Getting proper OpenGL driver for older AMD(ex. ATI) graphics cards on Windows 8

I have a not so new laptop that features ATI Radeon HD 3650 Mobility graphics cards. Which is quite fine for the usual tasks. According to AMD website it features OpenGL 3.2 which is, again, good enough. Nothing spectacular but fine.

Lately I’ve upgraded it to a SSD disk and at the same time I did a fresh Windows 8 install (previously it was Windows 7). Everything worked out very well. The laptop is usable again and quite fast now. Yesterday I tried to experiment with MonoGame, an open source implementation of, now legacy, XNA Framework – the framework that was supposed to run everywhere but Microsoft ditched it for some reason. Anyway, I’ve tried to run a sample MonoGame application and immediately faced a problem. First it was throwing an exception that OpenAL.dll is missing. Odd. I’ve found a standalone installation for OpenAL but the I run into another, more descriptive problem, something like: can’t find entry point for ‘glBindFramebuffer’ in OpenGL32.dll. That basically says that I had a pre-OpenGL 2.0 installed (MonoGame uses OpenTK which in turn requires minimum 2.0 version of OpenGL). How is that possible?

From what I understand the situation is that AMD isn’t supporting the Radeon Mobility HD 3xxx with Windows 8 and hence it doesn’t provide OpenGL drivers. So everything falls back to Microsoft provided OpenGL 1.1. That is nicely shown using GPU Caps Viewer application. This is ever more surprising because we had proper OpenGL drivers for it under Windows 7. If it was a desktop machine I’d consider changing the graphics card but that’s just not possible on the laptop. And I wasn’t quite happy to buy a newer laptop just for that, even more so because my laptop is doing just fine.

The solution

The solution is to install the latest drivers for Windows 7 manually. It is actually quick, easy and it works. You’ll find the procedure in Make Your Old Graphics Drivers Work in Windows 8article on Lockergnome. The only differences from article are that just right clicking on INF file doesn’t work nor the INF file is named exactly like the one in the article – it has higher number, probably because it is a newer one. Instead of the right click->install, which didn’t work, I had to go to Computer->right click->Manage->Device Manager->Display adapters->ATI Mobility Radeon HD 3650->right click->Properties->Driver->Update Driver->Browser my computer for driver software->Let me pick from a list of device drivers on my computer->Select proper INF file.

And voila – now I have OpenGL 3.3 support and MonoGame runs like a charm. Happy OpenGLing!

Building an Intel Core i7 based computer – Graphics card

This one is a relatively easy choice.

The main criteria for me is the silence. Fortunately there are passively cooled mid-range graphics cards out there based on the GPUs from both nVidia and ATI. They are not amazingly fast, but hey, one needs amazing speed only when playing games or for some really specialized tasks. There is really no need for top performances for me.

The other important feature I am looking for is a double DVI output because I am currently using two LCD screens.

Next, I’ll have to choose between nVidia and ATI. This is a difficult choice because the two companies are more or less equally good. The deciding factor for me is CUDA (which is only supported by nVidia and I might play with it) and the fact that nVidia passively cooled cards are more powerful than ATI ones.

The last criteria is performance. I’ve picked the fastest passively cooled graphics card from nVidia on the market: card based on a 9600GT GPU. The bus supported is PCI-E 2.0 which is a mainstream bus (AGP and PCI are legacy buses and should be avoided). The card is manufactured by Gigabyte, a company I consider a good one and I never had problems with.

That’s it. I’m not interested in other features. Perhaps having a HDMI converter (which my card has) might be important in future if/when I decide to buy a new LCD screen. I don’t think that it will happen anytime soon though.

Note: The graphics card I’ve bought occupies two slots (see the pictures below) on the chassis due to the massive heat-pipe cooler.

I’ve bought a GIGABYTE GV-NX96T512HP 9600GT 512MB PCIe (rev 3.0) from Mlacom for 111 Euros.

See other relevant posts:

CPU cooler
The goal
Power Supply Unit