AMD beats Nvidia to OpenGL 4.0 support

Beta drivers out today

WE WERE SLIGHTLY worried that AMD wasn’t too interested in getting OpenGL 4.0 support ready for its cards after the fairly non-descript statement about support from AMD in the Khronos group press release that announced OpenGL 4.0.

However, it now appears as if AMD has beaten Nvidia by releasing OpenGL 4.0 beta drivers as of today. While we’ll have to wait for availability of Fermi based cards from Nvidia until it can offer support for the new 3D standard, AMD has also implemented support for OpenGL 3.3 in the new beta drivers. But neither is going to make a huge difference to most end users, as there isn’t exactly a lot of application support at the moment.

All ATI cards released since the spring of 2007 will support OpenGL 3.3 with the help of the new beta driver, although the performance will of course vary from card to card. However, OpenGL 4.0 will only work fully on the Radeon HD 5800 and HD 5900 series cards. The reason for this is because AMD’s more affordable cards don’t support double precision. Apart from that one exception, all of the Radeon HD 5000 series cards from the 5400 and up support OpenGL 4.0. However AMD vows to enable it for its lesser cards at a later date.

The new driver also adds OpenCL support in OpenGL applications which could lead to some interesting new developments in the software world. We’re just hoping that AMD has managed to improve the performance of its OpenGL drivers, as ATI cards have traditionally always lagged behind those from Nvidia when it came to OpenGL performance.

AMD is of course slapping itself on the back and congratulating its OpenGL software team for getting the drivers out so quickly. We’re not sure how important it is to offer OpenGL 4.0 drivers so early on, but at least it should help during the development of new software applications that should be better able to take advantage of the new API. We’re actually slightly surprised at how quickly AMD responded and got working drivers out, as we got the impression that Nvidia was going to be the first company to support the new API. It’s good to see that AMD is ready, willing and able. S|A

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