Sorry for being a bit delayed on this one, but it’s here none the less, and that in our eyes is better than having no driver analysis at all, don’t you agree?
In terms of AMD, we all know they’ve been focussing all of their energy and most likely anger on their new range of CPU’s; Bulldozer and due to this, we haven’t seen any new graphics cards from the market leader, but that’s generally the case for this time of year and we don’t expect much else. What we do expect is occasional updates to the driver software which can fix bugs and sometimes even give a nice performance boost.
So as another month passes, we see Catalyst 11.8 drivers being released with quite a few goodies included. The first includes new features which mainly comes down to AMD Overdrive supporting CPU and GPU overclocking controls within AMD Vision Control Center whilst the other key points is performance increases in certain games such as Crysis 2 and COD: Black Ops though users of MLAA should see up to a 30% performance increase across the board.
Also as expected, their are several bugs and issues that have been resolved across all key Windows operating systems, which includes XP, Vista and Windows 7 ranging from game fixes as well as benchmark and video playback problems.
In typical fashion, let’s break it down and see if these particular drivers have had any impact on our set of gaming benchmarks.
Highlights of the AMD Catalyst™ 11.8 Windows release include:
- AMD Overdrive has been enhanced to include both CPU and GPU over-clocking controls within the AMD Vision Control Center
- CPU over-clocking is only supported on AMD Black edition CPUs
- Improves performance up to 10% in Crysis 2 DirectX 11 version for both non-Anti-Aliasing, and application enabled Anti-Aliasing cases on the AMD Radeon™ HD 6000 and AMD Radeon™ HD 5000 Series
- Improves performance up to 8% in Fear 3 DirectX 11 version with application enabled Anti-Aliasing on the
AMD Radeon™ HD 6000 and AMD Radeon™ HD 5000 Series
- Improves performance up to 30% when AMD’s Morphological Anti-Aliasing (MLAA) is enabled through the
Catalyst™ Control Center on the AMD Radeon™ HD 6000 and AMD Radeon™ HD 5000 Series
- Improves performance up to 20% in Call of Duty Black Operations for single GPU and Multi-GPU configurations on the AMD Radeon™ HD 6000 and AMD Radeon™ HD 5000 Series
Resolved Issues for the Windows 7 Operating System
This section provides information on resolved known issues in this release of the AMD Catalyst™ 11.8 software suite for Windows 7. These include:
- The option to “Apply current video quality settings to internet video” is no longer randomly missing from the AMD Catalyst™ Control Center / AMD Vision™ Engine Control Center.
- 3DMark 11 no longer intermittently generates a BSOD error when run using a standard user account.
- Playing HD video content overnight using Windows Media Center no longer causes the system to hang or generates a BSOD error.
- Random graphical corruption is no longer experienced when playing Crysis 2 in a Crossfire environment.
- Image stabilization is now correctly applied to DivX clips when using Windows Media Player.
- Enabling AntiAliasing when playing Starcraft 2 no longer causes random screen blackouts.
- Video corruption is no longer seen when scrolling through DivX 5 video files using Windows Media Center and Windows Media Player.
- Menu corruption is no longer seen when running F.E.A.R 3 in DirectX 11 mode.
- Video playback now functions correctly after enabling hardware acceleration in VLC version 1.1.10.
Resolved Issues for the Windows Vista Operating System
This section provides information on resolved known issues in this release of the AMD Catalyst™ 11.8 software suite for Windows Vista. These include:
- PowerDVD no longer randomly displays a blank screen when playing back BluRay content with Crossfire enabled.
- BSOD errors are no longer intermittently experienced after installing the driver with Crossfire enabled.
Resolved Issues for the Windows XP Operating System
This section provides information on resolved known issues in this release of the AMD Catalyst™ 11.8 software suite for Windows XP. These include:
- PowerDVD no longer randomly displays a blank screen during video playback when switching from extended display mode to cloned display mode.
Known issues under the Windows 7 operating system
The following section provides a summary of open issues that may be experienced under the Windows 7 operating system in the latest version of AMD Catalyst™. These include:
- STALKER – Call of Pripyat may randomly hang when entering a new or saved game.
- F1 2010 may randomly hang on application launch.
- Battlefield – Bad Company 2 may randomly hang after a period of game play.
- Dungeon Siege 3 may randomly hang on application launch.
- Dead Rising 2 may randomly hang on application launch.
- Random flashing may be observed while playing F1 2010 and Dirt 2.
Known Issues under the Windows Vista Operating System
The following section provides a summary of open issues that may be experienced under the Windows Vista operating system in the latest version of AMD Catalyst™. These include:
- Windows Aero options may not be available after installing the driver.
- Performing Bezel compensation in certain Eyefinity configurations may cause some bezel groups to not appear.
Known Issues under the Windows XP Operating System
The following section provides a summary of open issues that may be experienced under the Windows XP operating system in the latest version of AMD Catalyst™. These include
- Enemy Territory – Quake Wars may experience random graphics corruption.
The test the performance of the drivers, we will be using Catalyst 11.7 as well as the latest 11.8 drivers from AMD and running each test three times to obtain a fair average set of results.
- Asus Maximus IV Extreme-Z
- Intel Core i7 2600k
- 8GB Corsair Vengeance 1866MHz
- Asus Radeon HD 6950
- Corsair Hydro H80
- Corsair HX1050W
- Kingston V+100 128GB SSD
- Lian Li T60
- Batman: Arkham Asylum
- Dirt 3
- Just Cause 2
- Mafia II
- Metro 2033
- 3DMark 11
- 3DMark Vantage
- Unigine Heaven Benchmark
- Windows 7 Professional 64-bit
3DMark 11 is the latest offering from Futuremark, taking full advantage of DirectX 11 by utilising tessellation features and volumetric lighting. It takes your graphics and CPU hardware to the edge to simulate the most extreme conditions whilst working as a stand point to compare results with other users online.
3DMark 11 showed quite a significant change by updating the drivers from 11.7 to 11.8 with almost an extra 50 3DMark 11 points.
3DMark Vantage is the industry standard performance benchmark for DirectX 10 gaming PCs. It includes two graphics tests, two CPU tests and six feature tests. Trusted by gamers worldwide to give accurate and unbiased results, 3DMark Vantage is the best way to consistently and reliably test DirectX 10 under game-like loads.
3DMark Vantage saw a massive increase in performance that shows if benchmarking is your thing, updating your drivers seems to be very worthwhile.
Heaven 2.1 is regarded to be one of the most intensive Benchmarking utilities about at the moment along with the likes of 3DMark. It makes use of highly comprehensive tessellation technology, advanced SSAO (screen-space ambient occlusion) and a highly defined light algorithm to produce ever changing light conditions amongst other items.
Heaven saw a small increase in performance, but considering the extreme settings we used, it’s still a great acomplishment.
Batman: Arkham Asylum is an action-adventure stealth game that uses the Unreal Engine 3. It relies heavily on nVidia’s PhsyX engine to give improved physics throughout if available. and uses lots of textures and polygons to build the character.
Batman saw an increase of 10FPS but at the high frame-rate, no difference could be seen, though users with lower end graphics cards will notice a visual improvement in areas.
Dirt 3 was released in May 2011 and is the third in the Dirt series offering a complete overhaul in terms of graphics for the DirectX 11 platform which extreme lighting effects and reflections as well as showcasing fast moving graphics and using in game physics to bring the most extreme quality in terms of video rendering.
Dirt 3 saw no noticeable change in performance by updating the drivers and even though our graph shows a decrease in performance, this could just be luck of the draw as we have to scope for a certain amount of variance.
Just Cause 2 is an open world action-adventure video game that was released at the beginning of 2010. The game uses the Avalanche Engine 2.0 and runs on DirectX 10. Several graphics effects and features are used to give a thorough workout to new and even older graphics cards.
Just Cause 2 saw an ever so slight decrease in performance.
Mafia II is an older game and therefore it does have older graphics engines, however this is is still a good all-round in game benchmark that combines the terrain and explosion rendering of Crysis with the dust and dirt particle rendering test of Dirt 2. It also takes into account the changing light conditions albeit not in quite the same detail as the others, but none-the-less still proves a cards capabilities on slightly older games.
Mafia II saw a slight increase in performance, pushing it just over the 60FPS mark with all settings on maximum.
Metro 2033 is a first-person shooter game based in the Russian metro system. Metro 2033 is very similar to the much loved game STALKER as it is developed by the same programmers. The game utilises DirectX 11 and relies heavily on tessellation features and is considered to be one of the most graphics intense games on the market.
Metro 2033 saw quite a large decrease in performance when looking at the overall frame-rate with maximum settings applied.
The release notes were keen to shout about the performance increases and bug fixes that 11.8 have implemented and generally they are taken with a pinch of salt as it only applies to games that either, you haven’t heard of, or are to old that it’s not worth worrying about.
11.8 saw a move in the right direction though by offering performance increases in current games and applications as well as fixing a lot of bugs in various areas that the GPU is utilised.
When we usually recap over our performance testing and the results we gather, their is normally a mixed bag of increases and decreases of performance, whereas today saw a slightly better turn and saw quite a few performance increases, of which some were quite significant, especially when we look at 3DMark 11 and 3DMark Vantage as we saw some huge jumps in terms of points, leaving enthusiasts with a little extra performance for free when comparing benchmark scores.
The only benchmark that we really saw a decrease that is worth noting, was Metro 2033, but for a game that is extremely intensive and requires the most extreme dual-GPU cards to run on maximum settings, we aren’t too fussed, as we’re used to results like we saw today.
When we took a look at the Catalyst 11.7 Driver Analysis, we noted that it was aimed more towards users requiring better and improved video playback and it seems that AMD like to skip a driver before focussing back on gaming, leaving us to believe that 11.9 will be video playback focussed again and 11.10 will be back to having gamers in mind, but this is just a theory and AMD could mix it up whenever and however they like.
The way that we see it, is that if you are looking for a slight boost in performance, then upgrading to 11.8 is definitely a worthwhile move as it also addresses a few issues on a variety of operating systems and also does cater a little bit for users who are having issues in other areas, but of course we invite you to try it for yourselves, as you can always uninstall and roll-back to an older release if you so wish.