GPU Transcoding Throwdown: Elemental's Badaboom vs. AMD's Avivo Video Converterby Anand Lal Shimpi & Derek Wilson on December 15, 2008 3:00 PM EST
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ATI Catalyst 8.12 Changes and Bug Fixes
As far as the 8.12 drivers themselves go, we have seen a few bug fixes. Far Cry 2 now supports CrossFire without requiring 4xAA to be enabled for it to work (and the rest of the FC2 hotfix has been incorporated as well). The stability and performance issues we noticed on Nehalem systems have been improved. Game tests make sense and behave more or less the way we expect they should.
Until this driver, using ATI graphics hardware in a Core i7 system was unstable and buggy, especially in non-Intel X58 boards. The worst problems were with CrossFire, but we had single card issues as well. When we began testing on Nehalem, we wanted to use a Radeon HD 4870 1GB in our launch article. In trying to make it work, Anand lost almost a week in tests that to just be thrown away because of the stability and performance issues with AMD hardware in the i7 system. We had to switch over to NVIDIA hardware to get the launch article done. Normally we don't go into detail about all the trouble we have when testing prerelease products, but even after launch we continued to have the same issues. Initially 8.10 was the problem, then the Far Cry 2 hotfix didn't really fix much. It almost seemed like 8.11 made things worse and the hotfixes following 8.11 didn't really help either.
For us, Catalyst 8.12 was the make or break driver for recommending ATI hardware on Core i7 systems. We had decided that unless most (if not all) of our outstanding issues were resolved we would recommend that anyone who wanted the latest Intel hardware stay very far away from AMD video cards. Fortunately for AMD, this latest release resolves enough of our issues that we are comfortable recommending that those who want AMD hardware in their Core i7 systems go ahead and give it a shot (note from Anand: I'm still having some issues in my media encoder tests with ATI hardware in my i7 test bed).
There has been a change in the layout of the Catalyst driver as well. It's really more of a minor tweak actually. In the 3D menu on the left side in the Advanced view, the last option on the list ("More Settings") used to be miscellaneous options for toggling z depth, texture compression and triple buffering with OpenGL. All of these options have been removed except for OpenGL triple buffering, which has been rolled into the "All Settings" menu option (it's at the very bottom).
We haven't yet completed a full performance analysis using Catalyst 8.12, but we expect to see practical gains similar to what we saw with NVIDIA's 180 series driver release: mostly modest gains with maybe some corner cases that may or may not be relevant to gamers getting a bigger boost. We are working on gathering data for upcoming articles using Catalyst 8.12 and the latest NVIDIA beta driver 180.84. We haven't run into anything that used to work being broken this time around, but the night is young, as they say. We are hopeful that at least the game tests we are looking at won't present us with any problems.
Using these drivers as a starting point on our Core i7 system should allow us to finally do more with our testing. We are looking forward to finally having a stable platform on which to test both CrossFire and SLI. We are also anxious to get comparisons of graphics hardware using the latest games up as well. This should all be much easier now that we have these drivers in our hands.