IntroductionATI surprisingly released the Catalyst drivers at the very last minute this month. Having a look at the performance improvements we can see that ATI have only concentrated on the P965 chipset from Intel and Crossfire performance.While we don't use the P965 in our Catalyst articles or Crossfire performance, we will continue to have a look at what happens with the four cards we usually use for testing.We can also see that ATI have included support for their latest cards and the Chuck patch is no longer needed for Oblivion players who have the hardware to support HDR and AA.Performance ImprovementAs with most Catalyst releases, performance has increased in various situations.In this release of Catalyst Intel 965 Crossfire performance increases due to improvements of the Crossfire D3D driver in handling large vertex meshes. Gains of 6.7-15.8% can be seen in 3DMark2006, 9.7-10.5% in 3DMark2005 and 3DMark2003 performance improves as much as 7.1%.Other Major updatesNew Product Software Driver SupportThis release of Catalyst will provide software support for the following new ATI products:* ATI Radeon X1650 Pro* ATI Radeon 1950 XTX* ATI Radeon X1300 XT HDR + Anti-Aliasing support for The Elder Scrolls OblivionUsers no longer need to download and install the Chuck patch - the Direct3D driver now includes native support for High Dynamic Range and Anti-Aliasing with The Elder Scrolls Oblivion.
Benchmarks - Test System Setup and 3DMark05
Test System SetupProcessor(s): Intel Core 2 Duo E6600 @ 3430MHz (381MHz FSB with 4:5 memory)Motherboard(s): DFI Infinity 975X (Supplied by Bronet)Memory: 2 X 1GB G.Skill HZ PC8000 @ 476MHz 4-4-4-12 (Supplied by Bronet)Hard Disk(s): Hitachi 80GB 7200RPM SATA 2Operating System: Windows XP Professional SP2Drivers: ATI Catalyst 6.9 and 6.10 and DX9cAs usual we continue using our trusty Core 2 Duo system to see what this month's Catalyst drivers does for ATI graphics card users.3DMark05Version and / or Patch Used: Build 120Developer Homepage:http://www.futuremark.comProduct Homepage:http://www.futuremark.com/products/3dmark05/Buy 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.
First off the bat we have 3DMark05 which shows us no difference across the board on any cards and both resolutions.
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 recent 3DMark06 we can see that again there is nothing to see here either.
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.
Half Life 2 seems to be one of the most sensitive games when it comes to drivers and gets impacted quite often. We can see that the latest release sees the X1900XT lose some performance at the lower resolution.
PREY is one of the newest games to be added to our benchmark line-up. It is based off the Doom 3 engine and offers stunning graphics passing what we've seen in Quake 4 and does put quite a lot of strain on our test systems.
The X1900XT like in Half Life 2 took another hit again at the lower resolution with everything else really staying the same.
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. like the 3DMark tests shows no performance difference between the set of cards here.
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.
Apart from the X1300PRO giving us a small bump we don't see any difference between the other cards.
While we saw the X1900XT take a hit in our other Half Life tests when we turn on AA and AF we can see that there is no change in performance from the last release.
The X1900XT also saw a slight hit in PREY but again when we move to our HQ tests we see no performance difference at all.
Final ThoughtsComing towards the end of the year, if ATI decide to do what they did last year, we should begin to see some nice performance jumps in November and December driver releases.To be completely honest as well they are going to need it with nVidia's G80 only a week away - they really need people with current model high-end ATI cards to feel that they still have an excellent performing graphics card that can be held out to the release of the R600 next year.The only real issue we saw was that the X1900XT seemed to take a performance hit at the lower resolution in some situations. This shouldn't be a major issue since most people with these kinds of cards shouldn't be playing games at 1024 x 768.It's a worthy update thanks to the support of the new cards being added and of course the Chuck patch no longer being needed for Oblivion players who have the hardware to support the game with HDR and AA enabled.Till later this 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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