Catalyst 10.2 drivers bring big changes, more coming

Change is in the air for Radeon owners. AMD has released a new batch of Catalyst graphics drivers that introduces a slew of major changes and improvements—and there's more where that came from. For now, the Catalyst 10.2 release is available from AMD's Game website for Windows 7, Vista, and XP in 32-bit and 64-bit variants.

Both AnandTech and PC Perspective have written detailed reports about the 10.2 and 10.3 drivers. According to their coverage, today's release brings three big improvements for CrossFire multi-GPU configurations: modular CrossFire profile updates, reduced idle power consumption for CrossFire "slave" cards, and Eyefinity multi-display support for CrossFire configurations other than the Radeon HD 5970. Thanks to the modular profile feature, AMD will be able to distribute CrossFire profiles outside of full, 110MB driver pacakges. Nvidia already does something similar; its Mass Effect 2 profile update was a scant 330KB download, for example.

Other features in the 10.2 release include support for audio output via DisplayPort and performance increases in DiRT 2, Battleforge, The Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena, and the Unigine demo.

More exciting for laptop users will be the Catalyst 10.3 release, which should arrive in March. AnandTech writes that the same, unified driver package should support both desktop and mobile Radeons, and AMD will stick to its monthly driver update schedule. These drivers will support Mobility Radeon HD 2000-series and newer graphics processors running under Windows Vista or Windows 7. Also, AMD promises support from "most major . . . notebook manufacturers." PC vendors will have to opt out of the program instead of the other way around, which should encourage broader support. (There, too, AMD is playing catch-up with Nvidia, although mobile GeForce drivers don't come out on a monthly basis.)

The Catalyst 10.3 release will complement its notebook features with a good number of multi-display additions: bezel correction for Eyefinity setups, per-display monitor controls, support for multiple display groups, and "Eyefinity display configuration switching." AMD will include hooks for third-party stereoscopic 3D displays, as well, which should herald an alternative to Nvidia's GeForce 3D Vision scheme. We actually saw some stereoscopic 3D action on AMD graphics cards at the Consumer Electronics Show last month.

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