New Catalyst drivers improve security, performance

When AMD announced plans to slow down its driver release cadence in late May, I didn't expect to see the company release not one, but two new Catalyst drivers less than a month later. Oh well; at least Radeon users shouldn't feel neglected. They can now grab final Catalyst 12.6 drivers, which have Windows Hardware Quality Labs approval, as well as a Catalyst 12.7 beta update.

AMD paints the 12.6 WHQL update as more of a maintenance update, and sure enough, the release notes outline a fairly meaty list of bug fixes. Among them is the plugging of a potential security vulnerability. AMD doesn't say what the vulnerability is, only how it came to discover it:

CERT recently approached AMD with information pertaining to what they believed to be a possible video driver vulnerability exposed by non-default settings of the Microsoft Enhanced Mitigation Experience Toolkit (EMET). EMET is a security test tool that allows system administrators to create test conditions to validate correct behavior of system components or indicate potential weak points.

Some of the other fixes and additions were already present in last month's Catalyst 12.6 beta. Those included support for Dual Graphics configs involving Trinity APUs, and a handful of new Dual Graphics profiles.

As for the new bleeding-edge release, Catalyst 12.7 beta, AMD says that one brings a wealth of performance improvements over the previous WHQL release, Catalyst 12.4. Here's the full list of expected increases (which are, we should point out, likely all best-case scenarios):

  • Up to 25% Skyrim
  • Up to 6% in Crysis 2
  • Up to 20% in Total War: Shogun 2
  • Up to 3.3% in Battlefield 3
  • Up to 6.9% In 3DMarkā„¢ 11
  • Up to 4.8% in Aliens vs. Predator
  • Up to 6.5% in Batman: Arkham City
  • Up to 8% in Crysis Warhead
  • Up to 7.2% in F1 2010
  • Up to 8% in Just Cause 2
  • Up to 12% in Wolfenstein MP

AMD says Diablo 3 players can now enable MSAA and SSAA antialiasing modes through the AMD Catalyst Control Center, as well.

Also, according to the company's blog post, the 12.7 beta includes compute and video transcoding enhancements. It supports video transcoding via the Radeon HD 7000 series' VCE block in vReveal and ArcSoft MediaConverter, and AMD claims the release "opens the floodgates on performance for non-gaming tasks, like file compression and video transcoding." Those enhancements aren't mentioned in the release notes, though.

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