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ED#44 : ATI Catalyst Is No Longer A Killer
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ATI Catalyst Is No Longer A Killer

After our traumatic experience with ATI's beta Catalyst driver for Windows Vista, we swore we would never touch another ATI graphics card, at least not with Windows Vista for the next few months or so. Even when ATI released the Catalyst 7.4 driver on April 18, 2007, we refused to give it a try. We were just too traumatised by our experience with Catalyst 7.3.

After all, Catalyst 7.4 seemed like it was only a minor update of Catalyst 7.3. We would be nuts to give it a try. However, after waiting over two weeks for a new update, we got tired and decided... what the hell, let's give this version a try and reformat the testbed if it kills Windows Vista again.

So, with some trepidation in our hearts, we downloaded the Catalyst 7.4 driver. After crossing our fingers and drawing ancient protection runes around the system, we loaded up the Radeon X1950 GT and installed the driver. One reboot, no BSOD (Blue Screen Of Death). Adjusted the resolution and another reboot. Still no BSOD!

Finally! We are very happy to announce that ATI's driver team has finally done something right with their Windows Vista driver. The new ATI Catalyst 7.4 driver will NOT kill Windows Vista.


It Is Much Faster...

The ATI Radeon X1950 GT chugged happily through Doom 3 and Company Of Heroes. According to ATI, "typical Improvements of 15% or more can be seen in games such as Doom 3, Quake 4 and Prey, with enthusiast class of products seeing improvements of 30% or more."

Doom 3
Catalyst 7.3
Catalyst 7.4
1920 x 1200
Not Tested
52.6 fps
1600 x 1200
55.3 fps
61.8 fps
+ 11.8 %
1280 x 1024
65.7 fps
78.0 fps
+ 18.7 %

The X1950 GT can be considered an enthusiast-level card, so we put it to the test in Windows Vista with anisotropic filtering set to 16x and anti-aliasing disabled.

True enough, this driver was much faster than Catalyst 7.3. We saw a 11.8% increase in frame rate at 1600x1200 and a 18.7% faster frame rate at 1280x1024. Nice!


But It Only Works Sometimes

Unfortunately, Far Cry still didn't work with this driver. When we tried to load Far Cry 1.4, it just hung. Argghhh... ATI still has a lot of work to do on the driver. Far Cry's OpenGL renderer worked but it was still slow and rendered poorly with lots of missing textures. In other words, it was unplayable.

Like what we saw earlier with the Catalyst 7.3 driver, Far Cry's Direct3D renderer just wouldn't work with the new ATI Catalyst 7.4 Vista driver, at least not with the Radeon X1950 GT. If you successfully run Far Cry in Direct3D mode with another ATI card using the same driver, do let us know. At least we will know it's not a Radeon X1950 GT-specific issue.



We are much relieved that ATI has finally made their Catalyst driver load in Windows Vista without crashing or killing it. You cannot believe how loud our sighs of relief were when Vista loaded up without crashing after we installed the driver. It was like the Second Coming!

Although we are very happy that the Catalyst 7.4 driver was relatively stable in Windows Vista, that is really the absolute minimum we should expect from any driver, period. No company should ever release a product without a working driver. It's not only bad work ethics, it's bad business.

A driver that does not work with games is also bad for business. Far Cry, for example, refused to load with this new driver. It just hung. Gamers do not like it when their games don't load. So, if ATI wants gamers to buy their cards, they will have to work hard on getting games to work right with their drivers.

With all that said, it's great to see ATI finally getting on the right path to Windows Vista, especially so close to the launch of the Radeon HD 2000 series of graphics cards. If ATI can get their Vista drivers in working condition for the current X1950 cards, it's likely they will have working drivers for the Radeon HD 2000 cards.


Questions & Comments

Please feel free to post your questions or comments here!


Date Revision Revision History
08-05-2007 1.0

Initial release.


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