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AMD Graphics Cards Discuss everything that is Radeon!

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Old Feb 10, 2004, 06:54 AM   #1
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ATI 4.1 Driver Round Up


By Mike "The_Neon_Cowboy" Lady


First off, a special thanks to a fellow forum member “Fester Silently” for bringing Neutral Catalyst sets existence to my attention. This had inspired me to go looking in the first place to find out more about the Neutral Catalyst drivers. When researching, I stumbled across another set known as the Asura drivers. These drivers appear to have been around for quite some time but are quite new to me and others who had never even heard of them up until about week ago. Overall I’m excited to see a new contenders stepping up to the plate.

Omega drivers have been well known as the top set of tweaked drivers for as long as I can remember offering both the best performance and stability. Will he get to keep his title when stacked up against the performances these new sets? Let’s take a look and see how they all stack up.
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Old Feb 10, 2004, 06:57 AM Threadstarter Thread Starter   #2
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Testing and Setup



[SIZE=x-large][COLOR=red]Hardware Setup[/SIZE] [/COLOR]
Windows XP Pro SP1a
AMD Barton 2500+
1 GB CAS 2 Geil Ultra Platinum PC3500
Built by ATI Radeon 9600XT 128mb
120GB Maxtor w/8mb cache
48x24x48x16 CDRW + DVD
Sound Blaster live 5.1
400W Duel Fan A1 power supply

[SIZE=x-large][COLOR=red]Software[/SIZE] [/COLOR]

GL Excess 1.2
AquaMark3
PCMark04
3DMark03 Build 340
3DMark2001 SE Pro Build 330

[SIZE=x-large][COLOR=red]Drivers[/SIZE] [/COLOR]
Official ATI Catalyst 4.1
Asura 4.1.1
Neutral Catalyst 4.1.0.4
DNA 2.0.4.1a
Omega 2514

[SIZE=x-large][COLOR=red]Testing Setup[/SIZE] [/COLOR]

All tests ran at 1024x768 @ 85htz and 32bit with all settings drivers on the default install settings. All benchmarks run at the default setting with the following exceptions. On PCMark04 only the graphics test were run in 3DMark03 only the game tests were run. This was to insure more accurate and comparable results an also to conserve time. As in previous tests by me room temps were kept as close to the same as possible (74F). This time Driver Cleaner and system restore was utilized in-between sets, temporary files and the windows prefetch cleared, and then the HDD was defragmented. No programs or software was installed or removed during testing (besides the driver sets of course). Care was taken to ensure each driver was tested in the exact same test environment…

Last edited by The_Neon_Cowboy; Feb 10, 2004 at 08:08 AM.
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Old Feb 10, 2004, 06:59 AM Threadstarter Thread Starter   #3
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[SIZE=x-large][COLOR=red]Synthetic Testing[/SIZE] [/COLOR]

Why only synthetic testing this time? Besides the number of drivers and time available it was proven on previous tests that the synthetics correctly mirrored real world performance. Many people question the reliability and accuracy of these kinds or benchmarks. So believe them to be totally inaccurate, or that the results are incomparable. In some conditions this is true, for example when you comparing different systems against each other. There a lot of variables including power, temperature, humidity, software versions, driver versions, bios, ram, and firmware differences. In a proper and stable testing environment, with out the presence of these variables, synthetics are the best and most accurate tools for comparison.
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Old Feb 10, 2004, 07:01 AM Threadstarter Thread Starter   #4
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[SIZE=x-large][COLOR=red]The Benchmarks[/SIZE] [/COLOR]


Here I was surprised by the small lead Asura took, closely followed the Omegas, the DNA’s, Neutrals, and finally by the ATI’s Officials taking a large hit here.

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Old Feb 10, 2004, 07:02 AM Threadstarter Thread Starter   #5
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Omegas took the lead here fallowed by ATI, DNA, Neural and then Asura’s.
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Old Feb 10, 2004, 07:03 AM Threadstarter Thread Starter   #6
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Neutrals took a small lead, ATI’s and Omega’s tied and was followed by DNA and Asura.
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Old Feb 10, 2004, 07:04 AM Threadstarter Thread Starter   #7
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Asura’s take the lead here, followed by Omega, ATI, Neutrals, and then DNA.
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Old Feb 10, 2004, 07:04 AM Threadstarter Thread Starter   #8
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Omega takes the lead here followed by the Neutrals, Asura’s, ATI’s and with DNA drivers taking a large hit in performance.
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Old Feb 10, 2004, 07:06 AM Threadstarter Thread Starter   #9
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[SIZE=x-large][COLOR=red]Conclusion[/SIZE] [/COLOR]

I was surprised by the lack of larger differences in scores and IQ in these 4.1 based driver sets. But each driver seems to excel in one area or another so I guess they all have their places. If you add the scores together you can better see were they all stand. Here they are arranged by score Omega 57828, Asura 57826, DNA 57538, Neutral 57532, ATI 56010.

[COLOR=blue]Note: I will post a little more about these new sets such as the bundled programs, installers and other features soon.[/COLOR]
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Old Feb 10, 2004, 07:12 AM   #10
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Congrats cowboy on the brilliant review, very nice and clear. I think this should be added on the articles forum.
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Old Feb 10, 2004, 07:18 AM   #11
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Thanks again, Neon, for an excellent review!

What surprises me the most is that the official drivers came in last. Maybe it shouldn't be so surprising, though, since the other drivers are tweaked in some form or fashion.
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Old Feb 10, 2004, 07:20 AM   #12
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Very interesting, and well laid out.

One question. Did you run each test only once, or run each test 3 or more times and get an average score to report? I notice from other websites that when they run a test multiple times it often affects the score, and is probably accurate as it would help to mitigate factors like a random HD seek in the middle of a benchmark.

I'd also reinforce the fact that they all performed pretty close to each other, with the exception of ATI in GLXS. Looking at 3DMark03 especially, everything's within 1% of each other. 1% could easilly be the margin of error.

It's great to see it all put together like this. Thanks for all your work.
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Old Feb 10, 2004, 09:06 AM   #13
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Nice review. I might try out the Asura and Neural sets tonight.
Thanks Neon
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Old Feb 10, 2004, 10:50 AM   #14
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Nice test, Neon. I never heard about Asura before, but it's nice to see new people tweaking drivers.
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Old Feb 10, 2004, 07:45 PM   #15
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Nice test, but I also was wondering how many tests were run on each bench.

I'm using the latest Omega's and they have excellent IQ and are very fast.

*edit*
all my benchies in sig are with Omega's based on 4.1's and they are the highest I've ever scored.

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Old Feb 10, 2004, 08:02 PM   #16
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Nice one Neon.
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Old Feb 10, 2004, 08:36 PM   #17
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Clean and precise review, nice work Neon.
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Old Feb 10, 2004, 09:50 PM   #18
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good work mike, thank god you dont have a job, or you never would have had the time to do this...LOL j/k
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Old Feb 10, 2004, 10:38 PM   #19
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nice review, good to see some new modified-drivers enter. only thing I think is a bit misleading is your graph-system which makes the readers believe there are huge differenses between drivers when they in fact are hardly noticable, and perhaps some more game-tests would be nice?it`s after all the game-results that makes most people choose which driver to use and not tests like 3dmark etc.
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Old Feb 10, 2004, 10:41 PM   #20
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good work mike, thank god you dont have a job, or you never would have had the time to do this...LOL j/k
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Old Feb 10, 2004, 11:12 PM   #21
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Thanks for this nice review.
There`s only one thing I don`t like: you summed up the results from all tests in your conclusion which gives a distorted overall view.
A IMHO more fair overal score would result only if you weight all the tests eqally
Like this (using the ATI standard config as base/100%):

glXS:
DNA: 123.0% Neutral: 122.7% Asura: 125.8% Omega: 125.7%

PCMark2004:
DNA: 100.0% Neutral: 99.9% Asura: 99.9% Omega: 100.3%

3DMark2003:
DNA: 100.0% Neutral: 100.1% Asura: 99.8% Omega: 100.0%

3DMark2001:
DNA: 99.5% Neutral: 99.6% Asura: 100.6% Omega: 100.2%

Aquamark3:
DNA: 99.5% Neutral: 100.1% Asura: 100.0% Omega: 100.1%

Overall:
DNA: 104.4% Neutral: 104.5% Asura: 105.2% Omega: 105.3%
And this results in a better overal result for the "Neutral" compared to the "DNA" config.

BTW Did you see *any* IQ-differences between the different driver-configs?
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Old Feb 10, 2004, 11:15 PM   #22
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Quote:
Originally posted by The_Neon_Cowboy
[SIZE=x-large][COLOR=red]Conclusion[/SIZE] [/COLOR]

I was surprised by the lack of larger differences in scores and IQ in these 4.1 based driver sets. But each driver seems to excel in one area or another so I guess they all have their places. If you add the scores together you can better see were they all stand. Here they are arranged by score Omega 57828, Asura 57826, DNA 57538, Neutral 57532, ATI 56010.

[COLOR=blue]Note: I will post a little more about these new sets such as the bundled programs, installers and other features soon.[/COLOR]
Neon, may I suggest an image quality comparison next time? A study such as this really needs to determine what image quality gets sacrificed for the extra FPS.
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Old Feb 10, 2004, 11:18 PM   #23
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Neon, may I suggest an image quality comparison next time? A study such as this really needs to determine what image quality gets sacrificed for the extra FPS.
BAH.. don't say that... now neon is gonna attempt to do a thorough image quality tests.... and will be completely unreachable and out of communication for weeks on end....
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Old Feb 10, 2004, 11:47 PM   #24
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Quote:
Originally posted by The_Neon_Cowboy


Asura’s take the lead here, followed by Omega, ATI, Neutrals, and then DNA.
By the by, do you have a link to the Asura drivers? I like Omega, but...?
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Old Feb 11, 2004, 12:28 AM   #25
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Quote:
Originally posted by Uncle Marty
By the by, do you have a link to the Asura drivers? I like Omega, but...?
SEcond that...I've never heard of Asura before and I want to try them.

Nice article BTW
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Old Feb 11, 2004, 12:41 AM Threadstarter Thread Starter   #26
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Quote:
Originally posted by CATALYST maker
Neon, may I suggest an image quality comparison next time? A study such as this really needs to determine what image quality gets sacrificed for the extra FPS.
I tried using some built in IQ tests but I couldn't find a true visual difference. Let me see what I can put together.

I'm having a very hard time seeing any difference in IQ this time around, I'm sure there are small differences but nothing jumped out and bit me about any of them. As other have said there the tweaked sets scores are so close. I whish I had more time to dedicate to this but testing so any is really a hair puller to make sure everything is right. This time I just wanted to introduce these new sets and show the performance of each. Maybe I’ll do IQ tests later if I can find a good enough comparison. See a lot of people pick at IQ tests because there not the exact same shot they may be similar but the maybe the lighting built in character moments etc. have changed slightly. I’ve been trying to find a way to get the exact same scenes for comparison. Do you have any suggestions for me anyone?

The best I’d found is using the images from the 2001SE IQ test but I couldn’t find much off a difference with the naked eye (or maybe it’s just my monitor) should I try zooming in say 300% on a spot?
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Old Feb 11, 2004, 12:47 AM Threadstarter Thread Starter   #27
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Originally posted by Uncle Marty
By the by, do you have a link to the Asura drivers? I like Omega, but...?
http://nayeri.ce.ro/ is the homepage

I’ll come back with more stuff later tonight or this morning. I need to get going
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Old Feb 11, 2004, 01:08 AM   #28
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Nice review there Neon.

Hmmm.... something's strange (pulls out telescope) hmm... I see flamers on the horizon!
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Old Feb 11, 2004, 01:41 AM   #29
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I see flamers on the horizon!


@The_Neon_Cowboy
Quote:
See a lot of people pick at IQ tests because there not the exact same shot they may be similar but the maybe the lighting built in character moments etc. have changed slightly.
Or another example would be "Are changes to to mipmap-LODs just a matter of taste and not of quality?" Some people (like me) like it smooth and less sharp (standard) and others sharp and edgy. At least in the nVidia Omega drivers this was something which changed the look much and obviously many like it but some do not and because of that it`s not exactely a quality improvement or at least not for all...but this is just an example to show that IQ is very subjective

BTW I can`t believe that this average 5% performance boost compared with the original drivers results from enabled tweaks which have no tradeoffs. - I`m sure ATI had good reasons (?stability/quality? or even only specific problems in a few games or with a few PCs) to not activate them if they are undocumented, hidden and disabled, but that`s just MHO.
But I really don`t want to sound too negative, for sure these driversets are AFAIK nice collections of useful tools, enhance the functionality of the original drivers with for example more resolutions and contain some (hopefully) intensively and timeconsumingly tested (re)enabled performance and IQ enhancing functions of the driver

Quote:
I’ve been trying to find a way to get the exact same scenes for comparison. Do you have any suggestions for me anyone?
Yep, I wouldn`t do those comparisons, because it`s a hell of a lot of work and luck (and many different PCs and games) necessary to find every difference, if I`m not wrong.
What about simply collecting the differences of the modifications and some comments about how they work or what they trade for what (then you can easily look for a scene in a game in which possible artifacts should appear to rate the tradeoff).
Just use a diff-tool to compare the different sets and I`m sure most of the used switches are documented somewhere in the web. Well, I`ve got some experience with comparing releases and can propably help you with that, but some support by the releasers/modders would be very helpful, I guess.
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Old Feb 11, 2004, 07:47 AM   #30
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Nice comparo, never heard of the asura driver before. Only thing I dont understand is why you dont start your graphs at zero? It gives a very distorted view on performance. For example, in the first graph ATI official trails quite a bit, but its bar ends up five times shorter than the next slowest. I just dont even see the purpose of the graphs if they are not representative of the truth and must be interpreted.
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