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Product : Catalyst 5.6, 5.7, and 5.8
Company : ATI Technologies
Author : Mark 'Ratchet' Thorne
Date : June 9th, 2005

Performance for Gamers

The biggest thing for most of the guys looking for new drivers will probably always be 3D performance improvements. In that regard ATI has made some pretty big claims as to the performance boost they've managed to wring out of the 5.6 drivers.

ATI mentions improvements in a few specific games:

  • Doom 3
    more efficient memory usage
  • Chronicles of Riddick
    more efficient storage of vertex data
  • COD
    Found way to leverage Doom 3 optimizations increases efficiency
  • Halo, 3DMark05, TR: AOD, AM3
    Z-optimizations removing un-seen pixels before running through pixel shaders
  • Lock On: Modern Air Combat
    CATALYST AI enables texture compression with no visual impact (cloud textures)

However, to see for myself, and see whether these were actual improvements when compared to the previous releases or just the recent 5.5 release, I decided to test the new drivers and compare them with older sets as far back as the 5.1 set.

I had originally intended to test older cards but time started to become a real issue so, in the interest of getting this thing finished, I decided to only check out one card for now; ATI's flagship X850XT Platinum. I have partial results from the other cards so I hope to get this article updated with those results when I can get a chance to complete the tests.

I didn't check out all the games and apps ATI listed, but I did test some games they didn't to see if there were any improvements there as well.

What follows is my standard benchmarking procedure.

Test Setup

Anti-Aliasing and Anisotropy were applied in the game where the options existed. For games that did not support those options natively, the graphics card control panel was used. V-Sync was also forced off for each test via the graphics card control panel. Otherwise all other graphics card control panel settings were left to their default values.

Batch files were used when possible for automated benchmarking, the details of the commands used are outlined for each test. Manual benchmarking was done using FRAPS 2.5.5.

Benchmarking was done with Windows set to the "Adjust for best performance" profile, and all unnecessary Windows services and hardware devices were disabled. The latest drivers for each necessary hardware component were installed prior to testing and kept consistent throughout.

The Onboard sound was disabled for all tests expect for Richard Burns Rally which will not load without sound hardware installed and operational.

Test System Specs

  • CPU: AMD Athlon XP 3500+, 2.2GHz Newcastle core
  • Motherboard: DFI LanParty UT nF4 Ultra-D, s939 NForce4
  • Videocards: Radeon X850XT Platinum
  • Video Drivers:
    • Catalyst 5.6 Beta
    • Catalyst 5.5 WHQL
    • Catalyst 5.4 WHQL
    • Catalyst 5.3 WHQL
    • Catalyst 5.2 WHQL
    • Catalyst 5.1 WHQL
  • Memory: 1GB (2x512MB) OCZ DDR PC-4200 Platinum Edition @ 400MHz/2-2-2-5 1T
  • HDD: Seagate Barracuda V SATA, 7200rpm
  • Sound: Onboard, disabled for most tests
  • PSU: Enermax Noisetaker EG495P-PE 485W
  • OS: Windows XP Pro SP2

Benchmark Software

  • Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory, v1.02 (DirectX)
  • Half-Life 2, Source Engine 7 (DirectX)
  • Far Cry, v1.31 (DirectX)
  • Doom3, v1.3 (OpenGL)
  • Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay (OpenGL)
  • Halo: Combat Evolved, v1.07 (DirectX)
  • Call of Duty: United Offensive, v1.41 (OpenGL)
  • Pacific Fighters, v3.04 (OpenGL)
  • 3DMark03, build 3.6.0 (DirectX)
  • 3DMark05, build 1.2.0 (DirectX)

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