Late last week word began circulating that AMD would be dropping driver support for their DX10 generation GPUS – HD 2000, HD 3000, and HD 4000 – based on a Phoronix article discussing the future of driver support for those GPUs under Linux. As Phoronix correctly observed, AMD tends to drop support for a GPU under Linux and Windows simultaneously, so there was reason to believe that a similar retirement would indeed be coming for AMD’s DX10 GPUs under Windows.
Today AMD put out a statement clarifying the future of driver support for their DX10 GPUs, and as it turns out Phoronix was correct.
Starting with Catalyst 12.5 (May’s Catalyst release), AMD will be moving the HD 2000, HD 3000, and HD 4000 series from mainstream to legacy status. This means that those products will move from receiving monthly driver updates to quarterly driver updates, and at the same time AMD will shift away from working on further performance improvements and new features for those cards, and instead working solely on bug fixes and other critical updates. AMD believes they’ve gotten all they’re going to get from their DX10 GPUs from a performance standpoint, so now their focus is going to be on any driver bugs that may crop up with future games.
As you may recall, this is the same legacy driver development model that AMD moved their DX9 GPUs to back in 2009, when Catalyst 9.3 was the last mainstream driver to support those GPUs. If that transition is any kind of reliable guidance, that means we should expect another year of driver updates for AMD’s DX10 GPUs. Their last driver release for those GPUs was 10.2 back in February of 2010, roughly a year after they moved those GPUs to legacy status. With that said, given the slowing pace of graphics API development – we’re not even to Direct3D 11.1 yet – I wouldn’t be surprised (or at least will be hopeful) that AMD will continue legacy driver updates for more than a year. New DX9 games are still extremely common, never mind games that work on DX10.
At the same time this cements the status of AMD’s DX10 GPUs under Windows 8. As those GPUs could never fully support WDDM 1.2, it has been clear for some time now that those GPUs would not be at parity with AMD’s DX11 GPUs under Windows 8. Officially AMD will not support Windows 8 with their legacy drivers, however Windows 8 will include a version of AMD’s legacy driver for their DX10 GPUs and any newer releases of AMD’s legacy drivers should be installable on Windows 8 with little-to-no fiddling. So with official support or not, nothing has really changed in this regard.
AMD’s full statement is below.
AMD will be moving the AMD Radeon™ HD 2000, AMD Radeon HD 3000, and AMD Radeon HD 4000 Series of products to a new driver support model. We will continue to support the mentioned products in our Catalyst releases, but we’re moving their updates to a quarterly basis, whereas our AMD Radeon HD 5000 and later products will continue to see monthly updates. The Quarterly Catalyst releases will focus on resolving application specific issues and critical updates. The reason for the shift in support policy is largely due to the fact that the AMD Radeon HD 2000, AMD Radeon HD 3000, and AMD Radeon HD 4000 Series have been optimized to their maximum potential from a performance and feature perspective. The 8.97 based driver, released in May 2012 will be the first driver for the AMD Radeon HD 2000, AMD Radeon HD 3000, and AMD Radeon HD 4000 Series under the new support model; it is an extremely stable and robust driver branch for these products and will be the baseline for our quarterly updates.
Our main development and testing efforts will now be focused on the AMD Radeon™ HD 5000 and later products. This is the best use of our resources, as the AMD Radeon HD 5000, AMD Radeon HD 6000, AMD Radeon HD 7000, and future products have the greatest potential for further performance and feature enhancements.
Also with regards to Windows 8 support for the AMD Radeon™ HD 2000, 3000, 4000 Series of products; the In-the-box AMD Graphics driver that ships with Windows 8 will include support for the AMD Radeon HD 2000, 3000, and 4000 Series, and it will support the WDDM 1.1 driver level features. The AMD Catalyst driver for Windows 8 will only include support for WDDM 1.2 support products (AMD Radeon HD 5000 and later).
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