So much for a Unified Driver Architecture

When ATI showed us the Radeon 8500, they promised that they would finally be moving to a Unified Driver Architecture (UDA) like NVIDIA. But after conversing with one of ATI’s software engineers, we have learned that the R300’s DirectX drivers are completely new.

For starters, they are not based off of the Radeon 8500’s DX drivers, which means that the move to a UDA back with the Radeon 8500 was never really made since the next-generation architecture cannot use the codebase from the previous generation UDA. The benefit of this is that a number of the DirectX problems ATI had in the past should now be fixed. That benefit is also a significant downside because anything that was fixed in the old drivers may now be broken in the new R300 drivers. ATI has told us that the R300’s DirectX drivers will be the basis for the next-generation UDA for future chips; all we can say to this is that for ATI’s sake, they had better be.

ATI’s drivers have always been their weakness and, unfortunately, it does not look like much has changed with the R300. On the positive side, we didn’t encounter any performance, compatibility or image quality issues with the current build of the R300 drivers during our time with it. The card and its drivers ran through our entire benchmark suite just fine; but it is obvious that a significant amount of time has been wasted by redesigning the R300 drivers and we hope that no issues crop up in other games, though it is hard to believe that they will not.

ATI has come too far with the R300 to let drivers hold it back this time, hopefully with their renewed dedication to software engineering, we will not see many, if any, issues with the R300’s drivers upon its release.

Introducing the Card – Radeon 9700 The Test
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