GIVEAWAY: Gaming peripherals upgrade thanks to Corsair worth $280

AMD Catalyst 12.6 Windows 7 Driver Analysis

AMD has just released a new Catalyst driver (12.6) for Radeon graphics cards - we check out performance under Windows 7.
@TweakTown
Published Wed, Jul 4 2012 5:40 AM CDT   |   Updated Fri, Sep 18 2020 10:50 PM CDT
Manufacturer: AMD

Introduction and Release Note Highlights

Catalyst 11.12 Windows 7 Driver Analysis

What is going on with AMD these days? They've really begun to slip in a few areas. For starters the driver team seems to be all over the place, earlier in the year we saw them come late with a driver release and in May we didn't see a 12.5 WHQL driver. Considering this was a company that prided themselves on the ability to offer a new WHQL driver every month, it was disappointing, but not surprising that they finally missed a month after all of these years.

Along with that the launch of the HD 7970 GHz Edition was a bit sloppy. The video card arrived before we even knew it was coming and when we did get some information the link to the reviewers guide was dead which made our job a little bit more difficult than we would've liked.

We're still waiting on the dual GPU offering from AMD so the company can possibly reclaim their spot with the fastest video card on the market and we know that the pricing which the GTX 670 and GTX 680 launched at shook the AMD camp up a little bit.

As always before we get into the testbed side of things and the performance we'll check out some of the highlights from the release notes which mainly revolve around a bunch of fixes under Windows 7.

Release Notes Highlights

Resolved Issues for the Windows 7 Operating System

CERT recently approached AMD with information pertaining to what they believed to be a possible video driver vulnerability exposed by non-default settings of the Microsoft Enhanced Mitigation Experience Toolkit (EMET). EMET is a security test tool that allows system administrators to create test conditions to validate correct behavior of system components or indicate potential weak points.

The AMD Catalyst 12.6 driver for the AMD Radeon HD 7000, AMD Radeon HD 6000, and AMD Radeon HD 5000 Series is designed to resolve a possible video driver vulnerability issue and to minimize the occurrence of system crashes.

AMD Radeon HD 7900, AMD Radeon HD 7800 Eyefinity/Multiple Display configurations - BSOD when using desktop applications.

AMD Catalyst 12.6 includes some additional fixes(not found in the AMD Catalyst 12.6 Beta) for the AMD Radeon HD 7900, AMD Radeon HD 7800, and AMD Radeon HD 7700 graphics cards for issues related to the GPU hanging when the system goes to sleep. Please ensure that your System BIOS is up to date. Some occurrences of this issue may be related to an outdated System BIOS.

Heroes and Generals - Blocky corruption in scenes with smoke effects when run in DirectX 11 mode.

AMD Radeon HD 7900 CrossFire Configuration - system hang after cinematics in Call of Duty: Black Ops.

AMD A4, AMD A6, AMD A8 and AMD A10 APU Products - crashes after repeated toggling between VGA and HDMI monitors.

System hangs after playing various DVD and Bluray titles with PowerDVD.

Video corruption seen after playing some DivX video clips using Windows Media Center.

AMD Radeon 7800 series products: Crysis 2 hangs when run in DirectX 9 mode.

AMD Radeon HD 7900, AMD Radeon HD 7800 Eyefinity/Multiple Display configurations - BSOD when using desktop applications in DirectX 11 mode.

Benchmarks - Test System Setup

AMD Catalyst 12.6 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.

Looking above nothing has changed on our testbed side of things and we've got our normal line up of AMD based video cards which include the HD 7970, HD 7870 and HD 7770 to round off our line up.

As for the performance improvements we're going to get today we don't know what to expect as AMD didn't really highlight anything. Of course that doesn't mean we won't get any so let's just get into it and see what happens.

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 12.6 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 - Here we see no real change.

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 12.6 Windows 7 Driver Analysis 21 | TweakTown.com

HD 7770 - Here we see no real change.

HD 7870 - Performance is a little up and down here.

HD 7970 - Performance seems to have dropped slightly across the board.

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 12.6 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 12.6 Windows 7 Driver Analysis 23 | TweakTown.com

HD 7770 - The new driver seems to have given us a slight performance boost.

HD 7870 - Across the board we can see a boost in performance with a nice gain being seen at 2560 x 1600.

HD 7970 - Here we see no real change.

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 12.6 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 - We see a slight dip in 1920 x 1200 performance, but apart from that we see that nothing else has really changed.

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 12.6 Windows 7 Driver Analysis 25 | TweakTown.com

HD 7770 - We see a strong boost in performance here at all resolutions.

HD 7870 - We see a strong boost in performance here at all resolutions.

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 12.6 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 - Here we see no real change.

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 12.6 Windows 7 Driver Analysis 27 | TweakTown.com
AMD Catalyst 12.6 Windows 7 Driver Analysis 28 | TweakTown.com

HD 7770 - AvP is slightly down while Far Cry 2 sees no change.

HD 7870 - We can see a tiny little bump in performance in both games, but nothing too major.

HD 7970 - Here we see no real change.

Final Thoughts

I'd skip this driver for the simple reason that the same day we saw this WHQL driver, the Catalyst 12.7 Beta hit us and from our original testing with the HD 7970 GHz Edition, we're really happy with what's going on with that driver.

It also seems the 12.7 Beta is one that AMD are going to focus on when it comes to performance which is something that we haven't seen in a while. Of course later this month when the official WHQL hits us we'll check out the Catalyst 12.7 driver. For now, though, we'd recommend you hit up that Beta driver over this WHQL one.

On the specifics of this driver performance, it is a little all over the place. At times we see a nice little bump other times we can see a decent dip in performance. For the most part, though, we see that there's really no change between this 12.6 driver and the 12.4 WHQL driver.

The next few months are going to be important for AMD. The 12.7 driver is going to be important as it should focus more on the performance side of things and AMD need to release the Dual GPU HD 7990 that is hopefully not too far away.

For now, though, you can probably skip this driver and go for the 12.7 Beta.

PRICING: You can find products similar to this one for sale below.

USUnited States: Find other tech and computer products like this over at Amazon.com

UKUnited Kingdom: Find other tech and computer products like this over at Amazon.co.uk

AUAustralia: Find other tech and computer products like this over at Amazon.com.au

CACanada: Find other tech and computer products like this over at Amazon.ca

DEDeutschland: Finde andere Technik- und Computerprodukte wie dieses auf Amazon.de

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.

Related Tags

Newsletter Subscription

Latest News

View More News

Latest Reviews

View More Reviews

Latest Articles

View More Articles