Benchmark Results: DiRT 3 And F1 2012 Problems
DiRT 3 has a history of being more easily bottlenecked on platforms backed by AMD graphics solutions. That's why we thought nothing of it when we saw low performance numbers from this title in Xotic PC NP9150: Striking Back At Kepler With Radeon HD 7970M. It turned out, however, that DiRT 3 was suffering from AMD's Enduro graphics bug.
We installed AMD's Catalyst 12.11 Beta 3 build and immediately saw significantly higher average frame rates, giving us a good indication of just how driver-limited the original driver from Clevo really was.
When we really tax the graphics subsystem with DiRT's Ultra quality preset and 8x MSAA, the Radeon HD 7970M stomps Nvidia's GeForce GTX 675M.
But then we stumble across another problem. We're in the process of updating our testing suite from an old set of games, which included DiRT, to a new set, which includes F1 2012. For some reason, Enduro doesn't work with Digital Storm's configuration and F1 2012 using the original Clevo driver, Catalyst 12.11 Beta 3, or even Beta 4. We know it worked on a different notebook using the same driver from Clevo, so the problem appears specific to this platform. In essence, when we configure the game to run on AMD's graphics module, the game tries to launch, is visible as a running process consuming resources, but never shows up.
For now, the solution in F1 2012 is to run the game from Intel's HD Graphics 4000 engine. That's good enough to get us through 1280x720 using the High quality preset. But of course, anything more demanding is simply unplayable.
Also, you'll notice that we mentioned the Beta 4 build of AMD's Catalyst 12.11 driver, but tested using Beta 3. The newer version was unstable on this hardware, and became increasingly unstable over time. Fortunately, the latest Beta 8 release gets us back to Beta 3 performance levels without the stability issues of Beta 4.