We already posted our overview of the 12.11 Catalyst drivers when used with desktop GPUs, but notebook users are naturally wondering where the promised mobile Hotfix driver is. The short story is that AMD decided to roll the Hotfix into the 12.11 release, so this driver takes care of both mobile and desktop users. The usual caveats for notebooks apply, obviously: your laptop needs to use either a discrete-only GPU or support dynamic switchable graphics aka Enduro, and the laptop manufacturer needs to be a participant in AMD’s mobile drivers program. I’m not sure what companies are specifically opting out, but at least the beta driver I tested installed on a Sony VAIO C (more on this below).

With the official release in hand, we went back to verify performance was the same as the 12.9 Hotfix we had tested previously. In the process of testing, we found things were not quite where we expected, but then AMD contacted us to let us know there was a slight snafu with the 12.11 driver: it doesn’t include the DX9 portion of the Hotfix (which, if you missed it, we had to manually install the DLLs in safe mode with the not-for-public driver). That’s unfortunate, as it potentially means any DX9-only games will underperform relative to the earlier Hotfix, but that’s not the end of the story.

Besides the apparent DX9 snafu, we also ran into issues with several games no longer working properly. DiRT 3 and DiRT Showdown both refuse to run in fullscreen mode with the 12.11 beta, which makes comparing performance with the previous scores largely useless (windowed mode is always going to be slower, in my experience). Battlefield 3, which received a large performance boost on desktops with the 12.11 drivers, also refuses to run—it crashes/hangs almost immediately after launching. (It might be the same fullscreen bug as in the DiRT games, but there’s no XML config file to tweak to change settings so basically I’m unable to test BF3 at present.) Update: I had to uninstall the AMD drivers, reboot, reinstall AMD's drivers, reboot, and then reinstall Intel's iGPU drivers. Then things worked more or less properly.

Of the remaining games, we found minor differences in performance but nothing really worrisome; if you’re still running the original Clevo 7970M drivers, the Hotfix should be a dramatic step up in performance. What about other non-7900M laptops, though? As mentioned above, I installed the 12.11 beta from AMD on the Sony VAIO C (PowerXpress 4.0/Dynamic Switchable Graphics) and that worked “okay”; the issue is the same as with the 12.9 Beta driver: the “Global Switchable Graphics” settings are missing, and if you try a clean install (i.e. uninstall the Sony provided AMD and Intel drivers and then install the latest version of both), well, I couldn't get the 6630M to work properly. I’m not sure how much the new drivers help performance with other GPUs, but a quick look at performance on the VAIO C suggests that only GCN GPUs are likely to show noteworthy improvements.

Here’s the quick rundown of our testing results at our “Mainstream” (900p ~High) and “Enthusiast” (1080p ~Ultra 4xAA) notebook test settings, showing four sets of drivers: the initial Clevo driver (8.951.6, which is close to the 12.3 Catalyst drivers), the 12.9 beta, the 12.9 Hotfix, and the 12.11 beta.

Mobile 7970M Mainstream Gaming

Mobile 7970M Enthusiast Gaming

Performance is down slightly from the Hotfix internal release, but that’s not too surprising given the missing DX9 support. Overall, our Mainstream settings show a pretty clear benefit from the Hotfix/12.11 drivers, while the increases at our Enthusiast settings are less dramatic but still tangible in most titles. Unlike on desktop cards where Tahiti/7900 showed the largest improvements at 1920x1200, here the Pitcairn-based 7970M benefits more at 1600x900. If we're seeing the same shading/texturing improvements, that would make sense: one step down from Tahiti means one step down in resolution for optimal quality. We also see performance higher than the earlier Hotfix in Civ5, Battlefield 3 at Mainstream, and DiRT 3 at Enthusiast settings.

The drivers have now posted on AMD's site. Note that these are beta drivers and thus you don't go through the usual "mobility driver download utility"; all of the necessary hardware IDs are already present in the INFs. AMD also informs us that they’re working to push out a fixed mobile driver “shortly” that will include the DX9 improvements as well. I would hope that will bring the 12.11 release to the performance level of the 12.9 Hotfix, and hopefully AMD can address the issues with laptop support on older Enduro/Dynamic Switchable Graphics laptops.

Looking at the bigger picture, this release shows that AMD can push out public drivers for mobile platforms, including Enduro systems, but we’re still seeing some disconcerting trends with overall mobile platform support. We want the next official release to clean up the drivers on all Enduro/Dynamic notebooks (e.g. Sony VAIO C and HP Envy 15, to name two specific models where we’ve heard the same “missing Global Switchable profiles” complaint), and it would be great if we didn’t have to uninstall then reinstall drivers to get things functioning properly (i.e. the initial issues with Battlefield 3 and DiRT 3). NVIDIA hasn’t been free of such issues, but given the number of Optimus laptops we’ve tested compared to Enduro we’ve encountered problems far less frequently. Here’s hoping 2013 can be the year where we no longer have to delve into the question of which AMD notebooks work properly with AMD-provided drivers.

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  • CeriseCogburn - Tuesday, October 23, 2012 - link


    Just remember, all amd driver problems were years ago, and they are equivalent to nVidia, and if you don't say so, you're a dang green troll.
    I am a dang green troll, bumped my head on the bridge again.
    LOL- it hurt
    Reply
  • Spunjji - Tuesday, October 23, 2012 - link

    You don't even read the articles, do you? Reply
  • CeriseCogburn - Friday, October 26, 2012 - link

    No, you don't read the articles, you just jump to comments and attack me, it's your entire life, because amd sucks so badly, it's all you can do seeing through the constant stream of idiot fanboy tears, so I can't blame you. Reply
  • TheElMoIsEviL - Monday, October 29, 2012 - link

    You are insane. Reply
  • CeriseCogburn - Friday, October 26, 2012 - link

    http://support.amd.com/us/kbarticles/Pages/AMDCata...

    " The following notebooks are not compatible with this release:

    Any notebook launched after this driver release
    Toshiba notebooks (please contact the notebook OEM for driver support for these notebooks)
    Sony VAIO notebooks (please contact the notebook OEM for driver support for these notebooks)
    Panasonic notebooks (please contact the notebook OEM for driver support for these notebooks) "

    LOL - see I read a lot more than "the article"

    Here read this:

    Originally Posted by Zacfer View Post
    Yep, I did an express uninstall of AMD drivers, deleted all hidden files in ProgramData and AppData, deleted everything AMD related in the registry, uninstalled both display adapters from the Device Manager and I also used both Driver Sweeper and Driver Fusion from safe mode. Then I tried installing AMD and Intel in different orders - but always the same result. The only thing I haven't done is to re-install Windows, but I've read in other threads that people STILL get BSODs on fresh Windows installations.
    Surely it shouldn't be that hard to install a driver?

    reply: Exact same issue here mate, it may be so because amd left out some of the dx9 binnaries in these drivers.

    reply: This is why I never do AMD beta drivers. Basically I think I'll just wait until they have an official release. At the rate they've been developing it, I'd say probably somewhere in the December-February range is likely. If that fixes the problem, great. If not, I'll decide if I wish to shop for another GPU for this laptop, or just deal with it until I upgrade.

    Either way I am so done with AMD. Every time I give them another try, I get burnt, I need to learn my lesson.

    reply: Same here.

    LOL - Have fun reading ?
    Reply
  • TrantaLocked - Monday, October 22, 2012 - link

    12.11 kicks BF3's ass!

    And yes, you CAN driver sweep Intel GPU/AMD GPU drivers and install the complete 12.11 package and the Intel driver from May for HD 4000. They are both now working separately :)! I did it myself, and I am having no issues.
    Reply
  • HOODY - Tuesday, October 23, 2012 - link

    HY Tranta

    was just on your FB page and posted some there too :)

    wonder if you could post the steps you took and the drivers you used?

    its more ammo for that leshcat's site if I got that info to post along with what thisother guy did.

    Maybe we the "public" users can find a solution for AMD lol.
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Tuesday, October 23, 2012 - link

    Note that Tranta is using a P150EM or P170EM with HD 7970M. In that case, you can clean out all drivers and install the latest and all goes well. The problem is with older laptops, as far as I can tell. Doing the exact same steps that I took with the P170EM results in a non-functional HD 6630M on the Sony VAIO C, and others have reported similar behavior with HP Envy 15. I'm going to try the steps Hoody posted above about manually installing drivers and see if I can get Win8 working... wish me luck! Reply
  • TrantaLocked - Tuesday, October 23, 2012 - link

    I posted a new comment on the next page because the comment would not post as a reply. Reply
  • TrantaLocked - Tuesday, October 23, 2012 - link

    Jarred, is this the original hotfix?: http://support.amd.com/us/kbarticles/Pages/AMDCata...

    If so, would that include the DX9 fixes?

    And my steps can be found on this page: http://forum.notebookreview.com/sager-clevo/693275...

    However, realize that my steps may or may not work for you. Another user named DocOccam posted a list of steps as well, but they didn't work for some as well.

    Keep trying it in different ways until it just works without BSODs. Using safe mode will probably be required at one point if you use Driver Fusion. The goal is to have both the complete 12.11 package installed and the separate Intel package installed. I have been able to play all of my games without issues, and performance has been stunning. Saints Row 3, Sleeping Dogs and Battlefield 3 all saw significant boosts in performance over stock drivers. I'm bummed GTA IV hasn't improved, but when the DX9 fixes are added there likely will be an improvement in GTA IV.
    Reply

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