We have an application that uses OpenGL, and historically it has run lousy on ATI cards, although results have been different depending on card/driver combo. We're trying to put together a test machine on a very low budget, where we can swap in different ATI cards and test them. I was wondering if anyone has a good knowledge of the different ATI series, and what cards I should buy to get a broad swath of the different implementations. Is it enough to buy one card in the Radeon HD series, one card in the Radeon X series, and one card in the FireGL series? And will these be able to cover the "mobility" implementations in laptops (we don't want to have to buy a laptop because you can't really swap cards there)? Also, are there any articles you can point me to that talk about this? I've perused ATI's site but haven't really found much intended for hardware testers.

As an addendum to this question, we're not as interested in benchmarking/speed as in just getting our app to work right with all possible cards. According to user feedback, with some cards, our app will just crash, and in others textures will not be rendered properly. On some the picking mechanism doesn't work, etc. So we're not really looking for an OpenGL testing/benchmarking software. Our app is the test software. We want to test our app against different hardware. So how many cards do we need to get, and which ones, to kind of "comb the area" of the primary hardware categories?


FurMark is a good OpenGL testing tool.
You could also keep GPU-Z handy.

FurMark is a very intensive OpenGL benchmark that uses fur rendering algorithms to measure the performance of the graphics card. Fur rendering is especially adapted to overheat the GPU and that's why FurMark is also a perfect stability and stress test tool (also called GPU burner) for the graphics card.

The benchmark offers several options allowing the user to tweak the rendering:
fullscreen / windowed mode, MSAA selection, window size, duration.

benchmark requires OpenGL 2.0 compliant graphics cards -- works with AMD/ATI Radeon 9600 (and higher)

alt text

More screen shots and details at the link

Update: Reading your question again, I have a feeling you should actually use your Application itself for this testing. You could use GPU-Z for recording the Driver, BIOS and Card details while testing.
Is there some specific sequence in your App that will execute most of the rendering cases?
It might be required to 'tweak' your App a bit to adjust to all driver+card idiosyncrasies.

Update2: You will need some help from people experienced with the range of cards from ATI to get generic. Your target should be to enumerate the set of graphics operations that your App makes on the graphics cards.

This will be your customized test across the cards you choose to be 'compatible' with.
The ATI experts should give you guidance on the list of card+driver combination to run these custom test against. As a result of such testing, you will,

  1. identify the card+driver set that your App will be compatible with
    • identify the minimal operations that you need to fix in your App to get a decent set in point 1.
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  • Sorry, I should probably clarify more. We're not as interested in benchmarking/speed as in just getting our app to work right with the cards. According to user feedback, with some cards, our app will just crash, and in others textures will not be rendered properly. On some the picking mechanism doesn't work, etc. So we don't care as much about speed/refresh rate as much as just getting the card to work right. – Anthony Johnson Jul 27 '09 at 19:22
  • I gathered your requirement from your points. The FurMark has a 'stability' test mode which is should be used to check various rending modes of your card. The 'Burn' test comes after that. Did you download and check the tests out? It will work on NVidia cards too. – nik Jul 28 '09 at 2:57
  • The problem with using a separate software to test the graphics card is that it doesn't help test our app. Furmark could tell us that a given card is perfectly stable whereas our app still has issues, or vice versa. The purpose here is to find ways to tweak our app so that it can work on any card, not to test how well the card works with OpenGL. Using a third party software does nothing to help us in that goal. – Anthony Johnson Jul 28 '09 at 15:51
  • Sorry, saw your update to your answer. That's helpful, thanks. Right now the testing process is pretty manual. We open different models that use different rendering features and just manually test to see if the environment still works. So are there a subset of cards that cover a good area of the "driver+card idiosyncrasy" set? – Anthony Johnson Jul 28 '09 at 16:26
  • You need ATI expertise. I have updated my answer a bit more. – nik Jul 28 '09 at 18:16

why use ATI? the thing about openGL unlike directx is that the openGL driver comes from the graphics card manufacturer, not microsoft. nvidia, with their Quadro line (FX, SDI, Quadroplex) is deeply committed to openGL.

the main difference between radeon vs. firegl and geforce vs. quadro is full support of the openGL spec and driver optimisations. there are certain functions of openGL that only the GL card will perform. if you know what your app is calling you will know what kind of card to get..

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  • Honestly, we've advised our customers to use Nvidia cards where possible since it implements OpenGL much better than ATI does, but that can only go so far. We've had several complaints from customers who have high-end ATI cards that don't work on our app. Since ATI is a pretty standard line of cards, our app should work on as many ATI cards as possible. – Anthony Johnson Jul 28 '09 at 15:59
  • @argtag, unfortunately, very few software developer brands have the luxury of dictating the hardware users will purchase. Compatibility is critical. – nik Jul 28 '09 at 18:14

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