Today's Hard|Forum Post
Today's Hard|Forum Post

AMD's ATI 10.3a Catalyst Driver Update

AMD is putting out a new "performance" driver that sports some very aggressive frame rate increases according to AMD. The new "10.3a" driver will soon be released to the enthusiast with a WHQL driver coming in shortly behind that. Interestingly enough, the non-WHQL will have a couple more tweaks than the WHQL version. Let's give you the details.

Introduction

If you are not up to date with specific Catalyst driver changes that have come about and are coming about in 10.2 and 10.3 releases, please give our AMD's ATI Catalyst 10.2 and 10.3 Preview a read for the details. Here is rehash of the new features.

If you own an AMD ATI Radeon Graphics based video card, you will want to download and install Catalyst 10.2 and Catalyst 10.3 when available. Catalyst 10.2 is introducing the new CrossFireX system, and multi-GPU code re-working that will lead to benefits in games with CrossFireX configurations. You will certainly want in on these profile updates as they become available. No longer will you have to update your entire driver to receive profile updates; you can now just install the profiles, no rebooting required, and continue gaming. Catalyst 10.2 will be out today, so make sure to grab it.

You will also want Catalyst 10.3, especially if you are an ATI Eyefinity user, when it is released in March. Catalyst 10.3 adds many ATI Eyefinity improvements. Notably, Bezel Compensation will be supported. We have found that Bezel Compensation works easily, is a snap to configure, and just works in every game we threw at it.

Moving forward, let's see what the performance driver has in store.

ATI Catalyst Performance Driver

I am going to cut and paste here so you can see exactly what AMD is telling us.

This ATI Catalystآ™ driver update will unlock new performance improvements on top of the already previewed features in the initial Catalystآ™ 10.3 Preview driver we sampled you in February. This driver will be available to download on March 17th from undgerground.amd.com and it will be called "Catalyst 10.3a Preview". On March 24th we will post the official Catalystآ™ 10.3 WHQL certified on amd.com. The difference between the two is that Catalystآ™ 10.3a Preview will contain future Eyefinty 6 updates and an Alien vs. Predator optimization which the Catalystآ™ 10.3 WHQL posting does not have.

As noted there in bold, the non-WHQL driver will contain a couple of features that the WHQL 10.3 will not. I would guess that these features did not make it into the driver in time for WHQL testing and will likely be rolled in next time. If you are playing AvP, it would make sense to grab to non-WHQL version to get every frame you can out of AvP as it is a very demanding game.

Below is a recap of the new features in Catalyst 10.3.

  • ATI Eyefinity Technology Bezel Correction - compensate for your bezels so objects in your game move from one display to the other smoothly
  • ATI Catalystآ™ Mobility - monthly updates for the mobile crowd
  • ATI Eyefinity Technology Per Display Control - adjust for differences in each individual displays brightness, color and contrast
  • ATI Eyefinity Technology Multiple Display Groups - more display groups to give further control of your desktop with three displays or more connected
  • ATI Eyefinity Technology Display Configuration Switching - easily switch from one display mode to another
  • 3D Stereoscopic 3D driver hooks - enables 3rd party middleware vendors to bring more 3D stereoscopic gaming options

We have not tested all of these features so we do not vouch for them all. The biggest hook here is going to be Bezel Correction software for Eyefinity users. My experience with the Bezel Correction software has been positive. The biggest issue for me was needing to set up "Bezel Correction" and "No-BC" profiles so I could easily hotkey between the two. BC can be great in-game, but BC sucks on the desktop.

The Performance Driver

AMD is referring to this new 10.3a driver internally as "The Performance Driver." As you might guess, we have been wondering exactly what is gong to perform better and it looks as if AMD is not just blowing PR smoke on this point. Here is an AMD-supplied list of gaming performance improvements. These are NOT HardOCP in-house test numbers, so they are to be taken with a grain of salt. But surely the 10.3 driver looks to be a big step forward as AMD had made some impactful tweaks to its Catalyst driver set. It is very interesting to note that not all the performance benefits are only extended to the Radeon 5000 series but also to the Radeon 4800 series of GPUs as well.

Aliens vs. Predator

  • Overall performance increases 5% on ATI Radeon HD 5000 Series products

Battleforge

  • Improves up to 8% on ATI Radeon HD 5000 Series products
  • Improves up to 3% on ATI Radeon HD 4800 Series products

Call of Duty: World at War

  • Improves up to 2% on ATI Radeon HD 5000 Series products
  • Improves up to 6% on ATI Radeon HD 4800 Series products

Company of Heroes

  • Improves up to 6% on ATI Radeon HD 5000 Series products
  • Improves up to 3% on ATI Radeon HD 4800 Series products

Crysis and Crysis Warhead

  • Improves up to 6% on ATI Radeon HD 5000 Series products
  • Improves up to 2% on ATI Radeon HD 4800 Series products

DiRT 2

  • Improves up to 30% on ATI Radeon HD 5970 graphics products
  • Improves up to 20% on ATI Radeon HD 5800 Series and ATI Radeon HD 5700 Series products
  • Improves up to 10% on ATI Radeon HD 4800 Series products

Far Cry 2

  • Improves up to 6% on ATI Radeon HD 5000 Series products
  • Improves up to 4% on ATI Radeon HD 4800 Series products

Left 4 Dead & Left 4 Dead 2

  • Improves up to 3% on ATI Radeon HD 4800 Series products

S.T.A.L.K.E.R. آ– Clear Sky

  • Improves up to 2% with ATI Radeon HD 5970 graphics products
  • Improves up to 2% on ATI Radeon HD 5800 Series products

Resident Evil 5

  • Improves up to 5% on ATI Radeon HD 5000 Series products
  • Improves up to 3% on ATI Radeon HD 4800 Series products

Tom Clancy’s H.A.W.X.

  • Improves up to 15% with ATI Radeon HD 5970 graphics products
  • Improves up to 20% on ATI Radeon HD 5800 Series products and ATI Radeon HD 5700 Series products
  • Improves up to 3% on ATI Radeon HD 4800 Series products

World in Conflict

  • Improves up to 5% on ATI Radeon HD 5800 Series products
  • Improves up to 3% on ATI Radeon HD 5700 Series products
  • Improves up to 5% on ATI Radeon HD 4800 Series products

Note: This list is not exhaustive and more improvements are possible

The Bottom Line

It is great to see that AMD is making some large strides with it Catalyst driver, and we all know that it needs it. A complete work over of the GUI is expected by us, hopefully this year but don't hold your breath. That aside, it is great to see CrossFire support getting addressed in Eyefinity as well as the Bezel Correction feature. We are looking forward to seeing the user response on March 17th and if performance benefits are realized at the gamer level.

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