ATI Catalyst 6.8 Performance Analysis

ATI released the latest set of Catalyst drivers for Radeon cards quickly this month. We examine performance, as usual.
Shawn Baker
Published Fri, Aug 18 2006 11:00 PM CDT   |   Updated Tue, Apr 7 2020 12:26 PM CDT
Manufacturer: none


IntroductionA little earlier than the past two months, we see the release of the ATI Catalyst 6.8 drivers make an appearance from ATI, with some pretty interesting performance improvements on the table.Following suit with out normal line up let's have a quick look at the release notes before we venture into the results.Release Notes from ATIAs with most Catalyst releases, performance has increased in various situations.Improved shader compiler and transform engine optimizations have led to many significant performance gains in OpenGL applications across the entire Radeon X1000 series of products. These include:Doom 3 performance improves as much as 6.5%Quake 4 (v1.2 or higher) performance improves as much as 18%Chronicles of Riddick performance improves as much as 20%. Average improvements of 5-10% are commonly seenPrey performance improves as much as 16% Optimizations made to ATI's graphics memory manager have led to significant gains in DirectX applications that make heavy use of graphics memory on 256MB ATI graphics cards:3DMark06 performance improves as much as 22% on single ATI Radeon X1000 series cards with 256MB of graphics memory at 1280x1024 and higher when anti-aliasing is enabled. The largest gains are found on the ATI Radeon X1800 series and ATI Radeon X1900 series of productsCall of Duty 2 performance improves as much as 30% on single ATI Radeon X550 cards or higher with 256MB of video memory at 1280x1024 and higher when anti-aliasing enabled. The largest gains are found on the ATI Radeon X1800 series and ATI Radeon X1900 series of productsEditor Note - We made a careless HTML code error when we first published this article. It was using graph HTML code from our old Catalyst performance article. The problem has now been fixed!

Benchmarks - Test System Setup and 3DMark05

Test System SetupProcessor(s): AMD Athlon X2 3800+ @ 2.6GHz (260MHz FSB 1:1)Motherboard(s): DFI SLI DR Expert (Supplied by Bronet)Memory: 2 X 1GB G.Skill HV DDR500 (Supplied by Bronet)Hard Disk(s): Hitachi 80GB SATA 2Operating System: Windows XP Professional SP2 and Catalyst 6.8/6.7Nothing has changed this month but it is the last you will see of this particular test system in our Catalyst articles.Not only will we be upgrading to the latest and greatest Core 2 Duo setup, we will be dropping Doom 3 from next month and making room for our new OpenGL arrival called "Prey".3DMark05Version and / or Patch Used: Build 120Developer Homepage: http://www.futuremark.comProduct Homepage: It Here
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 above.For more information on the 3DMark05 benchmark, we recommend you read our preview here.
The first benchmark out of the gate shows no performance difference across all cards and both resolutions.

Benchmarks - 3DMark06

3DMark06Version and / or Patch Used: Build 102Developer Homepage: http://www.futuremark.comProduct Homepage: 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.
Moving to the more intensive 3DMark06 we can see a small jump in performance with the X1900XTX but nothing that we would get too excited about.

Benchmarks - Half Life 2 (Lost Coast)

Half Life 2 (Lost Coast)Version and / or Patch Used: UnpatchedTimedemo or Level Used: Custom TimedemoDeveloper Homepage: Product Homepage: http://www.half-life2.comBuy It Here
By taking the suspense, challenge and visceral charge of the original, and adding startling new realism, responsiveness and new HDR technology, Half-Life 2 Lost Coast 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 Lost Coast 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.
Our non HDR tests show some increases for the mid to high-end range but once we turn on HDR, we see that all the cards are performing very closely with no real gains being seen.

Benchmarks - Doom 3

Doom 3Version and / or Patch Used: 1.3Timedemo or Level Used: Custom TimedemoDeveloper Homepage: Product Homepage: http://www.doom3.comBuy It Here
Doom 3 is still one of the most popular games at the moment and is quite intensive in the 3D department, even though it is starting to age. 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.
With OpenGL performance increases promised we can see almost across the board that every setup is seeing some form of gain, especially at the higher resolution.

Benchmarks - Quake 4

Quake 4Version and / or Patch Used: 1.3Timedemo or Level Used: Custom TimedemoDeveloper Homepage: Product Homepage: http://www.quake4game.comBuy 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.
Again following with the OpenGL results we see performance increases across the board at both resolutions and all cards.Playing Quake 4 with a Radeon X1300 isn't going to be an issue at 1024 x 768 with a very nice average of 60 FPS.

Benchmarks - F.E.A.R.

F.E.A.R.Version and / or Patch Used: UnpatchedTimedemo or Level Used: Custom TimedemoDeveloper Homepage: Product Homepage: 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.
F.E.A.R. as always being so intensive doesn't seem to get any gains. ATI have always been the leader in F.E.A.R. performance, though.

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.
Like our non HQ tests we see that there is no difference across the board once we start turning on AA and AF.
Lost Coast also sees no difference in our HQ tests when we turn on AA and AF.
Following suit with the increased OpenGL performance we see that gains can also be seen across the board when we turn on the AA and AF.

Final Thoughts

Final ThoughtsA clear winner! It is also one of first this year to give us any real gain in performance. Up until now most of the drivers have been nothing more then bug fixes, and as good as that is we always like some speed increase every now and again.With the OpenGL performance being increased quite significantly it is good news for players of the latest OpenGL offering Prey which will make its way into our suite in the next set of Catalyst drivers.Prey players should also see a clear performance increase as ATI have promised this time around.Until next month and as always, 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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