Of course, it doesn’t really do us much good to preview any of those features, seeing as the driver is publically available. However, we do have an early version of Catalyst 10.3, expected in March, which offers some unique functionality of its own.
ATI Catalyst Mobility: Hallelujah, right? For a while now, Nvidia has offered direct updates for its mobile hardware. Now that ATI has the only DirectX 11-compliant notebook-capable GPUs, it was only a matter of time before enthusiasts buying Mobility Radeon-based laptops started raising hell over the slow process most OEMs use in validating new driver updates. Starting with Catalyst 10.3, ATI says it’ll offer support for all Mobility GPUs, so long as the system builder doesn’t opt out of support. Currently, Sony, Toshiba, and Fujitsu are asking that their products not be updated by the new drivers.
Eyefinity Bezel Correction: We understand that ATI is likely previewing some of these features as a preemptive strike against support already-announced by Nvidia in its own forthcoming driver drop.
Bezel correction is a good thing. Rather than have your mouse jump from one display to the next as you move between monitors, bezel correction makes it seem as though the plastic edges are part of a larger screen—like the frame in an airplane’s cockpit. Instead, your mouse disappears behind the bezel, reappearing when you pass the distance covered up by the edge of the display.
We were able to get this feature working on the Windows desktop, and it behaved as-expected. Setting this to work in a game actually requires selecting the non-standard resolution presented by the Catalyst Control Center (we were seeing something like 6047x1200). We gave it a shot in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, but uninstalling/reinstalling the driver to test cratered DisplayPort output on our Radeon HD 5850, so we can't give you a screenshot of the feature in action.
Eyefinity Technology Per Display Control: I’m lucky enough to be using a Radeon HD 5850 with three identical displays. However, the technology isn’t designed so that you have to do this—you can easily use three different panels. Of course, getting a comparable image across the three displays is important, so it’s good to see ATI enabling per-display control, even when all three screens are in an Eyefinity Display Group.
Multiple Display Groups: Soon (we hope), we’ll be seeing six-display configurations from a single card. Catalyst 10.3 will let you create multiple Eyefinity groups (3x1 and 3x1, for example, if you have a 3x2 setup in front of you).
Display Configuration Switching: Using profiles, the 10.3 driver should allow you to swap between modes with hotkeys. The significance here is that, when you’re gaming, you want to be running 5760x1200 (or whatever your triple-display resolution ends up being). But on the Windows desktop, it’s better to use Microsoft’s built-in Desktops tool, which lets you maximize each window to the monitor containing it. At 5760x1200, you instead maximize to the full Display Group. We were able to fiddle with HydraVision, set up grids across the three screens, and roughly emulate this behavior, it’s still far from ideal when you’re in productivity mode.
3D Stereoscopic Driver Hooks: This is ATI’s first driver to support stereoscopic technology, though third-party vendors like iZ3D have worked with the company’s cards for years. ATI says its Direct3D driver is now able to output stereo images at 120 Hz—a capability that it didn’t have before. But because Nvidia has the dominant momentum in this segment (which seemed to really generate excitement at CES), ATI is undoubtedly anxious to get its own implementation off the ground. Consider Catalyst 10.3 the groundwork; there’s really nothing else to show off or discuss at this point.
There you have it. If you were previously waiting for CrossFire enabled in an Eyefinity configuration, regularly-updated Mobility drivers, or bezel correction, ATI has been listening and is addressing those requests either with 10.2 or the upcoming 10.3 release. No word yet on when the GDI-based performance improvements we previewed yesterday will make it into the Catalyst suite, but we won’t forget about that one, and will let you know when the time comes.