of Heroes

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.5
Timedemo or Level Used: Built-in Test
Developer Homepage:
Product Homepage:
Buy It Here

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.

No real changes across the board for Company of Heroes this month.

Benchmarks - High Quality AA and AF

High Quality AA and AF

Our 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.

Small bumps across the board which can probably be put down to nothing more than a bit of fluctuation in benchmark test runs.

We again see no changes on the three cards in our AA testing.

While we saw increases in our non-AA tests, we don't see any improvements here.

Final Thoughts

AMD's ATI Radeon HD 2900 XT continues to see performance increases and it is clear that this month the driver team had their eye on improving OpenGL performance, which is great considering Enemy Territory is just around the corner.

The bad news is though that there are still no changes to AA tests and this is something that is hurting the HD 2900 XT at the moment. It manages to look impressive when you compare it to the Nvidia cards in non-AA tests (and as far as price is concerned) but as soon as you start to crank up the settings like AA and AF, it can begin to slump.

With all that said not everyone is an AA person - I have personally never used it and if you are the same, it would probably make the HD 2900 XT the better option especially when you consider the price versus performance ratio.

Hopefully the driver team dives into the AA issue in future releases but as always check out the full release notes and if you didn't upgrade last month to the Catalyst 7.5 drivers, with the increase in OpenGL performance here, we would suggest the upgrade this month with the 7.6 version!

Until next month - happy gaming and benchmarking!

PRICING: You can find products similar to this one for sale below.

USUnited States: Find other tech and computer products like this over at

UKUnited Kingdom: Find other tech and computer products like this over at

AUAustralia: Find other tech and computer products like this over at

CACanada: Find other tech and computer products like this over at

DEDeutschland: Finde andere Technik- und Computerprodukte wie dieses auf

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.

Newsletter Subscription
We openly invite the companies who provide us with review samples / who are mentioned or discussed to express their opinion. If any company representative wishes to respond, we will publish the response here. Please contact us if you wish to respond.