Podcast #374 - Cases for the R9 Nano, Thrustmaster T150, The End of AMD Catalyst and more!

Subject: General Tech | November 5, 2015 - 01:24 PM |
Tagged: podcast, video, r9 nano, Lian-Li, q30, q33, Thrustmaster, T150, amd, catalyst, radeon software, crimson, game ready, GFE, ECS, LIVA X2, Braswell, Intel, fallout 4, CRYORIG

PC Perspective Podcast #374 - 11/05/2015

Join us this week as we discuss cases for the R9 Nano, Thrustmaster T150, The End of AMD Catalyst and more!

You can subscribe to us through iTunes and you can still access it directly through the RSS page HERE.

The URL for the podcast is: http://pcper.com/podcast - Share with your friends!

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  • RSS - Subscribe through your regular RSS reader
  • MP3 - Direct download link to the MP3 file

Hosts: Ryan Shrout, Jeremy Hellstrom, Josh Walrath, and Allyn Malventano

Program length: 1:21:59

  1. Week in Review:
  2. 0:35:50 This episode of PC Perspective Podcast is brought to you by Braintree. Even the best mobile app won’t work without the right payments API. That’s where the Braintree v.0 SDK comes in. One amazingly simple integration gives you every way to pay. Try out the sandbox and see for yourself at braintree­payments.com/pcper
  3. News item of interest:
  4. Hardware/Software Picks of the Week:
    1. Ryan: Coin 2.0
    2. Jeremy: Rebel Galaxy … soon to be on sale
    3. Allyn: Key Ring (stop carrying around bar codes)
  5. Closing/outro

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AMD Cancels Catalyst, Introduces Radeon Software Crimson

Subject: Graphics Cards | November 2, 2015 - 08:00 AM |
Tagged: radeon software, radeon, driver, crimson, catalyst, amd

For as long as I can remember, the AMD (previously ATI) graphics driver was know as Catalyst. The Catalyst Control Center (CCC) offered some impressive features, grew over time with the Radeon hardware but it had more than its share of issues. It was slow, it was ugly and using it was kind of awful. And today we mourn the passing of Catalyst but welcome the birth of "Radeon Software" and the first iteration if it, Crimson.


Starting with the next major driver release from AMD you'll see a major change the speed, design and usability of the most important interface between AMD and its users. I want to be clear today: we haven't had a chance to actually use the software yet, so all of the screenshots and performance claims are from an AMD presentation to the media last week. 


Let's start with new branding: gone is the AMD Catalyst name, replaced by "Radeon Software" as the overarching title for the software and driver packages that AMD releases. The term "Crimson Edition" refers to the major revision of the software and will likely be a portion of the brand that changes with the year or with important architectural changes. Finally, the numeric part of the branding will look familiar and represents the year and month of release: "15.11" equates to 2015, November release.


With the new brand comes an entire new design that AMD says targets simplicity, ease of use and speed. The currently available Catalyst Control Center software is none of those so it is great news for consumers that AMD has decided to address it. This is one of AMD's Radeon Technology Group SVP Raja Koduri's pet projects - and it's a great start to a leadership program that should spell positive momentum for the Radeon brand.

While the Catalyst Control Center was written in the aging and bloated .Net coding ecosystem, Radeon Software is designed on QT. The first and most immediate advantage will be startup speed. AMD says that Radeon Software will open in 0.6 seconds compared to 8.0 seconds for Catalyst on a modestly configured system. 


The style and interface look to be drastically improved with well defined sections along the top and settings organized in a way that makes them easy to find and address by the user. Your video settings are all in a single spot, the display configuration is on its as well, just as they were with Catalyst, but the look and feel is completely different. Without hands on time its difficult to say for sure, but it appears that AMD has made major strides. 


There are some new interesting capabilities as well, starting with per-game settings available in Game Manager. This is not a duplication of what GeForce Experience does in terms of adjust in-game settings, but it does allow you to set control panel-specific settings like anti-aliasing, texture filtering quality, vertical sync. This capability was around in the previous versions of Catalyst but it was hard to utilize.

Overdrive, the AMD-integrated GPU overclocking portion of Radeon Software, gets a new feature as well: per-game overclocking settings. That's right - you will now be able to set game-specific overclocking settings for your GPU that will allow you to turn up the power for GTA V while turning things down for lower power consumption and noise while catching up on new DLC for Rocket League. I can see this being an incredibly useful feature for gamers willing to take the time to customize their systems.


There are obviously more changes for Radeon Software and the first iteration of it known as Crimson, including improved Eyefinity configuration, automatic driver downloads and much more, and we look forward to playing around with the improved software package in the next few weeks. For AMD, this shows a renewed commitment to Radeon and PC gaming. With its declining market share against the powerful NVIDIA GeForce brand, AMD needs these types of changes.

AMD Releases Catalyst 15.10 Beta Drivers

Subject: Graphics Cards | October 14, 2015 - 11:24 AM |
Tagged: radeon, dx12, DirectX 12, Catalyst 15.10 beta, catalyst, ashes of the singularity, amd


The AMD Catalyst 15.9 beta driver was released just two weeks ago, and already AMD is ready with a new version. 15.10 is available now and offers several bug fixes, though the point of emphasis is DX12 performance improvements to the Ashes of the Singularity benchmark.

From AMD:

Highlights of AMD Catalyst 15.10 Beta Windows Driver

Performance Optimizations:

  • Ashes of the Singularity - DirectX 12 Quality and Performance optimizations

Resolved Issues:

  • Video playback of MPEG2 video fails with a playback error/error code message
  • A TDR error or crash is experienced when running the Unreal Engine 4 DirectX benchmark
  • Star Wars: Battlefront is able to use high performance graphics when launched on mobile devices with switchable graphics
  • Intermittent playback issues with Cyberlink PowerDVD when connecting to a 3D display with an HDMI cable
  • Ashes of the Singularity - A 'Driver has stopped responding' error may be experienced in DirectX 12 mode
  • Driver installation may halt on some configurations
  • A TDR error may be experienced while toggling between minimized and maximized mode while viewing 4K YouTube content

Known Issues:

  • Ashes of the Singularity may crash on some AMD 300 series GPUs
  • Core clock fluctuations may be experienced when FreeSync and FRTC are both enabled on some AMD CrossFire systems
  • Ashes of the Singularity may fail to launch on some GPUs with 2GB Video Memory. AMD continues to work with Stardock to resolve the issue. In the meantime, deleting the game config file helps resolve the issue
  • The secondary display adapter is missing in the Device Manager and the AMD Catalyst Control Center after installing the driver on a Microsoft Windows 8.1 system
  • Elite: Dangerous - poor performance may be experienced in SuperCruise mode
  • A black screen may be encountered on bootup on Windows 10 systems. The system will ultimately continue to the Windows login screen

The driver is available now from AMD's Catalyst beta download page.

Source: AMD

Podcast #357 - Samsung 850 Series 2TB, AMD Fury, Catalyst 15.7 and more!

Subject: General Tech | July 9, 2015 - 03:02 PM |
Tagged: podcast, video, Samsung, 850, 2TB, amd, Fury, catalyst, 15.7, logitech, G230, G35, Intel, Braswell

PC Perspective Podcast #357 - 07/09/2015

Join us this week as we discuss the Samsung 850 Series 2TB, AMD Fury, Catalyst 15.7 and more!

You can subscribe to us through iTunes and you can still access it directly through the RSS page HERE.

The URL for the podcast is: http://pcper.com/podcast - Share with your friends!

  • iTunes - Subscribe to the podcast directly through the iTunes Store
  • RSS - Subscribe through your regular RSS reader
  • MP3 - Direct download link to the MP3 file

Hosts: Ryan Shrout, Jeremy Hellstrom, Josh Walrath, and Allyn Malventano

Subscribe to the PC Perspective YouTube Channel for more videos, reviews and podcasts!!

AMD Releases New WHQL Catalyst 15.7 Drivers

Subject: Graphics Cards | July 8, 2015 - 05:52 PM |
Tagged: Win 10, whql, drivers, catalyst, amd, 15.7, 15.20

Sadly, it is not every month that we see a new AMD WHQL driver release.  Several years back AMD made the promise that they would release WHQL drivers on a monthly basis, and for quite a while they kept to that promise.  Engineering cuts, new architectures, and more challenges than ever with new technologies have essentially ended the monthly model.  AMD does their best by putting out beta drivers when major titles are released, but it has been quite some time since we last saw a full WHQL.


Today we finally see the release of the very latest branch of the Catalyst drivers.  Last month we saw the 15.15 drivers that were released with the AMD FuryX.  We also had a fair share of beta drivers to keep users updated on the latest game profiles.  The version that has been released today is based on the 15.20 code path and is officially known as Catalyst 15.7.

There are a lot of new features and support in this driver, which makes it a pretty big deal.  I am guessing that it seems like such a big deal because major updates have been few and far between.  This is AMD's first driver to support the Windows 10 Technical Preview.

The next set of features is very exciting for anyone who has any GCN based card, no matter the age.  Virtual Super Resolution is enabled for all GCN 1.0 cards and above.  The same goes for Frame Rate Target Control.  AMD has included new CrossFire Profile Enhancements for many of the latest games and top sellers.  The only new feature that does not support all GCN cards is that of AMD FreeSync with CrossFire support.  As readers may remember, FreeSync did not previously work in a CrossFire solution.  FreeSync itself is relegated to the newer members of the GCN family.  The only other potential disappointment (and not new news at all) is still the lack of CrossFire support (much less FreeSync with CrossFire support) in DX9 titles.

AMD promises performance improvements as compared to the previous Omega drivers released last year.  This is fairly typical, but people are already reporting some better performance and CPU usage in WinX previews based on the latest build.  It is great to see AMD releasing a new set of drivers, but just like any addict... we can't wait for our next hit and what new features and performance they may bring.

You can find the drivers here.

Source: AMD

AMD Catalyst 15.5 to 15.15 Performance Check - Validating AMD R9 390 Testing

Subject: Graphics Cards | June 19, 2015 - 06:25 PM |
Tagged: radeon, r9 390, hawaii, catalyst, amd, 15.15

During the course of our review of the new Sapphire Nitro R9 390 8GB card earlier this week, a question came up on driver support. For testing the R9 300-series as well as the Fury X cards, AMD provided a new Catalyst 15.15 beta driver. The problem is that these drivers would not install on the Radeon R9 200-series cards. That's not totally uncommon on new GPU releases but it does seem a bit odd considering the similarities between the R9 390 and the R9 290, for example.

That meant that in our review we had to use the Catalyst 15.5 beta for the Radeon R9 290X and the Radeon R9 290 GPU while using the newer Catalyst 15.15 beta for the Sapphire Nitro R9 390. Eyebrows were raised as you would expect as any performance differences between the new cards and the old cards would have to take into account the driver changes as well. But since we couldn't install the new driver on the old hardware, we were stuck, and published what we had.


Since then, a driver with some INI modifications that allows Catalyst 15.15 to be installed on Radeon R9 290X/290 hardware was built and uploaded from the Guru3D Forums. Today I installed that on our XFX Radeon R9 290 4GB card used in our R9 390 review to re-run a few game tests to see what changes we saw, if any. This would help us address any concerns over the updated driver causing performance changes rather than the hardware changes.

(Note: I realize that using an INI hacked driver isn't exactly going to pass QA with AMD, but I think we are seeing results that are close enough.)

First up, let's look at Grand Theft Auto V.





In GTA V we see that the average frame rate at 2560x1440 goes from 39.5 FPS to 40.5 FPS, an increase of about 2-3%. That's minimal but it is interesting to see how the frame rate consistency changes as we move down the sliding scale; pay attention to the orange and pink lines in the FPS by Percentile graph to see what I am referencing. As you move into the slower frame times in our testing, the gap between the 15.5 and 15.15 driver begins to widen slightly, indicating a little more frame time consistency in 15.15 release.

But what about BF4 or Metro: Last Light?

Continue reading our performance check on Catalyst 15.5 and Catalyst 15.15 drivers!

AMD Catalyst 15.5 Beta Driver Improves Project Cars and Witcher 3 Performance

Subject: Graphics Cards | May 29, 2015 - 11:26 AM |
Tagged: catalyst, amd, 15.5 beta

Last night AMD released a new Catalyst driver, 15.5 Beta, that targets performance improvements in both Project Cars and The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt. You can pick up the new driver for both 32-bit and 64-bit versions of Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 right here. The full display driver version is 14.502.1014.1001.


The specific changes?

Highlights of AMD Catalyst™ 15.5 Beta Windows Driver

Crossfire Profile Update for:

  • The Witcher 3 - Wild Hunt

Performance Improvements for the following :

  • The Witcher 3 - Wild Hunt :  Up to 10% performance increase on single GPU Radeon R9  and R7 Series graphics products
  • Project Cars - Up to 17% performance increase on single GPU Radeon R9 and R7 Series graphics products

Users of the Radeon R9 295X2 will be glad to see support for their hardware added for The Witcher 3 and just about everyone will be glad to see some dramatic performance improvements in Project Cars and Witcher 3. We know from testing internally as well as widely reported issues that AMD Radeon graphics cards had issues with Project Cars, resulting in performance well behind comparable NVIDIA GeForce hardware. With as much as 17% improvement for Radeon R9 and R7 hardware though, hopefully that frame rate increases quite a bit.


We'll be doing some testing with this new driver here today, and if anything jumps out at us, we'll be sure to let you know!

Source: AMD

AMD Omega is no longer in Alpha

Subject: Graphics Cards | December 9, 2014 - 03:08 PM |
Tagged: amd, catalyst, driver, omega

With AMD's new leader and restructuring comes a new type of driver update.  The Omega driver is intended to provide a large number of new features as well as performance updates once a year.  It does not replace the current cycle of Beta and WHQL driver updates and the next driver update will incorporate all of the changes from the Omega driver plus the new bug fixes or updates that the driver was released to address.

Many sites including The Tech Report have had at least a small amount of time to test the new driver and have not seen much in the way of installation issues, or unfortunately performance improvements on systems not using an AMD APU.  As more time for testing elapses and more reviews come out we may see improvements on low end systems but for now the higher end machines show little to no improvement on raw FPS rates.  Keep your eyes peeled for an update once we have had time to test the change on frame pacing results, which are far more important than just increasing your FPS. 

The main reason to be excited about this release, it is the long list of new features, from a DSR-like feature called Virtual Super Resolution which allows you to increase the resolution of your monitor although for now 4K super resolution is limited to the R285 as it is the only AMD Tonga card on the market at the moment.  Along with the release of the Omega driver comes news about Freesync displays, another feature enabled in the new driver and their availability; we have a release date of January or February with a 4K model arriving in March.

Check out the links to The Tech Report and below to read the full list of new features that this driver brings and don't forget to click on Ryan's article as well.


"AMD has introduced what may be its biggest graphics driver release ever, with more than 20 new features, 400 bug fixes, and some miscellaneous performance improvements."

Here are some more Graphics Card articles from around the web:

Graphics Cards

Manufacturer: AMD

New Features

There are smart people that work at AMD. A quick look at the company's products, including the APU lineup as well as the discrete GPU fields, clearly indicates a lineup of talent in engineering, design, marketing and business. It's not perfect of course, and very few companies can claim to be, but the strengths of AMD are there and easily discernible to those of us on the outside looking in with the correct vision.

Because AMD has smart people working hard to improve the company, they are also aware of its shortcomings. For many years now, the thorn of GPU software has been sticking in AMD's side, tarnishing the name of Radeon and the products it releases. Even though the Catalyst graphics driver has improved substantially year after year, the truth is that NVIDIA's driver team has been keeping ahead of AMD consistently in basically all regards: features, driver installation, driver stability, performance improvements over time.


If knowing is half the battle, acting on that knowledge is at least another 49%. AMD is hoping to address driver concerns now and into the future with the release of the Catalyst Omega driver. This driver sets itself apart from previous releases in several different ways, starting with a host of new features, some incremental performance improvements and a drastically amped up testing and validation process.


AMD considers this a "special edition" driver and is something that they plan to repeat on a yearly basis. That note in itself is an interesting point - is that often enough to really change the experience and perception of the Catalyst driver program going forward? Though AMD does include some specific numbers of tested cases for its validation of the Omega driver (441,000+ automated test runs, 11,000+ manual test runs) we don't have side by side data from NVIDIA to compare it to. If AMD is only doing a roundup of testing like this once a year, but NVIDIA does it more often, then AMD might soon find itself back in the same position it has been.

UPDATE: There has been some confusion based on this story that I want to correct. AMD informed us that it is still planning on releasing other drivers throughout the year that will address performance updates for specific games and bug fixes for applications and titles released between today and the pending update for the next "special edition." AMD is NOT saying that they will only have a driver drop once a year.

But before we worry about what's going to happen in the future, let's look into what AMD has changed and added to the new Catalyst Omega driver released today.

Continue reading our overview of the new AMD Catalyst Omega driver!!

AMD Catalyst 14.9.2 Beta for Civilization: Beyond Earth

Subject: Graphics Cards | October 26, 2014 - 02:44 AM |
Tagged: amd, driver, catalyst

So Ryan has been playing many games lately, as a comparison between the latest GPUs from AMD and NVIDIA. While Civilization: Beyond Earth is not the most demanding game in existence on GPUs, it is not trivial either. While not the most complex, from a video card's perspective, it is a contender for most demanding game on your main processor (CPU). It also has some of the most thought-out Mantle support of any title using the API, when using the AMD Catalyst 14.9.2 Beta driver.


And now you can!

The Catalyst 14.9.2 Beta drivers support just about anything using the GCN architecture, from APUs (starting with Kaveri) to discrete GPUs (starting with the HD 7000 and HD 7000M series). Beyond enabling Mantle support in Civilization, it also fixes some issues with Metro, Shadow of Mordor, Total War: Rome 2, Watch_Dogs, and other games.

Also, both AMD and Firaxis are aware of a bug in Civilization: Beyond Earth where the mouse cursor does not click exactly where it is supposed to, if the user enables font scaling in Windows. They are working on it, but suggest setting it to the default (100%) if users experience this issue. This could be problematic for customers with high-DPI screens, but could keep you playing until an official patch is released.

You can get 14.9.2 Beta for Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 at AMD's website.

Source: AMD