AMD announces new driver initiative, will retire Catalyst software

November 3, 2015 4:10 pm0 commentsViews: 2

Roughly six weeks ago, AMD announced a major reorganization of its graphics business. The newly named Radeon Technologies Group is headed by Raja Koduri and reports directly to Lisa Su. At the time, AMD told us it has major changes planned for its driver and software stack, and we’re seeing the first of those updates announced today. AMD is launching a new version of its driver control software and retiring the Catalyst brand.

AMD is calling this new software suite “Radeon Software Crimson Edition.”  As brand initiatives go it’s…. well, honestly, it’s pretty terrible. Radeon is a hardware brand, not a software stack. AMD and ATI have used the color red as their defining characteristic for roughly 20 years, which makes “Crimson” rather derivative. Including the word “Edition” makes it sound as though there are going to be multiple versions of the software — should we look forward to “Mauve”, or perhaps “Taupe?”

Dubious branding aside, everyone is going to call this software suite Crimson, so that’s the nomenclature we’ll use for the rest of the article.We apologize for the less-than-perfect settings screenshots — we’re capturing slides for this article, which means the displayed UI elements were a touch blurred to start with. All images can be enlarged.

The goals of Radeon Crimson

The goals of Radeon Crimson

The point of Crimson is to meaningfully move the ball compared to the features and capabilities Nvidia exposes in its own software. AMD is claiming that this new suite is a ground-up rewrite of the entire system in Qt. Currently the Crimson framework is Windows-only, though AMD will likely port it to Linux at some point. AMD is claiming that QT slashes Catalyst’s start-up speed, from an average of 8 seconds on an AMD E-350 to just 0.6 seconds with Crimson. That’s significantly faster than even Nvidia’s Control Panel, and it would be a huge UI improvement to Catalyst.

Crimson2

One of the other major goals of the new drivers is to offer users much better fine-grained control over game settings and options. This has historically been an area where AMD lagged Nvidia, but hopefully no longer. Users will be able to create profiles for individual titles, as shown above. In a first for either company, AMD will also offer per-game overclocking support, with individual user-created profiles for these modes as well:

Crimson1

Exactly which features will be folded into game profiles is still a matter of conjecture. In the past, third-party software like Radeon Pro could enable features that AMD had left off the table, but that software has been moribund for the past two years and to the best of our knowledge, nothing has replaced it. Hopefully we’ll see advanced feature integration and the ability to set custom MSAA levels or equivalent tweaks from directly within the driver.

Crimson5

AMD is also emphasizing a new Eyefinity setup mode that’s meant to simplify and streamline the multi-monitor setup process and to make it easier to use advanced functions like FreeSync or video processing. This is another area where improvements could be made — the Catalyst Control Panel may have evolved acceptably well, but it was no triumph of UI engineering and graphics cards have become much more complex than they used to be. The new Crimson software will also check for driver updates and won’t require registration in order to do so.

AMD isn’t planning to ditch its Gaming Evolved (aka Raptr) application any time soon, so users hoping to see integrated video recording in a single application are out-of-luck. Raptr will remain AMD’s answer to GeForce Experience for the foreseeable future. Crimson will scan for titles automatically and populate your list of installed games, but it’s not clear that the driver performs any kind of one-button optimizations (those features are presumably reserved for the Gaming Evolved app).

A (maybe) great start

We’re glad to see AMD committing to improving its driver software, though we’ll withhold judgment until we actually see the final product. What’s more important is that this first set of changes showcase further driver improvements through 2016. While DX12 changes the nature of game optimization, driver support for DX11 titles will continue to matter for years to come, and AMD has historically lagged Nvidia in this arena.

AMD has said that Crimson will be available to download before the end of the year — calling the last major Catalyst push “Omega” ended up being a little more accurate than we may have thought 12 months ago.

This entry passed through the Full-Text RSS service – if this is your content and you’re reading it on someone else’s site, please read the FAQ at fivefilters.org/content-only/faq.php#publishers.

ExtremeTech » Video Game News & Rumors On Upcoming Releases | ExtremeTech

Tags:

Leave a Reply