Huge fps plus for Crossfire setups

Catalyst 9.8 reviewed: HD 4870 X2 up to 47 percent faster, failing in Anno 1404

For the Catalyst 9.8 AMD promised performance benefits of up to 50 percent with Crossfire setups in CPU limited situations. The tests of PC Games Hardware confirm this.
Catalyst 9.8 reviewed
Catalyst 9.8 reviewed [Source: view picture gallery]

Catalyst 9.8 reviewed: Introduction
On first sight the Catalyst 9.8 doesn't deliver anything new besides the overhauled interface that has been introduced with Catalyst 9.7, but in the Release Notes AMD notes massive performance improvements for Crossfire and CrossfireX setups, especially in CPU limited scenes. Benefits of 7 percent in Crysis Warhead DX 10 mode and up to 50 percent in Far Cry 2 (DX 10 too) for dual GPU cards almost sound too good to be true.

Catalyst 9.8 reviewed: Test and results
In order to test if AMD really reached the announced performance benefits, we combined a Radeon HD 4870 X2 with five different CPUs. The smallest model is a C2D E6600, additionally we use the quad-core pendant X2Q Q6600, AMD's Phenom II X4 940 BE and Intel's new Core i5-750 (without Turbo Mode) as well as our default benchmark processor, a Core i7-920 running at 3.5 GHz with deactivated SMT and without Turbo Mode.

In Race Driver: Grid the results are sobering since the new driver doesn't deliver any fps differences worth mentioning. Crysis Warhead (DX10 and 64 bit) at 1280 x 1024 with 4x MSAA/16:1 AF on the other hand is accelerated by about 6 to 7 percent on average if we use the E6600 or the Q6600 - with better CPUs the benefit reaches only 1 to 3 percent. In Far Cry 2 we see the biggest difference of all tests: The Catalyst 9.8 boost the combination of HD 4870 X2 and Core 2 Duo E6600 by 11 percent and if the dual GPU card is flanked by a Q6600 the framerate is increased by 47 percent. With the Phenom II X4 940 the benefit reaches 39 percent and the combination with the Core i5-750 runs about 10 percent faster. The core i7-920 is limited by the graphics card.

But everything has its ups and downs: The Catlyst 9.8 causes massive distortions in the DirectX 10 mode of Anno 1404: Dawn of Discovery making the game unplayable. This is even more annoying because the DirectX 10 mode runs faster and looks better than the DX9 mode.

Anno 1404 (D3D10) - massive distortions because of Catalyst 9.8
Anno 1404 (D3D10) - massive distortions because of Catalyst 9.8 [Source: view picture gallery]

Catalyst 9.8 reviewed: Conclusion
If you are using a modern dual GPU Radeon or a Crossfire setup in combination with a comparatively weak CPU (weak means anything below a Core i5/i7 or a Phenom II X4 and a Core 2 Quad running at more than 3.0 GHz), you should install the Catalyst 9.8 - unless you are playing Anno 1404: Dawn of Discovery in DirectX 10 mode. It is unexplainable how AMD could not notice such a bug.

Picture gallery  (enlarge to view source)

Author: Marc Sauter (Aug 19, 2009)

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