It’s time for another CATALYST driver report folks! In our last driver saga, which was published precisely one month ago today, we mentioned that the CATALYST team had said that its upcoming CATALYST 3.8 release would be the “most innovative and significant CATALYST release ever”. That’s a pretty bold statement to make, as you obviously set the bar pretty high, and we all know what can happen when the high expectations of enthusiasts aren’t met. Internet newsgroups and message boards are filled with examples.
Of course, if you read our RADEON 9800 XT preview, you know of one new feature that’s present in today’s CATALYST driver: OVERDRIVE. This is ATI’s new dynamic overclocking utility. In its current form, it adjusts the core clock speed of the RADEON 9800 XT VPU only depending on temperature. The cooler the core operates, the higher OVERDRIVE will overclock the graphics core, but only up to a point: 432MHz, 20MHz over default. We’ll get into more detail on OVERDRIVE a little bit later, as it’s not the only new feature that CATALYST 3.8 brings to the table.
The most obvious difference is in the control panel. There’s a new “3D” tab as well as “VPU Recover” in addition to the aforementioned OVERDRIVE. We’ll start with VPU Recover first.
VPU Recover is exactly as its name suggests -- automatic recovery in the event of a system crash, without having to manually reboot the computer. In fact, you may not have to leave your desktop at all to recover from a crash!
If the graphics processor hangs (in the middle of a game for example), VPU Recover acts by resetting the VPU, enabling the end user to continue right where he left off. Depending on the state of the system when VPU Recover was activated, you may be able to recover with all of your open applications intact. In other cases, these applications may have to be closed and you’re kicked back to the Windows desktop, but at least you don’t have to go through the slow process of a complete system reboot.
If VPU Recover is unable to recover from the crash, the system is switched to software rendering mode, allowing the end user to save his work before restarting the system. In the most extreme cases, the crash may be unrecoverable, requiring a complete reboot.
According to ATI, this feature is a requirement in Microsoft’s next-generation Windows operating system, codenamed “Longhorn”. So essentially, ATI is ahead of the curve, to the advantage of anyone who owns an ATI-based video card.