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ATI Catalyst 9.1 Analysis - XP & Vista

AMD has just released a new ATI Catalyst 9.1 driver for Radeon graphics cards - we check out performance under XP and Vista.

@ShawnBakerTW
Published Thu, Jan 29 2009 11:00 PM CST   |   Updated Tue, Nov 3 2020 7:04 PM CST
Manufacturer: none

Introduction


CATALYST 9.1 PERFORMANCE ANALYSIS



As January was quickly closing to an end we thought that the Catalyst driver team had forgotten about us! While we ultimately knew a driver was going to be coming, I can honestly say that I thought the lengthy wait was due to ATI wanting to get a nice performance boost out of the current crop of cards.

Looking over the release notes, though, you quickly find yourself disappointed with no promise of any performance updates. But with that said, there is now full OpenGL 3.0 support, not that it is going to be of any help to gamers at the moment, since OpenGL 3.0 isn't yet a standard used by game developers.

Also included in the driver update are a number of bug fixes in the Catalyst Control Center along with some other resolved issues under Vista and XP which can be seen in the release notes.

Test System Setup and 3DMark Vantage


Test System Setup

Processor(s): Intel i7 920 @ 3.8GHz (190MHz x 20)
Cooling: Noctua NH-U12P (Supplied by Noctua)
Motherboard(s): GIGABYTE EX58-UD5 (Supplied by GIGABYTE)
Memory: 3 X 2GB OCZ Technology PC-12800 DDR-3 8-8-8-24 (OCZ3G1600LV6GK)
Hard Disk(s): Western Digital 300GB Velicorapter (Supplied by Western Digital)
Operating System: Windows XP Professional SP2, Windows Vista SP1 64-Bit
Drivers: Catalyst 8.12 and Catalyst 9.1


Using our newest testbed, we're going to be following the new formula we implemented into our Catalyst Performance Analysis last month. Most of our benchmarks now revolve around real world testing and since we're using higher end cards, we're now testing up to 2560 x 1600 in all our benchmarks.

While we haven't been promised of any performance increases, let's have a look to see if there are any surprises, or perhaps even a negative impact with the latest driver set as this isn't all that uncommon.


3DMark Vantage

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.0.1
Developer Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com
Product Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com/products/3dmarkvantage/
Buy It Here




3DMark Vantage is the new industry standard PC gaming performance benchmark from Futuremark, newly designed for Windows Vista and DirectX10. It includes two new graphics tests, two new CPU tests, several new feature tests, and support for the latest hardware.

3DMark Vantage is based on a completely new rendering engine, developed specifically to take full advantage of DirectX10, the new graphics API from Microsoft.


CATALYST 9.1 PERFORMANCE ANALYSIS


HD 4850: Here we see no real change.

HD 4870: Here we see no real change.

HD 4870 X2: Here we see no real change.

Benchmarks - Crysis Warhead


Crysis Warhead

Version and / or Patch Used: unpatched
Timedemo or Level Used: Airfield
Developer Homepage: http://www.crytek.com
Product Homepage: http://crysiswarhead.ea.com/
Buy It Here




Crysis Warhead updates and refines the gameplay of the original game through a sidestory plot involving Psycho, one of previous protagonist Nomad's allies. The game is a parallel story that follows Sergeant Michael "Psycho" Sykes, a character from the original Crysis, as he faces his own trials and challenges on the other side of the island during the time period of the first game.

It also showcases a new, enhanced and optimized version of CryEngine 2 using full DX10 extensions and is the first game developed by Crytek's Budapest studio.

CATALYST 9.1 PERFORMANCE ANALYSIS


CATALYST 9.1 PERFORMANCE ANALYSIS


HD 4850: Here we see no real change.

HD 4870: Here we see no real change.

HD 4870 X2: Here we see no real change.

Benchmarks - Far Cry 2


Far Cry 2

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.01
Timedemo or Level Used: Ranch Long
Developer Homepage: http://www.ubi.com/
Product Homepage: http://www.farcry2.com/
Buy It Here




The Dunia Engine was built specifically for Far Cry 2 by the award-winning Ubisoft Montreal development team. It delivers the most realistic destructible environments, amazing special effects such as dynamic fire propagation and storm effects, real-time night-and-day cycle, dynamic music system, non-scripted enemy A.I. and so much more.


CATALYST 9.1 PERFORMANCE ANALYSIS


CATALYST 9.1 PERFORMANCE ANALYSIS


HD 4850: At the higher resolution we see a slight increase in performance.

HD 4870: Here we see no real change.

HD 4870 X2: At the higher resolution we can see we get a decent performance increase in the minimum department.

Benchmarks - S.T.A.L.K.E.R. - Clear Sky


S.T.A.L.K.E.R. - Clear Sky

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.5.07
Timedemo or Level Used: Custom Timedemo
Developer Homepage: http://www.gsc-game.com/
Product Homepage: http://cs.stalker-game.com/en/
Buy It Here




S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Clear Sky, is the stand-alone prequel for S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl, a first-person shooter computer game by Ukrainian developer GSC Game World.[3] The game consists of a roughly 50/50 mix of new areas and old, remodeled areas from the previous game. The X-ray graphics engine has been updated to version 1.5 and includes DirectX 10 support (later patch 1.5.06 included DirectX 10.1). Additionally, the AI received an overhaul to accommodate the new faction wars feature.

CATALYST 9.1 PERFORMANCE ANALYSIS


CATALYST 9.1 PERFORMANCE ANALYSIS


HD 4850: Here we see no real change.

HD 4870: Here we see no real change.

HD 4870 X2: Here we see at 1920 x 1200 performance has dropped back, but it's more in line with what it probably should be as the resolution increases.

Benchmarks - Left 4 Dead


Left 4 Dead

Version and / or Patch Used: Latest Steam Update
Timedemo or Level Used: Custom Timedemo
Developer Homepage: http://www.valvesoftware.com/
Product Homepage: http://www.l4d.com/
Buy It Here




Left 4 Dead uses the latest version of Valve's Source engine, with improvements such as multi-core processor support and physics-based animation to more realistically portray hair and clothing, and to improve physics interaction with enemies when shot or shoved in different body parts. Animation was also improved to allow characters to lean realistically when moving in curved paths.

Rendering and artificial intelligence were scaled up to allow for greater number of enemies who can navigate the world in better ways, such as climbing, jumping or breaking obstacles. Lighting has been enhanced with new self-shadowing normal mapping and advanced shadow rendering that is important to convey information about the environment and player actions.

CATALYST 9.1 PERFORMANCE ANALYSIS


HD 4850: We see a FPS drop or two across the board.

HD 4870: Performance has taken a dip at all resolutions.

HD 4870 X2: The HD 4870 X2 sees a pretty big drop at the lower resolutions, but it's still very playable.

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.


Far Cry 2

CATALYST 9.1 PERFORMANCE ANALYSIS


CATALYST 9.1 PERFORMANCE ANALYSIS


HD 4850: We again see the same performance boost under FC2.

HD 4870: Unlike the HD 4850, there is no real difference.

HD 4870 X2: The X2 manages to see a few FPS jump in the minimum department.


Left 4 Dead

CATALYST 9.1 PERFORMANCE ANALYSIS


HD 4850: Performance is again slightly down.

HD 4870: Performance is again slightly down.

HD 4870 X2: Performance is again slightly down.

Benchmarks - Far Cry 2 - XP


Far Cry 2

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.01
Timedemo or Level Used: Ranch Long
Developer Homepage: http://www.ubi.com/
Product Homepage: http://www.farcry2.com/
Buy It Here




The Dunia Engine was built specifically for Far Cry 2 by the award-winning Ubisoft Montreal development team. It delivers the most realistic destructible environments, amazing special effects such as dynamic fire propagation and storm effects, real-time night-and-day cycle, dynamic music system, non-scripted enemy A.I. and so much more.


CATALYST 9.1 PERFORMANCE ANALYSIS


CATALYST 9.1 PERFORMANCE ANALYSIS


HD 4850: Under XP the cards performance has slightly dropped off.

HD 4870: Here we so no real change.

HD 4870 X2: Under Vista performance is a little up, but it's nothing too exciting.

Benchmarks - S.T.A.L.K.E.R. - Clear Sky - XP


S.T.A.L.K.E.R. - Clear Sky

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.5.07
Timedemo or Level Used: Custom Timedemo
Developer Homepage: http://www.gsc-game.com/
Product Homepage: http://cs.stalker-game.com/en/
Buy It Here




S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Clear Sky, is the stand-alone prequel for S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl, a first-person shooter computer game by Ukrainian developer GSC Game World.[3] The game consists of a roughly 50/50 mix of new areas and old, remodeled areas from the previous game. The X-ray graphics engine has been updated to version 1.5 and includes DirectX 10 support (later patch 1.5.06 included DirectX 10.1). Additionally, the AI received an overhaul to accommodate the new faction wars feature.

CATALYST 9.1 PERFORMANCE ANALYSIS


CATALYST 9.1 PERFORMANCE ANALYSIS


HD 4850: Here we so no real change.

HD 4870: at the lower resolution the minimum is up, while it dips slightly at the highest.

HD 4870 X2: Here performance is a bit all over the place; up in some places and down in another.

Final Thoughts




Considering the long wait between driver releases, it's safe to say that as a new year present for us, this one is quite disappointing. While performance in Far Cry 2 is slightly up on all cards, for the most part we don't see anything special.

With no new card to combat the latest NVIDIA offerings we really thought that ATI would make the effort to increase performance on their popular HD 4800 series. When you also consider how much time has gone by since the last release, it made us think this would be even more likely to happen.

It will be interesting to see when the next set of drivers come out; are ATI going to carry through later in the month releases this year or are they going to try and get something out a bit quicker in February and move back to an early / mid-month release?

While price drops on the HD 4800 series cards are no doubt a good thing, if people are looking for top performance they're going to be looking at the NVIDIA offerings. Hopefully the 9.2s give us something to get a bit more excited about.

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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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