More Features and Preliminary Performance
Although it will be a separate download, ATI’s HydraVision software is also coming to Windows Vista users with the Catalyst v8.3 release. HydraVision lets users easily manage the on-screen placement of applications with defined grids for single or multi-monitor configurations.
The hotkey manager that was previously available with XP will now available on Vista. It offers the ability to configure multiple virtual desktops, and configure applications for those individual virtual desktops. Wizards will also be available within CCC for novice uses to take advantage of HydraVision as well.
There is also a new GPU scaling feature coming with Catalyst v8.3. This new feature gives users the ability to use GPU accelerated scaling for wide aspect LCD displays, instead of allowing the panel to scale images from non-native resolutions. There is also a new setting labeled “Maintain aspect ratio” that improves the display resolution image quality, when GPU scaling is enabled, by maintaining the wide panel aspect ratio.
Finally, there are some new AVIVO-related features to talk about and some information regarding the Folding @ Home project. Previous versions of ATI’s Catalyst drivers offered edge enhancement and noise reduction during video playback, but the settings were either on or off. No control was given to end-users to tweak the algorithms. With Catalyst v8.3 though, users can now tweak the level of noise reduction or edge enhancement using simple sliders from within the control panel.
And fans of the Folding @ Home project will also be happy to know that performance enhancements from the F@H client are coming as well. There is a new GPU accelerated Folding @ Home client in the works that will be compatible with the Catalyst v8.3 drives, and new revisions. The new client offers improvements in compute performance with Radeon HD 2600 series on up to the HD 3000 series. Although it likely won’t be ready to launch alongside the Catalyst v8.3 drivers, it should be available for download sometime in mid to late March.
Although we’ve only had a very short time with these drivers (think less than 24 hours), we thought you’d like to see what kind of performance improvements were available moving from one, to two, to three and then four GPUs. We did some quick and dirty testing with two applications, 3DMark06 and Half Life 2: Episode Two.
Unfortunately, even though we ran the tests at 1920x1200, one was CPU limited and didn’t scale massively and the other didn’t work well with quad-GPUs. Of course, it was the final test we had to run that gave us issues, but such is life.
As you can see, 3DMark06’s performance improved by 55.9% with a second GPU installed. With a third-GPU in the system, performance increased by 67.8% over a single GPU. And with a fourth GPU added to the mix, performance went up by 71.4%.
Our custom Half Life 2: Episode 2 benchmark was set to tell a more impressive story before we ran into issues. Performance in this game went up by 82% moving from one GPU to two. Then increased by 152% with a third GPU, before stalling with a fourth. We should note, ATI’s internal benchmarks show additional scaling in this game with a fourth GPU, but we didn’t have any luck on our test machine.
If you own an ATI-based graphics card, AMD has a lot in store for you in the next few weeks with the Catalyst v8.3 driver suite, and additional performance scaling that’s likely to come in the future. We think that all of the new features coming to Catalyst v8.3 add value to ATI’s existing line-up. Now let's hope that things are also going to get better performance-wise, as the team optimizes their product for DX10 and OpenGL applications in the future.