If you’re an AMD GPU owner and you have anything from the Radeon HD7000 series and newer, you might want to check out the company’s most recent Windows Hardware Quality Labs (WHQL) driver, which just got released yesterday. The last time AMD posted up a WHQL driver was around 180 days ago, so the company clearly has a bit of catching up to do in terms of bringing all the performance and bug fix improvements from the beta channel into the WHQL release. This is probably happening now because of the impending Windows 10 launch on 29 July 2015, so the Catalyst 15.7 drivers are also going to be the ones that will be downloaded through Windows Update if you choose to get them there. Near as I can tell, these drivers also don’t force an install of the Raptr Gaming Evolved client, but I’ll test that out when the download completes and I begin installing it.
Up to 7% improvement for Far Cry 4 on Radeon R-200 series single-card systems
Up to 10% improvement in Tomb Raider on Radeon R-200 series single-card systems
AMD also claims that this release is the first one to support Windows 10 fully. Along with this, there are several technical highlights to the drivers:
Windows 10 WDDM 2.0 driver model support
Virtual Super Resolution (VSR) support on all GCN graphics cards (see the table below)
All included performance optimisations made in the Catalyst betas since the 14.12 Catalyst Omega release
Crossfire support for AMD FreeSync monitors (previously limited to single-GPU systems and cards)
AMD Frame Rate Target control on all GCN 1.0 GPUs from the HD7790 and up
That’s a pretty decent upgrade, at least from where I’m sitting, as someone who’s still running the Omega release in my own system. The internal version number of the display driver is 15.20, which is newer than the 15.6 beta driver and the 15.15 display driver inside the drivers handed out to reviewers to support Radeon R9 Fury, Fury X and R-300 graphics cards.
Coupled with that are Crossfire profiles for several recent games, but many of these were added upstream from work done in the betas, so they’re not really that new. These games include:
Far Cry 4
Lords of the Fallen
Total War: Attila
Assassin’s Creed Unity
Civilization: Beyond Earth
Ryse: Son of Rome
Grand Theft Auto V
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
Virtual Super Resolution (VSR)
The headline feature, obviously, is that VSR is now supported on multiple GPUs that weren’t capable of running it with older drivers. These include most of the Radeon HD7000 family, although the HD7790 was capable of it with a few .ini hacks. To run VSR, you need a monitor that runs at standard refresh rates. To make it work, AMD tells the game and GPU that there are higher resolution options available, renders the high-res image, and then downscales them to your native resolution.
These are the refresh rates and resolutions supported by VSR. Keep in mind that it may work with some monitors and it may not work with others – this is as a result of the monitor vendors fiddling with the display timings in the scaler’s firmware, and there’s generally nothing one can do about it.
As you can see, 60Hz and 120Hz refresh rates are preferred. I expect that AMD will change this later to support 75Hz and 144Hz monitors. To use VSR on a monitor to render a game at resolutions higher than 2560 x 1440, you will have to resort to Displayport 1.2, as HDMI on some displays and graphics cards, especially mobile GPUs, can be a bit wonky. VSR can work on a FreeSync monitor, but the resulting table that I’d have to put in here would be a little more complex and longer than this one above. It works, we’ll leave it at that.