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ATI Catalyst 9.6 Vista Driver Analysis

AMD has just released a new Catalyst 9.6 driver for Radeon graphics cards - we check out performance under Vista.
@ShawnBakerTW
Published Thu, Jun 18 2009 3:04 AM CDT   |   Updated Tue, Apr 7 2020 12:28 PM CDT
Manufacturer: none

Introduction

CATALYST 9.6 PERFORMANCE ANALYSIS
Introduction Last month the Catalyst 9.5 drivers didn't do a whole lot for us, especially when it came to the HD 4850. June brings a new month and a new set of drivers; fingers crossed some of the performance lost last month has been repaired for this month.Below we can see that some performance gains are promised. As to whether or not these particular ones translate to any gains in our cards or games, there's only one way to find out. Let's have a quick look at exactly what the promises being made are before we get stuck into the performance side of things.Performance Improvements Company of Heroes - performance gains of up to 25% for the ATI Radeon HD 4600 Series, and performance gains of up to 10% for the ATI Radeon HD 4800 Series Crysis Warhead - performance gains of up to 11% for ATI CrossFireX technology in dual configuration. Crysis - performance gains of up to 13% for ATI CrossFireX technology in dual configuration. World in Conflict - performance gains of up to 30% for high settings that were previously CPU limited with the ATI Radeon HD 4800 series.

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 9.5 and Catalyst 9.6With no changes to our test bed let's get stuck straight into it and see how last month's drivers go against this month's with popular ATI cards.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.
CATALYST 9.6 PERFORMANCE ANALYSIS
HD 4850: Straight of the mark we can see a bump in performance here.HD 4870 X2: A little north at the X setting, but no real difference.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.
CATALYST 9.6 PERFORMANCE ANALYSIS
CATALYST 9.6 PERFORMANCE ANALYSIS
HD 4850: Big jumps at all resolutions. HD 4870 X2: A little bit all over the place; minimums are the same or up, averages are a little down, though.HD 4890: The lower resolution minimums seem ever so slightly down. Averages are identical, though.

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.
CATALYST 9.6 PERFORMANCE ANALYSIS
CATALYST 9.6 PERFORMANCE ANALYSIS
HD 4850: Like we've seen all along, there's gains across the board.HD 4870 X2: Here we see no real change.HD 4890: Here we see no real change.

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.
CATALYST 9.6 PERFORMANCE ANALYSIS
CATALYST 9.6 PERFORMANCE ANALYSIS
HD 4850: Those gains continue to be seen under Stalker.HD 4870 X2: Low resolution minimum seems to be slightly down.HD 4890: A little downward movement at 2560 x 1600.

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.
CATALYST 9.6 PERFORMANCE ANALYSIS
HD 4850: Across the board we see some good gains.HD 4870 X2: A little bit of movement, but nothing major.HD 4890: Here we see no real change.

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
CATALYST 9.6 PERFORMANCE ANALYSIS
CATALYST 9.6 PERFORMANCE ANALYSIS
HD 4850: Up again!HD 4870 X2: Small minimum drop.HD 4890: Small minimum increase. Left 4 Dead
CATALYST 9.6 PERFORMANCE ANALYSIS
HD 4850: Our last test sees performance is up again.HD 4870 X2: Here we see no real change.HD 4890: Here we see no real change.

Final Thoughts

Final ThoughtsLast month we saw some serious dramas with the HD 4850 and the Catalyst 9.5, but this month that seems to be all gone with some good gains being seen for the mid-range card.As for the other cards we tested, there isn't a whole lot happening. At some points we see a slight increase while other times a slight drop, but for the most part there isn't a whole lot going on.If you've a HD 4850 and have moved to the 9.5s, upgrade to the 9.6s straight away. And even if you're a 9.4 user, we would recommend the move to the new driver as it's always best to be up to date so you can take advantage of the latest bug fixes which are always one of the most important aspects of a new driver release.Until next month, happy gaming and benchmarking.

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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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