IntroductionAs we roll into February another set of Catalyst drivers roll in to our inbox and in normal TweakTown style we will be looking at just how they compare against the previous batch, Catalyst 6.1.The 6.2 drivers are the first official driver to support the latest ATI offerings the X1900XT and X1900XTX. Let's have a quick look at the release notes before we move on to see if the drivers are worth upgrading to from a performance prospective.Release Notes from ATIFrom ATI:BattleField 2 Special Forces: A blooming or ghosting effect is no longer noticed when playing the game in night vision mode. Further details on this resolved issue can be found in topic number 737-21648City of Heroes: Running Shadertest 7 no longer results in slow performance being noticed. Further details can be found in topic number 737-21463Dragonshard: Playing the game under Windows XP Media Center Edition with CrossFire enabled, no longer results in the screen becoming out of sync, and a scrolling display image occurring shortly there after. Further details on this resolved issue can be found in topic number 737-20975Fable: The Lost Chapters: Playing the game under Windows XP MCE may result in the shadows found within the game appearing jittery, when the desktop resolution is set to 1024x768 32bpp, and all the game options are set to default. Further details on this resolved issue can be found in topic number 737-21184Half-Life2: Enabling Catalyst AI no longer results in the outer edges of the water appear dark or black in color. Further details on this resolved issue can be found in topic number. 737-21649Pacific Fighters: A stuttering effect at certain levels of the game is no longer noticed when playing the game with CrossFire enabled. Further details on this resolved issue can be found in topic number 737-21650The Fall: A VPU Recover event or the operating system failing to respond no longer occur when playing the game. Further details on this resolved issue can be found in topic number 737-21651World of Warcraft: Pixel corruption is no longer noticed when playing the game on systems containing an ATI Radeon X1600 series. Further details on this resolved issue can be found in topic number 737-21652
Benchmarks - Test System Setup and 3DMark03
Test System SetupProcessor(s): AMD Athlon X2 3800+ Motherboard(s): ASUS A8N32-SLI Premium (Supplied by ASUS)Memory: 2 X 1GB Crucial PC4000 DDR (Supplied by Crucial)Hard Disk(s): WD Raptor 74GB 10,000RPM SATA (Supplied by Western Digital)Operating System: Windows XP Professional SP2Drivers: ATI Catalyst 6.1 and 6.2 and DX9cNothing has changed this month with our X2 test system so we won't delay and get straight into the benchmarks.3DMark03Version and / or Patch Used: Build 360Developer Homepage:http://www.futuremark.comProduct Homepage:http://www.futuremark.com/products/3dmark03/Buy It Here
By combining full DX8 and partial DX9 support with completely new tests and graphics over the previous version, 3DMark03 continues the legacy of being the industry standard 3D benchmark.
In our first benchmark we see that 3DMark03 shows a small increase to every graphics card.
3DMark05 is now the second latest version in the popular 3DMark "Gamers Benchmark" series. It includes a complete set of DX9 benchmarks which tests Shader Model 2.0 and higher.For more information on the 3DMark05 benchmark, we recommend you read our preview here.
3DMark05 shows a small increase on the mid and higher end cards.
3DMark06 is the very latest version of the "Gamers Benchmark" from FutureMark. The newest version of 3DMark expands on the tests in 3DMark05 by adding graphical effects using Shader Model 3.0 and HDR (High Dynamic Range lighting) which will push even the best DX9 graphics cards to the extremes.3DMark06 also focuses on not just the GPU but the CPU using the AGEIA PhysX software physics library to effectively test single and Dual Core processors.
The latest 3DMark shows nice performance increases on both the mid and high end cards again.
There is no denying that Far Cry is currently one of the most graphic intensive games on the market, utilizing PS2.0 technology (the latest versions support Shader Model 3.0 with DX9c) and offering an exceptional visual experience there is no denying that even some of the faster graphics cards struggle.
Far Cry sees a performance increase on all cards with even the X1300 offering a very playable result at 1024 x 768.
By taking the suspense, challenge and visceral charge of the original, and adding startling new realism and responsiveness, Half-Life 2 opens the door to a world where the player's presence affects everything around him, from the physical environment to the behaviors even the emotions of both friends and enemies.We benchmark Half Life 2 with our own custom timedemos as to avoid possible driver optimizations using the "record demo_name" command and loading the timedemo with the "timedemo demo_name" command - For a full list of the commands, click here.
Half Life 2 like Far Cry has seen performance increases across the board as well with the X1800XT getting a healthy increase at both resolutions.
Doom 3 is the latest game to hit our test lab and is one of the most intensive games to dates. With our own custom time demo we are able to give a realistic rating on what kind of FPS you will be achieving.For more information on benchmarking Doom 3 we recommend you check out our extensive article regarding it here.
Doom 3 again sees performance increases across the board making it an even more competitive line up against the nVidia counterparts.
Quake 4 is one of the latest new games to be added to our benchmark suite. It is based off the popular Doom 3 engine and as a result uses many of the features seen in Doom. However, Quake 4 graphics are more intensive than Doom 3 and should put more strain on different parts of the system.
Low and mid range cards both see performance increases at 1024 and 1600 but the X1800XT sees a small performance decrease at the higher resolution.
F.E.A.R. (First Encounter Assault Recon) is an intense combat experience with rich atmosphere and a deeply intense paranormal storyline presented entirely in first person. Be the hero in your own spine-tingling epic of action, tension, and terror...and discover the true meaning of F.E.A.R.
F.E.A.R. performance has never really been impacted with drivers over the past few months with the biggest increase to the F.E.A.R. benchmark numbers being the release of the X1900XT series.
Benchmarks - High Quality AA and AF
High Quality AA and AFIn our High Quality tests we bump the Antialiasing (AA) and Anisotropic Filtering (AF) up causing the card(s) to be put under more load.This usually helps us remove the CPU limitation. We use 4 x AA and 8 x AF as this is quite a common setup for most people who are venturing into the AA and AF area.
3DMark05 shows us a small increase in the mid to high end range but no performance difference for the X1300.
Far Cry again sees performance increases across the board from the lower end X1300 to the higher end X1800.
Quake 4 sees a healthy increase in the mid to high end sector with the X1300 seeing no performance difference.
Final ThoughtsATI's Catalyst 5.13 drivers were a great set of drivers but the 6.2 drivers really seem to help the mid and lower range cards as well.If for some reason you haven't updated since the 5.13 drivers, this is the perfect time to take the leap because no matter if you have a lower end ATI card or a higher end card, you should see some form of performance increase throughout a number of games.Before we finish up this article, we would like your opinion on our testing methods and which games or applications you would like to see added or removed - even what type of Radeon graphics cards you think we should be using. From next month we will be switching the X1800 to X1900 and we'll also be including X1900 Crossfire results.You can also tell us if you like the resolutions and AA and AF levels we test at or if they need to be changed. We're looking at revamping our Catalyst Performance Analysis articles from next month and we'll take all of your opinions very seriously. Please leave your comments below in the comment section!Until next month, Happy Benchmarking as always!
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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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