Posted on October 18, 2010 at 3:40 pm

So WTF ATI, Really?

I finally jumped into the modern area of gaming machines, buying a nice beefy system. Everythings great, except ATI still sucks. I have an older ATI card in a machine that was relegated to a server, but is now no longer used, just sitting in my closet as spare/test equipment. And I swore then I wouldn’t buy another ATI for a good long while. This was around 2005.

Fast forward to 2010. It’s been long enough, I figure the AMD/ATI integration should’ve helped them out by now, right?  Buy a new machine with two ATI Radeon HD 5870’s. Capable of 850MHz GPU clock and a 1200MHz memory clock, before overclocking or tweaking. Right out of the box I get underscan on my HDMI connection. No worries I think, fire up ATI Catalyst Control Center (CCC) and turn it off, problem fixed. Really retarded that they do that at all, but whatever.

Cue reboot to do the obligatory windows update…WTF? Underscan again? OK maybe drivers got punked, reset it, yay. All is good. A day or so later, another reboot. ?!??! UNDERSCAN AGAIN!?!?! Go get latest Catalyst drivers. They don’ properly install so I have to uninstall them, run driver sweeper, and then try the install again. Back to underscan…reset…but now the underscan is clearly on on EVERY reboot. Resort to Googling. Apparently this bug has been around for a damn long time. And may even be that it keeps coming back. How about this ATI. Since almost NO HDMI compatible display device is going to desire underscan, JUST DISABLE IT BY DEFAULT!? No nVidia card I’ve had has had this issue.

So on top of this really painfully obvious underscan issue, the driver installer/uninstaller doesn’t work right.  Its so bad in fact that ATI’s own people often point customers to driver sweeper instead of FIXING the damn thing.  Installing new drivers is not remotely seamless like it should be.  Upgrades should always be pain free, download installer and run.  With ATI’s packages running the installer like that may or may not get you fully updated depending on the phase of the moon, color of your hair, and whether the geese have flown south for the winter or not.

Another irritating one. And one I’ve attached a GPU-Z screenshot for. With Adobe Flash 10.1, playing any flash accelerated video, IE from YouTube, will lock your Radeon HD 5870 to 400/900, no matter what. I fired up Kombustor and FurMark to prove it. Close the YouTube window and your clocks unlock to 850/1200. This is another bug that goes WAY WAY back after a bit of Googling.

Seriously ATI?

The attached image shows me first firing up a YouTube clip in FireFox.  The Video clock jumps to 400/900 and sticks…a little odd, especially if the video is paused but whatever…. Then I fire up MSI Kombustor (same as FurMark).  The GPU load jumps to 100% but the clocks stay locked at 400/900.  I close the YouTube clip, and the clocks then unlock and shoot up to 850/1200.  The Kombustor/FurMark frame rates reflect the hobbled video card clocks.  Nothing I do unlocks the clock from 400/900 as long as Flash is playing video.  This is with the latest Catalyst 10.9a (Hotfix) drivers.  I had to install these to get rid of the previously mentioned underscan idiocy.

Same behavior with Google Chrome and Microsoft Internet Explorer 8.  This is all running on Windows 7 Ultimate x64.

So in short, don’t get ATI. They can’t get their drivers right. You never know when a bug will come back, or when/IF they’ll fix performance critical bugs. I shouldn’t have to make certain to close each and every browser window to play a game, get max performance for a transcode, etc. Not on a machine with 4x 3.2GHz cores.  The experience here with this card follows similar bad experiences with the older card and software (I had underscan issues on that one too, and performance issues that may or may not have been similar, but I never looked into it too deeply).

You drop thousands of dollars for a high end gaming machine/workstation.  1/4 or more of that will be in the video cards, and this is what ATI delivers.  I’ve found articles on AMD/ATI’s own forum from users indicatign BOTH these issues go back to *at least* mid 2009, and probably earlier.  Why am I not blaming Flash?  Even if Flash is asking for video acceleration, or asking for a 400/900 clock, the ATI drivers should STILL adapt the clock to the GPU load.  If the GPU pegs out it should let the clock go.

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