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ATI Catalyst 8.3 Analysis - XP & Vista

AMD has just released a new ATI Catalyst 8.3 driver for Radeon graphics cards - we check out performance under XP and Vista.
@ShawnBakerTW
Shawn Baker
Published Mon, Mar 10 2008 11:00 PM CDT   |   Updated Tue, Apr 7 2020 12:26 PM CDT
Manufacturer: none

Introduction

IntroductionThe first thing we did when we obtained the latest driver release from AMD was to test out the Crossfire X capabilities with a pair of HD 3870 X2 cards. With that out the way it's time to test the latest driver in the typical fashion.We've got our relatively new test bed which is getting pretty accustomed to our graphics cards these days, along with our new and improved benchmark line-up to include more intensive games like Crysis.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 3DMark06

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): GIGABYTE X48-DQ6 (Supplied by GIGABYTE)Memory: 2 X 1GB Kingston PC6400 DDR-2 3-3-3-10 (KHX6400D2ULK2/2G) (Supplied by Kingston)Hard Disk(s): Seagate 250GB 7200RPM SATA-2 7200.10 (Supplied by Seagate)Operating System: Windows XP Professional SP2, Windows VistaDrivers: Catalyst 8.2 and Catalyst 8.3As we mentioned in the introduction, we're running our still relatively new test bed. We won't go into any more detail than we need to as you can read what we use above and see what we test with below. So let's leave it at that and get stuck into the benchmark results.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.
We can see straight off the mark that there is no real performance difference under 3DMark06.

Benchmarks - CINEBENCH R10

CINEBENCH R10Version and / or Patch Used: Release 10Developer Homepage: http://www.maxon.net/Product Homepage: http://www.maxon.net
CINEBENCH is a real-world test suite that assesses your computer's performace capabilities. MAXON CINEBENCH is based on MAXON's award-winning animation software, CINEMA 4D, which is used extensively by studios and production houses worldwide for 3D content creation. MAXON software has been used in blockbuster movies such as Spider-Man, Star Wars, The Chronicles of Narnia and many more.MAXON CINEBENCH runs several tests on your computer to measure the performance of the main processor and the graphics card under real world circumstances. The benchmark application makes use of up to 16 CPUs or CPU cores and is available for Windows (32-bit and 64-Bit) and Macintosh (PPC and Intel-based).
CINEBENCH which uses OpenGL technology manages to get a bump across the board. Hopefully this is a sign of what's to come under other OpenGL testing.

Benchmarks - Half Life 2 (Episode Two HDR)

Half Life 2 (Episode Two 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 Two 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 Two 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.
Episode Two's performance is a bit up and down, but on a whole performance is pretty similar between the two sets of drivers.

Benchmarks - Enemy Territory: Quake Wars

Enemy Territory: Quake WarsVersion and / or Patch Used: Latest Steam VersionTimedemo or Level Used: Custom time demoDeveloper Homepage: http://www.splashdamage.com/ Product Homepage: http://www.enemyterritory.com/
Enemy Territory: Quake Wars is the latest Quake incarnation to make it out of the iD labs and carries with it a fast paced experience that manages to place a good amount of strain on your graphics card.We use a custom made time demo which shows a bit of everything and manages to give us a good solid benchmark for the graphics cards that we test.
Unfortunately the OpenGL gains we saw under CINEBENCH don't carry over to our OpenGL based game, Enemy Territory: Quake Wars.

Benchmarks - Crysis

CrysisVersion and / or Patch Used: 1.1Timedemo or Level Used: Custom time demoDeveloper Homepage: http://www.crytek.com/ Product Homepage: http://www.ea.com/crysis/Buy It Here
From the makers of Far Cry, Crysis offers FPS fans the best-looking, most highly-evolving gameplay, requiring the player to use adaptive tactics and total customization of weapons and armor to survive in dynamic, hostile environments including Zero-G.Real time editing, bump mapping, dynamic lights, network system, integrated physics system, shaders, shadows and a dynamic music system are just some of the state of-the-art features the CryENGINE™ 2 offers. The CryENGINE™ 2 comes complete with all of its internal tools and also includes the CryENGINE™ 2 Sandbox world editing system.
Crysis sees big jumps on the higher end cards. While it's a good jump, we would love to see another 10FPS and bring it up to that 60ish FPS average. The good news is though that it gives us hope for the next generation of graphics cards from AMD.

Benchmarks - Unreal Tournament 3

Unreal Tournament 3Version and / or Patch Used: 1.1Timedemo or Level Used: Developer Homepage: http://www.epicgames.com/ Product Homepage: http://www.unrealtournament3.com/Buy It Here
Following the formulae that made Unreal Tournament so great the third installment to the series has hit us recently with better than ever graphics. The games uses the latest Unreal Engine which like most modern day games when maxed out puts the pressure on our lineup of graphics cards.
Unreal Tournament performance for the X2 also managed to climb while the HD 3870 saw nothing really, but the lower HD 3650 managed to get a small bump across the board.

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.3DMark06
As with our non-AA tests we see no gains under 3DMark06.Half Life 2 (Episode Two HDR)
Half Life 2 Episode Two performance is a bit all over the place; the X2 is a little faster, the HD 3870 is a little slower and the HD 3650 scores exactly the same.

Benchmarks - 3DMark06 - XP

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.
For some reason X2 performance under Windows XP has dropped terribly. We tried two X2s and even went back to testing the 8.2s and everything was fine. With the 8.3s however, we get some horrible numbers. The other cards show no change though.

Benchmarks - CINEBENCH R10 - XP

CINEBENCH R10Version and / or Patch Used: Release 10Developer Homepage: http://www.maxon.net/Product Homepage: http://www.maxon.net
CINEBENCH is a real-world test suite that assesses your computer's performace capabilities. MAXON CINEBENCH is based on MAXON's award-winning animation software, CINEMA 4D, which is used extensively by studios and production houses worldwide for 3D content creation. MAXON software has been used in blockbuster movies such as Spider-Man, Star Wars, The Chronicles of Narnia and many more.MAXON CINEBENCH runs several tests on your computer to measure the performance of the main processor and the graphics card under real world circumstances. The benchmark application makes use of up to 16 CPUs or CPU cores and is available for Windows (32-bit and 64-Bit) and Macintosh (PPC and Intel-based).
While we saw gains in CINEBENCH under Vista, we don't really see any change across the board here.

Benchmarks - World in Conflict - XP

World in ConflictVersion and / or Patch Used: 1.0.0.5Timedemo or Level Used: Built-in TestDeveloper Homepage: http://www.massive.se Product Homepage: http://www.worldinconflict.com
World in Conflict is a real-time strategy video game by Massive Entertainment and to be published by Sierra Entertainment for Windows (DX9 and DX10) and the Xbox 360.The game is set in 1989 where economic troubles cripple the Soviet Union and threaten to dissolve it. However, the title pursues a "what if" scenario where, in this case, the Soviet Union does not collapse and instead pursues a course of war to remain in power. It is an intensive new game is sure to put plenty of stress on even the latest graphics cards and we use the built-in benchmarking for our testing.
WIC also saw the massive drops we saw in 3DMark06. Performance seems to be the same on the other two cards.

Benchmarks - Unreal Tournament 3 - XP

Unreal Tournament 3Version and / or Patch Used: 1.1Timedemo or Level Used: Developer Homepage: http://www.epicgames.com/ Product Homepage: http://www.unrealtournament3.com/Buy It Here
Following the formulae that made Unreal Tournament so great the third installment to the series has hit us recently with better than ever graphics. The games uses the latest Unreal Engine which like most modern day games when maxed out puts the pressure on our lineup of graphics cards.
The X2 and HD 3650 sees gains under UT3 while the performance on the HD 3870 has dropped slightly.

Final Thoughts

Final ThoughtsThis is a pretty good driver as far as performance increases go for Vista users. Crysis sees a very nice bump in performance and so does UT3. CINEBENCH also sees gains but the OpenGL increase isn't carried over to our OpenGL based game Enemy Territory: Quake Wars.The Windows XP driver on the other hand seems to be horrendous for X2 users with some severe power drops. We tried multiple X2 cards and tried the other Catalyst drivers and the dropped score in a few key benchmarks were consistent on the 8.3s. There is also the added bonus of Crossfire X support now which we have had a brief look at with a pair of HD 3870 X2 cards recently.On a whole, the Vista driver is very good but the XP variant is a bit of a letdown. It will be interesting to see what happens with the Catalyst 8.4s due next month.Until then, it might be time to fire up Crysis and bump up a setting or two.

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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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