ATI Catalyst 6.3 Performance Analysis

This month we're a little late with our ATI Catalyst analysis but here we are again to check out the latest version.

Published Thu, Mar 16 2006 11:00 PM CST   |   Updated Tue, Nov 3 2020 7:04 PM CST
Manufacturer: none


With all the hype around the launch of the GeForce 7900 and 7600 cards from nVidia in the past week, it seems that ATI have been a little bit out of the light.

As usual we saw the new set of Catalyst drivers make their way into our inbox just before the first half of the month but being quite busy testing a whole bunch of new graphics cards from nVidia, we did take a little bit longer then we would have liked to test them and publish our article. No hate mail please!

Never fear, our Catalyst performance analyst for March 2006 is here, so let's take a look at what ATI have done this month. We would like to thank everyone for taking the time to comment last month on our monthly articles and we're happy to mention that we'll be including the Radeon X800XL from now on since it was the most requested graphics cards to be added to our benchmarks from our readers.

Let's get started!

Release Notes from ATI

From ATI:

Performance Improvements

As with most Catalyst releases, performance has increased in various situations.

* 3DMark05: Pixel Shader test runs as much as 1-2% faster, primarily when Anisotropic Filtering is enabled
* Call of Duty 2: Framerates are up 5-10% on the enthusiast-class ATI Radeon X1800 and ATI Radeon X1900 products

Nothing too much has been mentioned by ATI in terms of performance changes but let's run our usual suite of benchmarks and see what happens.

Benchmarks - Test System Setup and 3DMark03

Test System Setup

Processor(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 SP2
Drivers: ATI Catalyst 6.2 and 6.3 and DX9c

As we hit the third month for the year, we haven't changed our test system so we will get straight into the results.

While we haven't changed the system we have added the Radeon X800XL due to popular demand. We hope to add small improvements to these articles throughout the year, so please continue to leave your comments as we do read them.


Version and / or Patch Used: Build 360
Developer Homepage:
Product Homepage:
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.

3DMark03 shows no performance difference on any of the cards between the last two sets of drivers.

Benchmarks - 3DMark05


Version and / or Patch Used: Build 120
Developer Homepage:
Product Homepage:
Buy It Here

3DMark05 is 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.

The higher-end X1800 sees a small bump in performance at the lower resolution. All other results show that nothing has changed.

Benchmarks - 3DMark06


Version and / or Patch Used: Build 102
Developer Homepage:
Product Homepage:
Buy It Here

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.

3DMark06 sees no performance difference between both resolution and all cards.

Benchmarks - Far Cry

Far Cry

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.3
Timedemo or Level Used: PC Games Hardware Demo
Developer Homepage:
Product Homepage:
Buy It Here

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.

The X1600 and X1800 see a small drop in performance at both resolutions but nothing major.

Benchmarks - Half Life 2

Half Life 2

Version and / or Patch Used: Unpatched
Timedemo or Level Used: Custom Timedemo
Developer Homepage:
Product Homepage:
Buy It Here

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 sees a small drop on the X1600 and X1800 in both resolutions but again like Far Cry it is nothing major.

Benchmarks - Doom 3

Doom 3

Version and / or Patch Used: Unpatched
Timedemo or Level Used: Custom Timedemo
Developer Homepage:
Product Homepage:
Buy It Here

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.

The X1800XT sees roughly a 10% rise at the higher resolution with no other difference between the other cards and resolutions.

Benchmarks - Quake 4

Quake 4

Version and / or Patch Used: Unpatched
Timedemo or Level Used: Custom Timedemo
Developer Homepage:
Product Homepage:
Buy It Here

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.

We again see that the high resolution performance on the X1800XT under OpenGL has been increased.

Benchmarks - F.E.A.R.


Version and / or Patch Used: Unpatched
Timedemo or Level Used: Custom Timedemo
Developer Homepage:
Product Homepage:
Buy It Here

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.

The only card to show any performance difference is the X1800XT taking a minor drop in the Min and Max FPS at 1024 x 768.

Benchmarks - High Quality AA and AF

High Quality AA and AF

In 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.

While the X1800XT saw a slight bump in non AA and AF tests, here we can see that all cards are scoring almost identical.

We again see that the mid and high end X1K cards have a slight drop in performance when it comes to Far Cry.

The OpenGL performance bump is also seen in our AA and AF tests for the X1800XT while the other cards show no change.

Benchmarks - Final Thoughts

Final Thoughts

ATI didn't promise any big performance jumps this time around and its worth having a look at the release notes as there are many game fixes which seemed to be the main concern on this release.

Where the folks at ATI did promise a performance increase was in 3DMark05 and Call of Duty 2 for the higher-end cards. We can clearly see that the X1800XT got an increase in 3DMark05 in our non AA and AF tests and an increase in Doom 3 and Quake 4 which utilizes OpenGL.

Until next month, Happy Benchmarking!

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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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