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Catalyst 15.7.1 Performance Analysis Featuring 290X & 290X CrossFire

As part of a regular feature for BabelTechReviews, this driver analysis will look at the performance of 32 PC games using the latest Catalyst 15.7.1 drivers which were released the day before Windows 10 was launched on July 29.  We will compare these latest drivers versus Catalyst 15.7 WHQL drivers using the 290X, and versus the 15.4.1 Beta Catalyst driver that we last tested 290X CrossFire with. We will also give the reference GTX 980 Ti results using its very latest WHQL driver GeForce 353.62  for another direct comparison with 290X CrossFire.

KiteDemo 2015-06-27 12-41-13-20We want to document the performance changes of this current beta driver on Windows 8.1 immediately before we upgrade to Windows 10 which will culminate in a comparison of the performance of the latest AMD and Nvidia drivers on Windows 8.1 versus running them on Windows 10. We are also benching for an upcoming evaluation of a new card next week, and for a MSI R9 390X versus PowerColor R9 290X PCS+ evaluation afterward.

This driver performance analysis features AMD’s former single-GPU flagship Radeon R9 290X, although we plan to regularly test other AMD cards also for upcoming evaluations.  We want to at least document the performance changes of this important driver set as it brings together a unified driver for all currently supported editions of Windows including 10.

We are going to give you the performance results of the 290X and 290X CrossFire at 1920×1080, 2560×1440, and at 3840×2160, using 32 games and 3 synthetics tests including the “Kite Demo” on Unreal Engine 4. This driver performance evaluation will compare the performance changes since AMD’s older driver sets.

Our testing platform is Windows 8.1 64-bit, using an Intel Core i7-4790K which turbos all cores to 4.4GHz, an ASUS Z97E motherboard, and 16GB of Kingston “Beast” HyperX RAM at 2133MHz. The settings and hardware are identical except for the drivers being tested.

At R9 280X and above, we test at higher settings and at higher resolutions generally than we test midrange and lower-end cards.  All of our games are now tested at three resolutions at 60Hz: 3840×2160, 2560×1440, and 1920×1080, and we use DX11 whenever possible with a very strong emphasis on the latest DX11 games.  We no longer benchmark at 2560×1600, but instead use the more popular 2560×1440 resolution.

Several games have had updates which have changed their settings since we tested 290X CrossFire last.  Shadows of Mordor has patched in FXAA and Camera + Object Blur which is more demanding than previously and we are now testing with the highest settings available, beyond Ultra.  GTA V has had multiple patches, and the Witcher 3 is on its eighth patch.  We are careful to test our drivers using the same game patch versions when comparing 15.7 vs. 15.7.1.  We also test GameWorks features On versus Off in the Witcher 3, and also in Batman: Arkham Knight.

Let’s get right to the test configuration, to the driver release notes, and then to our results.