You would be very hard-pressed to find anyone that would suggest that ATI isn't on a huge roll right now. After beating NVIDIA to the DirectX 11 punch with the HD 5000 series, the company executed an almost unprecedented release schedule of video card after video card, completing the HD 5000 family from the HD 5970 all the way down to the HD 5450, in just a matter of months.
Not just the hardware engineers are firing on all cylinders either, it seems. ATI has released a big, landmark driver release today, with Catalyst 10.2, and will be following this up with another very big release, with 10.3, coming sometime in March.
Here is the laundry list of features, starting with Catalyst 10.2 (we highly recommend you go here and download it right away, if you are a Radeon owner).
CrossFireX profiles: One bone of contention with ATI in the past has been...generally less than stellar CrossFireX (multi-GPU) game performance, at times. As Neo's video card reviewer, I can attest that when it comes to two video cards running in a system, generally, SLI has the advantage over CrossFire. At times, ATI has been slow to optimize CrossFire's compatibility. Not that ATI has been horrible - but NVIDIA has often had quicker response time in getting SLI going for new games, and for some titles, ATI has lagged behind. This issue is addressed now with a new CrossFireX profile system -- the goal of which is to support more games, sooner, and better.
Instead of attaching the CrossFireX profiles to the drivers themselves, the profiles are now saved as XML files, that can be easier to update. Now you'll be able to just update the profiles, instead of having to re-install a new driver package. Which is great.
Improved Power Usage for CrossFireX: ATI's PowerPlay has been tweaked: now, if you have more than video card, the system has a new low-power mode that effectively shuts down the extra video cards when they are not in use. So say you have 3 HD 5770's in your system. If you are just typing out some lame school essay, then only one card will run; if you skip the essay and wisely boot up STALKER: Call of Pripyat, than the other two video cards will power up on the fly for your gaming needs.
CrossFireX for Eyefinity: Here it is. Now, if you have a great rig that has multiple displays and multiple video cards, you are basically free to arrange things however you like. For example, if you have a HD 5970 running with a HD 5770, you could run three displays off of one card, three off of the other, and arrange the image across your six displays however you like. Or if you have three HD 5770's, you could arrange nine different displays together, and have one giant resolution meta-display. You now have the flexibility to mix-and-match your Eyefinity (multi-monitor) potential through your CrossFireX configuration. This doesn't mean much to most of us, but for that lucky gamer with a zany system with eight displays and 3 HD 5870's -- this guy has big smile on his face right now.
And last, but certainly not least, with Catalyst 10.2 audio can now pass through DisplayPort properly. So, if you have a DisplayPort monitor with speakers, your system's sound will be routed through to those display speakers without a hitch. DisplayPort still isn't all that common to see, but it seems destined to catch on, so this make a lot of setups easier for people to work with.
Next up: we'll take a look at the coming features of Catalyst 10.3. It is just as crammed to the gills with improvements.