DX11 Catalyst Driver Performance over time
by Martin Thomas
So I’ve been looking around the internet for a post, or something in which I could see how the AMD and Nvidia drivers have improved over time. I definitely was certain that things like:
-they deliberately make the drivers worse so that you’d buy their new GPU
-the driver perf does NOT improve in real-world scenarios
are NOT true. From the OpenGL side I could already see that with each released AMD driver things get fixed, new features are implemented, and that is JUST the OpenGL backend. They have a huge variety of other things in the driver that are constantly improved. On the other hand it seems like compared to NVIDIA, they are always a step behind in supporting the latest OpenGL functionality.
I only have an AMD GPU right now that is capable of DX11, but I’ll soon grab an NVIDIA too, so that post will come later.
So I downloaded all of the WHQL drivers from AMD’s website back to 12.8 as that is supposed to be the first driver to support Windows 8.
I wanted to have a real-world benchmark program that showcases the improvement, so I browsed through my games in Steam, and found out that Metro: Last Light has a benchmark program that puts quite a stress on the system.
The PC I used for testing is the following:
-Core i5 4670 @3.4GHz
-HD 7770 GHz Edition 1GB GDDR5
-8GB 1600MHz RAM
The settings I used were the following:
-Very High Quality
-Low Motion Blur
I started with the latest beta driver the 14.7 RC3. The overall experience was smooth animation, with FPS drops (to around 25FPS) in places where the GPU just didn’t suffice. I got 38.91 as the average FPS, which is 25.7 ms.
Then I wanted to compare with the oldest possible, the 12.8. This time the animation lagged a bit, or it was just not that smooth overall. The FPS drops were now more severe (to around 20FPS) and the overall framerate was just at least 5-10FPS less. I got 32.96 as the average FPS, which is 30.34ms.
I also tested the drivers in between the two extremes and I found that the average FPS improved ever so slightly with each release.
The minimum and maximum frame times varied a lot, there’s definitely no trend here.
The best driver for the minimum FPS was the 13.9, but this likely cost a bit on the max FPS side, as you can see the trend breaking after 13.4.
Here’s a chart that shows driver performance over time:
And here’s a GIF that shows the perf improvement of the entire frame sequence over time (not just min/max/avg):
So as you could see the driver performance did improve significantly (by 5 ms for the average frame time, which is HUGE) in 2 years. It is definitely worth upgrading your drivers to the latest WHQL version, as you’ll definitely get some small perf improvements and other goodies. The performance did improve in a real world scenario, so you can’t say that they’re only optimizing for 3DMark…
If you’d like to see the original result files, you can find them here: