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Feature-stuffed Catalyst Omega reinvents AMD's approach to graphics drivers

Brad Chacos | Dec. 10, 2014
Let's be honest: Most of us don't update our graphics drivers religiously.

And if you're running an insanely beefy system, Catalyst Omega boosts AMD's Eyefinity multi-monitor support all the way up to a ludicrous 24 simultaneous displays in a quad-GPU setup, along with a tweaked Eyefinity interface. In a word: Damn. If you get a glorious setup like that up and running, be sure to shoot us a picture!

Gaming performance enhancements

Catalyst Omega also includes the in-game performance enhancements that are the bread and butter of graphics drivers, though they're mostly a secondary focus behind the new features and QA enhancements. As Hallock told me, "We're not promising the world here."

Indeed, AMD's supplied performance stats even compare Omega against launch-day Catalyst drivers for APUs and GPUs, rather than the most recent drivers. That makes a bizarre sort of sense, though, as Omega's targeted toward people who rarely update their drivers.

AMD APUs — which combine an AMD CPU with Radeon graphics on the same chip — see the biggest benefit here. Per AMD's supplied statistics, several titles see frame rate increases in the double-digit percentages compared to the launch-day Catalyst 14.2 driver. (I don't have an APU system on hand to test myself.)

You may also see some frame rate boosts when you're using discrete Radeon graphics cards, but even AMD's supplied stats (which compare Catalyst Omega against the older Catalyst 13.12 driver) show modest improvements.

In most of our testing suite — comprised of Metro: Last Light Redux, Sleeping Dogs Definitive Edition, Alien: Isolation, Ryse: Son of Rome, and the Unigine Valley and 3DMark 11 Firestrike benchmarking tools — frame rate improvements were negligible over the Catalyst 14.11 beta drivers. Bioshock Infinite's average frame rate indeed improved drastically, however, leaping from 51.4 fps to 61.7 fps at 2560x1600 resolution, on Ultra settings with Diffusion Depth of Detail enabled.

Catalyst Omega has another nifty trick up its sleeve: It brings the frame pacing enhancements previously available for multi-graphics card CrossFire setups to AMD Dual Graphics configurations, which is basically AMD's fancy-pants way of saying an APU paired with a Radeon processor. Better frame pacing means less drastic leaps in minimum/maximum frame rate rendering, giving games a far smoother, less jittery feel.

Again, I don't have an APU on hand to test the claim, but here are AMD's supplied stats from a system pairing an A10-7850K APU with a Radeon R7 250 processor, with both games run on medium graphics settings at 1080p.

Catalyst Omega also includes frame pacing improvements for a handful of memory-intensive games being played in a CrossFire setup: Tomb Raider, Hitman Absolution, Watch Dogs, and Far Cry 3.

Video enhancements

Games aren't the only media getting a boost from Catalyst Omega. The new driver aims to give video playback a shot in the arm through the introduction of several new features, which is especially great news for folks who tapped AMD's Radeon-bolstered APUs for a home theater PC.

 

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