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Do New Drivers Really Boost Performance?

Radeon HD 4870 CrossFire: Driver Update From 8.6 to 8.8

If you believe the conjecture, the Catalyst 8.8 driver should introduce a considerable performance improvement in CrossFire mode. Particularly when it comes to communication between two graphics cards, ATI is able to optimize in many games.

Assassins Creed in fps12800xAA16800xAA19200xAA12804xAA16804xAA19204xAAOverall
HD 4870 CF (512 MB) 8.656.056.056.842.343.443.7298.2
HD 4870 CF (512 MB) 8.855.455.956.742.642.142.9295.6
Difference in performance in percentage-1.1-0.2-0.20.7-3.0-1.8-0.9

The new graphics driver doesn’t appear to increase the frame rates.

Call of Duty 4 in fps12800xAA16800xAA19200xAA12804xAA16804xAA19204xAAOverall
HD 4870 CF (512 MB) 8.6146.9135.4125.7129.6118.3111.7767.6
HD 4870 CF (512 MB) 8.8147.5140.0129.6135.4116.8107.3776.6
Difference in performance in percentage0.43.43.14.5-1.3-3.91.2

The fluctuations are a little more extreme, but they’re in the tolerance region for driver optimizations.

Crysis High in fps12800xAA16800xAA19200xAA12804xAA16804xAA19204xAAOverall
HD 4870 CF (512 MB) 8.629.627.427.024.421.820.7150.9
HD 4870 CF (512 MB) 8.829.325.826.724.221.320.4147.7
Difference in performance in percentage-1.0-5.8-1.1-0.8-2.3-1.4-2.1

Again, we aren’t seeing any appreciable gain after updating to the Catalyst 8.8 driver set. In fact, these losses are generally with a reasonable margin of error.

Crysis Very High in fps12800xAA16800xAA19200xAA12804xAA16804xAA19204xAAOverall
HD 4870 CF (512 MB) 8.627.625.022.422.119.114.5130.7
HD 4870 CF (512 MB) 8.826.724.820.922.018.012.9125.3
Difference in performance in percentage-3.3-0.8-6.7-0.5-5.8-11.0-4.1

The new graphics driver sinks the frame rates in Very High setting and in some of the higher resolutions by six percent to 11 percent.

ET: Quake Wars in fps12800xAA16800xAA19200xAA12804xAA16804xAA19204xAAOverall
HD 4870 CF (512 MB) 8.659.957.854.258.155.152.9338.0
HD 4870 CF (512 MB) 8.765.065.665.262.662.762.5383.6
Difference in performance in percentage8.513.520.37.713.818.113.5

The use of the Catalyst 8.7 instead of the Catalyst 8.8 unfortunately meant using different graphics drivers in this test versus the others, which you wouldn’t typically do in the real world. As a result, the considerable performance gain of up to 20 percent is interesting to observe, though it’s still a shame we weren’t able to provide comparative numbers for 8.8.

Half-Life 2 Episode 2 in fps12800xAA16800xAA19200xAA12804xAA16804xAA19204xAAOverall
HD 4870 CF (512 MB) 8.6103.297.798.0102.697.596.2595.2
HD 4870 CF (512 MB) 8.8104.799.598.3102.599.097.1601.1
Difference in performance in percentage1.51.80.3-0.11.50.91.0

Half-Life 2 Episode 2 displays no performance increase due to the driver update.

Mass Effect in fps12800xAA16800xAA19200xAA12804xAA16804xAA19204xAA12808xAA16808xAA19208xAAOverall
HD 4870 CF (512 MB) 8.693.291.890.989.686.874.088.986.072.2773.4
HD 4870 CF (512 MB) 8.892.691.789.387.386.274.788.084.072.7766.5
Difference in performance in percentage-0.6-0.1-1.8-2.6-0.70.9-1.0-2.30.7-0.9

The results lie within the measurement tolerance; no improvement can be seen.

MS Flight Simulator X SP2 in fps12800xAA16800xAA19200xAA12804xAA16804xAA19204xAAOverall
HD 4870 CF (512 MB) 8.624.324.524.925.325.225.3149.5
HD 4870 CF (512 MB) 8.824.524.924.424.625.024.7148.1
Difference in performance in percentage0.81.6-2.0-2.8-0.8-2.4-0.9

Here, again, there are no improvement or losses worth mentioning; the values lie within the margin for error.

World in Conflict in fps12800xAA16800xAA19200xAA12804xAA16804xAA19204xAAOverall
HD 4870 CF (512 MB) 8.646.948.147.046.446.444.6279.4
HD 4870 CF (512 MB) 8.846.046.945.643.446.043.2271.1
Difference in performance in percentage-1.9-2.5-3.0-6.5-0.9-3.1-3.0

The driver update generates a minor loss in performance, apart from the -6.5 percent in the 1280 resolution (4xAA); other fluctuations can be considered measuring tolerances.

  • pcgamer12
    Great article.
    Reply
  • cangelini
    LedrosTo bad you used 8.8 drivers instead of the 8.9 ones. Real smart people.
    This is observed in the piece and should not affect performance.
    Reply
  • curnel_D
    Lol.
    Reply
  • neiroatopelcc
    SoulLance"Unfortunately for AMD and its customers, the PowerPlay optimization for energy-efficient 2D operation is not included in the Catalyst 8.8 driver for the Radeon HD 4870. Quake Wars refuses to start using the Catalyst 8.8, but it works fine with the Catalyst 8.6 and 8.7."But neither should comments like this appear when everyone on the planet reads a labels that clearly say "Use latest drivers from manufacturer".
    Can you please translate this into english?
    I have no idea what you mean to say with your comment, other than the obvious (that you disagree on some level with the article)
    Reply
  • randomizer
    He's saying you shouldn't criticise newer drivers because most hardware and software packaging has a label, or a section in the manual, telling you to use the latest drivers. So latest = best as far as he is concerned.
    Reply
  • In reference to overclocking graphics cards, I'm pretty sure that XFX card warranties cover overclocking to some degree, though you'd have to double check their warranty fine print.
    Reply
  • neiroatopelcc
    SneppyIn reference to overclocking graphics cards, I'm pretty sure that XFX card warranties cover overclocking to some degree, though you'd have to double check their warranty fine print.Having had experience with two failing xfx cards (both 8800gtx's actually), I've got to warn you though, that their warranty is a bit fictional. While they may actually cover broken products, you can easily risk waiting months for a replacement.
    Proof of my claim in case someone unexpectedly doubts it : http://www.opel.cc/xfx8800gtx/xfx.htm
    That was the first failing card. The second I haven't even bothered sending in, and just bought an 4870 instead of waiting months.
    Reply
  • cryogenic
    We all know there were cases in the past when "Newer drivers provided substantial performance improvements" in various applications or games. Analyzing performance with a few select driver sets can can't lead to the conclusion that drivers are irrelevant, or that from a "professional" stand point the latest drivers shouldn't be chosen.
    Reply
  • randomizer
    CryogenicAnalyzing performance with a few select driver sets can can't lead to the conclusion that drivers are irrelevantBut it can lead to the conclusion that current drivers are irrelevant, or rather less relevant.
    Reply
  • cryogenic
    randomizer
    That's a good,true and useful conclusion, but it's not a general one, only specific to this particular set of drivers.
    Reply