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Topic Subject: New Driver Releases (ATI, nVidia, etc.)
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posted 12 December 2005 02:46 EDT (US)   
2006-01-18 ATI Omega Drivers (v3.8.205, based on ATI Catalyst 6.1)

2006-01-18 ATI Catalyst 6.1 (ATI's normal monthly update)

2005-12-21 Nvidia 81.98 (dual core enhancements!)

2005-12-22 ATI Catalyst 5.13 (minor tweaks)

2005-12-09 ATI Omega Drivers (based on the ATI Cat 5.12)

2005-12-09 ATI Catalyst 5.12 (Big Dual-Core improvements!)

NOTE: Regarding Omega nVidia drivers, Omega says: "Sorry to tell you this, but the Omega Nvidia Drivers project is currently on hold ATM (NOT canceled), don't ask me why". That means since 23 Sep 2005, the nVidia Omega drivers are not being released, for reasons not made public. Read the Omega for details.

Future driver releases will be noted here, too

[This message has been edited by Wartrain (edited 01-18-2006 @ 05:40 PM).]

posted 12 December 2005 02:47 EDT (US)     1 / 35  
ATI Catalyst 5.12 Released
December. 10, 2005 @ 02:18PM GMT +10

Catalyst 5.12 improves a variety of CPU-bound performance cases when an ATI product is installed in conjunction with a dual-core or hyperthreading CPU. Performance gains include:

# 3DMark05 gains as much as 5.7%
# 3DMark03 gains as much as 3.3%
# 3DMark2001 SE gains up to 10%
# Aquamark 3 gains up to 16%
# Comanche 4 improves as much as 20%
# Far Cry gains as much as 25% on some product configurations
# Half-Life 2 performance improves as much as 8%
# Splinter Cell improves as much as 8% in certain parts of the game
# Tomb Raider Angel of Darkness runs as much as 10% faster
# Unreal Tournament 2004 framerates improve as much as 10%

This might be worth trying for those with Dual-core CPUs in particular. If these ATI claims are true, post with your experience.

posted 12 December 2005 02:58 EDT (US)     2 / 35  
Hmm... quite a lot of performance gain. I'm going to install it. The FarCry and UT04 improvement percentages look pretty attractive to me.
posted 12 December 2005 08:05 EDT (US)     3 / 35  
What they've done at the driver level is found a way to split off some workload that is normally handled in a single thread, into two thread if a Dual-core is present. It is this kind of work that, as it matures at the developer end, that will begin to take advantage of Dual-core.

However, the gains in performance will not justify the additional AMD cost differential for most gamers... the X2 4800+ (dual core, San Diego 1MBx2, 2.4GHz) is $803 while the single core 4000 (San Diego 1MB, 2.4GHz) is $334, or the dual core is 2.35 times more expensive for an average 8% gain. Put another way, in reference to the 4000+, for a gamer's 8% gain, you spend $470. Most people can recover 8% for free by simply partitioning their hard drive optimally and moving the swapfile. And most can recover from 5% to 20% by removing unnecessary processes and unnecessary services when gaming... for free. And $470 can get an upgrade to a top of the line video card with leftover.

But in a few months, the dual-core will be more widely supported by developers, and its power (it does have strong gaming potential... the X4 will probably be a true single-core CPU killer when coupled to a good OS in a couple years) will begin to emerge. But by then better and faster CPUs will be out (maybe even from Intel), taking the place of the 4800+ for the same money.

By applying the savings of X2 for an equal single core in today's best games, you can get speed and quality with a top video card, the fastest hard drive (e.g., Maxtor DM 10 w/16MB, and 2GB of Fast RAM and the best motherboard:

nVidia 5xxx, PixelShaders to "Low" in Age of Empires III: deactivates shadows.

nVidia 5xxx, "Medium" setting: allows simple shadows.

nVidia 6xxx, On the "High" setting: PixelShader 2 and 2.0b, shadows are reflected in the waves.

nVidia 6xxx & 7xxx & ATI X1x00, "Very-High" (PixelShader 3) shows all details and additionally makes the water transparent.

When you play the games side by side with such hardware differential, you will be blown away. You will not be able to feel or sense the difference in X2 and single core, even if price is no object, in today games and through the end of next year at the earliest (sources: THG and MS and Intel, developer evangelism).

EDIT: Typo & link.

[This message has been edited by Wartrain (edited 12-12-2005 @ 11:41 AM).]

posted 12 December 2005 10:45 EDT (US)     4 / 35  
I don't have dual core, but I do use HT, so I get two logical cores. Indeed, 5.12 has improved my bench scores by quite a lot! My 3DMark05 scores rose by over 100 points, which is like more than 6 percent.

I've done UT2004 benchmarks, and I can play on high settings on frame rates consistently above 40fps. Great stuff. I'm going to try out FarCry benches tomorrow.

Thanks for the info.

posted 12 December 2005 10:53 EDT (US)     5 / 35  
Can you post your system specs, Don Xuan? I think it might be a great help to people to see a real world example like yours.
posted 12 December 2005 11:08 EDT (US)     6 / 35  
I'll just post some of the crucial parts:

CPU: Intel P4 3.0C Northwood @ 3.15GHz (reduced my o/c)
RAM: 2x Kingston ValueRAM 512MB @ 2.5-3-3-7 210MHz
Graphics card: Radeon 9600XT 128MB @ 585/720 (core/memory DDR)

It increased from 21xx (IIRC) to 2333 3DMarks. 40fps for UT2004 is the minimum average I get. On certain games the average can be 70+fps, which is pretty good for an old card like mine.

posted 12 December 2005 11:58 EDT (US)     7 / 35  
Would the Catalyst 5.12 benefit an ATI X700?
posted 12 December 2005 18:35 EDT (US)     8 / 35  
Is 3DMark05 free? If not, what other benchmarking software is?

"I might not mind, only because you'll get rid of that signiture, and stop that stupid scroll bar."- Mebertus
"We who are about to die, salute you"-Gladiators to Ceasar
The offical follower of The Philosophy of Moderation
posted 12 December 2005 18:48 EDT (US)     9 / 35  


Would the Catalyst 5.12 benefit an ATI X700?

Yes probably... but not for dual core reasons! The numbers posted here are for dual core gain. Basic normal driver progression 'should' continue improvements, but unless you know the alterations of your existing driver to the new one, you won't be able to guess.
posted 13 December 2005 06:43 EDT (US)     10 / 35  
Could my huge score improvement be due to the fact that I use two logical processors? I think it would be really useful for some of the games I play.

Oh well, you just got me back into the o/c mood again. I'm going to see if I can push my RAM further without setting dividers. I got capped at 228MHz, above which my system couldn't POST.


Is 3DMark05 free? If not, what other benchmarking software is?

Of course it is. Anyway, there're some features (which you won't need) that you can't access unless you pay. The more popular gaming benchmarks are 3DMark03, 3DMark05 and AquaMark3. For CPU benchmarking, check out SuperPi.

posted 13 December 2005 11:42 EDT (US)     11 / 35  


I got capped at 228MHz

Hey, that is about a 14% OC! If it runs stable and cool, then that kind of improvement would "cost" about $400 to $800 with 'normal' hardware at today's prices. Put the 8% bonus for the ATI drivers, and you are talking improvement that you can actually 'feel' in games . If 228MHz seems stable, I'd still take it back to like 220-222 range; sooner or later when you OC on the edge, you will have a CTD or BSOD at the 'max setting".

What motherboard are you using? And how do you like it for OCing?


Could my huge score improvement be due to the fact that I use two logical processors? I think it would be really useful for some of the games I play.

What dual-core will do in today's games is offload the background process threads to the 2nd core, and the game will likely have one core most of the time. The overhead is what eats away at improvements, since the game itself is not capable of assigning extra threads to the 2nd core. In 12-18 months, Tier 1 games may be coming out that have this as a planned, integrated feature, and then dual-core will start to make a bigger and bigger difference.

The improvements in the ATI scores are partly (mostly I will estimate) accounted for by removing certain 'inefficiencies' from the graphic thread in one core. I suspect part of this is due to the Catalyst part... the extra, non-driver portion of the ATI Catalyst that people tell me they don't like (I do not use ATI myself, and cannot test some things to be sure). This is also why people use the Omega drivers. I'm told that they also give an improvement, but how much I don't know. But the Omega improvements (if any) are not due to dual core per se, but de-bloating & tweaking (so I'm told) ATI Catalyst drivers.
posted 13 December 2005 12:40 EDT (US)     12 / 35  
Mmm, so is the game considered only one thread by the processor, or "a bunch of inseparable threads"?

Anyway, I strongly recommend Catalyst 5.12 for all ATi users. It's the most stable driver version I've had so far. My original CD driver, Cat 5.6, 5.7, 5.8, 5.10 have all been unstable with my overclocked graphics card. I don't know what's the reason though. I experience crashes from time to time when I game on my o/c-ed card. I'm now at 594/740 (from 500/648). It's my best o/c so far, and probably the furthest I can go with my Arctic Silencer, so I'm very satisfied. I've been trying out UT2004 and FarCry with it without any problems. I haven't touched RTW in a few months already, so I might give it a run and see how much better the graphics can go.

As for my CPU o/c, it's extremely hard to work on. The best I had was 228MHz for my FSB (x15). No matter how much voltage I fed my CPU, it just wouldn't boot when I set it to 229MHz. Temperatures are not a problem for sure. On Vcore 1.7V (the highest I dared to try with stock cooling) the CPU temperature on load (using Prime95 torture tests) is still under 60 degrees Celsius. And that's not all. Sometimes when the system becomes unstable and crashes, the highest FSB I can set when I reboot is very low, around 210MHz. Then I have to slowly push the speed back up to 220+MHz.

I think my motherboard (Asus P4P800-E Deluxe) just isn't cut out for overclocking.

[This message has been edited by Duan Xuan (edited 12-13-2005 @ 12:41 PM).]

posted 13 December 2005 19:02 EDT (US)     13 / 35  


so is the game considered only one thread by the processor, or "a bunch of inseparable threads"?

One thread of current execution.

The game is not using 2 cores at the same time, which is why dual-core gets such lousy results in tests. You expect to see a 70% to 90% improvement in performance if a game properly uses 2 cores; but in fact, in some tests, dual cores actually run inferior to single cores (operating at the same clock speeds, for instance).

I suspect, but cannot test myself (I have no dual-core and no ATI at the moment), that the ATI catalyst drivers now offload the 'bloat' (non-necessary graphics processes for a given game execution) explicitly to the 2nd core. This is responsible for the performance 'gain', which is really (my opinion now, since I cannot yet verify it) just "removing" the bloat that a single core must process with Catalyst. Many people don't run Catalyst because of (real or percieved) low performance issues. But I'll say if anyone has dual core, then use the new ATI drivers and offload the bloat to the almost unused 2nd core... assuming there are no CTD issues in the particular game being played that are triggered by the use of dual cores, resulting in improved stability when the 2nd core is shut down for that game. From your results, my take is to strongly recommend the 5.12 drivers to dual core users... assuming you are not getting new patterns of CTDs in extended gameplay of RTW. You might want to test the new Omega drivers, if you're ambitios... the new ones are based on the 5.12s.

posted 14 December 2005 00:00 EDT (US)     14 / 35  


From your results, my take is to strongly recommend the 5.12 drivers to dual core users...

I would include Intel single-core users with HyperThreading as well. And I think your explanation makes perfect sense. Cat 5.12 is the way to go for ATi users with more than one logical or physical processor.

posted 14 December 2005 07:53 EDT (US)     15 / 35  
What's the difference between the Catalyst and the Omega drivers? Which one is the better?


posted 14 December 2005 09:14 EDT (US)     16 / 35  
The Catalyst are the ATI drivers, with extra non-driver features like stuff for the tray, etc. Some feel this is bloat code, and there is no denying that it uses system resources, including a small bit of CPU and several MB of RAM.

The Omega drivers are based on the ATI drivers, but modified such that they run faster, consume less resources, etc. I cannot quantify it for you, since I have no ATI cards to test it with.

It seems that the 5.12 drivers now address using the 2nd core to relieve the 1st core (playing a game like RTW) of Catalyst bloat code (eye-candy features in return for memory/CPU use). I also expect the 5.12 drivers are actually better for non dual-core machines, too.

The only way to be sure for your hardware is to test (and benchmark) both, then decide if the tradeoffs (features/speed, e.g.) are worth it for you. I can say, based on independent reports and Don Xuans excellent posts that 5.12 would be a definite upgrade for me, if I were an ATI owner... especially if I had dual-core (or dual CPU).

posted 22 December 2005 21:55 EDT (US)     17 / 35  
New ATI Drivers: 5.13
posted 23 December 2005 10:36 EDT (US)     18 / 35  
Which is better, duel core or duel CPU setups?

[This message has been edited by tankman (edited 12-23-2005 @ 10:37 AM).]

posted 23 December 2005 11:49 EDT (US)     19 / 35  
At this time, Dual CPU, no question. Cheaper, and better supported in todays existing Apps. In 12 months, it will make no difference as far as stability goes. But make no mistake... dual core is NOT dual CPU. Dual core is new, dual CPU is much more mature in low level handling of thread and task allocations, as well as supporting developer tools.

Dual core is (IMHO) too expensive, and will fall too far in price in the next 6-12 months for those that have to ask what it costs to buy. If someone has the special need for it, yes... if not, the general gamers should wait until more software supports dual-core and will see the promised land of 70-80% gaming improvement without CTDs.

IMO, dual core (and even dual CPU) is not cost effective for ATI card users to upgrade... I usually install the Omega ATI drivers for people with ATI cards anyway. Omega will have a 5.13-based driver out soon.

But if you have Dual-core or dual-cpu, then by all means, keep it and use it... the strength is in running separate applications without bogging the other apps down.

posted 23 December 2005 11:49 EDT (US)     20 / 35  
Mmm... 5.13 out so fast? What are the changes, Wartrain? I'll give it a go on Sunday and see if it offers any improvement to system performance. It's kind of late now. Thanks for informing.
posted 27 December 2005 07:06 EDT (US)     21 / 35  
Mmm looks like it's the last driver for the year, just to settle existing bugs, especially with XFire. They didn't state any performance boosts, and after benching, I couldn't see any either.
posted 27 December 2005 10:50 EDT (US)     22 / 35  
I've used the Omega 5.12e on two Athlon XP systems, a 9700 and a 9600 card. No problems to report with 5.12e, but I have not tried 5.13 yet.
posted 29 December 2005 10:25 EDT (US)     23 / 35  
May sound a bit noobish......

But how do you install a new driver like Omega 5.12? I installed but the driver did not seem to change.

posted 29 December 2005 12:32 EDT (US)     24 / 35  
Did you uninstall the previous driver first?...
posted 29 December 2005 12:37 EDT (US)     25 / 35  
nVidia ForceWare Release 80
Version: 81.98
Release Date: December 21, 2005
WHQL Certified

For Win XP/2000

Total War Heaven Former Angel Cherub and Long-Time Contributor

[This message has been edited by Chonaman (edited 12-29-2005 @ 01:19 PM).]

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