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AMD Catalyst 12.11 Windows 7 Driver Analysis

AMD has just released a new Catalyst driver (12.11) for Radeon video cards - we check out performance under Windows 7.
@ShawnBakerTW
Published Thu, Oct 25 2012 8:50 AM CDT   |   Updated Fri, Sep 18 2020 10:50 PM CDT
Manufacturer: AMD

Introduction and Release Notes

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156 benchmark runs later we've not only finally finished testing the latest AMD Catalyst 12.11 driver, but started with our new video card benchmark line-up. I'll be the first to bring up my disappointment with AMD as they've really slipped over the last few months when it comes to driver releases. Not only are they further apart these days, but the focus on performance has been disappointing.

Like the last few years, though, as we come towards the end of the year, AMD try to do something that stands out a bit more and the 12.11 driver release is exactly that. They're making a big deal about it and based on the release notes it honestly looks like the noise is justified. Still we know it's easy to write words in the release notes - we need to find out if the actual promises hold true.

As we just mentioned this is our article that uses our new gaming benchmark line-up. We won't go in to any real detail on what we're using as you can discover the additions as we move through our benchmarks today. Before we do that there are a couple of things we need to do.

We'll start off by checking the release notes to see what AMD is saying we should get before we move into our test system setup. Once we've done that and covered the cards we'll be using in our graphs today we'll move straight into the performance numbers.

Release Notes

FEATURE HIGHLIGHTS OF THE AMD CATALYST 12.11 BETA DRIVER:

This driver introduces significant performance improvements for many games across ALL 28nm AMD Radeon™ HD 7000 Series products: HD 7700, HD7800 and HD7900.

Performance Highlights of the AMD CATALYST 12.11 BETA Driver

10%-15% more performance in Battlefield 3 in most cases

More than 20% in certain missions and sequences (Comrades)

Up to 7% more performance in Metro 2033

Up to 10% more performance in DIRT Showdown

Up to 8% more performance in Sleeping Dogs

Up to 12% more performance in Civilization V

Up to 10% more performance in StarCraft II

Up to 8% more performance in Sniper Elite: V2

Resolved issue highlights of AMD Catalyst 12.11 Beta Driver

Medal of Honor: Warfighter; AMD Catalyst 12.11 Beta4 resolves an application crash found when running in AMD CrossFire mode with Anti-Aliasing enabled (This issue was observed in the AMD Catalyst 12.11 Beta3; The AMD Catalyst 12.11 Beta4 has replaced the AMD Catalyst 12.11 Beta3 driver that was posted Oct 22 2012).

Resolves performance issues (where GPU activity runs at lower values than expected) seen on the AMD Radeon HD 7870.

AMD Catalyst Mobility 7970M performance for AMD Enduro™ Technology supported platforms has been substantially improved for DirectX 10 and DirectX 11 applications.

Benchmarks - Test System Setup

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

While our benchmark line-up has gone through a revamp, when it comes to the testbed, we don't have any changes as our X79 platform continues to be based on the fastest system on the market. Before we get into the benchmark side of things, though, let's just quickly cover the cards that we'll be using today.

We've included two cards today as we start to completely rebuild our lineup of cards. We've used the top single GPU HD 7970 GHz Edition from AMD and alongside that we've got the Sapphire HD 7870 GHz Edition OC to start things off. In future articles we will include more models.

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.

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Straight away we can see a great performance boost across the board when it comes to 3DMark 11. Of course it's not the most important of benchmarks, so let's move onto Heaven before we get into the games today.

Benchmarks - Unigine Heaven Benchmark

Unigine Heaven Benchmark

Version and / or Patch Used: 3

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

Product Homepage: http://unigine.com/press-releases/091022-heaven_benchmark//

New benchmark grants the power to unleash the DirectX 11 potential in the gift wrapping of impressively towering graphics capabilities. It reveals the enchanting magic of floating islands with a tiny village hidden in the cloudy skies. With the interactive mode emerging experience of exploring the intricate world is ensured within reach. Through its advanced renderer, Unigine is one of the first to set precedence in showcasing the art assets with tessellation, bringing compelling visual finesse, utilizing the technology to the full extend and exhibiting the possibilities of enriching 3D gaming.

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Heaven sees some fantastic gains. You can see that the HD 7870 on the 12.11's actually comes out ahead of the HD 7970 GHz Edition when it was on the older 12.8 driver.

Benchmarks - Phantasy Star Online 2

Phantasy Star Online 2

Version and / or Patch Used: Standalone Benchmark

Timedemo or Level Used: Built in Benchmark

Developer Homepage: http://www.sega.com/?t=EnglishUSA

Product Homepage: http://www.pso2.com/us/html/index.html

Play Phantasy Star Online 2 and experience revolutionary combat in an action-driven, free-to-play multiplayer online RPG from SEGA. Take a journey into an immersive sci-fi fantasy narrative and explore mysterious worlds to unravel their secrets. Join fellow adventurers and fight against the legions of darkness to banish them from the galaxy.

Score explanation: Less than 2000: Please adjust your game settings because the processing load is quite heavy.

2000 through 5000: The game runs fine at the setting, if you have room, you can adjust some settings.

5001+: The game works wonderfully at this setting.

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Firing up one of our new benchmarks we can see that while the HD 7970 GHz Edition doesn't see the biggest of boosts, the HD 7870 GHz Edition does. You can see we move closer to that "5000" area which Sega says equals wonderful gameplay.

Benchmarks - Lost Planet 2

Lost Planet 2

Version and / or Patch Used: Standalone Benchmark

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."

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Getting into one of our classics we can see again some excellent gains under Lost Planet 2.

The HD 7870 breaks the 60 FPS mark at 1920 x 1200, and gets more breathing room at 1680 x 1050. The HD 7970 GHz Edition gets a nice bump across the board with the extra breathing room at 2560 x 1600 being really appreciated.

Benchmarks - Just Cause 2

Just Cause 2

Version and / or Patch Used: Latest Steam Update

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.

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Looking at Just Cause 2 you can see that at 2560 x 1600 on the HD 7870 we're able to break into that 60 FPS zone which is what we consider smooth playable FPS. Of course we see gains across the boards on both cards, but that particular one is most appreciated as we move from below 60 FPS to over.

Benchmarks - F1 2012

F1 2012

Version and / or Patch Used: Latest Steam Update

Timedemo or Level Used: Built in Benchmark

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

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

In F1 2012 players will feel the unparalleled thrill of becoming a FORMULA ONE driver with a host of new features, wide-ranging technical and gameplay advancements and extensive competitive and co-operative multiplayer components. F1 2012 will feature all of the official teams, drivers and circuits from the 2012 FIA FORMULA ONE WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP, including the debut of the 2012 FORMULA 1 UNITED STATES GRAND PRIX at Austin, Texas and the return of Germany's famous Hockenheim circuit to the calendar.

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Just like Just Cause 2 we can see that we're able to break into the 60 FPS realm at 2560 x 1600 under F1 2012. While we again see nice little bumps across the board that one particular change is definitely the most appreciated.

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.

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Metro 2033 sees some great bumps on the HD 7870 with more breathing room at 1680 x 1050 and playable numbers now at 1920 x 1200. The HD 7970 GHz Edition also sees some bumps with a little more breathing room at 2560 x 1600 and a couple of extra FPS at the other resolutions.

Benchmarks - Dirt Showdown

Dirt Showdown

Version and / or Patch Used: Latest Steam Update

Timedemo or Level Used: Built in Benchmark

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

Product Homepage: http://www.codemasters.com/uk/dirtshowdown/360/

DiRT Showdown is the new arcade racing game from the team that brought you the award-winning DiRT series, uncaged in 2012. Pick up and play controls combine with electrifying events, frenzied crowds and stunning graphics to deliver high octane, dive in and drive thrills from event one.

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We see some really nice increases when looking at the HD 7870, but you can see performance is below that 60 FPS number at all resolutions. The HD 7970 GHz also struggles at the highest resolution, but below that we see a move into the 60 FPS realm at 1920 x 1200, and some extra appreciated FPS at 1680 x 1050 to make sure the game runs smooth.

Benchmarks - Nexuiz

Nexuiz

Version and / or Patch Used: Latest Steam Update

Timedemo or Level Used: Built in Benchmark

Developer Homepage: http://www.alientrap.org/

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

Nexuiz is an Arena First Person shooter coming soon to consoles. Nexuiz is fast paced with extremely competitive game play. IllFonic brings Alientrap Software's Nexuiz to next-gen gaming consoles around the world while staying true to the game play refined over the years through development. IllFonic introduces a new Victorian influenced art style that is simultaneously futuristic and sophisticated. Nexuiz for consoles is powered by CryENGINE 3.

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Like in Dirt Showdown, the HD 7870 sees some nice gains, but you can see we sit below that 60 FPS mark at all resolutions. The HD 7970 GHz Edition sees a couple of extra FPS at 1920 x 1200 and 1680 x 1050, while 2560 x 1600 sees no change.

Benchmarks - Sniper Elite V2

Sniper Elite V2

Version and / or Patch Used: Standalone Benchmark

Timedemo or Level Used: Built in Benchmark

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

Product Homepage: http://sniperelitev2.com/us/age.html

Sniper Elite V2 features detailed sniping simulation with advanced ballistics, taking into account gravity, wind, velocity, bullet penetration, aim stability and more. Guaranteed to provide players with the most realistic simulation of military sharpshooting yet available.

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Across the board some great gains are again seen especially when it comes to the HD 7870. The HD 7970 GHz Edition also across the board manages to gain a couple of extra FPS.

Benchmarks - Sleeping Dogs

Sleeping Dogs

Version and / or Patch Used: Latest Steam Update

Timedemo or Level Used: Built in Benchmark

Developer Homepage: http://eu.square-enix.com/en

Product Homepage: http://www.sleepingdogs.net/

The core gameplay of Sleeping Dogs consists of giving the player an open world environment in which to move around freely. Sleeping Dogs is played as an over-the-shoulder, third-person perspective action-adventure game with role-playing elements. The player controls Wei Shen, a Chinese-American police officer, as he goes undercover to infiltrate the Sun On Yee Triad organization. On foot, the player character has the ability to walk, run, jump, climb over obstacles and swim, as well as use weapons and martial arts in combat. Players also drive a variety of vehicles including cars, boats, and motorcycles.

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Sleeping Dogs sees some really nice gains with all resolutions becoming playable on the HD 7870. As for the HD 7970 GHz you can see across the board we get some extra breathing room with some strong numbers across the board.

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 Montréal 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.

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Here we see strong FPS as you'd expect across the board, but still some very impressive gains are present at all resolutions. The HD 7870 especially sees a really nice boost in performance across the board.

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.

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We see a slightly boost in performance and it's nice to see our HD 7870 minimum jump to over 30 FPS at the highest resolution.

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Metro 2033 sees some nice performance gains across the board, but continues to remain unplayable in most tests. We do see that the HD 7970 GHz Edition gets a bit more breathing room at 1920 x 1200, though, as it hits a strong 70 FPS with AA and AF turned on.

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Just Cause 2 sees some great games with the HD 7870 now giving us playable FPS at 1920 x 1200, and the HD 7970 GHz breaking the 60 FPS barrier at 2560 x 1600. These are exactly the kind of gains we love to see.

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Sleeping Dogs sees a little bit of movement, but across the board the FPS is below 60.

Final Thoughts

Looking through the performance this is an absolutely fantastic driver and we didn't run into any problems with it when it came to running our benchmark line up which is something we always love to see. While AMD launched the 12.10 WHQL driver at the same time, we'd recommend you skip it, and just make the move over to the 12.11 Beta.

For the most part we'd like to see AMD just give up on the whole monthly WHQL driver and instead just focus on releasing drivers that bring real performance increases when it comes to WHQL - the same approach as NVIDIA. And release bug fixed drivers as needed. We could see something like the 12.11a, 12.11b and so on, so we can still tell in a heartbeat which month the driver is aimed at.

While we find ourselves on the whole disappointed with what AMD has been doing this year with drivers, they've released a few stand outs, and the new 12.11 is indeed one of them. Outside of the new driver, though, AMD are offering some pretty sweet deals as we get into the holiday season.

For more information regarding receiving games like Far Cry 3, Hitman and Sleeping Dogs, we recommend you head over here to the AMD website to find out just how you can get your game on this holidays.

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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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