⋮    ⋮  

AMD Radeon Software Performance Analysis – Is This the Crimson Tide?


Crimson purports to be the biggest enhancement to AMD’s drivers since the revolutionary drivers for the Rage Fury Maxx from 1999. What we’ve seen from our article on the specifics of the new driver is that it’s a revolutionary visual upgrade, bringing the driver GUI into the modern age with an ease of use that belies the actual power and plethora of options for control that lie underneath.

But Crimson represents more than just a visual overhaul and tweaking of the user interface and experience. With this release we’re also seeing an incredibly large performance increase, such that hasn’t been seen since the AMD Omega driver from December of 2014. The wide array of newly added features and the technical aspects of what has been added on the backend to help increase performance and what types of low-level tweaks that have been performed are detailed by Khalid in his very informative post regarding AMD’s new Crimson drivers. Instead, here we're going to focus on performance.

Can anyone guess what's in the background?

Much improved interface, but does this truly mean improved performance?

First, the user experience is indeed much improved. It starts up in mere milliseconds, just as advertized. It looks great and the location of all of the various features you’d need are very intuitive. The applicable setting here, the gaming tab, is very useful. Easily click into it and a dapper animation will reveal all of the games that Crimson has detected thus far. Click in any of those games and all the options you could ever want to control are available at your disposal, including game specific OverDrive settings. Unfortunately, voltage adjustment of HBM is still not present in AMD’s homegrown overclocking utility, but it’s otherwise quite complete. Though my time testing it was relatively short, there were no encountered crashes or display driver crashes whatsoever. Whether or not this stability will last beyond the initial testing date is unknown, though it’s certainly a good start. I personally never had any issues with Catalyst Control Center aside from it’s lack of quickness. But there have been widespread reports of stability issues and other performance issues regarding the driver software itself, necessitating some serious re-engineering of the software.

Now for the performance. We know what it's about, you should have a handle on what changes were brought with this entirely redesigned from the ground up driver. But how does it perform?

First we test at 1440P, a useful resolution that remains the a primary resolution for PC gamers as great 4K screens still remain prohibitively expensive. 1440P can provide a great amount of fidelity depending on the underlying engine. We tested the new Crimson driver in 15 different games against the 15.11.1 beta driver that was released very recently. That already provided a good increase in mainstream games, such as Fallout 4, but we're looking to see if performance gains have been obtained across the board in games that have released recently, and some that are perhaps a little older.

To test we used the follow system:

CPUIntel Core i5-6600K
MotherboardASRock Z170 Extreme 4
Power SupplyEVGA SuperNOVA 1300 G2
SDDSanDisk Extreme II 120GB
Storage DiskSeagate 2TB
Memory16GB Crucial Ballistix DDR4 2400
MonitorDell P2715Q
Video CardsSapphire Tri-X R9 Fury Vanilla, ASUS R9 380X Strix, Gigabyte Windforce R7 370, XFX Reference 290X (severely throttled)
Operating SystemWindow 10 64-Bit
DriversAMD - 15.11.1 Beta
AMD Crimson

[Edit] The 290X is a reference model that is slightly older and a bit more used, meaning it throttled tremendously during these tests. We are in the process of getting a better model more representative of the performance that the 290X is actually capable of. Investigation showed that it wasn't nearly operating at it's peak frequencies, and was actually operating between 10-20% lower than stock due to heat and throttling. Further evaluation of a new better cooled