New AMD Catalyst 10.6 Drivers Improve Video Playback, Gaming Performance - HotHardware
New AMD Catalyst 10.6 Drivers Improve Video Playback, Gaming Performance

New AMD Catalyst 10.6 Drivers Improve Video Playback, Gaming Performance

AMD is poised to release a new Catalyst drive package, v10.6, that incorporates a number of new features and performance enhancements. While there are a handful of game-specific performance enhancements, it's the new video-related features that are potentially the most interesting.

Here is a breakdown of the new features available in the Catalyst 10.6 display driver release, snapped directly from the release notes:

GPU acceleration of H.264 video content using Adobe Flash Player 10.1

  • AMD GPU acceleration of Adobe Flash Player 10.1 delivers smooth high definition video playback and reduces system resource utilization
  • Adobe Flash Player 10.1 can be accelerated on notebook and desktop platforms featuring AMD graphics including:
    • ATI Radeon HD 5000 and ATI Radeon HD 4000 series
    • ATI Mobility ATI Radeon HD 400 series (and higher)
    • ATI Radeon HD 3000 series integrated graphics (and higher)

Video De-blocking support

  • Reduces blocking artifacts seen in low-bit rate video during playback
  • Supported on the ATI Radeon HD 5000 Series of products

Mosquito noise reduction

  • Reduces mosquito noise seen in highly compressed progressive video, during playback
  • Supported on the ATI Radeon HD 5000 Series of products

Official support for OpenGL 4.0 and OpenGL 3.3

  • ATI Catalyst 10.6 delivers official support for OpenGL 4.0 on the ATI Radeon HD 5000 Series
  • ATI Catalyst 10.6 delivers official support for OpenGL 3.3 on the ATI Radeon HD Series

 

Some older revisions of AMD's Catalyst driver suite supported GPU acceleration of H.264 video using the Adobe Flash Player 10.1 beta as well, to offload video processing to the GPU, but this new release also offers enhanced playback quality when video post-processing features are enabled.

 

On a related note, a number of new features have also been incorporated into the drivers that enhance the image quality of HD video. With the Catalyst 10.6 driver release, most Radeon HD 5000 series cards will offer improved cadence detection and dynamic contrast, and skin tone correction, in addition to new video post-processing features which include Mosquito Noise Reduction and Deblocking of compression artifacts.

To assess how these new features affect the image quality of SD and HD video, we fired up the latest version of the HQV benchmark (v2.0) and compared the performance of an ATI Radeon HD 5850 to an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 470.

Both cards offered excellent performance in the benchmark (a perfect score is 210), but the Radeon HD 5850 came out on top, thanks mostly it the Radeon's superior performance in the Upscaled Compression Artifacts and Skin Tone Correction tests. Although, like earlier versions of this benchmark, we suspect future driver updates from all of the major players are likely to level the playing field somewhat. We should note, however, that a particular GPU's performance in HQV 2.0 is partially determined by its compute performance, because some of the enhancement algorithms uses the GPU's stream processors. That means, lower-end discrete GPU with fewer stream processors won't be able to churn through as much data as a higher-end part. And the same goes for IGPs.

To obtain the scores you see here, we had to manually adjust a few settings in both AMD's and NVIDIA's driver control panels, namely those related to noise reduction, to increase the amount of reduction performed on each scene. We're told, however, that the optimized settings will be default in the next Catalyst drive release.

Gaming Improvements
We're sure many of you would like to know which gaming titles are improved with the Catalyst 10.6 drivers as well, so we've ripped that data from the release notes as well. According to AMD, the following performance gains are offered with the Catalyst 10.6 drivers:

3DMark Vantage

  • Overall scores improve up to 5% on a single ATI Radeon HD 5970

Batman: Arkham Asylum

  • Performance improves up to 5% on CrossFire ATI Radeon HD 5800 Series products
  • Performance improves up to 10% on CrossFire ATI Radeon HD 5970 configurations

Aliens vs. Predator DirectX 11 Benchmark

  • Performance improves up to 4% on CrossFire ATI Radeon HD 5800 Series products
  • Performance improves up to 10% on CrossFire ATI Radeon HD 5970 configurations
  • Performance improves up to 3% on CrossFire ATI Radeon HD 5700 Series products

Company of Heroes – DX10

  • Performance improves up to 7% on CrossFire ATI Radeon HD 5800 Series products
  • Performance improves up to 5% with single card and CrossFire ATI Radeon HD 5970 configurations

Crysis Warhead

  • CrossFire performance improves by up to 7% on ATI Radeon HD 5000 Series products

DiRT 2 – DX9

  • Performance improves up to 10% on single card ATI Radeon HD 5800 Series products
  • Performance improves up to 10% on single card ATI Radeon HD 5970 configurations
  • Performance improves up to 4% on single card ATI Radeon HD 5700 Series products

The Chronicles of Riddick - Assault on Dark Athena

  • Performance improves up to 15% on CrossFire ATI Radeon HD 5800 Series products
  • Performance improves up to 13% on CrossFire and single card ATI Radeon HD 5970 configurations
  • Performance improves up to 8% on CrossFire ATI Radeon HD 5700 Series products

Unigine Tropics

  • CrossFire performance improves by up to 8% on ATI Radeon HD 5000 Series products

World in Conflict

  • Performance improves up to 6% on CrossFire ATI Radeon HD 5800 Series products
  • Performance improves up to 8% on CrossFire and single card ATI Radeon HD 5970 configurations

Wolfenstein

  • Performance improves up to 18% on CrossFire ATI Radeon HD 5800 Series products
  • Performance improves up to 18% on CrossFire and single card ATI Radeon HD 5970 configurations
  • Performance improves up to 11% on CrossFire ATI Radeon HD 5700 Series products

The Catalyst 10.6 drivers should be posted on AMD.com very soon, if they're not available already, should you want to check them out for yourselves.

 

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According to the reports I read on another board, the 10.6 Linux drivers are mostly a step backwards. Some things are faster, due to shared use of code written for Direct2D, but there are many regressions/failures. The drivers don't even work at all (seg faults and such) for some people that were using 10.5.

I went to download the new ones yesterday, but the download link still came up with the 10.5 drivers. At least they were called 10.5 in two places. Oddly, the "name" field in their download table said they were version "10.3". Today, the link has just returned "An error occurred while processing your request. Reference #97.2cfaead1.1276812651.323ef2f " all day long.

Also, I read that the new drivers still do not support newer XOrg versions.

It all just adds up to make me think that AMDs not very serious about supporting alternate operating systems. I realize they probably only have a couple of (talented) guys and can't test with the multitude of distros that are out there.... but somehow nVidia's proprietary drivers work much better and the native installer never trashes your system.

I'll stop ranting now. I wish I could say something more encouraging to the ATI guys, but my own experiences with the drivers have been very unpleasant.

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ATI Catalyst 10.7 will be release really soon.

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