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ATi Slowdown Explained

53

numb3rs.pngDo you have an ATi videocard and has Blender become unusable on Windows? Nathan Letwory has found that downgrading your drivers could be the answer.

Nathan writes:

ATi-card users have noticed very long waits when selecting objects in the 3D view. Now that I got myself a new machine featuring an ATi HD 2600 Pro I noticed it too. The old mantra was "update drivers, turn down hardware acceleration, turn off goodies", but some further research led me to a page created by Trent Apted. It explains that a certain operation, on which Blender relies quite a bit, has been very slow since end November 2007. With a small test program this can be verified. I did that too, and to my delight I have now a Blender that is usable again, even on my ATi-card.

Since I'm on Vista, I thought, why not make a screencast of how I updated the drivers - it's not always that obvious. So here you go.

/Nathan

About Author

Bart Veldhuizen

I have a LONG history with Blender - I wrote some of the earliest Blender tutorials, worked for Not a Number and helped run the crowdfunding campaign that open sourced Blender (the first one on the internet!). I founded BlenderNation in 2006 and have been editing it every single day since then ;-) I also run the Blender Artists forum and I'm Head of Community at Sketchfab.

53 Comments

  1. I have tested on my laptod with old pilot (8.353.1.1000 from may 2007) (can't update because of my CAD software) with picksquare software to test. Typical results are
    120000 squares render in 38ms
    120000 squares select in 67ms

  2. If i understand right it means that an old driver ( like shown ) reduce that "old" problem a lit bit.
    As a non developer i am not an expert for that. But i find it interesting that this problem seems to be so deep
    integrated into the Ati Driver, that it may not possible to fix it.
    If i remember correct the foundation get years ago several Ati cards for investigation - does someone know what they find out ?

  3. I don't like ATI. I used to have one a time ago.... and I had to exchange it in the shop, so they gave me Nvidia and everything is fine now.... Nvidia is (for me) choice number one and always will be

  4. Yup. Funny how ATi is always considered powerful (by gamz0rz) but ultimately, we always end up seeing people complaining about something funny with these cards.

    It happens to nVidia too mind you but ATi user are most numerous and vocals... Go figure.

  5. For a few days I tried a Geforce 6500 in the ATi's stead, but that was giving absolutely crappy performance in games and caused the entire computer to lag once in a while (using system RAM likely caused it).

    Even though the selection is still subpar, it is at least much more workable. I'll definitely be searching for more info and possible try to fix it.

    @blendercross: I received one such card, but I never had any trouble with it, so at that time it didn't help any. Now I have my own ATi card, and as developer may have a possibility of actually doing something to it. I need to, since I use Blender also professionally.

    /Nathan

  6. I tried an ATI card (not less than 3 years ago) and found it's openGL implementation weak in comparison to Nvidia's solidity and drivers. Steered clear ever since. There was apparently (according to some in the studio here) a time when ATI opengl was quite good but looks like it's causing problems once again.

    Another reason to steer clear of ATI cards I thinks. I have seen other PC's with ATI's presenting problems in other apps along with Nvidia gaming cards acting weird in Maya's openGL. Blender's never gave me a problem though on any of my nvidia gaming cards.

  7. In the book "The Essential Blender" you can read in Troubleshooting (quote):

    >> Blender runs, but it seems to get slower and slower as you work...

    This is most likely the "ATI bug." Certain versions of the ATI Catalyst drivers (around 3.1 and up) have problems with the heavy use that Blender makes of OpenGL. Currently, the only way around this is to revert to an older version of their OpenGL driver. << (end of quote)

    (Note, that this was written like one year ago.)

    Isn't it related problem? I have problems with this since I bought my laptop with powerful ATI card. I don't like to downgrade my drivers, because of some other software, that reguires up-to-date drivers. I have found out, that if I restart Blender once in a while I can work with full speed at least like 15 minutes. (It is fortunate, that Blender restart is so very fast and that the scenes are opened exactly in that state as were saved. ;)) But it bothers anyway...

    It looks like the ATI drivers are getting worse and worse... :-/

  8. Ati work hard their new update to make Blender slower and slower :-)

    They make me loose a lot of money and time, around more than 150 hours and 300 € ..... ( to replace my Ati embedded chipset bought with computer, and change Power supply to have a great new Cg card ; nvidia of course ) I just hate them.
    My best way when I had this problem was a dual boot Vista / Ubuntu, the linux Ati drivers are better for openGL and for Blender , but they are hard to install and dual boot each time was boring.

  9. @dusty: I tried the omega drivers, but their performance with full hw accel is also bad, for select I get +19000ms. The select goes really fast when all hw accel is disabled (omega drivers allow you to tweak that, whereas official ATi drivers don't), but that again has degrading performance effect on the rest of Blender's UI (menu drawing is really slow).

    All in all, I go back to the 7.11 drivers to make sure I have good and acceptable performance throughout the machine, even if selection is still a tad bit slow in Blender.

  10. Actually I wouldn't blame so bad ATI but the blender developers that don't bother to test their code on ATI cards, only on nvidia ones. I bet they find just as much crap on nVidia openGL as in ATI but they wouln't commit code that doesn't work on nVidia, only code that doesn't work on ATI.

    All the other application, like maya and max work fine and fast on ATI cards, only blender isn't. That's
    certainly a blender developers fault (at least partially) for not testing on ATI and intel GPUs.

    To say that ATI and intel cards are crap is an elitist thing as long as all the other 3d applications manage to work on them.

    You could better say that blender is developed and tested only on nVidia cards.

  11. cipix: ATIs in Macs do fine (that is what I use and test daily). Further the command we use (glSelect) is one of the most basic selection functions you can find in OpenGL, it's part of the 1.0 spec, and something a lot of opengl tools depend on.
    And before accusing people in our team, google a bit for Maya and ATI select problems... they suffered the same issues. Note that the "professional" apps have a list of approved cards and drivers on their site, which is very limited subset. They might even have coded a bypass for it even.

    Of course, microsoft wants everyone to use direct3d, a reason why many windows apps (like 3d max) don't have the issues!

    -Ton-

  12. I also have an ATI card, my girlfriend has a Nvidia, and I envy her quite regularly... ATI drivers are not very good, but at least the hardware is good... And with a bit of tweaking you can obtain reasonable performance on both windows and linux... I just had to desist of some cool eye-candy stuff.

    But, blender not only works on "crappy" ATI cards, but also on MUCH crappier cards (old S3 cards and others I don't even remember the name), where I think many (most?) other 3D apps would suffer hardly or even not run at all.

  13. Roger Waggener on

    I have a middle-lower grade (~$50) ATI card which works absolutely fine for blender with Win XP, but when I boot in Ubuntu- blender starts but the screen is garbled and unusable.

    Is there some kind of similar fix for my situation? I'd really rather use blender in Ubuntu.

  14. gonna need to try it out on my averatec radon x230...using blender on her was painfull and slow i hope god things since i would like to have a mobile computer for blender

  15. Ah yes, ATI and their crappy driver getting worse and worse...
    It's especially annoyingly with the Linux ones. I get a total system crash whenever running any 3D application with it, including blender, of course. I'm now using open drivers until I get myself a new system with nvidia. Crappy but no crashes in Blender and only 2 more weeks ^^

  16. I have an ATI Radeon 9800 pro in winxp and going back to 7.11 worked AMAZINGLY well! Just like the result chart from the linked page, my results went from 6k-10k ms down to 50ms'ish.

    Before I had a human mesh with a decent poly count that took ~5 seconds to select by clicking. Now its instant!

    Also, when doing sculpting with 7 or 8 subdiv's, it was a 5-10sec lag just to do one click. Now its realtime sculpting thats so smooth and fast its quick as painting in GiMP!!!

    Thank you so much for the fix/suggestions. Much appreciated!

    Dan

  17. I remember watching the 2006 Blender Conference videos, and one speaker talked about OpenGL and that Blender was using inefficient code for its OpenGL operations... afterwards Ton was like "WHY DOESN'T ANYONE TELL US THESE THINGS." So, that was nearly 2 years ago, does anyone know if the Blender dev. team has updated its OpenGL code in Blender to reflect the newer OpenGL specs?

  18. @/Nathan: Now , the number of post show that this story touch a lot of blenderheads.
    ....and by the way Nvidiacards are also not without trouble.
    By the way i remember an fixing of that problem by taking an Nvidia-driver and rename it to
    an Ati Driver.On some maschines it worked.

    @Jacob Picart: OpenGl code is - i belive - nothing what you rewrite at an Sunday afternoon.
    You need experts for that job and time, a lot of time.

    Okay , I repeat myself ; i can not compile one line of code and need by every app an GUI, but may by it is possible to invest some developing time into that problem to bring it out of this world - this "historic" bug.

  19. As it says in the first article, contact ATI ( now AMD ) and complain.

    Here's the link
    http://support.ati.com/ics/support/default.asp?deptID=894&task=knowledge&questionID=28596

    Register, and then tell them your story, eg

    - you purchased an ATI graphics card, it's GL_SELECT performance is very poor for using with a 3D modelling application like Blender, you're very unhappy with their product, and you're now going to buy one of their competitors products

    - you would like to buy ATI to use with Blender, but you've heard that their slow GL_SELECT function makes it very difficult to work with it, so you're going to buy their competitors products at least until their driver issue is fixed.

    If they see that they are really losing out in sales, or are getting a bad name for performance ( especially when the specific issue is highlighted ), then hopefully they'll get it fixed - the worst case scenario is that they ignore the problem.

    Mal

  20. Thank you for this.
    This difference is dramatic!

    From (version 8.442):
    120000 squares render in 57ms
    120000 squares select in 14997ms
    To (version 8.432):
    120000 squares render in 16ms
    120000 squares select in 25ms

    Maybe it is naïve, but do you think it would be possible to simply call a developer at ATI and ask him/her about this fundamental problem. One of the blender experts, who would understand the answer, could talk to them.
    I do not believe that they would not care about this.
    I would think they have a plan (at least) to correct it …. ???

  21. What's funny is that it seems that ATI is always considered the more "professional" choice, while they are famous for crappy OpenGL support and I'd say that good OpenGL support is a basic part of "professionality" in this case :)

  22. thanks for this! i just bought a new laptop that was supposed to be honkin' for graphics stuff, but i had the delay in the blender selection. hopefully this will fix it.

  23. Just found this info about a possible solution, if any coders experiencing the slowdown want to try it out.

    I've been reading a bit about this, and the word seems to indicate that GL_SELECT is being made slower on less-expensive graphics cards, in order to encourage anyone requiring these features ( 3D modellers ) to purchase the more expensive drivers - I'm sure that can't be true :)

    ===================================

    Try adding, in between your call to loading and ending the object's selection ID, a dummy drawing routine.

    glBegin(GL_LINES);
    glEnd();

    This is because some cards seem to dramatically and strangely decline in rendering without it. Probably right after the loading function for the ID.

    ===================================

    I tried what you suggested, and voila, MUCH better performance. Thank you!

    Why in the world is that the case? Is it a driver bug, or a hardware issue? Are there specific models where this is a known problem?

    EDIT: While doing what you suggested greatly improved the performance, it is still sub-par. I increased the number of quads being drawn and ran into the same problem again. Calling glBegin/glEnd reduces the delay, but it does not truly work around. Could this simply be a driver issue?

  24. If these problems can be confirmed IN A LINUX box (Very likely, since the same OpenGL code base is used in the Windows and FGLRX driver since 3 or 4 months ago), you can try the forums at phoronix.com. Some ATI/AMD employee monitor these forums, since many people gives them feedback there on the propietary drivers and the open source drivers that are being developed for ATI cards @ linux.

  25. Unfortunately, downgrading doesn't make things any better for me :/
    120000 squares select in 11451ms

    Damn...

  26. I dont know about vista, but there is a much easier way to temporarily speed it up on XP...
    all you need to do is go to display properties-->advanced settings-->troubleshooting(tab)---> and lower the bar all the way...

    this will disable the driver an usually works to speed things up on ATI and others like my supersavage...

    note: to play games or other things that require 3d acceleration you need to renable the driver...

  27. Anonymous Coward on

    Have any of you ATI users have the effect of solid lines changing to dashed lines after a few transformations of the viewport with the latest drivers?

  28. and the world sings hallelujah!!

    i haven't tried this yet but i pray that it works, its the single worst thing about moving to vista that I have come across.

    This better work when i try it.

  29. This really does kinda stink. What are your options development wise, on fixing this with a workaround even?

    I can imagine using a getPixels style function combined with an offscreen buffer with each object rendered with a unique color or using ray-casting (Plucker?).

    I have an ATi Card in a couple of my machines, but I've found that I still prefer to use my Quadro FX ancient beast for "programmer art"

  30. I am running an ATI Radeon Xpress 1250. My driver version is 8.383.1.0 and the driver date is the 13/06/2007.

    Blender sometimes takes about 6 seconds to select a model of fairly high detail. Is this the ATI problem? I also tried to go to a previous version of the drivers,but I was told on installation that I currently have the most up to date drivers. How do I go back to a previous version of the drivers? Also, what is the best version to go back to if I am experiencing this problem?

  31. One note: Be CAREFUL when doing this. There are many times people switch out drivers and do the wrong ones, yet still appear to get a speedup. This is because the new drivers are in software rendering mode, which can be faster then the old drivers in some situations (e.g. selecting) but much slower in others.

    Make sure you get the drivers for your card.

    Joe

  32. Sure, be careful. Using months or years old drivers is not a solution, but a hack, a workaround. You have to know what you are doing when applying this. May interact with other software that uses the graphics card intensively.
    So if Ati, one of the tow biggest suppliers of graphic cards, most probably isn't changing on their side in the forseeable future, the problem is on the other side, Blender's, even if it is not Blender's fault.

  33. Strangely enough, Blender runs at near-full speed on Linux, the select function works perfectly fine. Even more awkward is the fact that the ATI Driver slows down nearly every other single aspect of the system.

    Ah well, it still works. Maybe I'll just downgrade back to the original Intel driver for my Windows.

  34. I've got the same issue with Maya 8.5

    The selection is SLOW and not only that but if I have multiple objects in a scene the only ones I can physically select are the ones at the top of the outliner!! Whats crazy is I can now use High Quality rendering which is great for viewing normal maps, but the other issues make the program unusable. I found downgrading to 7.11 is a great fix, but I want HQ rendering!!

    Curse you ATI, I will never buy you again!

  35. we have 3 brand new mac pros with that crappy ati card. the performance is unacceptable when working with maya. the whole scene handling is soooo slow. as we use xp64 there is no workaround in sight. the old 7.11 is not available for xp64 and all tweaked drivers do not support xp64 too - what paid ati to be the default card for a mac pro machine...guess we will have to buy 3 new nvidia cards and burn the ati crap..

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