AMD introduced three quality settings within its new Catalyst AI (performance, quality and high quality) of which AMD says the following:
With the introduction of the AMD Radeon HD 6800 series and its new hardware texture capabilities, the AMD Catalyst A.I. user interface in AMD Catalyst Control Center™ has also been updated to allow direct user control over performance optimizations that may affect image quality. The new AMD Catalyst A.I. options can be found by opening the 3D settings page, selecting the “All” tab and scrolling down.
The Texture Filtering Quality slider has three settings – High Quality, Quality (default), and Performance. The High Quality setting disables all texture optimizations. The Quality setting enables a trilinear optimization as well as an anisotropic sample optimization, which are designed to have no visible impact on image quality while offering improved performance. The Performance setting enables more aggressive versions of these optimizations that offer further performance improvement, but may have a small impact on image quality.
The AMD Radeon HD 6800 series continues to support fully angle invariant anisotropic filtering, and incorporates further improvements in LOD precision relative to the ATI Radeon HD 5000 Series. These image quality benefits come with no additional performance cost and remain enabled at all Texture Filtering Quality settings.
When comparing performance and image quality against NVIDIA products, we recommend using the same Texture Filtering Quality setting in the NVIDIA Control Panel to ensure the most direct and fair comparison. However, note that as of this writing NVIDIA products do not offer a comparable anisotropic filtering option with full angle independence.
The Surface Format Optimization checkbox allows improved performance in selected games that use 16-bit floating point surfaces for HDR rendering. It is designed to have no discernable effect on image quality, and therefore we recommend it be left enabled at all times.
In our HD 6800 cards review, we used high quality settings, just like on Nvidia cards. This resulted in HD 5850 cards actually scoring higher than HD 6870. The high quality option turns off every single filtering optimization (the 5800 series is running at quality setting by default) - the point of the high quality setting is to illustrate the fact that between quality and high quality there is no difference in image quality but the performance is increased. We got the following results, but we do intend to update the review with tests at quality settings.
Updated with AMD Catalyst 10.10
Gaming tests clearly show that the previously explained testing mode (with high-quality texture filtering) affects HD 6800 performance. We will soon test whether it affects picture quality as well.
Tessellation tests preferred HD 6800 and it shows that AMD worked really hard to improve on this field.