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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  • colinw - Saturday, January 19, 2013 - link

    How long have we been complaining about AMD (and ATI) drivers?

    I don't use multiple GPUs so with my desktop PC it's not a big deal, but there's no way I will touch an AMD dGPU powered laptop in the near future.
  • CeriseCogburn - Friday, January 25, 2013 - link

    Bad luck with AMD ?
    It's not the bad year, it's the bad luck DECADE.

    I am sorry but what is their problem man !

    I can see what their response is to all the little amd consumers: " Why did you mess with anything ?! JUST USE WHAT YOU GOT, IT WORKED THEN ! "
    " HIT F11 upon reboot and restore to factory defaults.. "
    (probably the only way to get somewhat 'reliable' performance again)
    " It's not our fault here at AMD, call your notebook vendor for updates. This thread is closed."

    AMD is dysfunctional. The dysfunctional GPU family, by amd.
  • DarkStryke - Saturday, January 19, 2013 - link

    Oh look, same old story and enduro is still a buggy mess for many. I believe I got called out for making too much of this with one of your reviews like 2 months ago, well it's the same old story.

    Buyer beware, AMD is not worth the headache in the mobile spaces.
  • StevoLincolnite - Saturday, January 19, 2013 - link

    It's mostly the install process people have issues with on the mobility side.

    I have an AMD Trinity Notebook and about half way through downloading the drivers using the verification tool it just conks out and goes no farther.

    Downloading them manually via Guru3D is flawless and they install and work great.
    I mean, why do we need a verification tool in the first place? Why not give us the option to download them manually and thus give us less of a bloody headache.
  • duploxxx - Tuesday, January 22, 2013 - link

    typing on a latitude 6520 with switchable graphics (INtel - Nvidia) doesn't work either that well. Only when I set the GPU type manually to what i want i will get a decent result. Often game startup will end up with black screen and hard reboot with the default Intel gpu unless right click select graphics to use....

    oh btw, nvidia doesn't neither autoupdate the graphics so why complain on AMD only....
  • JarredWalton - Wednesday, January 23, 2013 - link

    Acer M5, running 306.02 NVIDIA drivers: right-click system tray icon, choose "Check for updates". I get a window saying, "You're running 306.02; 310.90 is available." Click the download button and away it goes. Same thing happens on four other Optimus laptops I have, including an 18 month old laptop with dual-core Sandy Bridge and GT 540M graphics. So while you apparently have issues on one laptop, I'm five for five on getting updated drivers with both Fermi and Kepler GPUs on NVIDIA laptops. And the drivers all installed properly on each laptop.
  • Bob Todd - Saturday, January 19, 2013 - link

    Thanks for the continued coverage of the Enduro situation Jarred, please keep it up. As you surmised, things are still totally broken on a Sandy Bridge based Envy 15 (2670QM/7690M). Update utility says "the version of your graphics adapter is not supported". Looking for the update from inside CCC works, but the installer says the old driver (official HP bundle) is up to date and indeed does not update upon install. From a clean install, the drivers appear to install fine, but it's back to the old situation where Windows disables the card and CCC won't even show any hardware information. This happens with the default Intel driver from Windows Update or the latest official Intel release installed. So like you said, it's actually kind of a step backwards since the drivers don't install and mostly work on top of the OEM drivers like they used to. I was really hoping the first non-beta driver would do the trick. AMD, please keep at it until you get this working on older Dynamic Switchable Graphics hardware. To their credit, HP actually had their Windows 8 graphics bundle up for the launch, albeit with an old driver.
  • milli - Saturday, January 19, 2013 - link

    I've noticed that things are a bit different between the driver installation of nVidia and AMD. While nVidia's Optimus driver installation requires you to first install the Intel iGPU driver, AMD's Enduro is the opposite. The AMD driver will install the required driver. Maybe you should consider to first uninstall all drivers (AMD and Intel) with internet disconnected and try to install 13.1 again after a reboot.

    Off-topic: can't post any messages from IE10. Works from FF18.
  • milli - Saturday, January 19, 2013 - link

    To the Europeans of this forum, you can also download the drivers from this German server quite a bit faster than Guru3D:
    (one time registration required though)
  • thomasmorkeberg - Saturday, January 19, 2013 - link

    I don't get how people at a hardware site can't even get a driver to work.

    I just installed it on my laptop (Clevo P150em) with a 7970M GFX and it worked wonders.
    The enduro settings is way better then in the 12.11 beta drivers, and almost all my software is now preset with what gfx to use.

    And the performance is also way better for me. I went straight from 5600 in 3DMark 11 to 6600 points with the 13.1 driver.

    Really don't get the complaining. For me the 7970 driver problems are now fixed!

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