With high-bandwidth memory in the bag and cutting-edge processor technology finally appearing on the horizon for graphics cards—all GPUs have been stuck on 28nm since late 2011—AMD’s gearing up for a major fight against Nvidia in 2016. But the nuts, bolts, and transistors are only part of the equation with modern-day graphics cards; the recently created Radeon Technologies Group is rolling out the rebuilt-from-the-ground-up software Radeon Software Crimson to accompany the new breed of AMD hardware.
AMD’s first tease of Crimson was a run-through of the slick new Radeon Settings hub designed to replace Catalyst Control Center. (R.I.P.) At the time, AMD revealed some of the overt new features in Radeon Settings, such as per-game OverDrive overclocking settings and one-click Eyefinity multi-monitor configuration. On Tuesday, AMD’s unwrapping the deeper-level goodies in Radeon Software Crimson—with handy features for new and old graphics cards alike—and pushing the drivers live so you can try them out for yourself.
Let’s take a look at what’s on tap. And remember: These new tricks build atop the features already introduced in Catalyst Omega and the Catalyst 15.7.1 drivers released in the past year, so you’ll still find goodies like Virtual Super Resolution and FullHD to UltraHD Video Scaling intact.
First up: Smoother, faster loading games. Radeon Software Crimson offers a new “Shader Cache” option that reduces stutter and can launch your games up to 33 percent faster than last year’s Catalyst Omega drivers, AMD says. The feature can be enabled on a per-game basis inside the game-specific options in Radeon Settings’ new Games hub. AMD claims that Star Wars Battlefront load times on a Windows 10 system with a Core i7-5960X, a Radeon R9 380, and 16GB of DDR4-2666MHz memory improved by 5.7 seconds with the Shader Cache enabled, while Witcher 3 played smoother on another system with Shader Cache active.
Speaking of speed, AMD says that displays initialize up to three times faster with Radeon Software Crimson than they did with Catalyst Control Center. In case you missed our initial coverage, the Radeon Settings software itself launches up to 10 times faster than Catalyst Omega does, though that will vary depending on your system setup.
AMD’s new software can also optimize the flip queue size—basically, how many frames are calculated in advance before being displayed—to reduce latency in games when every split second counts, most notably e-sports. Fewer precalculated frames means more responsive gameplay. Nvidia rolled something similar out with the GTX 950, which is targeted toward players of Dota 2, League of Legends, and the like. It’s nice to see AMD offer something similar.
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