Catalyst 11.10 Performance Analysis – vs. GeForce 285.62


As part of an ongoing feature for AlienBabelTech, this editor is comparing the performance of 25 benchmarks with the current 11.10 WHQL monthly Catalyst driver release versus the one from last month. As an added bonus, timing has again allowed us to also compare the Geforce 285.62 divers which we evaluated last week.

This driver performance evaluation will give us a natural comparison between the performance improvements for the GTX 580/590 and the 550 series versus the HD 6970 including CrossFire, and the 57×0/67×0 series. Catalyst 11.10 was released this week and we naturally ask ourselves if there are any performance improvements for the Radeon 6000 series in games.

Beside testing with a single HD 6970 and HD 6970 CrossFire, we are also going to compare HD 6770 performance with the latest Catalyst drivers. For the Nvidia cards, we will test the GTX 580, the GTX 590 and the GTX 560 Ti so as to give a sampling of high and mid-performance cards. And of course, we will compare the AMD and Nvidia cards to each other at identical settings.

Our last performance analysis of Catalyst 11.9 was published here.  And we will naturally compare the GeForce drivers with the Radeon drivers and directly compare competing cards – the top single-GPU card from each vendor and competing midrange cards also. HD 6970 CrossFire is faster than a GTX 590 which are two downclocked GTX 580 cores in internal SLI, but we are adding the top GeForce card anyway.  We are benching the GTX 580 versus the HD 6970 and the EVGA GTX 550 Ti versus the HIS HD 6770 – high end and midrange gaming cards.

The percentage of change from upgrading the drivers should remain about the same for any capable CPU platform.  We are going to test Catalyst 11.10 against Catalyst 11.9 using our current benchmark suite of 22 games plus 3 synthetic benchmarks, Heaven 2.0, 3DMark 11 and Vantage. Our testing platform is Windows 7 64-bit using Intel Core i7-920 at 3.80 GHz, 6 GB DD3.

The HD 6970 and the GTX 580 are tested at higher settings and resolutions generally than the midrange cards as noted on the charts. All of our games are tested at two of these three resolutions: 2560×1600, 1920×1080, 1680×1050, with 16xAF, and we use DX11/10/10.1 whenever possible with an emphasis on DX11 games.  As an added bonus, the HD 6770 has identical performance to the HD 5770 and they can be interchanged performance-wise and even used together in CrossFire.

Let’s get right to the test configuration, the driver release notes and the tests.

–~~~~~~~~~~~~–

Test Configuration & Driver Release Notes

Test Configuration

Test Configuration – Hardware

  • Intel Core i7 920 (reference 2.66 GHz and overclocked to 3.8 GHz); Turbo is on.
    Gigabyte EX58-UD3R (Intel X58 chipset, latest BIOS, PCIe 2.0 specification; CrossFire/SLI 16x+16x).
    6 GB OCZ DDR3 PC 18000 Kingston RAM (3×2 GB, tri-channel at PC 1600 speeds; 2×2 GB supplied by Kingston)
    HIS Radeon HD 6770 (1GB, 880/1250MHz) supplied by AMD/HIS
    ATi Radeon HD 6970 (2GB, reference clocks) supplied by AMD
  • ATi Radeon HD 6950 (2GB, flashed to HD 6970, reference clocks) supplied by AMD
  • Nvidia GTX 580 (1.5 GB, reference clocks), supplied by Nvidia
  • Nvidia GTX 590 (3GB, reference clocks) supplied by Nvidia
  • EVGA GTX 550 Ti (1 GB, 951/2178MHz) supplied by EVGA
  • Onboard Realtek Audio
  • Two identical 500 GB Seagate Barracuda 7200.10 hard drives configured and set up identically from drive image; one partition for Nvidia GeForce drivers and one for ATI Catalyst drivers
  • Thermaltake ToughPower 775 W power supply unit supplied by Thermaltake
  • Thermaltake Element G Case supplied by Thermaltake
  • Noctua NH-U12P SE2 CPU cooler, supplied by Noctua
  • Philips DVD SATA writer
  • HP LP3065 2560×1600 thirty inch LCD/SOYO 1920×1200 twenty-four inch LCD

Test Configuration – Software

  • ATi Catalyst 11.9 and 11.10 drivers for HD 6770 and HD 6970s; highest quality mip-mapping set in the driver; use application settings; surface performance optimizations are off
  • NVIDIA GeForce WHQL 286.62 for the GTX 580, GTX 590 and GTX 550 Ti. High Quality
  • Windows 7 64-bit; very latest updates
  • DirectX July/November 2010
  • All games are patched to their latest versions.
  • vsync is forced off in the control panel.
  • Varying AA enabled as noted in games; all in-game settings are specified with 16xAF always applied; 16xAF forced in control panel for Crysis.
  • All results show average, minimum and maximum frame rates except as noted.
  • Highest quality sound (stereo) used in all games.
  • Windows 7 64, all DX9 titles were run under DX9 render paths, DX10 titles were run under DX10 render paths and DX11 titles under DX11 render paths.

The Benchmarks

Please note that we are using the same settings that we used for our The Passive Gigabyte & Overclocked HIS HD 6770 meet the EVGA GTX 550 Ti article for the HD 6770 and the GTX 550 Ti. We test at generally higher resolutions and settings for the GTX 580/590 and the HD 6970/CrossFire as found in the GeForce 280.26 Performance analysis and the differences are marked on the charts. The performance changes result solely from upgrading each driver from the previous one.

  • Vantage
  • 3DMark 11
  • Batman: Arkham Asylum
  • Serious Sam, Second Encounter HD (2010)
  • Wolfenstein
  • Left 4 Dead
  • Mafia II
  • Crysis
  • World in Conflict
  • Far Cry 2
  • Just Cause 2
  • Resident Evil 5
  • Alien vs. Predator
  • Battleforge
  • STALKER, Call of Pripyat
  • F1 2010
  • Metro 2033
  • Lost Planet 2
  • H.A.W.X. 2
  • Civilization 5
  • Total War: Shogun II
  • DiRT 3
  • Crysis 2
  • Heaven 2

Lets look at some of the release notes from AMD regarding Catalyst 11.10 as well as GeForce 285.62 before we head to performance testing.

Release Notes Highlights for GeForce 280.26

Please see the GeForce 286.62 Performance analysis

Now lets look at the release notes from AMD regarding Catalyst 11.10

AMD Catalyst™ / AMD Vision™ Engine Control Center 11.10 Release Notes.

Always start here to download AMD graphics drivers.

Highlights of the AMD Catalyst™ 11.10 Windows release includes:

New Features

AMD Eyefinity enhancements

  • Enables support for Eyefinity 5×1 display (portrait and landscape) configurations
  • Maximum supported resolution has been increased to 16000 x 16000 pixels on the AMD Radeon HD 6000 Series. (limited to DX11 applications only)
  • Bezel compensation is now possible when using sets of displays that have mismatched pixel densities.

AMD VECC/CCC enhancements

  • Improvements have been implemented to better facilitate the enabling and control of the following features within the Vision Engine Control Center / Catalyst Control Center
    • AMD Overdrive for GPUs
    • Information Center (software and hardware)

Resolved Issues for the Windows 7 Operating System
This section provides information on resolved known issues in this release of the AMD Catalyst™ 11.10 software suite for Windows 7. These include:

  • Improves performance in Battlefield 3 Open Beta release for both non-Anti-Aliasing and application enabled Anti-Aliasing cases on single GPU configurations using the AMD Radeon™ HD 6000 and AMD Radeon HD 5000 series of products.
  • Improves performance in Battlefield 3 Open Beta release for both non-Anti-Aliasing and application enabled Anti-Aliasing cases on AMD CrossFire™ configurations using the AMD Radeon HD 6000 and AMD Radeon HD 5000 series of products.
  • Reduces stuttering seen on Dual CPU and Tri CPU core systems.
  • Rage – users may experience random texture corruption. Please use the AMD Catalyst 11.10 V3 Preview if you are experiencing these issues.
  • Some OpenGL games like Enemy Territory Quake Wars no longer experiences random corruption.
  • Lost Planet 2 no longer experiences random crashes when running the benchmark.
  • F1 2010 and Dirt 2 no longer experience random flashing during the game.
  • Google Earth no longer displays random corruption when running in OpenGL mode.
  • Mafia II no longer experiences a random crash during game loading / game play when Crossfire is enabled.
  • Unigine Heaven running in DirectX 11 mode no longer experiences a performance drop when running with Dual Graphics enabled.
  • Homefront no longer experiences random game crashes.
  • Random flashing is no longer experienced when playing back SD/BD content on a 120Hz monitor.
  • An application crash is no longer randomly observed while playing M2V/Mpeg2/Mpeg4 files and toggling the Hardware Acceleration setting.
  • Display corruption is no longer experienced on the primary display when running in extended display mode with AERO enabled.

Resolved Issues for the Windows Vista  Operating System
This section provides information on resolved known issues in this release of the AMD Catalyst™ 11.10 software suite for Windows Vista. These include:

  • Display corruption is no longer experienced on the primary display when running in extended display mode with AERO enabled.
  • Scaling options are now correctly displayed when connecting DisplayPort / DFP monitors.
  • An application crash is no longer randomly observed while playing M2V/Mpeg2/Mpeg4 files and toggling the Hardware Acceleration setting.

Resolved Issues for the Windows XP Operating System
This section provides information on resolved known issues in this release of the AMD Catalyst™ 11.10 software suite for Windows XP. These include:

  • An application crash is no longer randomly observed while playing M2V/Mpeg2/Mpeg4 files and toggling the Hardware Acceleration setting.
  • Display corruption is no longer experienced on the primary display when running in extended display mode with AERO enabled.

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:

  • Screen tearing may be randomly observed while playing Portal 2.
  • Total War – Shogun 2 may experience corruption when running at low game settings in a 2×1 Eyefinity environment.
  • Random graphics corruption may be observed while playing Call of Duty 4 with the Edge Detect Filter enabled.
  • Random crashes may be experienced while playing F1 2010 and Lost Planet 2 with in Crossfire mode in an Eyefinity configuration.
  • Enemy Territory Quake Wars may experience random crashes when running in a 3×1 Eyefinity configuration.

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 be missing after installing the driver.
  • A ‘ghosting cursor’ may be observed when playing Dragon Age 2 with Crossfire enabled.
  • Random flickering may be observed when playing Dragon Age 2 with Crossfire enabled.
  • Choppy playback may be experienced when playing BluRay content when Aero is enabled.
  • Civilization V may experience random crashes when run at High or Medium game settings.
  • F1 2010 may experience random hanging.

Installing the AMD Catalyst™ Software Driver
Installation information can be found at: How to Install Your AMD Product.

Let’s head to the charts and see if there are any improvements in 22 games and 3 synthetics since we tested last month. And we get to see HD 6970 tested against GTX 580 with the very latest drivers as well as HD 6770 versus GTX 550 Ti.  As promised last month, we are adding HD 6970 CrossFire results and as an added bonus, the GTX 590.

–~~~~~~~~~~~~–

Benchmarks & Conclusion

Here are our results of twenty-five benchmarks – twenty-two games and three synthetics – compared between Catalyst 11.10 and 11.9 as well as against the latest GeForce drivers.

“Wins” between the two Catalyst driver sets are in bold; if there is a tie, both results will be in bold type.  The GTXes are included for performance comparisons and they are benched with their latest WHQL drivers.

For those who must have graphs, here are two really long ones with the same information as the charts above.


We note some performance improvements over Catalyst 11.9 with Catalyst 11-10 in several games. We also note a few broken games with CrossFire. We already noted some performance improvements in Nvidia’s GeForce 285.62 over 280.26 and recommend that you download and upgrade to the very latest drivers no matter which video card you may have!

Do not forget to download and install the Catalyst Application Profiles (CAP) if applicable to your PC (they are downloaded in addition to Catalyst 11.10 from the same AMD support page).

To sum it up, we would recommend upgrading to Catalyst 11.10 because there are real advantages, and the pluses that we found outweigh the few negatives. It is also the driver for Battlefield 3 and there is a beta available if you need further fine-tuning.  We also feel that although it makes reasonable sense to use the latest WHQL drivers, this driver has added some performance and features worth experiencing. Of course, if you have a HD 5000 series or older Radeon, it would be wise to upgrade just for the new features of Catalyst 11.10.

We have to also give our recommendation to the latest GeForce drivers. In most cases they provide excellent performance increases with no real negatives that we have encountered. We will be back next month to compare performance of Catalyst 11.11 versus 11.10 and perhaps we can also cover the new GeForce WHQLs when they are (possibly) released next month. Next up is a Core i3-2105 evaluation and we are going to continue with Part three of our CrossFire versus SLI scaling series as we overclock our CPUs further with HD 6970-X4 QuadFire!

Happy gaming!

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apoppin

Founder and Senior Editor of ABT.

3 Responses

  1. Rick says:

    Could you possibly include single cards from for example the HD4000 and GT200 series in the next test, with a comparison with the latest drivers you tested for those series?

    Apart from showing users with those cards if the drivers are worth updating or not, it also gives a good indication about how much AMD/Nvidia strives to improve performance on their older cards

  2. apoppin says:

    I’ll try. It is a matter of time pressure. The driver test needs to be current to be relevant. We realize that a lot of gamers are using HD 4000 and GTX 200 series.

  3. Rick says:

    Thanks for answering!

    Would be great if you could manage getting them in there to show us how much later drivers matter for older series, especially since the release notes are very focused on the newer cards right now

    I understand that it takes alot of time to make these benchmark comparisons and I’m really thankful that you take your time making them, I appreciate them alot

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