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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  • Amoro - Monday, April 23, 2012 - link

    Radeon HD 4870.....It still has really good performance. I guess my wife won't know the difference anyways.

    I just hope that they'll actually update the drivers quarterly or even yearly compared to the previous "Legacy Video cards". The X100 and X1000 series haven't been updated since February of 2010.
  • tipoo - Monday, April 23, 2012 - link

    I think those cards have gotten the extent of tweaking that would help them, but I'm wondering if it would be like the x1000 series on Windows 7 which I had to deal with. They can still run ok for light work, but they don't have official drivers under Windows 7, the Vista ones do work but it leads to some rare but annoying problems. So I wonder if these cards, even as new as the 4000 series, would have problems running Windows 8 in a similar fashion, or if they would get an official driver for it.
  • dragonsqrrl - Tuesday, April 24, 2012 - link

    Wow, I didn't realize the X1000 series didn't have any official Windows 7 support... that sucks. I'm sorry to say it, but this is just a lower standard of driver support than I'm accustomed to. Nvidia provides non-legacy Windows 7 driver support for all their cards since the Geforce 6.
  • kmmatney - Tuesday, April 24, 2012 - link

    I didn't have any trouble getting an X800 working with windows 7, so I don't think the X1000 series would be a problem. The X800 plays everything just fine (at least what it is capable of) in Windows 7.
  • tipoo - Thursday, April 26, 2012 - link

    Your mileage may vary. The drivers for Vista (or even XP I think) do work, but they are not officially supported and might have some bugginess.
  • Wolfpup - Tuesday, April 24, 2012 - link

    I've got to say yeah, i'm really surprised by how short AMD supports their GPUs. I guess it's not terrible compared to how short Apple supports a lot of their hardware (let alone Android gadgets), but personally it's another reason I continue to prefer Nvidia if possible.
  • Wolfpup - Tuesday, April 24, 2012 - link

    EDIT: Guess I should add too that anymore I don't upgrade hardware that often, and a high end part from that generation would to me still be very useable...
  • bassbeast - Thursday, April 26, 2012 - link

    Uhh...what more support exactly do you need? these drivers WILL work on Windows 8 if that floats your boat and the current drivers now are quite good so what more EXACTLY are they gonna do? they've squeezed just about every droplet of performance they can out of the silicon, so what is left besides bug fixes? they can't magically give them more shaders or faster buses ya know.

    Personally I'm VERY happy with the HD4850 I have and I doubt I'll be switching to Windows 8 and since you can pick up the HD4850 for like $50 right now I don't see a problem. The nice thing about the 48xx chips is that they frankly still crank out the pretty and play the latest games while being affordable enough i could grab a pair of them for my two boys so they can enjoy the gaming goodness on their new PCs.

    So by the time these leave legacy win 8 will have been out awhile and Win 9 will be coming out and we'll probably be up to Dx12 by then and until then I can always throw another HD4850 dirt cheap for some Xfire goodness or simply wait until the 58xx or 68xx are similarly cheap so me and the boys can all be on the same level. So I don't see what there is to complain about, these chips are 4+ years old ya know and if they run in everything from XP-Win 8 what's to complain about?
  • dgingeri - Wednesday, April 25, 2012 - link

    This is the same type of thing Adaptec does.

    Dell had a few series of servers that used a remarked Adaptec SCSI controller (the PERC 2, 3, and 4 series). Adaptec up and decided they weren't going to support their SCSI products under Windows Server 2008. So, all of a sudden, these perfectly viable servers (particularly the Poweredge 2650 and 6650) were rendered unusable with the new version of Windows Server. I have about two dozen of these machines in my lab that are still quite operational, but can't be used with Windows Server 2008. We still use them for Linux testing (Red Hat and SuSE work just fine on them) but we had to spend more money to get more machines for Windows testing.

    Creative Labs did the same thing with their cards when Vista came out. Cards that were still quite usable under XP were rendered useless with Vista, and thus Windows 7 as well.

    This isn't unusual in this industry. Rude and cheap, sure, but not unusual.
  • hughlle - Tuesday, April 24, 2012 - link

    It speaks volumes for how far the game industry has progressed, or alternatively the amount of pointless graphic card releases there are, for my 4850 to be able to play everything out there without an issue.

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