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ATI Catalyst 8.1 Analysis - XP & Vista

AMD has just released a new ATI Catalyst 8.1 driver for Radeon graphics cards - we check out performance under XP and Vista.
@ShawnBakerTW
Published Sat, Jan 19 2008 11:00 PM CST   |   Updated Tue, Apr 7 2020 12:26 PM CDT
Manufacturer: none

Introduction and Release Notes

IntroductionWith the slow run that AMD have been having with driver releases over the past few months it will be interesting to see what happens with the new release. Considering January is generally a pretty quiet month for hardware sales thanks to the fact that everyone spent their money over Christmas, who knows what AMD will have up their sleeves with this release.We receive the Catalyst drivers before they go up on the AMD website and before the release notes are written. While we don't always get the opportunity to test the particular applications that are mentioned in the release notes we try to cover all our bases by testing Synthetic, Real World, HDR, OpenGL, Direct3D along with AA and AF.If there is an application improvement that we haven't tested feel free to use the forums and comment on anything you notice.Moving on...

Test System Setup and 3DMark05

Test System SetupProcessor(s): Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600 @ 3GHz (333MHz x 9)Cooling: Corsair Nautilus500 (Supplied by Corsair) with Arctic Cooling MX-2 Thermal Compound (Supplied by Arctic Cooling)Motherboard(s): ASUS Blitz Extreme (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: Windows XP Professional SP2, Windows VistaDrivers: Catalyst 7.12, Catalyst 8.1 and DX9cThe most interesting (and potentially disappointing) fact about this driver release is that AMD mention no form of performance improvements with the driver update. We hope this isn't true, but let's find out what happens when we place the driver through our typical line-up of games and graphics cards.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 small gains for the higher end ATI models than we can for the lower HD 2600 XT. Considering no gains were promised let's see if we get any more surprises.

Benchmarks - 3DMark06

3DMark06Version and / or Patch Used: Build 110Developer Homepage: http://www.futuremark.comProduct Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com/products/3dmark06/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 performance is very similar to the last release.

Benchmarks - Half Life 2 (Episode One HDR)

Half Life 2 (Episode One HDR)Version and / or Patch Used: Latest from SteamTimedemo or Level Used: Custom TimedemoDeveloper Homepage: http://www.valvesoftware.com Product Homepage: http://www.half-life2.comBuy 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 Episode One 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 Episode One 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.
Source based game Episode One manages to see some gains across the board with the higher end cards again. The lower HD 2600 XT doesn't manage to show any real gain though.

Benchmarks - Prey

PreyVersion and / or Patch Used: UnpatchedTimedemo or Level Used: HardwareOC Custom BenchmarkDeveloper Homepage: http://www.humanhead.com Product Homepage: http://www.prey.comBuy 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 based Prey doesn't give us anything too exciting with no real difference across the whole line-up.

Benchmarks - Company of Heroes

Company of HeroesVersion and / or Patch Used: 1.7Timedemo or Level Used: Built-in TestDeveloper Homepage: http://www.relic.comProduct Homepage: http://www.companyofheroesgame.comBuy 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.
We can see that the high-end HD 3870 manages to get a performance increase at the lower resolution in the minimum department; the rest of the line-up manages to stay pretty much the same though.

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.3DMark 06
Turning on AA we see no real change at all under 3DMark06.Half Life 2 (Episode One HDR)
The slight gains seen in our non AA Episode One tests have managed to come across here again to the higher end cards.Prey
Prey performance manages to be pretty much on par with the last release.

Benchmarks - 3DMark06 - Vista

3DMark06Version and / or Patch Used: Build 110Developer Homepage: http://www.futuremark.comProduct Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com/products/3dmark06/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.
Moving to Vista we can pretty much see across the board that there is no real change.

Benchmarks - Call of Juarez (DX10) - Vista

Call of Juarez (DX10)Version and / or Patch Used: DX10 Benchmark DemoTimedemo or Level Used: Built-in TestDeveloper Homepage: http://www.techland.pl/en/ Product Homepage: http://www.coj-game.comBuy It Here
Call of Juarez is a Western-themed FPS from Techland. The North America release was one of the first games to utilize DX10.Call of Juarez is loosely based on a number of Western movie hits from the last four decades, particularly the Spaghetti Westerns that became popular in the sixties and early seventies. The game features two different characters: Billy "Candle", a young fugitive accused of murder and the Reverend Ray, an ex-outlaw who turned to religion, believing that God Himself has chosen Ray to be the instrument of His wrath.
COJ performance manages to be up for the higher end cards with the best gains seen at the lower resolutions.

Benchmarks - Company of Heroes (DX10) - Vista

Company of HeroesVersion and / or Patch Used: 1.7Timedemo or Level Used: Built-in TestDeveloper Homepage: http://www.relic.comProduct Homepage: http://www.companyofheroesgame.comBuy 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.
COH averages manage to stay the same again with no real change across all models here.

Final Thoughts

Final ThoughtsConsidering there was nothing in the press release about performance improvements it's nice to see that we have got a bit of a speed bump anyway. The disappointing thing here though is that it only seems to affect the higher end models, but at the lower resolution where generally the cards are already powerful enough and giving out a decent score.The most interesting thing about the latest driver release is the new models that have managed to show up under the drivers' support."ATI Radeon HD 3200 Graphics" = ati2mtag_RS780"ATI Radeon HD 3450" = ati2mtag_RV610"ATI Radeon HD 3470" = ati2mtag_RV610"ATI Radeon HD 3600 Series" = ati2mtag_RV630"ATI Radeon HD 3850" = ati2mtag_RV630"ATI Radeon HD 3870" = ati2mtag_RV630"ATI Radeon HD 3870 X2" = ati2mtag_RV630While we know about the HD 3870 X2 coming out in the next few days, the other models are a bit of a surprise.Clearly AMD have something up their sleeve and no doubt we're going to see it sooner rather than later.Before we finish up though, the only real gripe we have with the latest drivers is that it manages to put this little grey square in the top left corner. A number of people have reported it and we've managed to see it as well. No one really knows what it is at the moment but let's hope AMD get rid of it in the next driver release because it's quite annoying.

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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.

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.
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