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AMD Catalyst 12.4 Windows 7 Driver Analysis

AMD has just released a new Catalyst driver (12.4) for Radeon graphics cards - we check out performance under Windows 7.
@TweakTown
Published Mon, Apr 30 2012 8:00 AM CDT   |   Updated Fri, Sep 18 2020 10:50 PM CDT
Manufacturer: Game.AMD

Introduction and Release Note Highlights

Catalyst 11.12 Windows 7 Driver Analysis

It's been a fairly quite year for the Catalyst driver set so far and while AMD have indeed been busy with the latest crop of Radeon HD 7000 series video cards that we started seeing in December, there hasn't been much on the software side of things that really stands out.

Looking through the latest release notes it feels very much the same with not much in terms of specific performance improvements outside of some Morphological Anti-Aliasing tweaks that are seeing a strong boost. If that translates over to the more traditional AA method we won't know until a little later.

Outside of that, though, there's a huge amount of bug fixes in some popular games and applications which will no doubt be the thing that drags you to the latest driver.

Release Notes Highlights

NEW FEATURES

Windows XP support for the AMD Radeon HD 7900 Series, AMD Radeon HD 7800, and AMD Radeon HD 7700 Series

In addition to Windows 7 and Windows Vista support, Catalyst 12.4 now also introduces Windows XP (64-bit/32-bit) support for the AMD Radeon HD 7900, AMD Radeon HD 7800, and AMD Radeon HD 7700 Series

Super Sampling Anti-Aliasing: Level of Detail (LOD) Image Quality enhancements

Supported on the AMD Radeon HD 7900, AMD Radeon HD 7800, and AMD Radeon HD 7700 Series

LOD Image quality enhancements have been improved when enabling Super Sample Anti-Aliasing and Adaptive Anti-Aliasing through the AMD Catalyst Control Center for DirectX 10 and DirectX 11 applications.

Applications must support in game Anti-Aliasing for the feature to work (Forced on Anti-Aliasing through the Catalyst Control Center is not supported for DirectX 10 and DirectX 11 applications)

Morphological Anti-Aliasing (MLAA): Significant performance enhancements

Supported on the AMD Radeon HD 7900, AMD Radeon HD 7800, AMD Radeon HD 7700 Series, AMD Radeon HD 6000 Series, and AMD Radeon HD 5000 Series

MLAA now operates up to 80% faster than previous versions

Texture filtering quality improvements

Supported on the AMD Radeon HD 7900, AMD Radeon HD 7800, and AMD Radeon HD 7700 Series

Improvements have been made to the texture filtering algorithm (for both DirectX9 and DirectX10/DirectX11 applications) to increase the quality of rendered textures, with no impact to performance

Resolved Issues for the Windows 7 Operating System

Elder Scrolls: Skyrim: no longer hangs on single GPU configurations when used with AMD Catalyst 12.3 CAP1 and later CAP releases

Elder Scolls: Skyrim: flickering square corruption is no longer observed.

Rage: Vsync is no longer disabled after task switching.

Enemy Territory: Quake Wars: no longer crashes when launched in High Performance Mode.

Stalker - Call of Pripyat: flickering is no longer observed in trees with specific Catalyst Control Center settings.

Tom Clancy HAWX 2: no longer crashes on game launch.

Windows Media Center: no longer crashes when run in Eyefinity mode and High Performance mode settings.

AMD Steady Video: an error message is no longer displayed when enabling AMD Steady Video for the Microsoft Internet Explorer 9.0 plugin.

Duplicating displays no longer generates random corruption.

Tearing is no longer observed on the third screen in 3x1 and 1x3 Eyefinity configurations.

A system crash is no longer experienced when enabling Crossfire in a 4 display configuration.

The advanced video quality settings are now correctly displayed in the Catalyst Control Center.

Benchmarks - Test System Setup

AMD Catalyst 12.4 Windows 7 Driver Analysis 99 | TweakTown.com
VIEW GALLERY - 10 IMAGES

We would like to thank the following companies for supplying and supporting us with our test system hardware and equipment: Intel, ASUS, MSI, Western Digital and Corsair.

Compared to last month nothing has changed on the actual testbed side of things as we continue to use the X79 platform as our main testbed. While the Z77 Ivy Bridge platform is newer, the X79 Sandy Bridge-E platform continues to be the higher end solution.

What has changed is the video card line up. Of course we've got the new HD 7970 and HD 7870 that we introduced over the last few months. As mentioned last month, though, we've removed the HD 6970 and replaced it with the HD 7770 which is tested with the latest driver and the original launch driver.

Let's get started!

The FPS Numbers Explained

When we benchmark our video cards and look at the graphs, we aim to get to a certain level of FPS which we consider playable. While many may argue that the human eye can't see over 24 FPS or 30 FPS, any true gamer will tell you that as we climb higher in Frames Per Seconds (FPS), the overall gameplay feels smoother. There are three numbers we're looking out for when it comes to our benchmarks.

30 FPS - It's the minimum number we aim for when it comes to games. If you're not dropping below 30 FPS during games, you're going to have a nice and smooth gaming experience. The ideal situation is that even in a heavy fire fight, the minimum stays above 30 FPS making sure that you can continue to aim easily or turn the corner with no dramas.

60 FPS - It's the average we look for when we don't have a minimum coming at us. If we're getting an average of 60 FPS, we should have a minimum of 30 FPS or better and as mentioned above, it means we've got some smooth game play happening.

120 FPS - The new number that we've been hunting down over recent months. If you're the owner of a 120 Hz monitor, to get the most out of it you want to get around the 120 FPS mark. Moving from 60 FPS / 60 Hz to 120 FPS / 120 Hz brings with it a certain fluidity that can't really be explained, but instead has to be experienced. Of course, if you're buying a 120 Hz monitor to take advantage of 3D, an average of 120 FPS in our benchmark means that in 3D you will have an average of 60 FPS, which again means you should expect some smooth gameplay.

Benchmarks - 3DMark 11

3DMark 11

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.1

Developer Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com

Product Homepage: http://www.3dmark.com/3dmark11/

Buy It Here

3DMark 11 is the latest version of the world's most popular benchmark. Designed to measure your PC's gaming performance 3DMark 11 makes extensive use of all the new features in DirectX 11 including tessellation, compute shaders and multi-threading. Trusted by gamers worldwide to give accurate and unbiased results, 3DMark 11 is the best way to consistently and reliably test DirectX 11 under game-like loads.

AMD Catalyst 12.4 Windows 7 Driver Analysis 20 | TweakTown.com

HD 7770 - Here we see no real change.

HD 7870 - Here we see no real change.

HD 7970 - We can see a slight boost in both the P and X performance preset with the latest driver.

Benchmarks - Lost Planet 2

Lost Planet 2

Version and / or Patch Used: Benchmark Demo

Timedemo or Level Used: Built in Benchmark - Test A Scene 1

Developer Homepage: http://www.capcom.com/

Product Homepage: http://www.lostplanet2game.com/

Lost Planet 2 is a third-person shooter video game developed and published by Capcom. The game is the sequel to Lost Planet: Extreme Condition which is also made by Capcom, taking place ten years after the events of the first game, on the same fictional planet. The story takes place back on E.D.N. III 10 years after the events of the first game. The snow has melted to reveal jungles and more tropical areas that have taken the place of more frozen regions. The plot begins with Mercenaries fighting against Jungle Pirates. After destroying a mine, the Mercenaries continue on to evacuate the area, in which a Category-G Akrid appears and attacks them. After being rescued, they find out their evacuation point (Where the Category-G appeared) was a set-up and no pick up team awaited them. The last words imply possible DLC additions to the game, "There's nothing to be gained by wiping out snow pirates... unless you had some kind of grudge."

AMD Catalyst 12.4 Windows 7 Driver Analysis 21 | TweakTown.com

HD 7770 - Here we see no real change.

HD 7870 - You can see we lose a couple of FPS at the lowest resolution here.

HD 7970 - You can see we lose a couple of FPS at the lowest resolution here.

Benchmarks - Aliens vs. Predator

Aliens vs. Predator

Version and / or Patch Used: Standalone Benchmark

Timedemo or Level Used: Built in Benchmark

Developer Homepage: http://www.rebellion.co.uk/

Product Homepage: http://www.sega.com/games/aliens-vs-predator/

Aliens vs. Predator is a science fiction first-person shooter video game, developed by Rebellion Developments, the team behind the 1999 original PC game, and published by Sega for Microsoft Windows, the PlayStation 3 and the Xbox 360. The game is based on the Alien vs. Predator franchise, a combination of the characters and creatures of the Alien franchise and the Predator franchise. There are three campaigns in the game, one for each race/faction (the Predators, the Aliens and the Colonial Marines), that, while separate in terms of individual plot and gameplay, form one overarching storyline.

Following the storyline of the campaign modes comes the multiplayer aspect of the game. In this Multiplayer section of the game, players face off in various different gametypes in various different ways.

AMD Catalyst 12.4 Windows 7 Driver Analysis 22 | TweakTown.com

HD 7770 - Here we see no real change.

HD 7870 - Here we see no real change.

HD 7970 - Here we see no real change.

Benchmarks - Just Cause 2

Just Cause 2

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.0.0.2

Timedemo or Level Used: Dark Tower

Developer Homepage: http://www.eidos.com/

Product Homepage: http://www.justcause.com/

Just Cause 2 employs the Avalanche Engine 2.0, an updated version of the engine used in Just Cause. The game is set on the other side of the world from the original Just Cause, on the fictional island of Panau in Southeast Asia. Panau has varied terrain, from desert to alpine to rainforest. Rico Rodriguez returns as the protagonist, aiming to overthrow the evil dictator Pandak "Baby" Panay and confront his former mentor, Tom Sheldon.

AMD Catalyst 12.4 Windows 7 Driver Analysis 23 | TweakTown.com

HD 7770 - Here we see no real change.

HD 7870 - Here we see no real change.

HD 7970 - At 1680 x 1050 you can see we gain a couple of extra FPS.

Benchmarks - Metro 2033

Metro 2033

Version and / or Patch Used: Latest Steam Update

Timedemo or Level Used: Built in Benchmark

Developer Homepage: http://www.4a-games.com/

Product Homepage: http://www.thqnordic.com/

Metro 2033 is an action-oriented video game with a combination of survival horror and first-person shooter elements. The game is based on the novel Metro 2033 by Russian author Dmitry Glukhovsky. It was developed by 4A Games in Ukraine and released in March 2010 for Microsoft Windows and Xbox 360.[3] In March 2006, 4A Games announced a partnership with Glukhovsky to collaborate on the game.[4] The game was announced at the 2009 Games Convention in Leipzig;[5] a first trailer came along with the announcement.[6] A sequel was announced, currently titled Metro: Last Light.

AMD Catalyst 12.4 Windows 7 Driver Analysis 24 | TweakTown.com

HD 7770 - Here we see no real change.

HD 7870 - Here we see no real change.

HD 7970 - At 1920 x 1200 you can see we gain a couple of extra FPS.

Benchmarks - Dirt 3

Dirt 3

Version and / or Patch Used: Latest Steam Update

Timedemo or Level Used: Built in Benchmark

Developer Homepage: http://www.codemasters.com/

Product Homepage: http://www.dirt3game.com/

DiRT 3 boasts more cars, more locations, more routes and more events than any other game in the series, including over 50 rally cars representing the very best from five decades of the sport. With more than double the track content of 2009's hit, DiRT 3 will see players start at the top as a professional driver, with a top-flight career in competitive off-road racing complimented by the opportunity to express themselves in Gymkhana-style showpiece driving events.

AMD Catalyst 12.4 Windows 7 Driver Analysis 25 | TweakTown.com

HD 7770 - Here we see no real change.

HD 7870 - Here we see no real change.

HD 7970 - 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.

AMD Catalyst 12.4 Windows 7 Driver Analysis 26 | TweakTown.com

HD 7770 - Here we see no real change.

HD 7870 - Here we see no real change.

HD 7970 - At 1680 x 1050 and 1920 x 1200 you can see a bit of positive movement.

Benchmarks - High Quality AA and AF

High Quality AA and AF

While we test all our games with maximum in-game settings, turning on Anti-Aliasing (AA) and Antistrophic Filtering (AF) helps take the intensity of our testing to another level.

Here we see video cards go from playable FPS to an unplayable FPS and the real power houses continue to help break that 60 FPS mark we always aim for to provide a smooth gaming experience.

AMD Catalyst 12.4 Windows 7 Driver Analysis 27 | TweakTown.com
AMD Catalyst 12.4 Windows 7 Driver Analysis 28 | TweakTown.com

HD 7770 - Here we see no real change.

HD 7870 - Here we see no real change.

HD 7970 - Here we see no real change.

Final Thoughts

There's nothing too crazy about the latest driver - if you're a Radeon HD 7970 user we'd make the jump as we do see a couple of extra FPS here and there, the same might be said for HD 7950 users, but anything below that doesn't really seem to get much of a change with the latest driver.

What was a little disappointing was the HD 7770; I really had hoped that we'd see a couple of extra FPS with the latest driver when compared to the launch one, but as you can see, we really saw nothing change for the most part.

Of course we should see some gains with the Morphological Anti-Aliasing as promised in the release notes, but most people will probably find themselves like us using the normal AA / AF technology that are enabled in your games verse through the control panel.

While we do see a dip here and there as well, it's nothing major and if the bug fixes are something that will affect you, we'd recommend you jump on the latest driver. Our site editor Cameron noticed some strange BSOD's with the Cat 12.3 driver which so far seem to be cured with the latest Cat 12.4 driver.

If you're a HD 7900 series user as well I'd also suggest that you make the jump. If you're on the 12.3 driver, though, and everything is running smoothly, we'd happily suggest you stay on that as well.

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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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