ATI Radeon X800XL 512MB & Catalyst 5.6 Driver Update

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Catalyst Driver Updates

The roadmap that ATI recently provided to us, shows that they will be incrementally updating the Catalyst software suite over the next three months with features that will affect the interface, its performance, 3D gaming performance, and video acceleration.

ATI Catalyst 5.6 Driver Suite
Undergoing some changes for the better



The Catalyst v5.6 drivers that we used for part of this review bring with them some enhancements to the interface, as well as some speed improvements.  The Catalyst Control Center specifically has been optimized to launch faster and be more responsive to user requests.  We did some testing with the new CCC and found that it did load a bit faster than older versions, but could not replicate the 1.5 seconds that ATI claims in their presentation.  It took more like 3-5 seconds for us on a machine that had a clean installation of Windows.  The various menus within CCC did feel more responsive though.  When making changes to various settings, clicking "Apply" didn't result in a multi-second delay like it did with previous versions of CCC.  The Catalyst v5.6 drivers also have some enhancements meant to increase 3D performance in certain applications.  These enhancements include:

Doom 3
• More efficient memory usage

Chronicles of Riddick
• More efficient storage of vertex data

• Found way to leverage Doom 3 optimizations – increases efficiency

Halo, 3DMark05, TR: AOD, AM3
• Z-optimizations – removing un-seen pixels before running through pixel shaders

Lock On: Modern Air Combat
• CATALYST AI – enables texture compression with no visual impact (cloud textures)

Other than the optimizations listed above, the Catalyst v5.6 drivers also have enhanced WMV acceleration to further reduce CPU utilization, and they include new visual cues built-into the driver panels that display how each setting affects video playback. ATI is also unveiling a new Linux installer that'll make installing their drivers under Linux much easier and user friendly, and interface enhancements for Windows Media Center Edition.

Coming a little later with the Catalyst v5.7 (July) and v5.8 drivers (August), ATI has a new CCC wizard on the way, to make configuring the driver easier for less experiences users, they're adding improved HDTV support for DVI and components outputs, HyperMemory support for 64MB and 128MB boards, CCC on 64-bit Windows support, and multi-GPU specific features to compliment upcoming CrossFire enabled boards.

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