AMD ATI Catalyst Driver Performance Comparison

Ever wonder just how much performance has improved with drivers since launch date with AMD's ATI Radeon HD 5800 series? We did after NVIDIA's recent driver launch, so we aimed to find out just how much AMD's drivers have improved. We compare the launch driver, the first WHQL driver, and the current WHQL driver.

Introduction

AMD’s ATI Radeon HD 5800 series was launched just over nine months ago. Since then, AMD has been true to its word releasing new driver updates every month. Our question is, "Have we seen driver performance improve since launch?" Certainly drivers updates and performance increases have traditionally gone hand in hand, and we have seen some mighty performance boosts with the latest NVIDIA drivers. Now we want to see how far along the Radeon HD 5870 has come since its first install into our PCIe slots.

Today’s testing is simple, we are going to take six games and compare different driver versions in an apples-to-apples comparison. We are using three different drivers. The first is the actual launch driver we used on September 22nd, 2009, when the Radeon HD 5870 launched. We will then compare that to the first official WHQL release for the Radeon HD 5800 series which is Catalyst 9.10 WHQL. Finally, these will be compared to the current Catalyst 10.6 WHQL driver to see if performance has improved over these last nine months. All testing below is done with a single stock Radeon HD 5870 1GB.

Driver versions are shown below:

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Aliens vs. Predator

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There certainly seems to be a performance improvement with Catalyst 10.6 versus the launch drivers nine months ago. It isn’t as huge as we would have thought, but it is there. Keep in mind that several game patches have also been released since this game has been released which have also improved the games performance since the game launch. What is most impressive is that we didn’t seem to have some of the lower end, minimum FPS issues we had with the older drivers. The games performance maintained a higher consistent minimum framerate, which really helps gameplay. There seems to be no difference in the launch driver versus the first released WHQL driver for the HD 5800 series.

Metro 2033

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In this game we had some problems with the older drivers, 8.66 RC6 and Catalyst 9.10 WHQL. We experienced the game locking up quite frequently on us with these older drivers. Keep in mind this game was released well after the HD 5800 series launch, so it is no surprise these very early drivers gave us so much trouble in the game. The result is that we could not finish our run-through completely, so that is why the run-through is rather short. The game did work just fine with Catalyst 10.6, but in order to make the comparison we had to end FRAPS early as well so it would match up with the other drivers.

Looking at performance, Catalyst 10.6 is generally faster than the older drivers, but not by a large margin. The fact that we can play the game stably with Catalyst 10.6 though is the real key, there was simply no way the game was playable with the two older drivers.

Crysis: Warhead

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Well, we just aren’t seeing much improvement here. It seems this game is pretty much tapped out for performance potential.