Late last week word began circulating that AMD would be dropping driver support for their DX10 generation GPUS – HD 2000, HD 3000, and HD 4000 – based on a Phoronix article discussing the future of driver support for those GPUs under Linux. As Phoronix correctly observed, AMD tends to drop support for a GPU under Linux and Windows simultaneously, so there was reason to believe that a similar retirement would indeed be coming for AMD’s DX10 GPUs under Windows.

Today AMD put out a statement clarifying the future of driver support for their DX10 GPUs, and as it turns out Phoronix was correct.

Starting with Catalyst 12.5 (May’s Catalyst release), AMD will be moving the HD 2000, HD 3000, and HD 4000 series from mainstream to legacy status. This means that those products will move from receiving monthly driver updates to quarterly driver updates, and at the same time AMD will shift away from working on further performance improvements and new features for those cards, and instead working solely on bug fixes and other critical updates. AMD believes they’ve gotten all they’re going to get from their DX10 GPUs from a performance standpoint, so now their focus is going to be on any driver bugs that may crop up with future games.

As you may recall, this is the same legacy driver development model that AMD moved their DX9 GPUs to back in 2009, when Catalyst 9.3 was the last mainstream driver to support those GPUs. If that transition is any kind of reliable guidance, that means we should expect another year of driver updates for AMD’s DX10 GPUs. Their last driver release for those GPUs was 10.2 back in February of 2010, roughly a year after they moved those GPUs to legacy status. With that said, given the slowing pace of graphics API development – we’re not even to Direct3D 11.1 yet – I wouldn’t be surprised (or at least will be hopeful) that AMD will continue legacy driver updates for more than a year. New DX9 games are still extremely common, never mind games that work on DX10.

At the same time this cements the status of AMD’s DX10 GPUs under Windows 8. As those GPUs could never fully support WDDM 1.2, it has been clear for some time now that those GPUs would not be at parity with AMD’s DX11 GPUs under Windows 8. Officially AMD will not support Windows 8 with their legacy drivers, however Windows 8 will include a version of AMD’s legacy driver for their DX10 GPUs and any newer releases of AMD’s legacy drivers should be installable on Windows 8 with little-to-no fiddling. So with official support or not, nothing has really changed in this regard.

AMD’s full statement is below.

AMD will be moving the AMD Radeon™ HD 2000, AMD Radeon HD 3000, and AMD Radeon HD 4000 Series of products to a new driver support model.  We will continue to support the mentioned products in our Catalyst releases, but we’re moving their updates to a quarterly basis, whereas our AMD Radeon HD 5000 and later products will continue to see monthly updates. The Quarterly Catalyst releases will focus on resolving application specific issues and critical updates. The reason for the shift in support policy is largely due to the fact that the AMD Radeon HD 2000, AMD Radeon HD 3000, and AMD Radeon HD 4000 Series have been optimized to their maximum potential from a performance and feature perspective. The 8.97 based driver, released in May 2012 will be the first driver for the AMD Radeon HD 2000, AMD Radeon HD 3000, and AMD Radeon HD 4000 Series under the new support model; it is an extremely stable and robust driver branch for these products and will be the baseline for our quarterly updates.

Our main development and testing efforts will now be focused on the AMD Radeon™ HD 5000 and later products. This is the best use of our resources, as the AMD Radeon HD 5000, AMD Radeon HD 6000, AMD Radeon HD 7000, and future products have the greatest potential for further performance and feature enhancements.

Also with regards to Windows 8 support for the AMD Radeon™ HD 2000, 3000, 4000 Series of products; the In-the-box AMD Graphics driver that ships with Windows 8 will include support for the AMD Radeon HD 2000, 3000, and 4000 Series, and it will support the WDDM 1.1 driver level features. The AMD Catalyst driver for Windows 8 will only include support for WDDM 1.2 support products (AMD Radeon HD 5000 and later).
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  • CeriseCogburn - Monday, April 30, 2012 - link

    The money line: " This is the best use of our resources..."
    In other words, they fired enough people that they cannot maintain the promises to the gamers, and have abandoned as many as possible.
    4870x2 is $159.99 on the egg right now - a result of this decision.
    4890 is toast - yet it's still faster than way over half of the cards produced and sold today.
    This is a lousy decision, and is no good, from an evil company groveling for dollars.
  • ltcommanderdata - Monday, April 23, 2012 - link

    AMD's previous legacy driver experience with their DX9 GPUs isn't inspiring. When it was initially announced, they said "legacy" meant quarterly driver updates, but when they posted the above support document, there was actually no mention of "quarterly" only "periodically". That basically left people to routinely ask them about it in comments in the blogs posts that announce monthly Catalyst releases. It seemed like when an arbitrary number of comments accumulated and months went by, a legacy driver was released, but it was not a consistent 3 month schedule as "quarterly" implied. All the while nVidia continues to support their GPUs back to the DX9.0c 6000 series to this day. I could understand AMD not supporting the vanilla DX9.0 9000 and X100 series, but the DX9.0c X1000 really should have gotten more care, particularly because the X1900 has aged better than the comparable nVidia 7900 due to the X1900's more shader heavy focus which turned out to be the right forward thinking bet.

    Given how successful the HD4000 series has been and the nostalgia factor of it being the series that reinvigorated AMD's graphical fortunes, hopefully it's legacy support will be more consistent. I think 2 years of legacy driver support for DX10 GPUs makes sense. If next-gen consoles with DX11 GPUs come out late 2013, with say a year for adoption and transition, most games in 2015 will probably require DX11. So legacy support for DX10 GPUs from 2012 to the end of 2014 should cover things.
  • Zink - Monday, April 23, 2012 - link

    The HD 6770 is still for sale and it is very similar to the HD 4870 performance wise. It would suck to have to upgrade from a 4870 because of driver issues and not performance.
  • gevorg - Tuesday, April 24, 2012 - link

    Its called planned obsolescence.
  • CeriseCogburn - Monday, April 30, 2012 - link

    Yes and don't forget super OC 4890, as the evil amd has.
  • tipoo - Tuesday, April 24, 2012 - link

    Yeah, that's like the 1K series and Windows 7, the performance for non-gaming was fine but no official driver support.
  • Latzara - Tuesday, April 24, 2012 - link

    The, always, buggy drivers that have almost become, or for some have become, the staple of ATI/AMD graphics?

    To me unfortunately it's completely normal to expect their drivers to crash on me on a somewhat regular basis. I'm not talking about preview/beta versions but of the complete WHQL versions that today can at least benefit from the win 7 driver crash recovery but are still crashing. If it were only my experience I would definitely write it off as my problem and that would be it but it's obviously not ...

    To me a real news story would be the expansion of their graphics driver department with new experts and a real push to get their driver offering in check but I don't think I'll ever hear that....
  • kyuu - Tuesday, April 24, 2012 - link

    Funny. I have had zero issues with my 6950 since I built my new rig last year.
  • probedb - Tuesday, April 24, 2012 - link

    Odd then that the only issue I've ever had with drivers and my 4850 is with OpenGL in Photoshop 6.

    Instead of moaning why don't you use your time productively and go try an Nvidia card or something?
  • Kazashi - Tuesday, April 24, 2012 - link

    Well, actually, my brother and I both have a HD 4870. His is a diamond reference card version and mine's an after market by sapphire. We (And quite a few people online from what I've seen) suffer from a few severe bugs/issues with our cards.

    Firstly, for some reason, whenever we try to play any game at all that uses any graphic power, the card will crash and then the monitor will go to black, flicker and then turn back on for a few seconds after 10ish minutes. It happens repeatedly, until we quit the game. From what I could gather up from someone's explanation, whenever the card switched from 2d to 3d, it'd turn on some type of overdrive/boost function....Then turn off and then back on again. It'd throttle from a few hundred Mhz to above 600 and then back down repeatedly, making it crash.

    The way how I fixed it was using Riva tuner to manually set the clock on the card to be permanently above 700 all the time, and set the fan to a fixed high setting because our cards ran extremely hot, ah and because ATI Overdrive never changed the fan speed beyond 20% on auto, regardless of the temperture of the GPU. (For my brother's anyway, his reference card ran unbelievable hot. it had to be at 70% fan to be at a bearable 65-70C idling! Mine did better, idling around 40-50C with only 40% fan speed)

    Then there were quite a few issues with some games like KOTOR and artifact issues that popped up on the screen randomly every now and then (Not pertaining to overheating)

    Don't get me wrong, these cards worked really well when they weren't messing up. I could play ME2 on full settings on a 1280X1024 screen with great frame rates.
    We've used the 4870 cards for at least 3 years now. My brother was finally fed up with his accursed reference card and moved up to a GTX 570. I'm still with my 4870 wondering if I should stick with AMD even after all of these problems or check out a Nvidia card. But it's performing well for me right now, so until then.

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