ATI Catalyst 9.4 Vista Driver Analysis

AMD has just released a new Catalyst 9.4 driver for Radeon graphics cards - we check out performance under Vista.
| Apr 12, 2009 at 2:12 am CDT
Manufacturer: none

Introduction

ATI Catalyst 9.4 Vista Driver Analysis
Introduction Last month brought one of the worst Catalyst driver updates we've seen in a long time. Across the board we saw a performance drop on all cards that we tested across a number of different resolutions. While there aren't any performance improvements promised in the release notes this time, we're hoping that the performance drops we saw last month have been fixed.There's no doubt that ATI recognized the issue with the last driver set and this is one of the main reasons we're seeing the new 9.4 set come out so early in the month. This driver set also marks the release of the first official driver for the newly released HD 4890 which we've included in our benchmark line-up.As far as new features go, ATI has expanded on Overdrive functionality which now offers the ability for the driver suite to auto overclock your graphics card. This feature is designed for the HD 4000 series of cards.Apart from that there isn't a whole lot else going on in the drivers; the only other benefits we have are a number of resolved issues under Vista, XP and Windows 7.

Test System Setup and 3DMark Vantage

Test System SetupProcessor(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 Vista SP1 64-BitDrivers: Catalyst 9.3 and Catalyst 9.4With the release of the HD 4890 we've removed the HD 4870 and put the new model in its place. If the rumors of the HD 4890 X2 coming to market are true, we will move the HD 4870 X2 over to this model once it arrives as well.Let's not delay any longer and get stuck into the benchmarks to see what exactly is going on in the new 9.4 driver suite.3DMark VantageVersion and / or Patch Used: 1.0.1Developer Homepage: http://www.futuremark.comProduct 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 9.4 Vista Driver Analysis
HD 4850: At both presets we see a little performance increase.HD 4870 X2: Here we see no real change.HD 4890: Here we see no real change.

Benchmarks - Crysis Warhead

Crysis WarheadVersion and / or Patch Used: unpatchedTimedemo or Level Used: AirfieldDeveloper Homepage: http://www.crytek.comProduct 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 9.4 Vista Driver Analysis
ATI Catalyst 9.4 Vista Driver Analysis
HD 4850: We can see performance is up across the board. HD 4870 X2: We can see performance is up across the board.HD 4890: We can see performance is up across the board.

Benchmarks - Far Cry 2

Far Cry 2Version and / or Patch Used: 1.01Timedemo or Level Used: Ranch LongDeveloper 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 9.4 Vista Driver Analysis
ATI Catalyst 9.4 Vista Driver Analysis
HD 4850: We can see performance is up across the board.HD 4870 X2: We can see performance is up across the board.HD 4890: We can see performance is up for the most part.

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

S.T.A.L.K.E.R. - Clear SkyVersion and / or Patch Used: 1.5.07Timedemo or Level Used: Custom TimedemoDeveloper 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 9.4 Vista Driver Analysis
ATI Catalyst 9.4 Vista Driver Analysis
HD 4850: We can see performance is up across the board.HD 4870 X2: At the lower resolution we can see performance is up.HD 4890: We can see performance is up across the board.

Benchmarks - Left 4 Dead

Left 4 DeadVersion and / or Patch Used: Latest Steam UpdateTimedemo or Level Used: Custom TimedemoDeveloper 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 9.4 Vista Driver Analysis
HD 4850: Here we see no real change.HD 4870 X2: We can see performance is up across the board.HD 4890: We can see some change at the higher resolution.

Benchmarks - 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.Far Cry 2
ATI Catalyst 9.4 Vista Driver Analysis
ATI Catalyst 9.4 Vista Driver Analysis
HD 4850: We can see performance is up.HD 4870 X2: We can see performance is up.HD 4890: We can see performance is up.Left 4 Dead
ATI Catalyst 9.4 Vista Driver Analysis
HD 4850: Here we see no real change.HD 4870 X2: We can see performance is a little up.HD 4890: Here we see no real change.

Final Thoughts

Final ThoughtsThe first thing we have to make note of is the fact that the performance decreases that we saw in the last driver set from ATI seem to have been fixed. Apart from this there isn't a whole lot else to the driver. The additional functionality on offer in the Catalyst Control Center as far as Overdrive goes is nice and is great for people who don't know or don't feel comfortable in manual overclocking.Also included are a few fixes under a number of operating systems which is always a good reason to upgrade. We'd also recommend that people move to this official driver if you're using a HD 4890.The 9.4 driver set on a whole is pretty good and there's really no reason not to upgrade from the 9.2s. In the event you did install the 9.3s, though, we would recommend you upgrade immediately.As usual, we can't cover everything, so if you notice anything particularly interesting with these latest drivers then jump into our forums and let us know.

Last updated: Apr 7, 2020 at 12:28 pm CDT

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR -

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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