Interview with Andrew Dodd on Catalyst 7.1
ATI's latest Catalyst boasts some new features that should please a good number of people out there. Improvement on the architecture, optimizations, and enhancements give release 7.1 some much needed boost in loading times and features. One of the features that worked in the initial Vista driver release was Crossfire, something that NVIDIA is in the beta stages today with their SLI support. I spoke with Andrew Dodd of AMD to talk a little but about Catalyst 7.1.
GamingNexus: The new drivers have been out for a few weeks now. How has the response been to them?
Andrew Dodd: The response has been very positive! End users are enjoying the many great features included in Catalyst 7.1, such as Crossfire support, Blu-ray/HD-DVD playback, and the new Catalyst Control Center to name just a few.
GamingNexus: Vista's taking a little heat for running games at a slower pace than an XP machine. Do you think this can be corrected by driver optimizations to make it run closer to or at the same speed as XP or will we not really see the benefits of the OS in terms of speed until DirectX 10 games hit the market?
Andrew Dodd: Actually with Catalyst 7.1 some 3D applications are already running faster under Windows Vista than Windows XP, and in general Direct3D performance of AMD’s ATI Radeon hardware under Windows Vista is extremely comparable (within a percent or two) to Windows XP. Of course we will be further improving the performance in future Catalyst releases (in fact today’s Catalyst 7.2 already includes some very significant OpenGL performance gains)
GamingNexus: How important was it to have Crossfire working right off the bat with NVIDIA's SLI implementation needing some work in Vista?
Andrew Dodd: Crossfire is one of AMD’s key 3D performance features, so we made sure that we had Crossfire support in Catalyst 7.1, so that all of our customers using Windows Vista would have support from day 1.
GamingNexus: How are you going to program the Catalyst Control Center for Linux when the CCC relies on .NET? Will you be using Mono, the open source project that lets Linux run .NET applications or is it being built from from the ground up?
Andrew Dodd: The Linux edition of the Catalyst Control Center will not be using .NET and is being developed with QT. Look for the Linux Catalyst Control Center coming soon in an upcoming Catalyst release
GamingNexus: I think the ability to update drivers via the control panel's long over due and I remember asking about that a few E3's ago with you saying that it was in the works. Has the Vista architecture enabled this feature to be more easily accomplished?
Andrew Dodd: Catalyst automatic updates is something that I think a lot of users will really benefit from (we’ll let users automatically know when a new Catalyst has been released, and we won’t download software components that haven’t changed from one release to the next – resulting is smaller downloads!!). The architecture for the automatic updates does not rely on anything specific in Windows Vista.
GamingNexus: Will people easily be able to roll back to other versions of Catalyst if they do use the auto update in case they experience problems?
Andrew Dodd: Yes. That will be one of the supported features in the new Catalyst installer when support for automatic updates is released.
GamingNexus: How do you feel about projects such as Omega that try to give gamers more options in the drivers? Have you ever taken some of their ideas and implemented them into your product?
Andrew Dodd: We of course encourage users to use AMD’s Catalyst software, but if end users wish to use 3rd party applications they of course are able to do so. We haven’t taken ideas from 3rd party applications, but we’re always open to suggestions from our customers about new features they’d like to see in Catalyst.
GamingNexus: There are still some perceptions from some people that ATI/AMD's video drivers aren't as well done as NVIDIA. What do you say to those people to try and quell that notion?
Andrew Dodd: AMD released Catalyst 7.1 for Windows Vista January 29th – a WHQL certified software suite with support for the last 3 generations of ATI Radeon products, that included a significant number of features and strong 3D performance. We’ve already released our second Windows Vista WHQL certified driver (Catalyst 7.2 – February 21 2007) which included huge OpenGL performance gains.
AMD has released WHQL certified drivers for Windows XP for the last few years every single month - providing customers with new features, performance enhancements, and stability improvements. This monthly trend of posting WHQL certified Catalyst software now also includes full support for Windows Vista.
I think that both of these statements speak for themselves as a testament to AMD’s dedication to providing customers with the best possible graphics software support.
I'd like to thank Andrew Dodd and all those at AMD who helped make this interview possible.
* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company for review.
I've been reviewing products since 1997 and started out at Gaming Nexus. After writing for a few different sites that went under, it's nice to bring back a site that's not dependent on revenue and just wants to deliver news and reviews of products.
I'm married, and enjoy first person shooters, sports games, and real time strategy games.