Last year both ATI and nVidia came under fire from several websites regarding application specific optimizations in 3DMark03. Basically when "3DMark03.exe" was loaded, the graphics card driver would drop image quality to give a better score which of course meant the graphics card in question would look better in terms of performance numbers against the competition. If you rename "3DMark03.exe" to something different, such as "3DMurk.exe" (such as Scott from The Tech Report did) you'll get the correct and true score since no application specific image quality optimizations are in play.
In an interesting turn of events, ATI is today launching a new feature in their upcoming CCC (Catalyst Control Center) drivers called CATALYST A.I. which "allows the driver to intelligently analyze applications and textures to maximize graphics performance and stability". It's ironic that a year later ATI are making this feature public and active in their driver which both they and nVidia (more so nVidia) used to try and deceive us.
Nevertheless, ATI has turned a cheap, nasty and sneaky feature around in application specific optimizations and introduced CATALYST A.I. which promises to improve 3D performance in many popular modern games whilst maintaining original image quality. The feature uses ATI's new texture analyzer technology which looks at individual textures as they are loaded and determines the most efficient way to display them. Current application *.exe files detected are Doom 3, UT2003, UT2004, Half Life 2 engine, Splinter Cell, Race Driver, Prince of Persia and Crazy Taxi 3. ATI say that in future releases of CATALYST, more support for other games will be included.
We didn't get much time with the new software from ATI (less than 24 hours in fact) but we did get time to try out ATI's new CATALYST 4.10 BETA drivers (which will be released next month along with the updated CCC) which supports A.I. We have compared the performance of A.I. turned on and off with an ATI Radeon X800 PRO in Doom 3 and CS Source BETA along with a few tests determining whether or not ATI's claims hold true in that they will never specifically optimize solely for synthetic benchmarking software, this of course mainly relating to FutureMark's 3DMark03 and 3DMark05 BETA.
Without further ado, let's continue on and find out what all the fuss is about, mainly checking to see if ATI's new CATALYST A.I. technology really provides any noteworthy performance increases without compromising image quality.
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