Last weekís CATALYST 3.9 launch caught us completely by surprise. Sure, we know ATI is now on a monthly release schedule for its drivers, but it still hadnít been 30 days since ATI unveiled CATALYST 3.8, so we figured we were good for at least another week, if not two before CATALYST 3.9 was unveiled. Little did we know that ATI had a different set of plans for 3.8ís immediate follow-up.
In any case, weíre here now to take a look at this new driver, which is significant because it adds OVERDRIVE support to the RADEON 9600 XT. Letís take a look shall we?
Fundamentally, OVERDRIVE itself has not changed since CATALYST 3.8. We still arenít given important information such as clock speeds, memory clock frequency adjustment, and hardware monitoring, all features which ATI has promised to add in a future CATALYST release, and, quite frankly, one ATI board partner, ASUS, provides it its ATI-based graphics cards today. CATALYST 3.9ís OVERDRIVE tab is unchanged from CATALYST 3.8, simply check a setting in the control panel to enable or disable it.
If you recall, OVERDRIVE is a new feature unique to ATIís ďXTĒ line of graphics cards, when enabled, OVERDRIVE dynamically adjusts the core clock frequency of the graphics card depending on temperature. The cooler the core operates, the higher OVERDRIVE will clock the graphics core, but only to a point, 432MHz in the case of the RADEON 9800 XT (20MHz over default), and 527MHz in the case of the RADEON 9600 XT (27MHz over default). The intermediate settings are 419MHz for the RADEON 9800 XT, and 513MHz for the RADEON 9600 XT.
Of course, detractors would argue that OVERDRIVEís supported clock frequencies are fairly mild in comparison to what the hardware is capable of, but it is an intriguing first step nonetheless. We are extremely eager to see how this technology matures. Perhaps at some point ATI will open up OVERDRIVE a little bit more, or, with a quick registry modification, OVERDRIVE clock speeds can be increased even higher (voiding your cardís warranty of course).
Therefore, itís a bit too soon for us to be critical of this new technology, especially since it can be used in conjunction with third-party overclocking tools such as Rage3D Tweak and Powerstrip. And of course, if you donít like the idea of OVERDRIVE at all, you can always disable it.
As cool as the RADEON 9600 XT operates, we figured it would spend all of its time at 527MHz. After all, in our RADEON 9600 XT preview, we were able to overclock the graphics core to a whopping 605MHz (17% over default)! However, even in our open-air testing environment, we found that it wasnít uncommon for OVERDRIVE to reduce the graphics coreís clock frequency to 513MHz after just five minutes of gaming. Fortunately, we never saw OVERDRIVE dip below 513MHz, but weíre sure this probably comes as a disappointment to some of you.