ATi Radeon X700 XT - ATi's Answer To The GeForce 6600

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Drivers - Catalyst Control Center & Catalyst A.I.

 

We're not going to spend too much time on the driver section of our X700 showcase.  Recently ATi released a fully integrated and feature-rich control interface to its Catalyst driver suite.  We go into a fair amount of detail in our recent showcase article that we launched in early September.  For a refresh on what Catalyst Control Center (or "CCC" as we like to call it here) has to offer, please see this HotHardware.com article for the full showcase.

ATi Catalyst Control Center With "Catalyst A.I."
Application-specific optimization - Not dirty words anymore

However, along with the launch of the X700 series cards, ATi is also unveiling a new feature within its CCC software suite called Catalyst A.I.  In a sense, Catalyst A.I. is representative of something that NVIDIA took a lot of heat for not long ago when the press discovered at the time that the NVIDIA driver team was making some very aggressive game engine-specific optimizations at the expense of image quality. 

ATi's new Catalyst A.I. allows the ATi driver team to implement application or game engine-specific optimizations, detect when a game engine executable file is initiated, and then apply those optimizations on the fly.  The driver also has a new "texture analyzer" algorithm that  looks at image texture content as it is being loaded and subsequently determines the best image quality path along with the fastest way to render it.


3D Tools With Catalyst A.I.

Displays

Display Options

Overdrive

VPU Recover

Video

If you look at the full-view image of the 3D Tools driver control panel above, you'll notice a new slider underneath ATi's SmoothVision anti-aliasing and anisotropic filtering sliders.  With Catalyst A.I. enabled and at the "low" setting, ATi's more modest AA and Aniso Filtering algorithms are being used to drive a scene's image quality.  At the high setting, the drivers will run a new, more complex algorithm that will detect and apply the best combination of texture filtering and anti-aliasing techniques for optimal image quality and speed.   In some cases, in certain game engines such as Doom 3, even shader tweaks and replacements can occur. Currently detected game engines are Doom 3, UT2003 and UT2004, the upcoming Half Life 2 game engine, Splinter Cell, Race Driver, Prince of Persia, and Crazy Taxi 3.

ATi informed us that with Doom 3, Catalyst A.I. actually detects the game engine and replaces a lighting shader with a more efficient ATi optimized shader that supposedly provides identical image quality.  ATi also recommends the low setting for systems with slower CPUs and the high setting for a fast CPU, since these new, more complex rendering aglorithms are a bit more host-CPU intensive.

And of course, to put your mind at ease, we've taken a bunch of screen shots with Catalyst A.I. on and off, to see the image quality that is being rendered in both cases.  We've also prepared a few benchmark numbers to go with them, just for good measure.


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