Three Different Catalyst A.I. Settings
There's another variable to test: the Catalyst Control Center’s texture filtering quality setting, part of the Catalyst A.I. slider.
We tested the Radeon HD 7870 and Radeon HD 6970 using all three Catalyst A.I. settings exposed in the driver panel: Performance, Quality (the default setting), and High Quality.
Very interestingly, the Radeon HD 7870's output improves a lot at the High Quality setting, approaching a texture detail level close to the Radeon HD 6000 series at its default Quality setting. Also, the Radeon HD 6970's texture quality at its Performance setting drops close to what the Radeon HD 7870 looks like by default, but doesn’t change that much between Quality and High Quality.
Now we know the texture filtering quality setting gives us some control over AMD's problem. It's good that the Radeon HD 7000s can be made to look better through altered driver settings, though it's disturbing that the latest cards require tweaks in order to achieve the image quality of previous-generation cards. Naturally, we're inclined to question the performance impact of bumping the Catalyst A.I. setting to High Quality, and that's what we'll test next.