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We posted earlier today about the public availability of AMD’s latest Catalyst 13.1 WHQL drivers, but being available and installing properly and without problems on Enduro laptops are sadly not the same thing. Armed with six different laptops, I took a moment to check on two things: first, would the AMD Mobility Radeon Driver Verification Tool allow the downloading of updated drivers; second, with the drivers available (either via the just-mentioned utility or via another source), would they install properly?

One thing I have not (yet) had time to do is any form of performance testing, so this is strictly a test to see if the drivers install properly and if all of the functions are present in the Catalyst Control Center. Here’s the list of the candidate laptops (some of which we have not yet reviewed) as well as the results of my two driver tests. I’ll follow the table with a lengthier discussion of the issues encountered where applicable.

AMD Mobility Catalyst 13.1 Laptop Testing
Laptop Utility DL? Installed?
Alienware M17x R4 (7970M) No Yes
AMD Llano Prototype (6620G + 6630M) Yes* No
AMD Trinity Prototype (7660G) Yes* Yes
MSI GX60 (7660G + 7970M) Yes* Yes
Samsung NP355V5C (7660G + 7670M) No Yes
Sony VAIO C (6630M) No Yes*
* - See notes below

Right off the bat, we can see there are problems with getting the drivers in the first place. Of the six laptops, the three with Intel processors fail to pass the utility’s “valid GPU/Vendor ID” test and simply refuse to download the full driver. The other three laptops (which have AMD APUs) pass the utility’s check, but then when the download is supposed to start and you select the save location you immediately get a message stating that the driver download has been canceled. I assume the download would work, if the utility functioned properly, but right now the only way to actually download the driver was through other means.

Option one for downloading the driver is to use the AMD Catalyst Control Center (or whatever it’s called these days) and check for driver updates. This also failed to find new drivers for most of the laptops, but the Trinity Prototype at least found and properly downloaded the drivers. The other alternative is to just find another web site that’s hosting the driver—Guru3D has them, and I assume others do as well. Needless to say, the process of getting AMD's mobile dirvers continues to be a pretty poor showing, but that’s nothing new. The only laptops where I expect zero difficulties in this area are those with either a discrete-only AMD GPU (no Enduro or switchable graphics) or an AMD APU and no dGPU (and be sure to avoid Sony, Toshiba, and Panasonic laptops if you want driver OEM support); not that others won’t work, but those are the least likely to have issues.

The second test is to install the drivers and see if they at least work in a few tests. The good news here is that five of the six laptops worked with the drivers, and the only one to fail completely is the Llano Prototype (which has always been a bit iffy, since it was never released to the public and the BIOS is a bit raw). Discounting the prototype, the drivers installed pretty much without any complaints or concerns on four of the laptops; the only one that gave me problems is the Sony VAIO C.

I’ve discussed the issues with the VAIO C and driver updates in the past, but the short story is that many of the other Dynamic Switchable Graphics laptops from the last year or so are likely to behave similarly (HP’s Envy 15 for instance). I got Windows 8 up and running on the Sony via a modified driver, as the stock drivers (either with Windows 8 or from AMD) did not work. With the modified drivers, you end up with the full driver being present (e.g. 12.11 beta11 prior to the 13.1 update), but the Global Switchable Graphics Settings section of the Catalyst Control Suite is non-functional—the lists where you select one of four modes for AC and battery power are blanked out. With the 13.1 drivers, things actually take a step backwards as far as I can tell: the CCC won’t start for me. The dGPU is present and working (I ran a couple games to verify this), but I can’t open up any of the switchable graphics settings or other driver settings.

Lack of performance testing aside, the latest driver release is an improvement at least from the installation standpoint, but there are a lot of remaining issues to address. The ideal continues to be widespread availability of drivers that simply install and work on any laptops with switchable graphics based on PowerXpress 4.0 or later hardware (Dynamic Switchable Graphics or Enduro), not to mention they should also work with discrete-only solutions. The GCN-based 7000M hardware tends to be better supported right now, whereas Northern/Southern Islands chips continue to have more issues. Please let us know if you've also had any difficulties with downloading and installing AMD's 13.1 mobility drivers, and we'll pass along any information to our AMD contacts.

Update: We spoke with AMD today (January 21, 2013) and they clarified some of the information regarding the supported laptops. We now have a separate post detailing this information.

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  • silverblue - Saturday, January 19, 2013 - link

    I just don't see how this sort of verification tool cannot work. Cards have specific IDs that must correspond with a list... or am I oversimplifying things here?

    I know this is a hardware site, but regardless of being able to manually install drivers, if somebody releases a tool to supposedly help with the process then it should really work as intended.
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Saturday, January 19, 2013 - link

    I believe the core issue is that some OEMs didn't want AMD releasing updated drivers. But now there are so many ID codes that AMD might simply eliminate any that they haven't specifically tested. Whatever the case, the full drivers will install in many cases but the utility seems to only work on a small subset of hardware IDs right now. :-\ Reply
  • Bob Todd - Saturday, January 19, 2013 - link

    I don't get how you can respond to an article you apparently weren't even intelligent enough to comprehend. You think Jarred doesn't know how to install a driver? The success or total failure is completely dependent on your hardware. Folks with Ivy Bridge/GCN (official Enduro) are fine now. But this driver is supposed to work all the way back to PowerXpress 4.0, which it currently doesn't. At all. Did you even read the next to the last paragraph? Reply
  • Dustin Sklavos - Saturday, January 19, 2013 - link

    Well, it worked for him and his sample size of one, so it must work for everybody. Reply
  • CeriseCogburn - Friday, January 25, 2013 - link

    thomas, use your head - all the amd catalyst hacks have the big A 7970 lappy they do their crap work on, so of course, you bought the big boy, and it works - amd gets the very top correct because they must do the very bare minimum - as far as everything else- forget it.

    So the bloated heads of the catalyst makers get their own corpo issued speedy laptop working then they're done. " Hey it works for me, what's your problem ?! (comsumer complaining in amd forum gets told off by amd rep) ".

    That's how it works at amd bro. The top corpo dogs have fun jacking with their corpo pig top tier and screw everyone and everything else.
    Reply
  • junky77 - Sunday, January 20, 2013 - link

    Well, I used the 12.11 v.11 beta drivers and it worked fine for, but when I installed the 13.1 drivers, the device manager showed that the 7730M drivers installed are from the 8/8/2012 (there are two devices in the 'device manager' - 7700M series gpu and 7660G + 7700M). The 12.11 beta drivers showed 12/2/2012 drivers for a "7700M" and "7660G" GPUs.

    With both drivers, the screen brightness control didn't work.

    Using the factory installed Windows 8 that came with the laptop, fully updated
    Reply
  • dczyz - Sunday, January 20, 2013 - link

    Its the only way I can get the ati drivers to work on a HP notebook. Come on ATI - unified drivers now!

    My next notebook will be nvidia.
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Monday, January 21, 2013 - link

    I didn't mention this in the article as I've previously discussed this, but the Leshcatlab drivers are the only way I could get anything to work with Enduro/switchable graphics on the Sony VAIO C and Windows 8. I'm not sure if the updated 13.1 drivers change that at all, but I did manage to upgrade from the previous 12.11 beta11 drivers to 13.1 without problems at least. Reply
  • dczyz - Tuesday, January 22, 2013 - link

    I actually scraped Windows 8 on my notebook. Just to many problems with the ati drivers.

    Went back to Windows 7, and the Leshcat's 13.1 and it worked great. I have a cheap hp dv-6.

    Next notebook will be a Haswell / Nvida combo I think
    Reply
  • vias79 - Tuesday, January 22, 2013 - link

    Downloading the 13.1 driver and installing it worked on my Dell Vostro 3550 with 6630M card. Was using 12-1_mobility_vista_win7_64_dd_ccc before that which I found in this thread http://www.ideastorm.com/idea2ReadIdea?id=08770000... Couldn't get any other version to work. The 12.1 version had problems though with my GPU not working all the time "video card reset problem" which made explorer restarting. These problems are now gone with the 13.1 driver.

    So thanks for the article! Wish it wasn't such a jungle to be able to install notebook graphic drivers.
    Reply

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