Introduction I had to check the Game.AMD website the other day to make sure I didn't miss the email about the release of the latest Catalyst drivers. As I expected, when I checked the website there wasn't a new driver. A few days later, however, and that email came through saying a new driver set had been released.While running a bit late this month, the AMD team finally managed to get a new driver out. This month also saw the release of Windows 7 to manufacturers and over the coming months we'll be integrating the new operating system into our benchmark line-up.Before we get stuck into the benchmarks, let's have a quick look at the expected performance improvements to see what's going on. Performance ImprovementsCrysis - performance at very high quality preset increases by up to 8% on HD4800 series productsLost Planet Colonies - performance increases by 7-11% when 8x Anti-Aliasing is used on the HD4800 series products
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 9.6 and Catalyst 9.7As we mentioned before, we will integrate Windows 7 into our benchmark line-up over the next few months, but not just yet. So let's see what's going on with this set in Vista today.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.
HD 4850: We can see a small bump at both settings.HD 4870 X2: We can see a small bump at both settings.HD 4890: We can see a small bump at both settings.
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.
HD 4850: Here we see no real change. HD 4870 X2: Across the board we can see some serious improvements.HD 4890: A bit of movement can be seen at the lower resolution.
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.
HD 4850: Here we see no real change.HD 4870 X2: Across the board we can see an increase.HD 4890: We see a small bump in some areas.
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. 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.
HD 4850: We can see a bit of movement at the lower resolutions.HD 4870 X2: At the lower resolution we can see a bit of movement in the minimum department.HD 4890: We can see a bit of movement in some areas.
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.
HD 4850: We can see a bit of positive movement here.HD 4870 X2: We see some very good gains at the lower resolution.HD 4890: Across the board we can see some nice movement.
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
HD 4850: A little drop here.HD 4870 X2: A small bump here.HD 4890: No real change here.Left 4 Dead
HD 4850: No real change.HD 4870 X2: A bit of a jump here.HD 4890: A bit of a jump here.
Final ThoughtsThe latest driver release from AMD seems to offer some good performance increases for both the HD 4890 and HD 4870 X2. But unfortunately it does seem that the HD 4850 manages to miss out on a bit of the action.Apart from these performance increases there are as always a number of bug fixes which for the most part are a good enough reason to upgrade to the latest installment. AMD has also been quick to offer a WHQL Windows 7 driver, so if you're an ATI owner and you're going to be upgrading to Windows 7 in the near future, make sure you grab the latest driver.All in all we've got a good driver this month that offers the usual array of bug fixes as well as a nice bump in performance in a number of games at a number of resolutions. As always, if you find something hot or cold about the latest driver releases on your machine, make sure you leave us a line in the forums.Until next month, happy gaming and benchmarking folks.
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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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