The last time that we took an in-depth look at a driver set, it was the Catalyst series on a Radeon 9700 Pro, in which we saw just how much or how little had changed over the two-and-a-half-year lifespan of the card. Overall, we found that ATI’s breakaway hit of a video card changed very little once it was out of its youth, but where ATI did put its biggest investments in improving performance paid off very well, improving anti-aliasing and anisotropic filtering performance in ways that now reflect their ubiquitous status these days.

However, while we had a good handle on the 9700 Pro and its R3xx lineage, we couldn’t help but wonder about the R420, the successor and very much the offspring of the R300 design. Built even more for shader power and based on an already strong design, could the R420 tell us something the R300 couldn’t? How did ATI handle the R420’s drivers in the face of real competition with NVIDIA’s 6000 series, versus the landslide over the 5000 series? To answer these questions and more, we’re back today once again putting the Catalyst drivers to the test, this time with the R420-based X800 Pro.

While this series of investigations is very much organic in nature and continuing to grow and change to fit the needs of the readers, we have made several modifications based on user feedback from our first effort. For our look at the R420 and the forthcoming NV40, using more modern video cards has allowed us to also use more modern games, something many of you requested. We still can’t use the newest games because of the slim number of drivers that fully support them, but with this selection, we’ve tried to reach a better balance on the number of modern games versus the need to use games old enough to span the entire life of the video card. As always, if you have any further suggestions to take into consideration for future video cards, we’d love to hear them in our comments section.

With that said, our overall objective in doing this has not changed. As a recap from our first article:

When the optimizations, the tweaks, the bug fixes, and the cheats are all said and done, just how much faster has all of this work made a product? Are these driver improvements really all that substantial all the time, or is much of this over-exuberance and distraction over only minor issues? Do we have any way of predicting what future drivers for new products will do?

Today, we’ll once again answer that and more on the R420.

R420 & The Test
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  • mino - Thursday, February 23, 2006 - link

    What they can do is provide Control panel.

    Had they provided CP at least once a quarter, many customers would be happier and it would not require so much resources after all.

    As a result of CCC being the only option, we have decided to abandon all planned purchases of X1000 based graphics cards recently.
    The slowness is not the only issue, we've had also problems to meke CCC run at all(it is needed for multi-display configs).
  • MrJim - Wednesday, February 22, 2006 - link

    Hopefully ATI will come to their senses about CCC, as its now it isnt working for the demanding users at all. Average joe maybe dont know you can replace CCC with ati tray tools to help speed up things and thats sad. Please bring back the old control panel, please?
  • Lonyo - Wednesday, February 22, 2006 - link">
    The "mouseover" comparison at the bottom has one 3D Mark shot, and one HL2 shot.
  • Ryan Smith - Wednesday, February 22, 2006 - link

    Fixed, thanks.

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