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.

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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. 

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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.

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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. 

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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. 

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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.

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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.

November 2, 2015 | 08:29 AM - Posted by willmore (not verified)

I wonder if this will have any knockon effect for the Linux driver's config pannel. It would be nice to see.

November 2, 2015 | 08:53 AM - Posted by Batismul (not verified)

GFE much? :/

November 3, 2015 | 08:43 AM - Posted by obababoy

What?! So GFE is the only piece of software that can have a nice GUI. Besides that most of these features were already in CCC.

November 2, 2015 | 09:04 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

I prefer the generic Windows-look of the NVIDIA control panel. Why does everything have to look like it belongs on a spaceship from the future? The improved startup time is nice... but what about actual graphics performance? Any benefits there? I would gladly wait 3 minutes for the software to load if it meant gaining 10% across the board in actual gameplay.

November 2, 2015 | 10:34 AM - Posted by jessterman21 (not verified)


November 2, 2015 | 10:41 AM - Posted by Anon (not verified)

Oh please, personally I'm sick of Nvidia's Control Panel looking like Windows XP.

November 2, 2015 | 12:29 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

I'll take the shittylooking XP interface over a shiny-yet-less-functional interface anyday. Windows 10 control panel, anyone? FFS

November 3, 2015 | 08:46 AM - Posted by obababoy

What? Grow up. Style and simplicity is important to everyone...W10 control panel is fine and is LESS shiny and noisy than the previous one! There are no stupid tinsy colors for each icon and it doesn't give you a headache to look at. If it isnt what you wanna use you can use the normal W7 W8 one...Damn you are ignorant.

November 2, 2015 | 09:21 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

The Catalyst Control Center that came with my HP Probook(AMD 7650M) is not good for anything and it at least could have come with some GPU monitoring functionality! GPU Z crashes my drivers on the laptop. I'm glad that AMD is moving away from using .net and hopefully I'll get an updated CCC/Crimson, but I'm not sure that HP will make any updated CCC/Crimson available to its Probook Users, or If I can get Crimson directly from AMD and have it work on my laptop.

November 2, 2015 | 10:23 AM - Posted by remc86007

I have a Vizio (now defunct) laptop with an 8670m with switchable graphics which is essentially the same as your gpu. AMD drivers straight from the website have worked fine for two years now. I wouldn't wait for HP to adopt the new drivers.

November 2, 2015 | 01:15 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Thanks! I'll give it a try. I have been On HP's back about getting a ProBook SKU with AMD Carrizo FX8800P at 35 watts, but the OEMs have been all about the crappy Ultrabook/Thin and light SKUs that have the FX8800P relegated to a life of thermal throttling at 15 Watts Max! I like the ProBooks for the windows 7 downgrade option that is available for business laptops. I really like a ProBook with the FX8800P 35 watts, and an option for a Mobile discrete GCN GPU also!
I think your GPU may be GCN based, mine is not (Thames Pro).

November 2, 2015 | 05:34 PM - Posted by remc86007

Yeah, mine is GCN based, but ironically it is slower because of it...My APU, the 4670m is not GCN and therefore can't crossfire with my gpu haha

If only thin and lights could get some decent memory bandwidth, they would be so much more powerful...

November 2, 2015 | 08:19 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

It's the thermal throttling with AMD's Carrizo FX8800P, and it's relegated to only 15 watts by the OEM's in thin and lights. The FX8800P looses 30% off its potential performance stuffed into an Ultrabook/Thin and light form factor laptop with insufficient cooling for the FX8800P part to run 35 watts! Hell even at 15 watts max the parts are sometimes down-clocked to meet thin and light laptop thermals during gaming! My HP probook 4540s has a much thicker case with better cooling than those newer thin and light laptops from HP, I'll gladly pay extra for the cooling solution and a thicker case for a probook with a 35 watt capable FX8800P.

We all have Apple and Intel to blame for the Ultrabook(TM) and thin and light Ultrabook equivalents, and now the entire laptop case supply chain is full of Ultrabook/Thin and light cases from the OEM's parts suppliers! We are all having these thin and light case parts pawned off on the market because they can be had at loss leader prices by the OEMs to sell us cheap thin and lights at a higher profit margin.

November 2, 2015 | 10:47 AM - Posted by funandjam

The new GUI looks good, much better than the aging CCC. Startup time is quicker? nice! Really like the per-game settings we'll be able to do. I'm really liking what I've seen and read about it.

I think I'm going to have the budget in the next month or two(if everything works out) to upgrade my monitor and GPU to get some kind of VRR setup. The biggest question becomes, will the new driver(s) that will come out with this new tool have frame multiplication for below VRR support?

November 2, 2015 | 11:47 AM - Posted by Martin Trautvetter

I can't tell you how excited I am about the, and I quote: "New Brushed Metal Design," because design fads are what I am most concerned with when it comes to graphics drivers. Obviously.

Hope they also had time to finally fix their broken 15.x branch drivers. Cause being able to use the damn drivers is also kinda important to me. Though definitely less than the "New Brushed Metal Design!"

November 2, 2015 | 12:56 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

I put marketing people in the same category as politicians. How about the performance benefit. AMD is a good company but bling is not going to improve drivers.

November 2, 2015 | 12:44 PM - Posted by Patrick3D (not verified)

If it features an easy-to-use automatic update feature that actually works, that will be enough for me.

November 2, 2015 | 12:52 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

The OC profiles are a cool idea.

November 2, 2015 | 03:14 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

What is QT? Surely not Apple QuickTime?!

November 2, 2015 | 05:29 PM - Posted by BillDStrong

QT is an cross platform API framework. The KDE System is based on this framework. It is written in C/C++, and works on Linux, Windows, OS X, Android, iOS, Windows Universal Apps, and many more platforms.

It is pronounced "cute" and is open source so that anyone can use it.

November 2, 2015 | 08:26 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

From Wikipedia:

K Desktop Environment (KDE) was founded in 1996 by Matthias Ettrich, who was then a student at the Eberhard Karls University of Tübingen. At the time, he was troubled by certain aspects of the Unix desktop. Among his concerns was that none of the applications looked, felt, or worked alike. He proposed the creation of not merely a set of applications but a desktop environment in which users could expect things to look, feel, and work consistently. He also wanted to make this desktop easy to use; one of his complaints about desktop applications of the time was that it is too complicated for end user. His initial Usenet post spurred a lot of interest, and the KDE project was born.[4]

The name KDE was intended as a wordplay on the existing Common Desktop Environment, available for Unix systems. CDE is an X11-based user environment jointly developed by HP, IBM, and Sun through the X/Open consortium, with an interface and productivity tools based on the Motif graphical widget toolkit. It was supposed to be an intuitively easy-to-use desktop computer environment.[5] The K was originally suggested to stand for "Kool", but it was quickly decided that the K should stand for nothing in particular. The KDE initialism is therefore expanded to "K Desktop Environment".

November 2, 2015 | 03:14 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

What is QT? Surely not Apple QuickTime?!

November 2, 2015 | 08:30 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

there just a search engine search away, Oh how easy!

November 2, 2015 | 03:24 PM - Posted by Prodeous

Have to say. ABOUT TIME.. the CCC have shown their age for way too long. And the interface update. FINALLY.

Now just gime gime gime :D

November 2, 2015 | 05:21 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Are they planning to integrate GVR functionality into Crimson? I don't want to use Raptr bloatware.

November 2, 2015 | 07:19 PM - Posted by Lance Ripplinger (not verified)

About time they got rid of CCC. Buggy as hell and slow as all get out thanks to that horrendous .Net Framework base. Plus it looks very dated, which doesn't reflect AMD's efforts to change as a company and become an industry player again.

November 2, 2015 | 08:04 PM - Posted by Searching4Sasquatch (not verified)

So AMD is focusing on the way their driver looks, and not on the quality? Way to prioritize AMD.

November 3, 2015 | 05:17 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

They already have the best quality.
Now they'll have the best looking (> intel, >>>> nvshit)

That's just icing on the cake.

November 3, 2015 | 08:52 AM - Posted by obababoy

I don't understand. This isn't a multi-million dollar update to AMD. This is going on in parallel to AMD's work on drivers and will help AMD procure customers possibly netting more money. AMD is limited on funding and will be slower than the competition...With that said, don't buy 4 GPU's and 2 21:9 1440p monitors and expect games to function fine(exaggerating but still). I have not had ONE issue with my R9 290 and MG279Q Free/sync monitor.

November 2, 2015 | 09:11 PM - Posted by SRowe (not verified)

Give them a break guys, YES, more of a performance driver would be nice...

But improvements are improvements.
Be happy this happened at all.
The old CP was fine anyway, IMO, but this has some nice benefits too.


November 3, 2015 | 01:17 AM - Posted by Hakuren

I couldn't care less how driver installer and control panel looks like. For all I care it can be DOS terminal kind of box. Best AMD control panel was the first, the most barebone, the most functional type.

November 3, 2015 | 08:53 AM - Posted by obababoy

No one wants people like you around an ever expanding tech market. This is video games not command line networking... /SLAP

November 5, 2015 | 03:55 PM - Posted by Octagon (not verified)

"While the Catalyst Control Center was written in the aging and bloated .Net coding ecosystem, Radeon Software is designed on QT."

This sentence is pure comedy gold to someone who has worked with both frameworks. Blaming .NET for the disaster that was CCC is incredibly disingenuous (I realize you were quoting AMD here). Crappy software is crappy, regardless of the framework, and if the same people who managed to mess things up so badly on .NET are now going to apply their "skills" to QT, I can guarantee you the results won't be pretty.

November 7, 2015 | 12:49 PM - Posted by drbaltazar (not verified)

QT FROM NOKIA, the same Nokia that ms baught wp from? Didn't this venture cost Microsoft almost 8 billion dollars . I ain't sure this at idea is a good idea, why ?it didn't exist less then 4 years ago.

December 8, 2015 | 06:21 PM - Posted by j7n (not verified)

It would make sense if the control panel no longer had a brand name, and would just be described as "software [driver] that comes with the Radeon". I found "catalyst" and "forceware" confusing for a long time, as if they were optional 3rd party overclocking tools.

The first control panel is by far the best. All this type of application needs is sliders and checkboxes basically, without inaccurate illustrations (such as aliasing shown as a sharpening filter by nVidia) or heavy graphics of any kind. Those controls could be arranged more or less ergonomically, but I'd take ATI Tray Tools, where all functions are invoked by repeatedly right-clicking one icon, over a graphics heavy GUI any time.

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