Over the years it has become the norm for graphics cards manufacturers NVIDIA and AMD to release updates to their drivers in shorter and shorter intervals, with the norm quickly becoming once a month. In this new series of driver analysis articles we will present you a performance summary of new Catalyst and GeForce driver releases that show the immediate improvements going from one version to another, but also the long term performance development that the vendors have achieved.
Our performance testing will use a sample selection of DirectX 11 capable GPUs from AMD and NVIDIA:
- AMD: Radeon HD 4870, Radeon HD 5870, Radeon HD 6970.
- NVIDIA: GeForce GTX 285, GeForce GTX 480, GeForce GTX 580.
Downloads of the new drivers can be found at the following locations:
Official Catalyst 10.12 Changelog
Support for DivX on the AMD Radeon 6800 Series
Support for OpenGL 4.1
- With DivX® software installed on an AMD Radeon™ HD 6800 Series and later GPU and the DivX Accelerated™ solution, consumers can enjoy an improved DivX video playback experience by lowering CPU load, extending computer battery life on notebooks, reducing noise on home theater PCs and improving overall computer operation.
Grab the DivX Accelerated download from here (Available December 15) http://go.divx.com/accelerated
- Features introduced in OpenGL 4.1
- Full compatibility with OpenGL ES 2.0 APIs for easier porting between mobile and desktop platforms
- The ability to query and load a binary for shader program objects to save re-compilation time
- The capability to bind programs individually to programmable stages for programming flexibility
- 64-bit floating-point component vertex shader inputs for higher geometric precision
- Multiple viewports for a rendering surface for increased rendering flexibility
- New ARB extensions introduced with OpenGL 4.1
- Linking OpenGL sync objects to OpenCL event objects for enhanced OpenCL interoperability
- The ability to set stencil values in a fragment shader for enhanced rendering flexibility
- Features to improve robustness, for example when running WebGL applications
- Callback mechanisms to receive enhanced errors and warning messages
Benchmark scores in other reviews are only comparable when this exact same configuration is used.
|Test System - VGA Rev. 12
||Intel Core i7 920 @ 3.8 GHz
(Bloomfield, 8192 KB Cache)
||Gigabyte X58 Extreme
Intel X58 & ICH10R
||3x 2048 MB Mushkin Redline XP3-12800 DDR3
@ 1520 MHz 8-7-7-16
||WD Caviar Black 6401AALS 640 GB
||Windows 7 64-bit
LG Flatron W3000H 30" 2560x1600
- All video card results were obtained on this exact system with the exact same configuration.
- All games were set to their highest quality setting
Each benchmark was tested at the following settings and resolution:
- 1920 x 1200, 4x Anti-aliasing. Typical widescreen resolution for large displays (22" - 26"). Very good looking driver graphics settings.
Aliens vs. Predator
Aliens vs. Predator is based on a merger of the Aliens and the Predators franchise: two legendary alien species that are in conflict with each other, fighting to the death with human marines caught in between. The first person shooter game was developed by Rebellion Studios, who also developed the first AVP PC title and released in February 2010. It was one of the first DirectX 11 games with support for new features like Tesselation, which is why AMD heavily promoted it at the time of their DX 11 card launches. We used the AVP benchmark utility with tesselation and advanced DX11 shadows enabled.
Battlefield: Bad Company 2
Battlefield: Bad Company 2
, released in March 2010 by Electronics Arts, is the most successful DirectX 11 title so far. Even though it contains a full single-player campaign during which the player has to work with a squad to secure a secret weapon, the game is most well known for its fast paced, exciting multiplayer squad action. Thanks to a CPU-based Havok physics engine and skillful use of scripting, the game has destroyable objects, vegetation and terrain without requiring NVIDIA PhysX.
We tested the truck chase scene of the second single-player mission at maximum settings with DirectX 11 enabled.
, a card based RTS, is developed by the German EA Phenomic Studio. A few months after launch the game was transformed into a Play 4 Free branded game. That move and the fact that it was included as game bundle with a large number of ATI cards made it one of the more well known RTS games of 2009. You as a player assemble your deck before game to select the units that will be available. Your choice can be from forces of Fire, Frost, Nature and Shadow to complement each other.
The BattleForge engine has full support for DX 9 to DX 11, we used the internal benchmark tool in DirectX 11 mode to acquire our results.
Call of Duty 4
Call of Duty 4
is a first-person shooter that is built on the award winning Call of Duty Series. It is the first version to play in modern times. In a near-future conflict between the United States, Europe and Russia you get to play as a United States Marine and a British SAS operative. The engine is Infinity Ward's own creation and has true dynamic lighting, depth of field, dynamic shadows and HDR. Even though the game plot is scripted you will find yourself in intense battles, often working together with computer controlled team mates.
Call of Juarez 2
Call of Juarez 2: Bound in Blood
is a prequel to the first Call of Juarez game which was one of the first DX10 titles available on the market. This time the plot evolves around two brothers, before each mission you may pick one to play. Your choices affect the game play since both characters have different ways of handling situations and doing combat.
Call of Juarez 2 uses Techland's Chrome Engine 4 which adds Edge Anti Aliasing as one of the first engines on the market. Edge Anti Aliasing looks similar to normal AA but comes with a considerably reduced performance drop. However, due to the deferred shading design of Edge AA, normal AA can't be used on top of it.
After the tremendous success of Far Cry, the German game studio Crytek released their latest shooter Crysis
in 2007. The game was by far the most hyped and anticipated game in 2007, the forums were full of "Can my system run Crysis?" threads because of the high hardware requirements of this game. Just like in Far Cry the plot evolves on a small island with a thick and richly detailed jungle world. A lot of attention has been given to small details like correct physics. For example when you fire on a tree trunk, it will shatter and the tree will fall over leaving a stump behind. Enemies in a car can be stopped by shooting the tire of the car. The game graphics are by far the best ever seen in a PC game so far, yet the game still runs well on most computers.
Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War 2
Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War II
by Relic Entertainment is an RTS game based on the Warhammer 40,000 universe. Unlike other Dawn of War titles there is no base-building element in the game, you simply command units on the battlefield. Due to the non-linear mission design, the choices which mission and objective you pick to pursue have considerable impact on game play and mission difficulty. A "hero" unit concept adds RPG elements to the game, allowing you to advance the unit in terms of levels and abilities. Dawn of War 2 uses the Essence Engine 2.0, version 1.0 was used in the Company of Heroes Series.
DiRT 2 is the first game to offer basic DirectX 11 features, even though they are very limited, the title has been used extensively by AMD to market their DX11 products. The game features a large number of different racing events all over the world with tracks ranging from off-road, over stadiums to complex city courses. We chose not to benchmark DX 11 at this time because the number of DX11 effects is not worth the performance hit. Our other benchmark F1 2010 uses the same engine with additional DirectX 11 features that are worth it.
Formula One 2010
F1 2010 is an official implementation of the Formula One 2010 season with accurate teams, drivers and cars. One highlight of the game are the extensive realism options and the detailed weather effects. You pick a driver and get to race over several seasons, constantly improving your skill and trying to impress the big teams to score a contract with them to enjoy the faster car to race for the world championship. The game is based on an improved Dirt 2 engine and features the latest in DirectX 11 technology. We used the highest details setting for our testing.
Far Cry 2
Four years after the success of Far Cry, Ubisoft has published the sequel called Far Cry 2
. While the first part was set on an island, Far Cry 2 takes you deep into Africa with game play that resembles Grand Theft Auto much more than the original Far Cry, which was a classical 3D shooter. Ubisoft engineered a completely new 3D engine called "Dunia" which offers a large amount of popular features like DirectX 9 and DirectX 10 support, destructible environments, physics and non-scripted AI while not being as much of a resource hog as Crytek's CryEngine. We tested the Ranch Medium level at DirectX 10 with highest details.
Tom Clancy's HAWX
Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X.
is one of the very few recent flight simulator games on the market. Being a console conversion it emphasizes "flight" more than "simulator". It is set in a near future in which private military companies have begun fighting conflicts for nations with their own military gear. You are playing an elite pilot who was recruited by such a private company. During the game you get to fly over 50 different aircrafts, ranging from the MIG 21 to the mighty F22 Raptor. One notable feature of its engine is the use of GeoEye satellite imagery for terrain generation which offers one of the most realistic incarnations of battlefield terrain available today.
Metro 2033 is a first-person shooter game that is set in a post apocalyptic Moscow - as the name suggests inside the metro system. You will fight mutants or other humans who like to take away your shelter. The game has many gameplay elements similar to STALKER, also the engine has similar features. This is because two STALKER engine programmers left GSC Game World and started their own company which is now making Metro 2033.
The engine has support for all the latest eye candy like DirectX 11 and Tesselation. Unfortunately it leaves a less than optimized impression, making it a candidate to surpass Crysis for the highest hardware requirements. We tested in DirectX 11 mode with details set to "Very High".
The Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena
The Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena
is a first person shooter game set in a far future. You are Riddick, a notorious space criminal played by Vin Diesel in the movies. Dark Athena continues where Escape from Butcher Bay ended. A major aspect of the game is its tactical use of shadows and stealth so that enemies can't detect you. Vin Diesel's voice acting also adds greatly to the game experience.
S.T.A.L.K.E.R. - Clear Sky
STALKER Clear Sky
is GSC Gameworld's prequel to the 2007 hit "STALKER". Just like in the first part the game is set around the Russian area of Chernobyl and Pripyat, most well known for the nuclear accident that occurred there. You play the role of a mercenary who spends his days in The Zone trying to make a living. The Zone is an area which is affected by so-called anomalies which cause mutants to appear and laws of physics to change. While you investigate these anomalies the plot leads up to the events that happened right before the first game starts. A new in-game faction system encourages you to befriend various groups in The Zone in exchange for information or items. While the graphics of Clear Sky are based on the first Stalker game engine, there are numerous improvements, including support for DirectX10 and depth-of-field/volumetric effects.
Supreme Commander 2
Supreme Commander 2
is a real-time strategy game by Gas Powered Games who also designed the first part of the series which features epic battles between hundreds of units. Compared to the second part the number of different units and buildings has been reduced, as well as changes to the tech tree and a general reduction of map size.
Even though the engine is DirectX 9, it features state of the art global illumination and handles even large numbers of objects and effects with decent speed.
Unreal Tournament 3
The fourth game in Epic's highly successful Unreal Tournament Series is simply called Unreal Tournament 3
. It is based on the Unreal 3 engine which is a major step forward from the previous engine. The game principle is centered about an arena style gameplay where several contestants try to reach a certain kill count or capture a flag for example. For its time, the graphics were top notch, with large and detailed textures. Unreal Tournament 3 is an important benchmark because its engine has been used in a large number of other titles, and there are even some in development using it. One major drawback of the way the engine is designed is that there is no support for Anti-Aliasing.
is the number one player in the world of synthetic benchmarking. The 3DMark series is the most popular test suite for video card testing and is used by gamers, overclockers and manufacturers alike to determine how fast their hardware is. Even though it is a few years old, 3DMark03 can easily stress today's video cards.
Another benchmark from Futuremark
is 3DMark05 which comes with four completely new game tests that make massive use of shaders and lighting effects. 3DMark05 is a great test for modern video card architectures - in some tests you are often close to the 30 fps mark, below which your games will feel sluggish.
Even though it's based on Futuremark's 3DMark05, the new 3DMark06 adds new tests for Shader Model 3.0 and HDR rendering. It is also the first 3DMark to incorporate a CPU score into the final 3DMark score. All tests have received an overhaul, for example in the Canyon Flight test you can now see beautiful sun glare effects with the help of High Dynamic Range rendering.
Unigine Heaven 2.0
Unigine Heaven was one of the first demos that supported DirectX 11. Heaven is a technology demonstration for Unigine engine which supports DirectX 9 through 11 and OpenGL too. Version 2.0 adds more scenes and optionally more complex tesselation features. While there is some controversy surrounding the benchmark whether it is an accurate representation of what to expect from future games in regards to DirectX 11 we still chose it as test to get an insight into potential future gaming.
For this graph we took the data from all individual benchmark runs and aggregated it into a single result. Cards that do not support DX11 were given a score according to their performance in all other non-DX11 tests, which means cards were not penalized for not having DirectX 11 support. Each tested card was compared to the performance it delivered with the launch driver (or the first driver that was available for the Windows 7 platform).
AMD's latest Catalyst 10.12 drivers bring solid performance improvements across the board for the HD 5870 series, the HD 4870 sees almost no gains. AMD highlights two new features in their drivers. One is support for OpenGL 4.1. At the moment there is no consumer application that uses that API version, so unless you are a developer working with OpenGL 4.1 this won't be of any use to you. The new DivX GPU accelerated video decoder might be more useful, even though most video content you'll come across online nowadays is in H.264 or XVID format. Nevertheless, the download provides a DivX codec, so you can continue using your favourite media playback software and won't be locked into using one that you don't like.