ATI's Vista Killing Driver Part 2
After we successfully loaded the ATI Catalyst 7.3 driver without the system crashing at startup, we gave it a whirl in Windows Vista. It didn't seem to have any problems with video playback and all 2D applications. Then, we tried three games - Doom 3, Far Cry and Company Of Heroes.
It Worked... But Slowly
The new ATI Radeon X1950 GT chugged happily through Doom 3 and Company Of Heroes, albeit with abysmally slow frame rates in Doom 3. Oh, it wasn't like it was jerky. The frame rate was just far below what we would have expected from this new card from ATI. Take a look :
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We tested the cards in Windows Vista with anisotropic filtering set to 4x and anti-aliasing disabled. Even so, the Radeon X1950 GT ended up slower than the NVIDIA GeForce 7600 GT running on the latest NVIDIA 101.41 beta driver for Windows Vista.
The Radeon X1950 GT is definitely much faster than that. If you check the Windows XP results, they are a stark difference. The only cause we can pin this on is the very, very poor optimization done in the new Windows Vista driver.
We are happy to report that the Radeon X1950 GT did well in Company Of Heroes. The frame rates were more or less what we would expect from this new card.
It Did Not Only Kill Vista
Unfortunately, the poor quality of the driver would rear its ugly head once again... this time, in Far Cry.
When we tried to load it up, it just hung. Wow. Reminisces of BSODs in Windows Vista are flashing back right now. No matter how we tried, Far Cry just wouldn't load. In the end, we could only conclude that the driver "broke" Far Cry.
As a final resort, we tried the Far Cry OpenGL renderer and it worked. However, it was slow. Worse of all, it rendered poorly with lots of missing textures. In other words, it was unplayable. So, okay, the driver did not actually "break" Far Cry. Far Cry's Direct3D renderer just wouldn't work with the ATI Catalyst 7.3 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.
ATI definitely has a lot more to do before their Vista drivers are really suitable for use by the public. At the very least, we believe it should be designed not to crash. It's okay if the new drivers are slow, or if they lack the features in Windows XP drivers. But it's truly taboo for a driver to actually kill the operating system it's designed to support.
Yes, the ATI driver team should start by first making sure that their Vista drivers do not kill Windows Vista. When that's done, work on getting them to run properly with games. Only then should they worry about optimizing the drivers to get the frame rates up. It would be folly to work on optimizing the driver when it can't even load without crashing Vista.
At this point, it's really better to have a slow but working driver than a driver that works only with some games, or worse, kills your operating system. Unfortunately, the current ATI Catalyst 7.3 driver for Windows Vista is all that. It's quite literally, a killer software.
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