ATI Catalyst 9.2 Analysis - XP & Vista

AMD has just released a new ATI Catalyst 9.2 driver for Radeon graphics cards - we check out performance under XP and Vista.
@ShawnBakerTW
Published Sun, Feb 22 2009 11:00 PM CST   |   Updated Fri, Sep 18 2020 10:50 PM CDT
Manufacturer: none

Introduction


ATI Catalyst 9.2 Analysis - XP & Vista



As another month almost closes to an end, we see that the ATI driver team is just able to sneak out a new driver release in time. No doubt with the short month and the late release of the 9.1s, the driver team had to be on their toes to get a release out in their usual monthly fashion.

The good news, however, is that this month it seems the driver team hasn't been sitting down and just working on those boring bug fixes. They have given us the promise of extra performance, which is always nice to see.

Let's have a quick look below at what ATI has promised before we get stuck into the benchmarking side of things to take a look for ourselves.


- Performance Improvements

Catalyst 9.2 brings performance benefits in several cases where framerates are CPU-limited. Some measured examples are:

Crysis DX10 gains up to 20%
Crysis Warhead DX10 gains up to 20%
World in Conflict gains up to 5%

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 9.1 and Catalyst 9.2


This is a very interesting performance improvement promise this month. If you read the first sentence you will notice that ATI mention you will get a framerate increase where you are hitting the CPU-limit. This usually happens when you have a powerful graphics card and a not so powerful CPU, or if your CPU isn't at the clock speed that lets you get full advantage of your system.

We do our best here to make sure we don't hit a CPU limitation and this is done by three things; first making sure we have a CPU that goes like stink. In our case, we use an Intel Core i7 920 clocked at 3.8GHz. The second thing we do is test all the way up to 2560 x 1600, with more load being placed on the graphics card which helps remove the CPU limitation. And finally, we run our game tests at higher settings to again move the load to the graphics card some more.

With that said, I wouldn't be too surprised if we don't really see any performance improvements today, since being CPU-limited isn't an issue we really have. But there's only one way to find out for sure, so let's get stuck into it.


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.


ATI Catalyst 9.2 Analysis - XP & Vista


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.

ATI Catalyst 9.2 Analysis - XP & Vista


ATI Catalyst 9.2 Analysis - XP & Vista


HD 4850: Here we see no real change.

HD 4870: We can see at the higher resolution the minimums get a slight bump in performance.

HD 4870 X2: Across the board it seems like performance has gone backwards.

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.


ATI Catalyst 9.2 Analysis - XP & Vista


ATI Catalyst 9.2 Analysis - XP & Vista


HD 4850: Here we see no real change.

HD 4870: Here we see no real change.

HD 4870 X2: We can see in the minimum department that the performance is down across the board.

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.

ATI Catalyst 9.2 Analysis - XP & Vista


ATI Catalyst 9.2 Analysis - XP & Vista


HD 4850: Across the board we can see performance is up.

HD 4870: Performance is a bit all over the place, but for the most part it's slightly down on the 9.1s.

HD 4870 X2: In the minimum department we see some nice gains at the higher resolution.

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.

ATI Catalyst 9.2 Analysis - XP & Vista


HD 4850: We have a bit of movement with it being a little slower at some points and a little higher in others.

HD 4870: We see a little bit of movement, but nothing to get excited about.

HD 4870 X2: At the lower resolution we see a boost in performance.

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

ATI Catalyst 9.2 Analysis - XP & Vista


ATI Catalyst 9.2 Analysis - XP & Vista


HD 4850: We tested a number of times, but we continued to see the big loss in the minimum department.

HD 4870: We see a drop in performance in both the minimum and average test.

HD 4870 X2: We see a drop in performance in both the minimum and average test.


Left 4 Dead

ATI Catalyst 9.2 Analysis - XP & Vista


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 - 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.


ATI Catalyst 9.2 Analysis - XP & Vista


ATI Catalyst 9.2 Analysis - XP & Vista


HD 4850: Across the board in the minimum department we see good gains.

HD 4870: Here we see no real change.

HD 4870 X2: Across the board in the minimum department we see good gains.

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.

ATI Catalyst 9.2 Analysis - XP & Vista


ATI Catalyst 9.2 Analysis - XP & Vista


HD 4850: We can see here that performance is a bit all over place; better at some points and worse at others.

HD 4870: Here we see no real change.

HD 4870 X2: At the top end of the spectrum we see a serious performance increase in the minimum department.

Final Thoughts




This driver set is a bit all over the place. For the most part performance seems to be up, which is always a good thing. The particularly good news is that there are performance improvements seen in the more important minimum department. This is where we want to see the increases which hopefully help in going above that golden 30 FPS minimum we always like to see.

But as we mentioned in our test system setup comments, the performance gains were promised under CPU-limited applications. Since this isn't really an issue for us, the gains were probably not as great as they would have been if we did have this problem.

With that said, people have reported good gains all over the place which is excellent news for people with higher end graphics cards and lower end CPUs, or simply those who aren't interested or don't know how to overclock their CPU.

With the general line-up of fixes, this is one of the best gains we've seen from an ATI driver in ages. It's not enough to knock NVIDIA from the top spot, but for ATI owners a bit of extra performance is always appreciated.

It's safe to say with the good gains we've seen today that the next driver will probably be more orientated around bug fixes.

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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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