So I've been figuring this out for half the day while working on another review and I think I've gotten it down. I'm testing out the Catalyst 13-04 drivers against the ones that were least released for the HD6000 generation - 12-10. I've never had reason to install the new ones since most of the time things went swimmingly.
However, sometimes drivers do make things better and I'll put up my results so far. This is just the result of a day's testing and it's nothing extensive. I did find one interesting benefit from the drivers, though. I won't post up FPS averages for now, just the latency graphs. I'm still working out how to show things like the 99th percentile and **** like that, so this is a work in progress. I can sort of do scatter graphs as well, but I'm terrible at it.
Component: Model: Speed: Processor AMD Athlon II X3 445 3.1GHz RAM 4GB Hynix and Kingston DDR3-1333 Motherboard ECS A785GM-AD3 HT2000 Graphics card AMD Radeon HD6870 1GB 900MHz core, 1050MHz VRAM Operating System Windows 8 Professional 64-bit
Borderlands 2: Settings: Framerate Unlimited Resolution 1920 x 1080 Ambient Occlusion On Depth of Field On Anisotropic Filtering 4x Bullet Decals High Foliage Distance Far Texture Quality High Game Detail High View Distance High Physc Low FXAA Off
DiRT 3: Settings: Resolution 1920 x 1080 Refresh rate 74Hz VSync Off Night Lighting High Shadows High Particles High Mirrors High Characters High Ground Cover High Distant Vehicles High Objects High Trees High Vehicle Reflections High Water High Post Process High Skidmarks On Ambient Occlusion High Cloth High
Crysis 3: Settings: Resolution 1920 x 1080 Anti-Aliasing SMAA Low Texture Resolution Low VSync Off Game Effects Medium Objects Low Particles Low Shading Medium Shadows Low Water Low Anisotropic Filtering 1x Motion Blur Low Lens Flare Yes
I did the uninstall thing and it went fine. There's nothing particularly interesting about the new drivers from a functionality standpoint, but the Gaming section in CCC gets some changes. There's now an option for frame rate control, which is essentially VSync. You can now force Triple buffering globally for OpenGL titles. Not much else besides that the the usual other features.
Frame Time (ms) FPS Rate 8.3 120 16.7 60 20 50 25 40 30 50 20
I picked Sawtooth Cauldron for the test. From the beginning I run to the right and jump down the cliff into the landing of a double-story building. I kill one enemy coming out of the garage, hit the gas tank in front of me, turn around and kill two more, run over the guardrails and jump to the ground and make my way to the slope that finally takes me back to the entrance. During all this time there's lots of light rays, some lens flare, smoke and fire along with grenade effects, elemental effects from my weapons, a pretty large and detailed area as well as ****loads of enemies. I think it's pretty good.
The results are actually pretty similar, so there's no performance increase from the drivers here. The longer frame times are when I got blocked in by enemies or I went into "Fight or Die" mode and I was being swarmed. They are long hiccups but I'm sure it's minor. I ran the test again to be sure and it wasn't as bad. There's perhaps a 2-3% increase here.
I wish I had Showdown right now, but this will have to do. I pretty much dialed in the settings, saved them and then ran the benchmark that's found in the graphics settings all the way at the bottom.
Gameplay on both the 12-10 and 13-4 drivers was pretty good, although the high settings do seem to swamp my card a bit. I was averaging 50fps there, which is pretty good. Moving to 13-4 the variance became a little more pronounced on the graph but I didn't really notice it in the game. Considering that both DiRT 3 and my Radeon HD6870 came out over two years ago, this isn't really a surprise. I did, however, notice something when fiddling with things and turning the graphics details to Ultra where possible.
Excuse the same colours, for now I just wanted to get this process finished so I can tweak it later. As you can see, enabling Ultra details doesn't seem to have impacted performance - in fact, most of the time it's actually running better than the High detail settings. I didn't make a third graph comparing 12-10 High to 13-4 Ultra, but you can see for yourself that it's a lot better and more stable. That's one win for the drivers there.
In some sections, my play-through of Crysis with 13-4 is better than 12-10. It pushes out a slightly higher amount of frames in the 60-second benchmark. Those two long ones stretching to 140ms actually measure 1800ms in length. This is similar behaviour to Crysis 2 and it's related to the game engine. Mind you, I'm also playing on low settings. Crysis 3 is really heavy on my triple-core processor and my 1GB of VRAM suffers wheny ou turn the details up to Medium.
Just high frame times and stuttering everywhere. I'd hate to see numbers from Far Cry 3, I'm sure that's equally devastating. I'd probably benefit more from a new GPU than a processor upgrade at this point.
So 13-4 is only a tiny amount better for HD6000 owners and AMD isn't fixing any latency numbers for the older GPU family with this driver set (if anything, latency for my games actually was a little worse). I have heard about the 13-5 Beta 2 drivers that are out and I will have a test soon, but I've got a feeling it'll only be the same, possibly worse. AMD's putting all their best into GCN optimisation and for those of you still on cards like mine, Catalyst 12-10 will be good enough. There might be bug fixes and the like for 13-4, though, so you might as well get it because sometimes AMD fixes things for one game that also fix issues for other titles at the same time.