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ATI denies 'Catalyst 3.8 damaged my monitor' claims

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ATI has vigorously denied claims that its latest Catalyst drivers have caused monitors and graphics cards to overheat and malfunction.

"Our drivers are not causing these alleged problems," the company said in a statement issued last night.

The latest Catalyst driver suite, version 3.8, were released on 8 October. ATI describes them as the "most significant software update in the company's history".

Included among the bundled tools is Overdrive, a "safe" overclocking utility for ATI's new Radeon 9800 XT chip. It allows "users to safely maximize the performance level of their graphics processor. Overdrive operates by dynamically over-clocking the graphics processor, while always ensuring that it stays at a safe temperature".

Claims that Catalyst 3.8 has been damaging monitors and causing chips to overheat have recently surfaced on a variety of user forums. Some users allege that they have witnessed a 10C increase in temperature since upgrading to Catalyst 3.8.

Said ATI in response: "We have spent a great deal of time analysing the temperatures due to the Catalyst 3.8 drivers. We do not under any circumstance see anything near a 10C increase in temperature (but we don't overclock our test cards either). We do see a slight increase in temperature in certain cases (3Dmark2003 Nature Scene, for example). However, any temperature increase is well within our safety range."

As for monitor malfunction, the claim is that the new drivers read the wrong configuration information and attempt to force CRTs to operate in resolutions and refresh rates they can't support, resulting in permanent damage to the display's electronics. ATI claims it doesn't use Windows' files to determine monitor capabilities, but sources that information directly by interrogating the screen, or by checking user override files.

ATI acknowledges that it is possible for users to choose inappropriate monitor settings, but that's not the fault of its drivers. Such settings can be chosen from Windows' Display control panel no matter what drivers are installed, and requires user intervention. Simply updating to Catalyst 3.8 doesn't inherently involve such a move, ATI contests.

"We have spent a great deal of time trying to reproduce this problem and analysing our driver code," ATI said. "There is nothing in our driver code that has changed since Catalyst 3.7 to 3.8 that could possibly cause this behaviour. We believe that our drivers are not causing these alleged problems."

The company claims that the 100-odd OEMs it has supplied Catalyst 3.8 drivers to have not reported any such problems. Users haven't called the company's tech support lines on the matter, either - despite the new drivers being downloaded (and presumably installed) "hundreds of thousands" of times. ATI's "comprehensive" QA tests didn't show any such issues.

So is there a problem at all?

ATI doesn't think so. "We do not currently believe these stories are valid," it says.

Such is the level of willy-waving among some of the more infantile graphics card fanboys, we wouldn't be at all surprised if followers of a rival company had posted the claims in order to damage ATI. Nothing new there - in the past, ATI buffs have tried to suggest major problems with Nvidia cards. It's all part of the bizarre war these idiots believe they're fighting on behalf of their favoured firms.

While such claims may send a frisson of schadenfreude up the spines of competitors, we'd like to believe none of them countenance this sort of thing. As we witnessed with this year's Nvidia 3Dmark03 story, none of them are above trying to tacitly put the boot in to rivals when they can, but posting claims that drivers damage hardware? We don't think so. But past spats between the companies themselves, typified by the issuing of tit-for-tat press releases, hasn't exactly set down an example of adult competitive behaviour. ®

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