Taking a closer look
As mentioned in the introduction, we are including screen capture from the PowerPoint presentation ATI sent to us. For a full screen version, just click on the smaller version and a new window will popup.
Here we are given a rundown of the main features of the user interface. The one thing which should stand out to most people is the fact that we have a preview screen throughout the control center which is designed to give users an idea of what their games will look like when they change certain 3D settings such as AA and AF.
You'll need to have a trained eye to notice the differences in the preview screen - you can see the differences but it's very slight. We ran FRAPS on the preview screen and the frames per second didn't change much at all. Nevertheless it works and it is a good idea by the folks at ATI - nVidia will have to put their serious thinking caps on to think of something better.
This screen gives a run down of the highlight new features which the CATALYST Control Center offers. The main feature which sticks out to us here is Automatic Updates which works just like Windows Update. This feature isn't enabled in the current public version of the control center yet but ATI told us it will be ready much before the end of the year.
Being based on Microsoft's .NET framework, the CATALYST Control Center allows many customizations to be made. Manufacturers of ATI graphics cards will be able to customize the control center how they see fit with their own company logo and skins and even new settings as far as we can see. End-users can even change the appearance of the control center with the SDK (Software Development Kit) which ATI will have available for download on their website.
Over the coming months ATI told us they will hold competitions to encourage the end-user community to develop skins, plugins and utilities to work with the CATALYST Control Center - great idea!
This is the basic layout of the control center - on the left you have the menu of options to choose from (like the tabs in the old style Windows graphics control panel) and on the right hand side is where you can adjust settings.
Once the CATALYST Control Center has loaded (it takes a couple seconds to get started), the first screen you are greeted with is the welcome screen which introduces new features and so on. This welcome screen can also be changed to suit the needs of manufacturers and retailers.
The first lot of options we get to modify is the Display Manager which allows you to change such settings as resolution, color depth, refresh rate and rotation. Here you can also manage multiple displays.
As far as enthusiasts go, this will prove to be one of the most popular screens in the control center. Here you can adjust AA, AF, texture preferences, mipmap detail, TRUFORM, SMARTSHADER effects and API specific options. Now there are global 3D settings for DX and OpenGL which means gamers no longer need to know what API their favorite games use which is a very big positive for gamers.
The 3D section is where we have the preview screen which is designed to give us an idea of what the different settings will offer in actual game play.
The positive thing to take a great deal of notice is that ATI has set texture and mipmap details to "Quality" over "Performance" as default. We hope this is something ATI will continue to do in the future and not just a modified version which was sent out to hardware reviewers.
The Overlay Video section allows you to choose presets for video playback as well as the ability to adjust settings such as gamma, brightness, contrast and so on.
Here ATI's SMARTGART feature is mentioned which is said to automatically configure AGP settings for maximum stability. Under the SMARTGART section you can adjust settings such as AGP speed, Fast Writes and AGP Read and Write as well as PCI settings if you own an older ATI graphics cards. You have the ability to click the "Retest All" button which checks you have the correct settings enabled for optimal system stability.
Along with the new SMARTGART settings, ATI says they have implemented an enhanced version of VPU Recovery which increases the success rate of recovery from crashes. Our games didn't crash during testing so we have no way to verify these claims but you want to be using VPU Recovery as little as possible, so we don't mind.
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