ATi's New "Catalyst" Software Package
Improved Performance, Reliability & More!

By, Jeff Bouton
June 13, 2002

More on the Drivers

Both the Options screen and Monitor control screens have undergone a few changes as well.  The Option screen has a "Details" button that allows access to detailed information about the type of Radeon installed and it's drivers. 

The monitor screen, on the other hand, offers an increased variety of available settings depending on the type of monitor that is connected to the video card.

HotHardware Test Systems
AthlonXP All the Way!!


MSI KT3 Ultra-ARU  KT333 Motherboard
AMD AthlonXP 1900+.

512MB Corsair XMS2400 (2-2-2-5-2)

2 IBM ATA100 7200RPM 82GB HD

Radeon All-In-Wonder 8500

Creative 52X CD-ROM

Standard Floppy Drive

Windows XP Professional

DirectX 8.1

ATI Display Drivers Ver.

ATI Multimedia Center 7.6

ATI Display Drivers Ver.

ATI Multimedia Center 7.7

We thought that we might run a few tests to see how much of an improvement, if any, the new drivers made on Direct3D performance.  ATi has mentioned that there have been some improvement in benchmarks optimized for performance, particularly at higher resolutions.  So we thought we'd run a few quick tests to see what advantages could be gained with the newer versus the  Why no OpenGL you ask?  To date, the drivers included in the Catalyst package have only implemented changes to enhance Direct3D performance.  This isn't to say that our OpenGL friends have been left out of the mix.  ATi has made it clear in their documentation that future updates are planned that would help improve OpenGL performance as well.  For now though, we loaded up both 3DMark2001SE and Comanche4 and let them ride at a couple of popular resolutions.  Before getting started, we went into both drivers and optimized their settings for "performance" rather than "quality" and were sure to disable v-sync.

MadOnion's 3DMark2001

The first bout of tests we ran were with MadOnion's 3DMark2001SE at both 1024x768 and 1600x1200.  We ran the benchmark with the original drivers, then we ran them again with the updated drivers included in the Catalyst software package.

At 1024x768 we saw a gain of 179 points, an increase of just over 2%.  At 1600x1200, the difference was even greater, widening the gap slightly to 182 points, an increase of 3.3%.  We're not talking about stellar gains here, but it certainly was a welcome improvement.

NovaLogic's Comanche4:

Next we ran NovaLogic's Comanche4, an excellent DirectX 8 benchmark that makes a video card really work for it's FPS.  Let's take a look and see how the scores compared with the newer drivers.

With Comanche4 we saw a greater improvement with the newer drivers when compared to the earlier test.  At 1024x768, the updated drivers boosted performance just shy of 7%, while at 1600x1200 performance increased almost 2%.  These are only a few quick tests to show what gains can be expected with the new drivers from ATi.  The best part is that with the new customizable settings in the drivers, users should be able to hone a card's performance just they way they like it.

We must admit, at first we had reservations as to how good this new Catalyst software would be.  However, after taking a brief look at the changes that the Catalyst software has implemented, we don't have the same doubts we started with.  ATi has produced what appears to be an excellent update to their software and drivers package with improved stability, features, and performance.  We are particularly interested in how well the SmartGart function is going to perform over time.  If it lives up to ATi's claims, then there is going to be a major increase in the amount of satisfied ATi customers.

We think expanding the capabilities of the Remote Wonder was an excellent idea. we've been using it with our Radeon All-In-Wonder 8500 for a while now and find it to be a terrific add-on component to the Radeon 8500.  Let us be clear, though, you don't need a Radeon card to utilize the Remote Wonder!  You can pick one up for around $50 at the ATi website, a great idea for someone who needs to give presentations on a regular basis.

When it comes right down to it, the improved driver control panels and the inclusion of the new SmartGart diagnostic utility are the real winners here.  Making the software easier to use while increasing reliability and performance is where the real benefits of the Catalyst software lie.  The best way for you to decide is to go and see for yourself what ATi has done.


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