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Review: ATI Catalyst 10.3a performance explored - 20 per cent gains?

by Tarinder Sandhu on 22 March 2010, 10:49

Tags: AMD (NYSE:AMD), Sapphire, ATi Technologies (NYSE:AMD)

Quick Link: HEXUS.net/qawpu

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Catalyst 10.3a

ATI has been getting twitchy of late. We know this because the driver team has been working overtime, trying to squeeze every last ounce of performance from the Catalyst set. Why? Because NVIDIA's GeForce GTX 480 is just around the corner.

AMD's graphics arm provided an early peek for Catalyst 10.3 - due later on this week - in the middle of February. The March edition of the drivers is supposed to include a bunch of new Eyefinity-related features, ostensibly aimed at the six-screen setup that we took a preview look at here.

Late last week, ATI released the Catalyst 10.3a set on its 'underground' site, which includes further optimisation for Alien vs. Predator and Eyefinity6. Knowing that NVIDIA's GeForce GTX 480/470 GPUs are imminent, Catalyst 10.3a - which is a newer set than the soon-to-be-released 10.3 WHQL - also brings about performance benefits in a number of games. Some of the improvements include:

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

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

Now, funnily enough, we, along with many others, use those four games in our testing suite. Some of the improvements are clearly significant, so has AMD/ATI been holding back performance and readying the full force of the Radeon HD 5000-series architecture just before GTX 480/470?

Driver
Catalyst 10.3a

We're going to find out as we compare Catalyst 10.3a and Catalyst 10.2 WHQL on a Sapphire Radeon HD 5850. Read on to find out what's in-store.