AMD is certainly aiming to put itself in a position of strength in time for Christmas and Windows 8: after readjusting pricing on several occasions, AMD is looking to developments in performance and a new game bundle.
AMD knows full well that Nvidia has a strong brand image among gamers and in spite of almost faultless execution on the latest Radeon generations, it hasn’t had the commercial success it hoped for. AMD has to give an ever better price/performance ratio to convince gamers to turn towards its solutions. This is already the case right across the range but probably not to a great enough extent. AMD has therefore decided to push the boat out even further.
With its Never Settle initiative, AMD is aiming to highlight both the driver work carried out by its developers and the significant investment now being made in developers / video games publishers.
Thus the Catalyst 12.11s are presented as the first fully optimized drivers for the GCN architecture used on the Radeon HD 7000s. Indeed they give a significant gain in performance. AMD hasn’t yet been able to give us precise details on the improvements, but says that it has carried out detailed analysis on the behaviour of recent games with GCN and come up with areas of improvement in terms of memory management and rendering surfaces as well as occupation rates of processing units (affecting both the organisation of threads (groups of pixels/vertices) and the shader compiler).
We should say that we didn’t note any drop in graphics quality or any gains with the Radeon HD 6870 and HD 6970.
Of the 11 games tested, we observed an average gain of 4.6% on the Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition, 5.5% on the Radeon HD 7870 and 3.4% on the Radeon HD 7770. Not bad for a driver update alone. The Radeon HD 7870 gained 12% in Sleeping Dogs and 8% in Max Payne 3. It showed a small fall in performance in Alan Wake (-3%), the only game in which performance suffered.
The biggest performance gains were seen in Battlefield 3 where the Radeon HD 7000s previously suffered in comparison to the GeForces. The Battlefield 3 gain is 20% for the Radeon HD 7870 (High) and HD 7970 (Ultra) on our test scene; we even observed a gain of 30% on the Radeon HD 7900s in High quality mode! According to AMD, you’ll also see this sort of gain in Medal of Honor: Warfighter which is based on the same graphics engine. This is very good news but we shouldn’t get carried away as it has taken AMD almost ten months to optimise its drivers for this engine…
We have updated the tests in our forthcoming report on the GeForce GTX 650 Ti to take account of these new Catalysts, which gives us the opportunity to note that the increase in GPU yield has an impact on energy consumption, which has increased a bit, though not as much as performance. In other words the energy yield has progressed (+8% in Battlefield 3 for the Radeon HD 7870).
At the same time as introducing these new drivers, AMD has also decided to revisit its game bundle (the one including DiRT Showdown and/or Sleeping Dogs was due to be updated at the end of this month). The new bundle will include FarCry 3 for the Radeon HD 7770 and above and Hitman Absolution will be added for the packs of two Radeon HD 7770s or Radeon HD 7800s as well as for all the Radeon HD 7900s, which will also still get Sleeping Dogs. Finally, all these solutions will also come with a 20% reduction voucher for Medal of Honor: Warfighter.
The Catalyst 12.11s will be available soon to coincide with the Windows 8 release (26th October) and the new bundle will start to appear on certain markets as of this week.