What Is an ATI Display Driver?
By Matthew Smith
Every piece of hardware needs a piece of software, called a driver, to tell it how to function. ATI uses display drivers to tell its video cards how to operate, and also distributes a suite of software with its drivers called ATI Catalyst Control Center. Without this software an ATI card wouldn't be able to function.
By itself a video card is not able to do anything because it does not know what tasks are asked of it. It is the job of the display driver to tell the video card what it needs to do. Beyond this basic functionality, display drivers also are used to improve video card performance, enable special features and fix software bugs. New drivers are released by ATI every month.
ATI Catalyst Control Center
The Catalyst Control Center is a software suite which is installed alongside ATI display drivers. It is optional in the sense that it does not have to be installed in order for an ATI video card to function. However, many features can only be accessed through the Catalyst Control Center. Some of the features which can only be accessed through Catalyst include ATI Overdrive overclocking, Avivo video management, and universal 3D setting overrides.
The Overdrive software gives users the option to overclock their ATI video card. Overdrive can be used to adjust GPU speed, memory speed, and fan speed. In addition to the overclocking features Overdrive provides real-time information about GPU temperature, activity, and fan speed.
Avivo Video Management
Avivo video management gives users the ability to control the color, contrast, and other settings of their display. It also includes advanced color adjustment features such as flesh tone correction, dynamic range, and video gamma. Finally, Avivo Video Managment allows users to adjust the way the video card handles deinterlacing of video.
Universal 3D Overrides
In most cases users will determine the graphical quality of games by using the settings available within the game itself. However, it is possible to use Catalyst to override a game's settings. In most cases these settings don't need to be used because games already have the settings available, but some older games do not have settings which are supported by modern video cards such as anti-aliasing and anisotropic filtering. Catalyst allows the display driver to force these settings onto a game, enabling them even in games which didn't ship with them.
Driver incompatibility is a common cause of computer problems. Even the simplest computer contains numerous drivers, all of which are necessary for the computer to function. Driver issues are not always avoidable because they are often unforeseen, but it is possible to minimize the risk of compatibility problems by always downloading and installing new video card drivers when they are released by ATI.
Matthew Smith is a Portland, Ore.-based freelance writer. He writes about PC hardware and other topics for multiple publications, the largest of which are Demand Studios and BrightHub. He began writing in 2007 and has a bachelor's from Beloit College.