AMD has been in the news quite a bit in the past few months. With three launches of their Fiji product behind them, much controversy about their rebranding methods reduced to water under the bridge, and a segmentation inside the company, they seem to have steered their ship in a new, more clear direction – that of graphics excellence, whilst the CPU and APU divisions reap the benefits of this new focus. But one thing has always dogged AMD throughout the past decade, and that’s been the Catalyst driver suite. It’s a bit old and sluggish today, even after years of tweaking, and it’s time for a change. AMD has now introduced Radeon Software “Crimson Edition”, and it’s going to be a big change from what AMD users are used to today. Hit the jump for more.
Radeon Crimson Software is currently the working title for the successor to Catalyst, and it plays off the “Team Red” label that the computer industry likes to use to refer to AMD (NVIDIA and Intel are Team Green and Blue respectively). Who’s responsible for the “Crimson Edition” development? That’s the Radeon Technologies group, newly organised under the leadership of AMD’s Raja Koduri, the overseer of all things graphics inside AMD’s vault. Raja’s task was to speed things up for the graphics division at a faster pace than they’ve been able to in the past, and it’s been barely two months since he took over that we’re seeing tangible changes being made.
Along with the changes to the actual app and its functionality, AMD is also changing the naming scheme. It now follows the nomenclature of the name, “Radeon Software”, followed by a version name which this year is called “Crimson”, and then finally a year/month version at the end. This means that AMD’s “Omega” software update to the Catalyst Control Center is the last one they’ll make. Crimson is the new way forward, and it suggests that they’ll be more proactive with driver releases, fixes, and game-ready versions than they have been in the last few years. Apparently the new app is also much faster to launch, taking just 0.6 seconds to start up on AMD’s test system (one of the slowest they had on hand, with a dual-core E-350 processor).
The layout resembles a Modern app for Windows 8/10, and it’s fairly finger-friendly as a result. The newer design is made to work better on widescreen displays with a 16:9 aspect ratio, never taking up more desktop space than it needs to. It supports resizing and window snapping to the left or right, and the icons and buttons change their size to match. Compared to CCC, which is based on .net and isn’t able to scale for high density displays, this is light years away from what’s available now. The “Crimson Edition” variant of Radeon Software is also the first based on the Qt runtime, so you can expect these same changes to be added for Linux distributions and possibly Apple’s OS X as well.
Game Manager is a new addition, mimicking the functionality of the AMD Raptr Gaming Evolved client as well as NVIDIA’s Geforce Experience software. Per-application settings can be applied here, as well as adding in support for quality options that might not exist in the game’s options menu. Frame Rate Targer Control (FRTC) being available per-application is also welcome, both for notebook users worried about battery life, as well as to avoid issues like tearing and coil whine. There are also global settings available that will be available to apply to all 3D applications.
Unlike Geforce Experience, AMD is planning to add in per-game overclocking settings. This isn’t really an option for Geforce or Radeon users currently, as most overclocking utilities didn’t allow you to set hotkeys for more than a few profiles, so you couldn’t change things to suit each individual game and give you more performance in specific titles over others. As with FRTC, it would be possible to use this to lower the clock speed of your GPU while running something that isn’t very GPU intensive, driving down power consumption and heat.
There’s a new display manager as well, which promises a very interesting feature – per-display options for resolutions beyond what the display physically supports. VSR has been confined in the past to just a single display, and seeing this option in the new control panel means that AMD has gotten around the limitations of their implementation of VSR, and can now control it for specific monitors and in a multi-monitor setup. Nvidia currently can’t do any of this in their drivers.
Detailed overviews of the hardware and software that makes up your system are also fairly useful, especially when you can copy all that information into the clipboard with a single button click. I’ll still have to tell people to install Speccy when I want something more in-depth, but if they’re on a AMD system, it’s nice to know that this will be an option for better info for troubleshooting.
While Radeon Software “Crimson Edition” is a big departure for AMD and its customers, there will still be legacy options for older cards that will be able to interface with this software. Drivers will auto-update using this software, there’ll be quick access to different performance profiles for your GPU from the tray, and there’ll be new video modes as well, for those of you who aren’t already using Media Player Home Cinema and the MadVR filters.
If AMD wanted to create the perception that they’re doing something about their current market position, and working to fix existing problems and serve their fans and customers first before their shareholders, this announcement has certainly helped that. The Catalyst software has always been a thorn in AMD’s side, although NVIDIA’s current setup isn’t any better either. AMD’s partnership with Raptr seemed promising, but it ended up being another application to babysit for end-users like myself, and eventually I uninstalled it even though it had features that I found useful. The hope is that AMD uses this opportunity to start seeding updates to their software monthly like they used to, and it’s my personal hope that this solves some of the issues I’ve been having with CCC lately. I find myself trying to avoid launching it as much as possible because it annoys me so much.
AMD’s new Radeon Software, codenamed “Crimson Edition”, will launch during November 2015 and should be available on AMD’s driver support page before the end of the month. If you’re an AMD user and own anything from the Radeon HD 7000 series and newer, you will be able to install this app and try out some of the features when it releases.