ATI's New Catalyst AI Driver Optimizations
In May of last year, we uncovered a 3DMark03 optimization in nVidia's drivers that greatly inflated scores on the company's new GeForce FX cards. The backlash lasted several months, with nVidia finally admitting that the optimizations—which used knowledge of the predetermined camera movements in 3DMark to reduce workload—went too far. The company stuck by its right to create optimizations that are both general in nature and apply to all games, as well as application-specific optimizations that detected certain executables to trigger optimized code. It even went so far as to set three major guidelines for such work. We covered these nVidia driver optimization guidelines over a year ago.
Through all this, ATI has essentially kept the gloves on. Now, they come off, as ATI joins the driver optimization fray with a new feature—Catalyst AI. Our preview of the Radeon X700 XT uses a slightly early version of the Catalyst 4.10 drivers, scheduled for release in the next two to three weeks. The Catalyst Control Center (CCC) supplied with these drivers adds a new switch, Catalyst AI, which enables both general and application-specific optimizations. We'll take a look at what ATI is doing, and try to determine if it's a good thing, or a messy can of worms.