Whenever ATI tells us they have some announcements to make two weeks before the end of the year, we usually get a bit worried.  The fact of the matter is that it is very rare for a company to release and ship new products this close to the end of a year, so we tend to get suspicious when new announcements happen like this.  There is one exception, however - and that is software, or in this case, drivers. 

Just earlier this month, ATI released their Catalyst 5.12 drivers, which offered support for dual core processors, but without any really tangible gains in performance as we found out.  ATI had also alluded to the potential of another Catalyst release before the end of the year, and as their predictions would have it, Catalyst 5.13 is due out for release this coming Thursday (12/22/2005). 

But Catalyst 5.13 doesn't promise improved gaming performance, better scaling from dual core processors or anything of that sort.  Instead, Catalyst 5.13 is a little gift to Radeon X1000 owners from the Avivo team. 

Avivo was pretty much a joke of a launch when the X1000 series came out.  There were hardly any tangible improvements due to the new platform that we didn't already have, and its fabled improvements in DVD playback turned out to be worse than what NVIDIA had already had out for months beforehand; yet, there was promise of more. 

ATI promised us H.264 decode acceleration, offloading some of the most CPU intensive tasks for media PCs today onto their brand new GPUs.  ATI also alluded to a transcode utility, which would aid in the conversion between video formats and potentially even accelerating it on the GPU as well. 

Catalyst 5.13 begins to deliver on some of those promises of more, and while we had pretty much given up on Avivo being any good for DVD playback quality, ATI has also promised improved video playback in the latest version of Catalyst.  While we'll save the video playback portion of this article for a later time, there are two equally important topics to discuss today instead.  And there's one more surprise from ATI's Avivo team later on in the article as well...

H.264 Decode Acceleration - As Promised
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  • Anton74 - Saturday, December 17, 2005 - link

    Hmm, interesting. In http://www.chip.de/artikel/c1_artikel_17670022.htm...">this article, which apparently talks about a different revision of the same software (looks practically identical, but is entitled "ATi Avivo Transcode Wizard" in the program's title bar, as opposed to "ATi Avivo Video Converter" in the AT article), the author says the GPU hardware is used to speed things up (which is quite believable if the benchmarks are accurate, which show up to a 5x increase with a X1300 Pro assisted transcode versus a sole FX-57 [!!]).

    Something's gotta be up here - I have trouble believing that a very significant speed increase (~2x - 5x) can be achieved without either a GPU assist, or very different output quality (which is why it's very important to not only measure transcoding time, but also compare video quality, as has already been pointed out - otherwise you don't know if you're comparing apples to apples).

    If I may ask, how did you determine that the GPU is not used, especially since the program won't work without one?

    Either way, these X1000 GPU's are looking more and more attractive, despite not quite keeping up with their competition some of the time in pure gaming performance (for similarly priced cards, of course).
    Reply
  • OCedHrt - Monday, December 19, 2005 - link

    Maybe it makes use of GPU assisted decode, but not encode. Reply
  • Calin - Monday, December 19, 2005 - link

    I thought about it too - but the decode isn't so much faster by GPU assisted, compared to decode by software. There was at most twice the speed of decoding using GPU, and encoding time should be greater than decoding. Reply
  • irev210 - Friday, December 16, 2005 - link

    I just picked up an X1800XT and I had a bad fan out of the box. Luckly I ordered two, so I just put in the 2nd one while I replace the first and install it in a friends machine. I called ATi to RMA because their website was 1/2 broken 1/2 working at the time, and the guy wouldnt RMA it over the phone, which was pretty sad.


    I guess I got unlucky, but the 2nd card I got had a bent bracket. Took me about 15 minutes to get the card installed even after taking off the bracket and straighting it the best I could do.

    VERY happy with the cards actual performance though. The AVIVO sounds great. I have a replayTV and I record a lot of shows. Using DVARCHIVE, I store them to my PC and shrink/encode them to watch them on my pocketPC phone on the subway. I would love to speed that process up with AVIVO.


    ATI guys-- if you read this, do something about your retarded tech support, and try to make sure that when the dude in china puts together this card that the fan works. The guy wouldnt even just send me a fan. He then argued that I had to call the computer company that my X1800XT came inside. I was like, you do know that ATi sells video cards under their own label right? He put me on hold after giving him my serial # and said, "YES, you have an ATI card, go to ATI.COM and create an RMA" even though I asked to do it over the phone because I was having problems accessing the ATI website. I then told him I wanted this 2nd card to put in a computer for chirstmas and he said "oh Im sorry, RMA takes around 10+ days".


    Anyway, RECAP:

    Cards performance is MUCH better than expected (switched from 7800GTX 256 SLI)

    NO it doesnt match SLI performance, but it works great.

    This will hold me over till the next gen graphcis card
    Reply
  • Generic Guy - Sunday, December 18, 2005 - link

    In other words: ATI's reduced warranty and crappy customer service rears its ugly head, once again. Especially right before Christmas, yeesh.

    I've had two ATI Radeon products, plus a Rage-128 before that. I've been more or less happy, but been a victim of the "bad drivers" days and remember these types of issues to this day. It really seems to be getting to the point where ATI is bound and determined to kill themselves off with stupid paper launches of non-existant products, and horrendously worthless support on premium-priced products.

    Sorry ATI. I'll just keep my Nero Recode and choose not to buy your products any longer.
    Reply
  • LoneWolf15 - Tuesday, December 20, 2005 - link

    Bitter much?

    I had the Rage 128 too (Rage Fury Pro AGP) and yes, it bit. And drivers were lousy. So was support. And I sent it back, and went with a TNT2-Ultra based card instead.

    But if you're basing your opinion on a card released in late `98/early `99, you're not living in today's world. ATI has made major strides. Drivers are no longer an issue, and haven't been since (at the very latest) the Radeon 9xxx lines of cards.

    Also, I haven't needed support on either my Radeon 9700 or my Radeon X800XL. They've worked right out of the box, without issue. Your current complains about support (for BETA software no less) don't seem germane to the article.

    If you want to gripe, have a legit one. Paper launches I can understand. Not supporting the earlier Radeon X-series of cards (X8xx for example), I can also understand; they're quite recent, and I'm a bit disappointed myself by that. But complaining about the past when it isn't representative of the present just doesn't fly.

    P.S. While I happen to have the three-year ATI warranty as opposed to the reduced one, I've never had to use the warranty on any of their products I've purchased (VGA Wonder 512k, Graphics Pro Turbo, on up to my current cards and a TV Wonder PCI as well). If a card doesn't die in the first year, it's not likely to die at all, unless it is pushed (i.e., overclocked).
    Reply
  • Hacp - Friday, December 16, 2005 - link

    This makes me want to get a X1300 SOOO bad. Do they make a AIW card with theater550 in it??? Reply
  • Rys - Friday, December 16, 2005 - link

    Theather 550 has a problem (communicating with the GPU over the VIP) which stops it being used on AIW boards. Reply
  • Chadder007 - Friday, December 16, 2005 - link

    What they lack in releasing of hardware on time, they come through on features, and quality drivers now. Still waiting for AGP X1000 cards.. :D Reply
  • Jedi2155 - Friday, December 16, 2005 - link

    Excellent!! It looks like something is finally going right on the ATI side of things!!! Now if only they can get craking on making the R580 appear!!! Reply

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