Upon launch you are greeted by the new welcome screen, which according to ATI is fully customizable. I was impressed right away with how convenient everything is. There are tabs across the top for VIEW, HOTKEYS, PROFILES, PREFERENCES, and HELP. Under each of these tabs are multiple configurations for personalizing your Control Center experience.
Clicking on the VIEW tab lets you toggle between STANDARD, ADVANCED, or CUSTOM views. STANDARD gives you the basics, WELCOME, DISPLAYS MANAGER, 3D, and VIDEO.
The one that needs to be touched on here is the 3D tab. This is where you will be making adjustments to your graphics settings.
In the old Control Panel this was a real hit or miss setup. If you were experienced with the settings, everything was fine. For those of us that weren’t familiar with Anti-Aliasing or Anisotropic Filtering, it was all Greek. Here, you can make adjustments to your graphics settings and see their effects “real time” by way of ATI’s Preview Panel. A very nice feature. Using the 3D STANDARD settings, you can adjust your video card performance from PERFORMANCE to QUALITY, and everywhere in between, and see the effects without having to launch another program.
Switching to the ADVANCED VIEW tab, you get every imaginable setting possible for your video card. Basically everything here is the same as with the old ATI Control Panel, only with a much easier interface and is much easier to manage. Here you can make much finer and more detailed adjustments to you video card settings.
A couple of features that I found interesting, but was unable to tap were the Video tab, which lets you optimize your system for video playback, and the ATI Overdrive feature, which automatically over clocks your video card. At this time I’m not sure why, but neither of these features were available for me to test. Besides being able to adjust every possible setting for your video gaming experience, the new Control Center is full of eye candy. Users can create their own welcome screen and even change the appearance of the Control Center with skins. I found these all to be nice, but to me anyway functionality is more important than aesthetics. As long as something looks halfway decent I’m happy. I’m much more concerned with how it affects the performance of my system.
ATI has planned a new Automatic Updates feature for the CATALYST Control Center. It will be able to update itself automatically if you choose, or you will be able to do it manually. You will even be able to setup a schedule of when you want it to update itself. These updates can be any number of things, from simply being the addition of a new skin to the inclusion of new features. All this thanks to the inclusion of Microsoft’s .NET and the programmers over at ATI.
Most everything else here is available within the older Control Panel, plus new features such as wizards, profile settings, automatic update capability, application manager, and new controls. While this sounds like a lot of stuff to add to a control center, ATI made the new CCC easier to navigate and use than previous versions. There is no real performance gain in itself with this program, but with the ability to make changes to your system and see them in real time, you will easily be able to maximize your gaming/video experience. Whether you are an experienced gamer who knows what they are doing, or a first timer who isn’t sure whether AA stands for Anti-Aircraft or Anti-Aliasing, the ATI Control Center is a definite upgrade over its predecessor the ATI Control Panel. Other than the one minor issue of us not having Microsoft .NET Version 1.1 installed, we haven’t had one issue with this program in over three weeks of testing on various systems and cards. Two of my favorite features that it brings are the automatic updates and real time preview pane, these two features alone make this a worthwhile upgrade, the nice UI and tweaking options are just icing on the cake. If you have an ATI 9500 series card or better go ahead and try it out, hopefully you will enjoy the new features as much as we have.
Now that this project is released maybe ATI will jump on those 64 bit drivers…