Summary: In our last driver report, RADEON 8500 and RADEON 9000 owners saw performance improvements in UT 2003. Well, guess what, ATI's back again with another driver that claims to offer more performance than CATALYST 4.2! Does ATI's latest driver deliver the goods? What else has changed? Find out in today's CATALYST 4.3 driver report!
While the public continues to speculate about ATIís upcoming PCI Express and graphics plans, ATIís CATALYST driver team has been busy cranking out new drivers. Each new release this year has added new features, whether its enhanced OVERDRIVE, newer MultiMedia Center software, or what was arguably CATALYST 4.2ís most popular feature, Direct3D setting enhancement, ATIís most recent drivers have all contained something new to talk about.
CATALYST 4.3 is no exception, as ATI has incorporated SURROUNDVIEW in this driver set. SURROUNDVIEW is a feature that was introduced with ATIís integrated RADEON 9100 IGP for the Pentium 4 platform. When a RADEON 9100 IGP-based motherboard is paired with a dual display card like the RADEON 9800, up to three displays can be used simultaneously by the end user. SURROUNDVIEW is supported by the entire RADEON 9x00 family (excluding the RADEON 9700 and RADEON 9100), giving end users with one of these graphics cards or motherboards, a tempting excuse to upgrade.
We recently got our hands on ASUSí RADEON 9100 IGP board, the P4R800-V Deluxe and will have a full review shortly with our impressions of SURROUNDVIEW and gaming/productivity applications.
The other feature that has been incorporated into CATALYST 4.3 is enhanced rotation support. With a kick press of the rotation button your display can be rotated 90 degrees left or right, or rotated 180 degrees. Under the rotation tab you can also assign this function to a hotkey (Ctrl+Alt+Down is the default setting). This feature is handy for flat panel users.
CATALYST 4.3 is also the first driver ATI has released this year that purports to feature enhanced DX9 performance, so we were particularly eager to boot up Tomb Raider, while we also decided to add Halo to the test suite, even though it doesnít offer the ability to record custom demos. But before we get into performance, we first had to test compatibility.
Once again the first application we tested was EAís Madden 2004. Anti-aliasing has been broken in this title for the past few CATALYST driver releases. Unfortunately, the jaggies persist with CATALYST 4.3. The best way to resolve this issue is to press Alt+Enter to switch to the Windows desktop, and then Alt+Enter to get back into Madden 2004. Voila! Youíve got AA in Madden 2004!
Lock On: Modern Air Combat (Mig-29 custom demo)
Halo Ė Direct3D
We saw across the board performance increases in Halo, especially for RADEON 9800 XT users who saw double-digit gains at all resolutions. The RADEON 9500 PRO also showed some impressive improvements, nearly matching the performance of RADEON 9700 PRO in some cases thanks to its eight-pixel pipeline architecture.
IL-2 Sturmovik: FB - OpenGL
IL-2 Sturmovik: Forgotten Battles shows little improvements from CATALYST 4.3 across all cards. IL-2 (and flight sims in general) tend to stress overall system performance more than graphics, so itís a little more important to have a balanced system if you tend to play these types of games. Thereís hardly any difference in performance between the RADEON 9700 PRO and RADEON 9800 XT.
Quake III - OpenGL
Like IL-2, we saw no performance change with the new driver in Quake 3. In fact it could be argued that performance slightly declined.
Unreal Tournament 2003 Ė Direct3D
After the performance gains we saw for DX8 cards like the RADEON 8500 and RADEON 9000 in UT 2003, we were hoping for more with CATALYST 4.3, but unfortunately performance is unchanged for all cards.
Splinter Cell Ė Direct3D
I personally canít recall the last time tests were run with a CATALYST driver that showed any significant performance difference. It has certainly been a long time if ever. As a result, it wasnít surprising to see no changes with CATALYST 4.3.
Tomb Raider Ė Direct3D
We see more performance gains in Eidosí DX9 title, Tomb Raider: Angel of Darkness. The margins arenít as substantial, on average anywhere from 3-5% depending on the card and the resolution, but this figure is actually more in line with ATIís claims from the release notes so we certainly canít complain.
Call of Duty
Call of Duty fans probably donít like the RADEON 9800 XTís numbers at lower resolutions, where we saw declines of 4%, but fortunately at the higher resolutions the performance decline disappears.
Lock On: Modern Air Combat Ė Direct3D
Unreal Tournament 2003
DirectX 8 owners:
After the performance increases you guys got in Unreal Tournament 2003, you were probably hoping for more of the same with CATALYST 4.3. Unfortunately, we didnít find any performance improvements with CAT 4.3, but the image quality issues we noted in Battlefield 1942 (one of the most popular games played online) are thankfully gone. Textures were all rendered properly and AA worked perfectly.
DirectX 9 owners:
ATI claimed to offer performance improvements in DX9 titles like Halo and Tomb Raider with CATALYST 4.3, and based on what we saw we can definitely corroborate this. In Halo, performance improvements of more than 10% werenít uncommon across all DX9 cards, while Tomb Raider saw increases of around 3-5%.
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