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Manufacturer: AMD

Third annual release

For the past two years, AMD has made a point of releasing one major software update to Radeon users and gamers annually. In 2014 this started with Catalyst Omega, a dramatic jump in performance, compatibility testing and new features were the story. We were told that for the first time in a very long while, and admitting this was the most important aspect to me, AMD was going to focus on building great software with regular and repeated updates. In 2015 we got a rebrand along with the release: Radeon Software Crimson Edition.  AMD totally revamped the visual and user experience of the driver software, bringing into the modern world of style and function. New features and added performance were also the hallmarks of this release, with a stronger promise to produce more frequent drivers to address any performance gaps, stability concerns and to include new features.

For December 2016 and into the new year, AMD is launching the Radeon Software Crimson ReLive Edition driver. While the name might seem silly, it will make sense as we dive into the new features.

While you may have seen the slides leak out through some other sites over the past 48 hours, I thought it was worth offering my input on the release.

Not a performance focused story

The first thing that should be noted with the ReLive Edition is that AMD isn’t making any claims of substantially improved performance. Instead, the Radeon Technologies Group software team is dedicated to continued and frequent iterations that improve performance gradually over time.

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As you can see in the slide above, AMD is showing modest 4-8% performance gains on the Radeon RX 480 with the Crimson ReLive driver, and even then, its being compared to the launch driver of 16.6.2.  That is significantly lower than the claims made in previous major driver releases. Talking with AMD about this concern, it told us that they don’t foresee any dramatic, single large step increases in performance going forward. The major design changes that were delivered over the last several years, starting with a reconstruction of the CrossFire system thanks to our testing, have been settled. All we should expect going forward is a steady trickle of moderate improvements.

(Obviously, an exception may occur here or there, like with a new game release.)

Radeon ReLive Capture and Streaming Feature

So, what is new? The namesake feature for this driver is the Radeon ReLive application that is built in. ReLive is a capture and streaming tool that will draw obvious comparisons to what NVIDIA has done with GeForce Experience. The ReLive integration is clean and efficient, well designed and seems easy to use in my quick time with it. There are several key capabilities it offers.

First, you can record your gameplay with the press of a hotkey; this includes the ability to record and capture the desktop as well. AMD has included a bevy of settings for your captures to adjust quality, resolution, bitrate, FPS and more.

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ReLive supports resolutions up to 4K30 with the Radeon R9 series of GPUs and up to 1440p30 with the RX 480/470/460. That includes both AVC H.264 and HEVC H.265.

Along with recording is support for background capture, called Instant Replay. This allows the gamer to always record in the background, up to 20 minutes, so you can be sure you capture amazing moments that happen during your latest gaming session. Hitting a hotkey will save the clip permanently to the system.

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Continue reading our overview of the new AMD Radeon Crimson ReLive driver!

Watch Dogs 2, in two parts

Subject: General Tech | December 7, 2016 - 03:04 PM |
Tagged: nvidia, amd, gaming, watch dogs 2, GTX 1080, gtx 1070, gtx 1060, rx 480x, rx 470

[H]ard|OCP have spent a lot of with Watch Dogs 2 recently, enough to create three articles covering the game of which two are now published.  The first article focuses on performance at ultra settings and finding the highest playable settings that the GPUs they tested were capable of, without installing the high resolution texture pack.  As it turns out, the game is much more graphically demanding than many other recent releases, so much so that only the Titan X and GTX 1080 was able to perform at 4k resolutions, the GTX 1070 and 1060, as well as the RX 480 and 470 only feature at lower resolutions. 

The second article looks at performance with the texture pack installed, which did not have much effect on overall performance but significantly increased VRAM usage.  Even the mighty Titan X struggled with this game, we will need a new generation of GPUs to utilize all the available graphics features available in this game.  The last review will be up soon and will focus on what effect each of the graphical settings have on the visual appearance of the game.

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"Watch Dogs 2 has been released on the PC. We will have a three part evaluation of performance and image quality starting today with performance comparisons. We will also find the highest playable settings for each graphics card and the gameplay experience delivered. Finally, a graphically demanding game."

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Gaming

Source: [H]ard|OCP

Podcast #427 - Leaked Zen Prices, Kaby Lake Performance Leaks, GTX 1050 Ti Upgrades

Subject: Editorial | December 1, 2016 - 11:54 AM |
Tagged: Zen, video, Samsung, podcast, microsoft, megaprocessor, Lenovo, kaby lake, Intel, GTX 1050 Ti, arm, amd

PC Perspective Podcast #427 - 12/01/16

Join us this week as we discuss leaked Zen prices, Kaby Lake performance leaks, GTX 1050 Ti upgrades 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!

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

Program length: 1:20:41

  1. Week in Review:
  2. News items of interest:
  3. Hardware/Software Picks of the Week
  4. Closing/outro

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

Rumor: Leaked Zen Prices and SKUs

Subject: Processors | November 28, 2016 - 09:26 PM |
Tagged: amd, Zen, Summit Ridge

Guru3D got hold of a product list, which includes entries for AMD’s upcoming Zen architecture.

Four SKUs are thus rumored to exist:

  • Zen SR3: (65W, quad-core, eight threads, ~$150 USD)
  • Zen SR5: (95W, hexa-core, twelve threads, ~$250 USD)
  • Zen SR7: (95W, octo-core, sixteen threads, ~$350 USD)
  • Special Zen SR7: (95W, octo-core, sixteen threads, ~$500 USD)

The sheet also states that none of these are supposed to contain integrated graphics, like we see on the current FX line. There is some merit to using integrated GPUs for specific tasks, like processing video while the main GPU is busy or doing a rapid, massively parallel calculation without the latency of memory copies, but AMD is probably right to not waste resources, such as TDP, fighting our current lack of compatible software and viable use cases for these SKUs.

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Image Credit: Guru3D

The sheet also contains benchmarks for Cinebench R15. While pre-rendered video is a task that really should be done on GPUs at this point, especially with permissive, strong, open-source projects like Cycles, they do provide a good example of multi-core performance that scales. In this one test, the Summit Ridge 7 CPU ($350) roughly matches the Intel Core i7-6850K ($600), again, according to this one unconfirmed benchmark. It doesn’t list clock rates, but other rumors claim that the top-end chip will be around 3.2 GHz base, 3.5 GHz boost at stock, with manual overclocks exceeding 4 GHz.

These performance figures suggest that Zen will not beat Skylake on single-threaded performance, but it might be close. That might not matter, however. CPUs, these days, are kind-of converging around a certain level of per-thread performance, and are differentiating with core count, price, and features. Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to have been many leaks regarding enthusiast-level chipsets for Zen, so we don’t know if there will be compelling use cases yet.

Zen is expected early in 2017.

Source: Guru3D

AMD Releases Radeon Software Crimson Edition 16.11.5

Subject: Graphics Cards | November 28, 2016 - 07:34 PM |
Tagged: amd, graphics drivers

For tomorrow’s Watch_Dogs 2, AMD has released Radeon Software Crimson Edition 16.11.5 graphics drivers, giving users a day to configure their PCs. Note that, while the download links in the release notes say 16.11.4, hovering your mouse over them shows the correct version, dated last Friday. Don’t worry, though, the Radeon Technologies Group is based out of Markham, Ontario, Canada, so they didn’t miss out on turkey leftovers to bring you this software.

Okay, yes, that joke was lame. Moving on.

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Beyond Watch_Dogs 2, this driver release also adds a new CrossFire profile for Dishonored 2 for Windows 8.x and Windows 10, so multiple GPU users of that game might want to upgrade, too. Beyond that, flickering in The Division and Battlefield 1 while using CrossFire is also addressed.

There are quite a few known issues, though, including a few crashes when using the Vulkan API. Most of these known issues were present in 16.11.4 from a couple of weeks ago, including the aforementioned Vulkan crashes, but this driver adds two. The CrossFire profile for Dishonored 2 that was added with this driver will be disabled on Windows 7, although it sounds like that will be fixed in a future release. Also, Watch_Dogs 2 may flicker or crash when using Crossfire with two RX 480s, but apparently not other configurations.

The driver is not signed by WHQL, but I think I prefer what AMD’s doing now, rapidly releasing several drivers a month, addressing issues as they arise, versus a Microsoft stamp of approval. All that matters is that they can be installed on Anniversary Edition clean installs with Secure Boot enabled, and they can.

Source: AMD

Async Compute turning the Gears of War

Subject: General Tech | November 23, 2016 - 01:39 PM |
Tagged: nvidia, gears of war 4, gaming, dx12, async compute, amd

[H]ard|OCP sat down with the new DX12 based Gears of War 4 to test the performance of the game on a variety of cards, with a focus on the effect of enabling Async Compute.  In their testing they found no reason for Async Compute to be disabled as it did not hurt the performance of any card.  On the other hand NVIDIA's offerings do not benefit in any meaningful way from the feature and while AMD's cards certainly did, it was not enough to allow you to run everything at maximum on an RX 480.  Overall the game was no challenge to any of the cards except perhaps the RX 460 and the GTX 1050 Ti.  When playing at 4K resolution they saw memory usage in excess of 6GB, making the GTX 1080 the card for those who want to play with the highest graphical settings.  Get more details and benchmarks in their full review.

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"We take Gears of War 4, a new Windows 10 only game supporting DX12 natively and compare performance with seven video cards. We will find out which one provides the best experience at 4K, 1440p, and 1080p resolutions, and see how these compare to each other. We will also look specifically at the Async Compute feature."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

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Source: [H]ard|OCP

AMD Releases Radeon Software Crimson Edition 16.11.4

Subject: Graphics Cards | November 17, 2016 - 08:54 PM |
Tagged: amd, graphics drivers

The fourth Radeon Software Crimson Edition graphics driver to be released this month, dated November 15th, was just published on their website. These have not been WHQL certified, like the previous ones, but that might actually be for the best. Rapid graphics driver releases, not throttled by Microsoft red tape, probably increases driver quality over this busy time of year. Also, I recently found out that WHQL certification is not a requirement for clean installed Windows 10 Anniversary Edition systems with Secure Boot Enabled. Both AMD and NVIDIA sign their hotfix drivers in a way that satisfies this check, without going through the entire WHQL process.

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That aside, Radeon Software Crimson Edition 16.11.4 rolls in additional fixes to Civilization VI. AMD isn’t saying what these fixes are, such as whether they are for general performance optimizations or stability issues that we haven’t heard about yet, but it’s out now so you should probably update if you are currently playing the game. The driver also fixes problems when attempting to watch web video and play a game simultaneously, which is actually something I do frequently. (Don’t knock listening to podcasts while playing StarCraft II Arcade until you try it...) Thirdly, 16.11.4 also fixes rendering issues in Titanfall 2 that occur while piloting a Titan.

Source: AMD

Not a bad quarter to be a GPU vendor, though some fared better than others

Subject: General Tech | November 17, 2016 - 12:56 PM |
Tagged: amd, Intel, nvidia, jon peddie, q3 2016

Compared to Q2 2016, total GPU shipments including discrete and integral chips in the mobile and desktop markets increased by 20%; good but not enough to recover to the volume we saw in Q3 2015.  Indivdually, total AMD sales increased by 15% and but Intel 18% but it was NVIDIA that was the most successful with a 39% increase.  In AMD's case they saw sales of their aging desktop APUs drop by 10% but that was more than offset by a jump in discrete GPU sales of 34.7% and an increase in laptop demand by 19.1% . The discrete GPU market as a whole has grown by 35.6% from the last quarter and by 10.1% when compared to last year.  This is not bad news for AMD or Intel but it is certainly NVIDIA who has the most to celebrate.  Pop over to Jon Peddie Research for a look at their overview, or check out the full report if you subscribe to them.

Obviously the PC is still dead ... right?

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Courtesy of JPR

"AMD's overall unit shipments increased 15.38% quarter-to-quarter, Intel's total shipments increased 17.70% from last quarter, and Nvidia's increased 39.31%."

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Please State Your Name; looking at performance in this short VR film

Subject: General Tech | November 16, 2016 - 01:33 PM |
Tagged: VR, nvidia, gaming, amd

VR offers a variety of new creative opportunities, not simply a new way to make games.  For instance StudioDisrupt has created a VR movie called Please State Your Name about a decapitated robot's head in a garbage dump.  While the movie has a script which it runs through, you have the freedom to move your perspective around the world.  While this may not sound overly interesting, Kyle over at [H]ard|OCP has watched this movie 25 or 30 times this week even before embarking on this review so there must be something to it.  Check out their full look at the performance of AMD and NVIDIA cards in this VR movie by following that previous link.  A second version of the movie is available for those using their cellphone as a VR headset, somewhat more limited but seeing as how the movie is free you should take the opportunity.

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"Please State Your Name is not a game, it is not really an "experience" either, but rather a short film done in a Virtual Reality world, which puts you right in the middle of the story. This genre of VR is where AMD has been putting a lot of its resources. Can we expect the Radeon RX 480 to show us its VR prowess once again?"

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

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Source: [H]ard|OCP

RX 480 versus the GTX 1060; who gets your $250?

Subject: Graphics Cards | November 15, 2016 - 02:58 PM |
Tagged: rx 480, nvidia, GTX1060, amd

On one side of the ring is the RX 480, with 2304 Stream Processors, 32 ROPs and 144 Texture Units.  In the opposite corner, at 1280 CUDA Cores, 48 ROPs and 80 Texture Units is the GTX 1060.  The two cards retail for between $200 to $250 depending on the features present on the card as well as any sales.  [H]ard|OCP tested the two cards head to head, not just raw performance numbers but also the stability of the GPU frequencies. power draw and temperatures.  All games were tested at base clocks and at the highest stable overclock and the results were back and forth, in some games AMD pulled ahead while in others NVIDIA was the clear winner.  It is worth keeping in mind that these results do not include VR results.

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"We take GIGABYTE’s Radeon RX 480 G1 GAMING video card and pit it against a MSI GeForce GTX 1060 GAMING X video card in today’s evaluation. We will overclock both video cards as high as possible and compare performance and find out what both video cards have to offer in the upper $200 price range for gaming."

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Source: [H]ard|OCP