As part of an ongoing feature for AlienBabelTech, this editor is comparing the performance of 25 benchmarks with the current 11.9 WHQL monthly Catalyst driver release versus the one from August (Catalyst 11.8). Catalyst 11.9 was released last 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, we are also going to compare HD 6970 CrossFire performance with the latest Catalyst drivers. We are also testing the HIS HD 6770 – it is identical in performance to a HD 5770 clocked at the same speeds, so it serves double-duty for HD 67×0 and 57×0 series.
We are using our overclocked Core i7-920 at 3.8 GHz and we use the same settings for the HD 6770 as in our last Catalyst 11-8 performance evaluation. However, we use higher settings to test the HD 6970 and HD 6970 CrossFire as in our last major evaluation, SLI Versus CrossFire, Part 2. The percentage of change from upgrading the drivers should remain about the same for any capable CPU platform.
We are going to test Catalyst 11.9 against Catalyst 11.8 using our current benchmark suite of 22 games plus three synthetic benchmarks, Heaven 2.0, 3DMark 11 and Vantage. Our testing platform uses Windows 7 64-bit and Intel Core i7-920 at 3.80 GHz, 6 GB DD3, and our video cards are a single HIS HD 6770 and two HD 6970s to represent the Radeons.
The HD 6970 is tested at higher settings and resolutions generally than the midrange HD 6770 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.
Let’s get right to the test configuration, the driver release notes and the tests.
Test Configuration & Driver Release Notes
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, 880/1375MHz) supplied by AMD
- ATi Radeon HD 6950 (2GB, flashed to HD 6970 at reference clocks, 880/1375MHz) supplied by AMD
- Onboard Realtek Audio
- 500 GB Seagate Barracuda 7200.10 hard drive
- Thermaltake ToughPower 775 W power supply unit supplied by Thermaltake
- Thermaltake Element G Case supplied by Thermaltake
- Noctua UD CPU cooler, supplied by Noctua
- Philips DVD SATA writer
- HP LP3065 2560×1600 thirty inch LCD
Test Configuration – Software
- ATi Catalyst 11.9 and 11.8 drivers for HD 6770 and HD 6970s; highest quality mip-mapping set in the driver; use application settings; surface performance optimizations are off
- 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 and all in-game settings are specified with 16xAF always applied; 16xAF forced in control panel for Crysis.
- All results show average frame rates.
- 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.
Please note that we are using the same settings that we used from our last Catalyst 11-8 performance evaluation for the HD 6770. We use higher settings to test the HD 6970 and HD 6970 CrossFire as in our last major evaluation, SLI Versus CrossFire, Part 2, and the differences are marked on the charts. The performance changes result solely from upgrading each driver from the previous one.
We had one issue with Total War: Shogun II which downloaded a 1.8GB patch from Steam in the middle of our testing. The HD 6970 was benched “pre-patch” with Catalyst 11.8 and 11.9, and the HD 6770 was benched after the patch; CrossFired HD 6970s were not benched with Catalyst 11.9 at all.
- 3DMark 11
- Batman: Arkham Asylum
- Serious Sam, Second Encounter HD (2010)
- Left 4 Dead
- Mafia II
- World in Conflict
- Far Cry 2
- Just Cause 2
- Resident Evil 5
- Alien vs. Predator
- 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
- Deus Ex: Human Revolution
- Heaven 2
Lets look at some of the release notes from AMD regarding Catalyst 11.9 before we head to performance testing.
Release Notes for Catalyst 11.9
Always start here to download AMD graphics drivers.
Highlights of the AMD Catalyst™ 11.9 Windows release includes:
AMD HD3D support enhancement
- Enables AMD HD3D technology support on DisplayPort panels, such as Samsung 750 and 950 series 3D displays.
- Enables existing Stereo 3D displays, such as the Viewsonic V3D241wm-LED monitor and 3D projectors.
Resolved Issues for the Windows 7 Operating System:
This section provides information on resolved known issues in this release of the AMD Catalyst™ 11.9 software suite for Windows 7. These include:
- STALKER – Call of Pripyat no longer hangs randomly when launching a new game or opening a previously saved game.
- Scaling options are now correctly displayed when connecting a Digital monitor to the Display port on some video cards.
- The following games no longer experience random hangs during game loading :
- Call of Duty – Black Ops
- F1 2010
- Dungeon Siege 3
- The following games no longer hang intermittently during gameplay:
- Battlefield – Bad Company 2
- Dead Rising 2
- The following games no longer hangs while running the benchmark :
- Serious Sam 2
- Resident Evil 5
- HAWX 2
- HAWX 2 no longer displays random flashing black pixels
- Flashing pixel corruption is no longer experienced while playing F1 2010 and Dirt 2
- The Windows Event Log no longer reports unwanted Distributed DCOM errors.
- Negative Crossfire Scaling is no longer occasionally observed while playing EarthSim 2, Battle – Bad Company 2 , Metro and HAWX
- Video corruption is no longer observed while playing full screen HD WMV format files using PowerDVD with Windows Aero Mode turned off.
- Blank video playback is no longer observed when hardware accelerations is enabled in VLC 1.1.10
- Dawn of War II – Retribution no longer exhibits a black screen when alt-tabbing in and out of the game
- Random display corruption is no longer observed when playing WMV format files using Windows Media Player
- City of Heroes no longer experiences stuttering after excessive use if in-game Anti-Aliasing slider
Resolved Issues for the Windows Vista Operating System:
This section provides information on resolved known issues in this release of the AMD Catalyst™ 11.9 software suite for Windows Vista. These include:
- The screen no longer goes black on when the Aero Desktop is enabled on some Radeon products.
- Lost Planet 2 no longer randomly crashes when running the benchmark
Resolved Issues for the Windows XP Operating System:
This section provides information on resolved known issues in this release of the AMD Catalyst™ 11.9 software suite for Windows XP. These include:
- Enemy Territory – Quake Wars no longer displays random screen corruption
- Cyberlink PowerDVD no longer hangs when attempting to play a BluRay disc.
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:
The display may freeze after playing HD Videos over an extended period of time using Windows Media Center
Random screen tearing may be observed while playing Portal 2
Random screen corruption may be observed while playing Wolfenstein in multiplayer mode
Random corruption may be experienced while playing Enemy Territory – Quake Wars
Choppy playback may be experienced during playback of interlaced DVD content in full screen mode using PowerDVD 11
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
Installing the AMD Catalyst™ Software Driver:
For further information and general help on software driver installation, game issues, and more, visit AMD Customer Care.
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.
Benchmarks & Conclusion
Here are our the results of our twenty-five benchmarks – twenty-two games and three synthetics – compared between Catalyst 11.8 and 11.9
“Wins” are in bold; if there is a tie, both results will be in bold type.
We note little real performance improvement over Catalyst 11.8 with Catalyst 11-9 in many games – with two notable exceptions, Lost Planet 2 and Deus Ex: Human Revolution. Much of what we see, appear to be fixes and refinements.
Do not forget to download and install the Catalyst Application Profiles for multi-GPU if applicable to your PC (they are downloaded in addition to Catalyst 11.9 from the same AMD support page).
To sum it up, we would recommend upgrading to Catalyst 11.9 because there are are a few real advantages, and the pluses that we found outweigh the few minor negatives. We also feel that it makes reasonable sense to generally use the latest WHQL drivers. We will be back later this month to compare performance of Catalyst 11.10 versus 11.9. Perhaps we can also cover the new GeForce WHQLs when they are also released later on this month for Battlefield 3. Happy gaming!
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