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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 - Friday, October 26, 2012 - link

    " 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)"

    It's in the notes... http://support.amd.com/us/kbarticles/Pages/AMDCata...
    Reply
  • transphasic - Tuesday, October 23, 2012 - link

    From what it would appear, the newest 12.11 release yesterday, was kind of bit of a dud in terms of performance increase. In reviewing your test results, the new release had almost no impact on increasing FPS scores- especially at higher resolutions. From what I see, the older releases had more of an impact on performance.
    I would think that there would be a CLEAR improvement with each successive driver release each month or whenever they are released periodically, but there isn't one on this new release, because older driver releases fared better than most games.
    This is very disappointing to see.

    Am I reading this right, or reading too much into it?
    Also, can we be certain that the Enduro mess is now cleaned up with this new release, because there is no way to know just from these disappointing results.

    Your thoughts?
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Tuesday, October 23, 2012 - link

    I'm not sure why you think the earlier drivers were better? There's only one instance where the initial driver outperforms the 12.11 Beta and 12.9 "Internal Hotfix", and I may have simply run Batman at the wrong settings in that case (e.g. maybe I forgot to enable 4xAA). Overall, the 12.9 Hotfix that was never released to the public is the fastest mobile driver for 7970M so far, but the 12.11 Beta is very close and is actually faster by a moderate amount in a few titles (BF3 at High, DiRT 3 at Ultra, and Civ5).

    Generally speaking, while we'd love to see a steady improvement in performance with each new driver release, in practice we often see performance drop. I'm not sure why, but my guess is all the stuff being added, sometimes to fix bugs, ends up slowing down some areas. Look at the testing of GTX 680M with 295.62 vs. 306.97: http://www.anandtech.com/show/6369/avadirect-clevo... Most games are equal or slightly faster, but Skyrim is quite a bit slower at "Mainstream" and "Enthusiast", and Batman also shows a big drop at our "Enthusiast" settings. In the past six months, I've also seen pretty major fluctuations in Civ5 performance for NVIDIA on laptops.

    And as for Enduro, this release shows AMD can improve performance and release a public driver for Enduro users, but it seems to be targeting 7970M mostly, perhaps 7800M as well, and everyone else is sort of hoping for the best. Older Enduro laptops still haven't received a driver that fully installs and works properly without any extra effort. Ideally, that's where Enduro ends up: if you put on a new copy of Windows 7 or 8, you just grab the latest Intel iGPU drivers, grab the latest AMD Mobility Catalyst drivers, install them separately and they work. That seems to be the status of 7970M at least, but not 6630M or 7670M. Hopefully that's while we're still getting the "Beta" label, and in the next month AMD really needs to make a fully functional WHQL driver for all of the other users, or Windows 8 upgrades will be in for a tough ride.
    Reply
  • bks - Tuesday, October 23, 2012 - link

    I've installed the 12.11 beta on my new-ish Trinity (A10-4600M) laptop, and at least 3dmark11 has substantially (~16%!) improved with newer drivers over the drivers the laptop came with (roughly Catalyst 12.5):
    - original drivers: P1148 3dmarks (1055 graphics score)
    - 12.9 beta: P1272 (1193 graphics)
    - 12.11 beta: P1317 (1228 graphics)

    Since the machine was deliberately a "just-good-enough" choice, another 2-3 fps in Civ V would be a substantial improvement. Are other people seeing these kinds of gains? Do they hold up in real life?
    Reply
  • TrantaLocked - Tuesday, October 23, 2012 - link

    Why are there people complaining about the results for this driver. Look at the graph! And the 12.9 hotfix is not the 12.9 beta. The 12.9 hotfix was never released to the public and is not an old driver. It included both the DX10/11 and DX 9 Enduro fixes.

    1) Batman is the exception, but 12.11 is scoring 1FPS higher than the hotfix
    2) BF3 Ultra performance is loads better on my end, but for some reason Jarred is seeing average results
    3) 12.11 is the best for Civ 5...how horrible!
    4) 12.11 is the best for Dirt 3...so terrible!
    5) 12.11 is just below the hotfix in Skyrim, but better than 12.9 beta and 12.3...oh no 12.11 must suck now!
    6) 12.11 is losing in Portal 2, 12.11 must suck! This has nothing to do with the fact that Portal 2 is a DX9 game and 12.11 doesn't include the DX9 fixes that will eventually be implemented!

    And then you realize that this is only a benchmark of six games at 1080p. There are tons more games out there. As I have stated before, Saints Row 3 and Sleeping Dogs are performing much better. Play any other DX11 game and you will likely see a decent performance boost.
    Reply
  • CeriseCogburn - Friday, October 26, 2012 - link

    Maybe the problem is this:
    "
    1. Download the the AMD 12.11 driver here: AMD Catalyst
    2. Download the Intel HD 4000 15.26.12.64.2761 graphics driver: http://downloadcenter.intel.com/Deta...=3498&l...
    3. Download Driver Fusion here: Driver Fusion - The Complete Driver Solution
    4. Uninstall all AMD files through the Catalyst manager (you can access this by going to the Uninstall a Program section in Windows and selecting "Change" on the AMD option)
    5. Restart, and install Driver Fusion
    6. Restart in safe mode (type in msconfig in run, go to the boot tab, and select safe mode), run Driver Fusion and delete both AMD Driver and Intel Driver files
    7. Restart in normal mode (uncheck safe mode in msconfig), install every component in the AMD 12.11 package
    8. Restart in safe mode (you have to one more time or you will get a BSOD on normal startup), install the Intel HD 4000 8.15.26.12.64.2761 driver
    9. Restart in normal mode and you will be good to go "

    LOL - On this site we hear all the time how having more than one card named incorrectly is so confusing the companies should be shot -
    But in this case we get an insane HACKED TO HADES AND BACK install sequence then we are supposed to cheer the results ?
    HAHAHAHHAHA

    Don't forget you also said just keep trying it in different ways until it somehow works with no BSOD...

    Here we have the great AMD and their "nVidia equivalent" drivers.
    This is it bro, this is how it works.
    Reply
  • CeriseCogburn - Friday, October 26, 2012 - link

    PS - I read the 16 pages at the notebook forum and here's another reason why everyone is complaining....

    AFTER HACKING IN THE INSTALL WITH THE NEW DRIVER:

    OVERLCLOCKING NO LONGER WORKS AND RESULTS IN AN INSTANT BSOD.

    LOL

    So, after all the fuss, slower than before. Not a single megahertz can be overclocked.

    Wow, great job amd !
    Reply
  • TrantaLocked - Saturday, October 27, 2012 - link

    Dude, it is a beta. BETA. A WHQL driver will not cause BSODs nor prevent overclocking, and AMD will release 11.12 in WHQL form within the next couple months. This is the greatest beta AMD has put out in the past year. The performance has improved significantly for many games. This driver is just a PREVIEW to the real, fully functioning deal. Reply
  • TheElMoIsEviL - Monday, October 29, 2012 - link

    Coo Coo for Coco Puffs Reply
  • Favoreto - Tuesday, October 23, 2012 - link

    Please, someone help me! Yesterday everything was working fine, i did all the installations methods until one worked. Today i turn on my computer, start to play battlefield 3, and the utilization problem is back... ?????? I dont know what to do, instaled the latest intel driver and a clean instal for the 12.11beta4... Everything is set to high performance on CCC. Reply

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