After waiting all summer for its release, fans of the Quake series can finally breathe a sigh of relief Ė Quake 4 is finally here!
For most of you, Quake 4 is a game that probably needs no introduction so weíll keep it brief. After all, youíre probably here for the benchmarks anyway right? The brief synopsis is that id Software and Raven have collaborated together to continue the storyline id first established with Quake 2 -- Quake 4 takes places immediately following the events at the end of Quake 2. After the successful defeat of the Stroggís leader (Makron), in Quake 2 Earth has now sent an invasion force to take down the Stroggís home planet. Youíll play the role of rookie space marine Matthew Kane as he takes on the Strogg, and, according to the gameís teaser, eventually becomes a Strogg himself in order to defeat them.
As you probably know, Quake 4 is built on idís DOOM 3 engine. From a hardware perspective, the DOOM 3 engine has traditionally been very unforgiving to ATIís DX9 hardware. In our RADEON X1800 XT/X1800 XL Performance Preview
earlier this month, both X1800 cards were easily outgunned by the GeForce 7800 GTX/7800 GT, with ATIís flagship X1800 XT falling behind NVIDIAís lower-end 7800 GT offering by 7-9% in our testing. The X800 series ran into this same problem around this time last year in OpenGL titles such as DOOM 3 and Chronicles of Riddick. Eventually it was just accepted that ATIís OpenGL performance was inferior to that of NVIDIA. This stigma has stuck with ATI all the way up to the present day.
Until now that is.
A little over a week ago, rumors began spreading that ATI was working on a new tool that delivered substantially improved performance to their recently launched X1000 cards in OpenGL titles such as DOOM 3, Quake 4, and many others. Some reports claimed ATIís performance improved by up to 35% in these titles in 4xAA mode. Then, posts on Beyond3Dís forums
and sites like Guru3D
confirmed these rumors.
So how did ATI pull this off? The key ingredient is ATIís new programmable memory controller.
In our RADEON X1800 XT Performance Preview article
, we mentioned how ATIís new memory controller features arbitration logic that is more efficient at assigning read/write requests to the X1800ís eight 32-bit memory controllers. The arbitration logic accomplishes this by collecting a variety of information from each memory controller when it makes a read or write request. With the help of algorithms, the arbitration logic assigns a priority value to each of these requests based on this data.
The arbitration logic can then track how successful it was at assigning these priority values, making adjustments to ensure peak efficiency.
One cool feature ATI has added to their X1000 family is the ability to make changes to the memory controllerís arbitration logic and/or its algorithms via software. This allows ATI to make adjustments with a simple driver update.
This is what ATI has done with their new hotfix driver, theyíve simply optimized memory access inside their memory controller to better handle OpenGL titles. This is all invisible to the end user: once an OpenGL game such as Quake 4 or DOOM 3 is loaded by the user, the new driver automatically loads up the optimized algorithms for the memory controllerís arbitration logic. This means thereís no setting you have to turn on in the driver control panel, nor is there a button you have to press. You will however need to make sure youíve got the correct file. Unfortunately, ATI accidentally uploaded the wrong file to their support site initially.
On Friday we contacted ATI and were able to determine that the file originally uploaded to the site, hotfix_xp-2k_dd_ccc_027483.exe, wasnít the driver with the OpenGL performance enhancements. Fortunately ATI was able to quickly correct the problem, the file that you want is hotfix_xp-2k_dd_ccc_027483a
.exe. This driver is currently undergoing WHQL testing and will eventually become CATALYST 5.11 once ATI updates their CATALYST suite next month.
With the proper driver in hand, itís now time to see if the reports of a 35% performance improvement are true. Weíll start with DOOM 3 first.