Amd omega drivers: AMD Catalyst Omega Driver 14.12 Download

AMD Catalyst Omega Driver 14.12 Download

The Catalyst Omega driver boasts some serious performance improvements in many hardware configurations due to a more efficient design. AMD states that you can expect up to 19% more performance than the previous driver (Catalyst 14.11.2) when running games on high-end graphics cards, and up to 29% more performance on APU-based systems. Here is a list for the new features the Catalyst Omega drivers offer.

Virtual Super Resolution (VSR)

This technology allows a user to improve visual quality in games and other content by rendering at a very high resolution (up to 4K) and then displaying that content at a lower resolution supported by the available monitor. VSR is game- and engine-agnostic solution. When this feature is enabled, Virtual Super Resolutions beyond the native resolution of the display device will be available in a wide variety of games and applications, including the Windows desktop. Effectively, VSR provides a Super Sampling Anti-Aliasing (SSAA) feature for the games and applications that do not natively support that functionality.

AMD Fluid Motion Video

This feature uses GPU compute to interpolate inferred frames with real frames and increase overall video frame rate and smoothness when watching Blu-ray content.

Performance Optimizations for Gaming on Discrete GPUs

AMD Catalyst Omega driver also provides significant performance benefits for gamers who use our AMD Radeon Discrete GPU products. Performance benefits are shown here for an AMD Radeon R9 290X graphics card, comparing the AMD Catalyst Omega driver to the launch driver for that product – AMD Catalyst driver 13.12.

Contour Removal

This feature implements an improved algorithm for compressed videos which removes compression artifacts without disturbing video details. 

1080P Detail Enhancement

This feature improves the sharpness and clarity of compressed and low resolution content when it’s played on a 1080P display. The AMD Catalyst Omega driver brings this existing feature to AMD APU products.  

FullHD to UltraHD Video

This feature makes your 1080p video content look even better when displayed on an Ultra HD (4K resolution) display.

5K Panel Support

The AMD Catalyst Omega driver enables unparalleled display performance for professionals and gamers who require the highest resolution available with support for this new breed of displays.

Frame Pacing Enhancements

Frame-pacing enhancements have been implemented in prior AMD Catalyst drivers to bring a smoother gameplay experience to users of AMD Crossfire Multi-GPU graphics configurations. The AMD Catalyst Omega driver brings this same technology to our AMD Dual Graphics system configurations, which harness the power of an AMD APU working together with an AMD Radeon GPU.

Performace Optimizations for Gaming on APUs

Like many other AMD Catalyst drivers, the AMD Catalyst Omega driver delivers free performance increases.  Here we compare the performance of the AMD Catalyst Omega against AMD Catalyst driver 14.2 – the driver provided with our AMD 7000-series APU products at launch.

Complete Release Notes:

Introducing the AMD Catalyst Omega driver for Windows, a «Special Edition» driver delivered to enhance the AMD GPU and APU experience. The AMD Catalyst Omega driver contains over 20 new features, performance improvements, and significant number of bug fixes and improvements. All improvements will be carried forward in subsequent driver releases.

Virtual Super Resolution (VSR):

Render games at higher resolution and display them at lower resolution. Up to 4k quality gaming on 1080p HD displays

  • Smoother textures and edges
  • Game and Engine agnostic solution
  • Simulates Super Sampling Anti-Aliasing (SSAA) for games that don’t support it
  • Enabled through AMD Catalyst Control Center
  • Select higher resolution in-game settings
  • Available on AMD Radeon R9 290 series, and AMD Radeon R9 285 GPUs

5K Monitor Support:

Unparalleled display performance for professionals and gamers who require the highest resolution available and silky-smooth, fatigue-free graphics

  • 5120×2880 at 60Hz
  • 14. 7 million pixels, 218 pixels-per-inch
  • Dual DisplayPort 1.2 input
  • Available on AMD FirePro and AMD Radeon R series GPUs

Alienware Graphics Amplifier:

Support for AMD Radeon Graphics in Alienware Graphics Amplifier

  • Expand the capability of the Alienware 13 notebook with a high-performance AMD Radeon graphics card
  • Drive resolutions up to 4K
  • Performance that far exceeds the built-in graphics.
  • Supported on select AMD Radeon HD 5000 series GPUs and newer

Perfect Picture Enhancements:

  • AMD Fluid Motion Video – Smooth Blu-ray playback with lower power APUs
    • High quality frame rate conversion
    • Interpolates frames using GPU compute
    • Removes video judder
    • Available on AMD 7000 Series APUs and AMD Radeon R7 & R9 series GPUs
  • Contour Removal – Improved algorithm for compressed videos
    • Removes compression artifacts without disturbing video details
    • Available on AMD Athlon APUs, AMD 7000 series APUs, and AMD Radeon R series GPUs

Perfect Picture Additions:

  • 1080p Detail Enhancement now for APUs
    • Provides look-and-feel of 1080p video to lower-resolution content
    • Improves frequency response and controllability of overshoot and noise immunity
    • Available on AMD 7000 series APUs and AMD Radeon R series GPUs
  • Ultra HD-Like Experience — Makes 1080P videos 4K-like
    • Combination of:
      • Fluid Motion Video
      • Detail Enhancement
      • Adaptive upscaling
  • Available on AMD Radeon R7 260 and higher

Frame Pacing Enhancements for AMD Dual Graphics:

  • Includes enhancements for
    • Metro 2033
    • World of Warcraft
    • 3DMark 11
    • Sniper Elite V2
    • Tomb Raider
    • Hitman: Absolution
    • GRID 2
    • Alien: Isolation
    • Batman: Arkham Origins
    • BioShock: Infinite
    • Unigine Valley Benchmark
    • Plants vs Zombies Garden Warfare
    • Dragon Age: Inquisition
    • Metro 2033 Redux
    • Sniper Elite 3
    • Assassin’s Creed Unity
    • Metro: Last Light

AMD CrossFire Frame Pacing improvements:

  • Designed to reduce stuttering from graphics memory intensive applications: Tomb Raider, Hitman Absolution, Watch Dogs, Far Cry 3

OpenCL 2. 0 Support:

New features give GPUs more freedom to do the work they are designed to do

  • Shared virtual memory
    • Enables host and device kernels to directly share complex pointer based data structures, eliminating explicit transfers between the host and devices while increasing programming flexibility.
  • Device-side Enqueue
    • Updated for improved programmability and increased application efficiency
  • Generic address space
    • Enables functions to be written without named address spaces which increases flexibility and saves time by eliminating the need for multiple functions to be written.

Performance Optimizations versus AMD Catalyst 14.9 WHQL:

  • Sid Meier’s Civilization: Beyond Earth performance optimizations
    • Mantle API activated for ultimate performance in Sid Meier’s Civilization: Beyond Earth
  • Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare performance optimizations
    • Up to 30% performance increases with FXAA and lower game resolutions
    • Optimized AMD CrossFire Profile update for improved performance
  • Assassin’s Creed Unity performance optimizations
    • Single GPU performance improvements
    • Optimized AMD CrossFire Profile update for improved performance
  • Dragon Age: Inquisition performance optimizations
    • Up to 15% performance increase in single GPU scenarios with Anti-Aliasing enabled.
    • Optimized AMD CrossFire Profile update for improved performance
  • Far Cry 4 performance optimizations
    • Up to 50% performance increase in single GPU scenarios with Anti-Aliasing enabled.

Year over Year Performance Optimizations versus AMD Catalyst 13.12 WHQL:

  • Up to 19% more performance since launch in some games on AMD Radeon R Series GPUs
  • Up to 29% more performance since launch in some games on various AMD APUs
  • Measured across various AMD Radeon R Series GPU and AMD APU configurations in over 30 game titles

Driver Efficiency Improvement:

  • Driver optimization for multi core CPUs allows up to 15% more performance for some AMD platforms

Resolved Issues:

  • 14.9 Install issues for intermittent crash or black screen after install
  • 14.9 Catalyst Control Center issues have occasional AMDMantle64. dll error popups during install
  • [406244] Online video can sometimes crash when watching YouTube videos with hardware acceleration enabled
  • [406590] Watching online flash videos in Google Chrome sometimes causes the browser to hang when hardware acceleration is enabled
  • [406493] Displays that go in to sleep mode intermittently causes the display to not wake up
  • [404081] AHCI Chipset Drivers can sometimes cause the system to crash on boot-up
  • [405807] 144Hz displays in AMD CrossFire configurations can cause intermittent crashing when launching D3D Applications
  • [403996] Game stuttering or screen tearing in Quad CrossFire
  • [402133] State of Decay textures can intermittently extrude beyond their boundaries or be corrupted
  • [405738] HDMI audio stays disabled when a connected TV is disabled and then re-enabled

Known Issues:

  • [410367] System black hangs/BSOD upon resuming from S3/S4 sleep on AMD Radeon R9 285 configured in AMD CrossFire mode
  • [410293] With AMD CrossFire enabled, Timeout Detection Recovery (TDR) occurs during actual gameplay when YouTube Mix moves to the next song in Firefox
  • [408368] Some artifacting will be seen in certain scenarios with AMD Fluid Motion Enabled
  • [407622] Screen tearing on enabling VSync with Alien: Isolation game
  • [407934] Frame drops may occasionally be observed playing back progressive Blu Ray content on some AMD Kaveri APU configurations
  • [407095] 3D movies cannot be viewed using Power DVD on some AMD Kaveri APU configurations with only 2GB of single channel memory
  • [407175] Catalyst Control Center Video Quality settings may not be available or retained if the «Enforce Smooth Video Playback» option is not selected on some AMD HD series GPU’s.
  • [406495] Pull down detection fails to lock in Metro Video playback applications
  • [410255] A system restart or hang may be observed on sleep/resume while transcoding video with Media Espresso
  • [410398] A black screen may be experienced when attempting to enable Eyefinity after changing the display mode (Portrait, Landscape)
  • [410391] Primary display may not be retained after disabling Crossfire while in Eyefinity mode
  • [409705] Enabling or disabling Crossfire may lead to one side of the 4K MST display being shown as black
  • [410393] Minor stuttering may be seen in Dragon Age Inquisition on Single and Multi GPU configurations​

Supported Products:

AMD Desktop Product Family Compatibility

  • AMD Radeon R9 290 Series
  • AMD Radeon R5 230 Series
  • AMD Radeon R9 280 Series
  • AMD Radeon HD 8000 Series
  • AMD Radeon R9 270 Series
  • AMD Radeon HD 7000 Series
  • AMD Radeon R7 260 Series
  • AMD Radeon HD 6000 Series
  • AMD Radeon R7 250 Series
  • AMD Radeon R7 240 Series
  • ATI Radeon HD 5000 Series

AMD All-In-One Desktop Product Family Compatibility ​

  • AMD Radeon HD 7600A Series
  • AMD Radeon HD 6600A Series
  • AMD Radeon HD 7450A Series
  • AMD Radeon HD 6350A Series

AMD Embedded Product Family Compatibility ​

  • AMD Radeon E8860
  • AMD Radeon E6460
  • AMD Radeon E6760

AMD APU Product Family Compatibility ​

  • Desktop
    • A-Series AMD Radeon R7 Graphics
    • A-Series AMD Radeon R6 Graphics
    • A-Series AMD Radeon R5 Graphics
    • A-Series AMD Radeon R3 Graphics
    • AMD Radeon HD 8000D Series
    • AMD Radeon HD 7000D Series
    • AMD Radeon HD 6000D Series
  • Mobile
    • AMD Radeon HD 8000G Series
    • AMD Radeon HD 7000G Series
    • AMD Radeon HD 6000G Series

AMD Mobility Radeon Family Compatibility

AMD Catalyst Mobility is a notebook reference graphics driver with limited support for system vendor specific features. When used with Windows Vista or Windows 7, the user experience may be limited or compromised.

  • AMD Radeon R9 M200 Series
  • AMD Radeon HD 7000M Series
  • AMD Radeon R7 M200 Series
  • AMD Radeon HD 6000M Series
  • AMD Radeon R5 M200 Series
  • AMD Radeon HD 8000M Series
  • ATI Mobility Radeon HD 5000 Series

The following notebooks are not compatible with this release:

  1. Any notebook launched after this driver release
  2. Toshiba notebooks (please contact the notebook OEM for driver support for these notebooks)
  3. Sony VAIO notebooks (please contact the notebook OEM for driver support for these notebooks)
  4. Panasonic notebooks (please contact the notebook OEM for driver support for these notebooks)

AMD Launches Catalyst Omega Driver

AMD is today launching a major update to its Catalyst driver suite, know as Catalyst Omega. With no new hardware this side Christmas, AMD is using the opportunity to introduce a slew of features, performance improvements and bug fixes to its software package, with Catalyst Omega set to bring benefits to both developers and end users. AMD refers to Catalyst Omega as a Special Edition driver, but it represents a new baseline for the suite – all updates will be carried forward in future releases. Please note that this is purely a discussion piece covering the main updates at this stage, as we have yet to do testing of our own with Catalyst Omega.

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The headline news is that Catalyst Omega can bring about performance increases of up to 19 percent with discrete GPUs and up to 29 percent with APUs, depending of course on the hardware and software in question. However, there’s much more to it than that.

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Catalyst Omega brings with it some enhancements and additions to AMD’s feature set for improving visual quality during video playback. The first concerns AMD Fluid Motion Video, which is now available on all 7×00 A-Series APUs (35W+) and Radeon graphics cards. FMV harnesses GPU power with compute algorithms that can be used by PowerDVD 14 to smooth out footage when converting 24Hz Blu-ray source files into 60Hz playback. It does this by computing and interpolating inferred frames rather than simply repeating existing ones, supposedly removing judder without sacrificing detail.

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Contour Removal is an algorithm that affects compressed video formats by attempting to remove video artifacts, again without losing detail. According to AMD, it shouldn’t be limited by file type. This is enabled by a check box in the Catalyst Control Centre (CCC).

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There are also some additions with regards to upscaling content. For example, 1080p Detail Enhancement, which unsurprisingly attempts to introduce higher detail levels to low resolution content when playing at 1080p, is now available on AMD APUs (7×00 A-Series). Like Contour Removal, the various aspects of this feature (e.g. edge-enhancement, de-noise, de-blocking etc.) are enabled with check boxes in the CCC. There’s also the FullHD to UltraHD feature, which does exactly what it says. It combines FMB, Detail Enhancement and adaptive upscaling to make 1080p content look better when played on a 4K display – it is enabled by default as part of the driver.

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Another big announcement is something enthusiasts have been waiting patiently for, which is support for AMD’s FreeSync technology on AMD FirePro, 7×00 A-Series APUs and of course Radeon R-Series desktop graphics. FreeSync uses DisplayPort’s industry standard adaptive sync technology to synchronise your monitor’s refresh rate to the frame rate of your content as it changes to eliminate stutter and tearing. This is similar to Nvidia’s G-Sync technology, without the need for an additional scaler.

Samsung has already announced five 4K panels that will support FreeSync – like G-Sync, you’ll still need a new monitor, as it needs to supports the new DisplayPort standard, but AMD estimates that FreeSync monitors will cost around $100 less than equivalent G-Sync screens. The Samsung panels announced are the UE590 (23.6-inch and 28-inch) and the UE850 (23.6-inch, 27-inch and 31.5-inch). These should be shipping in Q1 2015, with other monitors expected to be announced soon as well.

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Another notable screen on the market is the Dell UP2715k, mainly because of its 5K resolution (5,120 x 2,880 to be precise). Catalyst Omega enables native support for 5K displays at 60Hz using two DisplayPort 1.2 connectors on FirePro and Radeon R-Series cards – simply connect the DisplayPorts and boot into Windows 8.1, and the screen should be auto-configured. FirePro users can also now utilise 24-screen (!) Eyefinity set-ups in Windows for the first time (previously it could be done in Linux), with six screen per GPU in a 4-way system.

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AMD is also promising lot of quality assurance for Catalyst Omega. During development, it implemented a large scale driver solution across its workforce to help identify and fix as many issues as possible. It also tested the driver on more test systems and a wider range of system configurations than ever before. Finally, AMD utilised community feedback to develop a top 10 list of things that needed fixing from previous drivers and addressed them all. You can see the full list in the image above.

AMD Catalyst Omega Driver Benchmark: VSR vs. DSR & Improved Linux Support | GamersNexus

In a bid to garner attention in the graphics market, AMD’s Radeon graphics division has branded its newest Catalyst driver update simply as “Omega.” Unlike previous iterations, the new driver attaches a codename to symbolize the dramatic changes made to the underlying software. Catalyst Omega introduces direct competitors to NVIDIA technology (like DSR, seen here), offers greater Linux support, and hosts a suite of media playback smoothing options. We’ll look into all of those here, along with some driver benchmarks.

Here’s a quick overview, as provided by AMD (note that AMD’s numbers differ from our benchmark numbers, shown and explained further below):

 

The major new features for Catalyst Omega include:

Gaming Updates

  • VSR (Virtual Super Resolution, thought of as an alternative to nVidia’s Dynamic Super Resolution – DSR).
  • Frame Pacing & Frame Time improvements. Several games see frame time improvements over previous driver iterations. This means frames are delivered more consistently with even spacing between each frame. Frame pacing has been improved slowly since 14.9, so users of 14.11.2 will see very little difference. Games affected include Batman, Metro, Tomb Raider, & Sniper Elite 3.
  • Presumably some game performance enhancements, though we saw these in limited extent when compared to the recent 14. 11.2.

FreeSync

  • AMD’s FreeSync driver support now exists in Omega. At this point, we’re just waiting for monitors that also support the tech. Samsung and other major brands have already announced FreeSync inclusion, with numerous models being unveiled at CES and shipping in 2015.

Video Playback Updates

  • Fluid Motion Video, which interpolates frames to improve video playback fluidity. This is done with a temporal (time-based) filter, tasked with analyzing the previous frame and next frame, then “filling in the gaps” with an interpolated frame. An example would be a car chase scene that jitters as a result of the high speed. This applies strictly to CyberDVD and similar multimedia viewers; Fluid Motion Video does not apply to games. This tech relies upon GPU compute to process.
  • Contour Removal. As above, this only applies to multimedia playback. Contour removal decreases the count of compression artifacts by using a new algorithm for interpreting compressed videos.
  • Detail Enhancement on APUs & GPUs. Detail enhancement assists lower-resolution displays – like those found on laptops – by providing the detail of 1080p video on lower resolution outputs. This can be thought of as similar in top-level concept to VSR, in that the output frame appears higher in detail and depth.
  • Adaptive Upscaling. Takes 1080 content and upscales it in a fashion that theoretically provides a comparable appearance to true 4K output. This is used on 4K displays that do not have matching 4K content.
  • FRC. Framerate Conversion adapts slower FPS movies to higher framerates. The Hobbit was shot at 48FPS, but most media is still 24-30p. FRC ups the FPS to match the display refresh rate.

Linux Updates

  • Linux support. AMD will upstream all code that affects features, performance, and stability into open source community Radeon drivers. D3D and OpenGL remain proprietary, but everything else goes into open source respositories.
  • OpenCL 2.0 support gives access to a new range of general purpose computing, making things easier to work with. OpenCL 2.0 smooths the edges of OpenCL 1.2/1.3 with HSA now being OpenCL compliant, meaning that HSA-related programming will now run OpenCL 2.0 code as well.
  • CodeXL support allows OpenCL applications to analyze software power consumption in Watts.

AMD’s Promises

AMD has made a lot of promises in its time. This release, they’ve stuck to at least a few of them. More than 400 major driver bugs have been resolved, including several directly related to instability and driver crashes (and CrossFire / Quad CrossFire stability improvements). That said, AMD has also made new promises: With the restructuring of the organization, the company notes that day-1 game release drivers will be readily available alongside “big features” released yearly. Stability is a major focus for Catalyst going forward.

Catalyst Omega Benchmark

Sadly, the performance jump from 14. 11.2 to Omega is pretty dull and uninteresting, likely because much of the code that went into Omega stemmed from the 14.11.2 beta. We did test VSR vs. DSR for the delta FPS degradation, though, which produced some surprising numbers.

Here’s the FPS bench:

This chart shows the 1920×1080 performance difference between 14.11.2 and Catalyst Omega on the 4GB 290X ($370). We saw improvements in Civilization: Beyond Earth, but no noteworthy games in other applications. AMD’s internal reporting shows major performance jumps with Omega, but reading the fine print reveals that these tests were conducted on much older driver versions – like 14.9 and even 13.x releases of Catalyst. In the event you’re on drivers from several months ago, you’ll see much larger performance gains than we’ve reported above.

 

This chart shows AMD’s internal metrics against older versions of Catalyst, for comparison purposes.

AMD VSR vs. NVIDIA DSR

Pay close attention to the foliage jaggies.

Virtual Super Resolution – like Dynamic Super Resolution – renders games at a higher resolution and then filters them down to the display’s native resolution. The result is smoother edges on some textures and overall greater detail, at the cost of a performance hit. Note that the game is still being rendered at a higher resolution, so playing at 4K via VSR / DSR will minimally tax the hardware in the fashion a true 4K display would do.

VSR is only compatible with the 295X2, 290X, 290, and 285. The R7 family might get support in 2015. The scaler in the 290 family limits resolution upscaling to 3200×1800, whereas the R9 285 (and similar family cards) will allow 4K VSR.

The raw performance hit looks like this:

As for how VSR and DSR differ, it appears that VSR has a more immediate performance advantage when strictly looking at deltas (the % FPS difference between 1080p and the virtual resolution render, i.e. the FPS drop from 1080 to 1440 or 3200×1800). We only tested two titles for now, so this is by no means definitive.







    NVIDIA FPS Hit AMD FPS Hit
Far Cry 4 Ultra 1080p


1440p -26% -11.77%
1800p -62.4% -48.3%
       
GRID: Autosport Ultra 1080p


1440p -18% -15.96%
1800p -49.10% -42.76%

We require further testing to determine whether VSR and DSR achieve the same quality output – it may be the case that DSR is performing additional processing, but we’ll be researching this shortly.

The above shows AMD’s VSR in Battlefield 4 (Top — 1080; Bottom — 1440). Focus on the trees and grass to see the difference.

AMD’s moving in the right direction, but there’s no doubt that they’ve still got ground to make up in all of their markets. Let us know what your experience has been with Omega thus far. The driver should be available today: http://community.amd.com/community/amd-blogs/amd-gaming/blog/2014/12/08/a-very-special-edition-driver-amd-catalyst-omega

— Steve «Lelldorianx» Burke.

AMD announces Catalyst Omega drivers with Virtual Super Resolution

AMD Catalyst Omega

The new drivers, which have nothing to do with popular modified drivers from few years back, are a new step in performance optimization and implementation of new features.

This driver will be available for download on December 9th.

DSR vs VSR

NVIDIA’s Dynamic Super Resolution finally has some competition. For years both companies neglected the need for easy downsampling technology for end users. Eventually people came up with a 3rd-party modifications, which were shortly put, not the easiest to handle.

With Catalyst Omega drivers AMD introduces Virtual Super Resolution (VSR). The changes can be applied through Catalyst Control Center, however I’m not yet sure if is this going to work across all installed games or just those selected by the user.

This technology has some benefits and some downsides. Not all games are optimized to offer good performance at higher resolution. Sometimes it’s better to choose anti-aliasing filter instead. Company of Heroes 2 for instance, is unplayable with single R9 290X or GTX 980 at 4K resolution in Ultra quality, so you are better off playing with just AA enabled.

G-SYNC vs FREESYNC

Monitors with FreeSync technology are expected to launch early next year (February — March). Unlike G-Sync, FreeSync will simply adopt DisplayPort Adaptive-Sync implementation, so no additional hardware is required, except monitor with newest DisplayPort connector. FreeSync has a great future ahead, and I’m sure NVIDIA will sooner or later adopt DP Adaptive-Sync as well, so G-Sync modules will no longer be required.

Video enhancements

AMD Catalyst Omega will also bring new video quality improving technologies like Fluid Motion Video, Detail Enhancement and Adaptive upscaling.

Driver efficiency improvement and GPU/APU optimizations

   

5K monitors support and Eyefinity with 24 display support

 

FEATURES

AMD FLUID MOTION VIDEO

PERFECT PICTURE ENHANCEMENTS

BETTER VIDEO QUALITY THAN MOST HIGH-END TVS

Smooth Blu-ray Playback with Lower Power APUs

  • High Quality Frame Rate Conversion
  • Interpolates frames using GPU compute
  • Removes Video Judder

CONTOUR REMOVAL

PERFECT PICTURE ENHANCEMENTS

AUTOMATIC VIDEO IMPROVEMENT

Improved Algorithm for Compressed Videos

  • Removes compression artifacts

1080P DETAIL ENHANCEMENT

PERFECT PICTURE ADDITIONS

ENHANCE YOUR ENTERTAINMENT EXPERIENCE

1080P Detail Enhancement now for APUs

  • Provides look-and-feel of 1080P video Original Video Processed Video to lower-resolution content
  • Improves frequency response and controllability of overshoot and noise immunity

ULTRAHD-LIKE EXPERIENCE

PERFECT PICTURE ADDITIONS

MAKE YOUR 1080P CONTENT LOOK GREAT ON ULTRA HD DISPLAYS

Makes 1080P Videos 4K-like

Combination of:
– Fluid Motion Video
– Detail Enhancement
– Adaptive upscaling

FRAME PACING ENHANCEMENTS

ENHANCED FEATURE FOR DUAL GRAPHICS

ENHANCED FOR SMOOTHER DUAL GRAPHICS GAMEPLAY

Includes enhancements for
– Batman Arkham Origins
– Metro Series
– Tomb Raider
– Sniper Elite 3
and many more …

Source: TechSport (article removed)

NEW FEATURES: VIRTUAL SUPER RESOLUTION

UP TO 4K QUALITY GAMING ON 1080p HD DISPLAYS

Render games at higher resolution and display them at lower resolution

  • Smoother textures and edges
  • Game and Engine agnostic solution
  • Simulates Super Sampling Anti-Aliasing (SSAA) for games that don’t support it

ENABLED THROUGH AMD CATALYST TM CONTROL CENTER

  • Enabled through AMD Catalyst Control Center
  • Select higher resolution in-game settings

ALIENWARE GRAPHICS AMPLIFIER

SUPPORT FOR AMD RADEON™ GRAPHICS

AMPLIFY YOUR PERFORMANCE

Support for AMD Radeon™ Graphics in Alienware Graphics Amplifier

  • Expand the capability of the Alienware 13 notebook with a high-performance AMD Radeon graphics card

AMD FREESYNC TECHNOLOGY

WHAT GAMERS HAVE BEEN WAITING FOR

FREESYNC USES INDUSTRY-STANDARD DISPLAYPORT ADAPTIVE-SYNC

Eliminates screen tearing without all the usual lag and latency

  • Synchronizes the refresh rate of a compatible monitor to the frame rate of your content, however much it varies
  • Monitor partners are validating with drivers from AMD now
  • Monitors planned availability: Q1, 2015

5K MONITOR SUPPORT

UNPARALLELED DISPLAY PERFORMANCE FOR PROFESSIONALS AND GAMERS WHO REQUIRE THE HIGHEST RESOLUTION AVAILABLE

Silky-smooth, fatigue-free graphics

  • 5120×2880 at 60Hz
  • 14. 7 million pixels, 218 pixels-per-inch
  • Dual DisplayPort 1.2 input

EYEFINITY

INTRODUCING SUPPORT FOR 24 DISPLAY EYEFINITY!

  • Smooth, tear free video playback with up to 24 displays (4 GPUs) on Windows®
  • Updated GUI for intuitive set up of Eyefinity desktop
  • Quick setup of overlap and blending parameters
  • Scale display capability in a single system configuration
  • No need for 3rd party hardware and software solutions

FULL LIST OF FEATURES

  • Compression Artifact Removal 2
  • Detailed Enhancement 2
  • Frame Rate Conversion 2.0
  • Virtual Super Resolution
  • 5K x 3K Display Support
  • Dynamic Refresh Rate (FreeSync)
  • Frame Pacing for Dual Graphics
  • AMD CrossFire™ Frame Pacing improvements
  • OpenCL 2.0
  • Driver support for CodeXL 1.6
  • OGL ES3.0
  • Faster Display Mode Enumeration
  • Color Gamut Remap
  • VAAPI support for Phase 1 Decode
  • Rotated Eyefinity Support for Radeon™ R9 285
  • Windows Installer Updates
  • Windows Autodetect Software Utility
  • Linux® Distro Specific Packaging
  • Configurable UVD Sessions

AMD CrossFire™ Frame Pacing improvements

  • Designed to reduce stuttering from graphics memory intensive applications: Tomb Raider, Hitman Absolution, Watch Dogs, Far Cry 3

Display Mode Enumeration

  • Designed to improve on “Plug a display -> See the display” time

OpenMP 3. 1 on HSA APUs

  • AMD and SUSE Linux® have collaborated to create a GCC compiler allows OpenMP 3.1 applications to accelerate compute on HSA devices

Rotated Eyefinity Support for AMD Radeon™ R9 285

  • Enables a mix of portrait and landscape oriented displays

VAAPI support for Phase 1 Decode

  • Embedded product feature to enable Video Acceleration API (VAAPI) for Linux®
  • Enables video decoding in the AMD Catalyst™ Linux® Driver

Configurable UVD Sessions

  • Embedded product feature to enable up to 20 simultaneous video streams (eg. Video Surveillance showing many camera streams)

Color Gamut Remap

  • API to permit OEMs enablement of sRGB images on wide gamut displays for more natural colors

OpenGL ES3.0 Support

  • Support for Windows® and Linux®

Improvements to AMD Catalyst™ Windows Installer

  • Less clicks to get through an install
  • Installer Windows resizing to match detected display

Windows Autodetect Software Utility

  • Improved detection of the hardware on which the install is taking place

Linux® Distro Specific Packaging

  • Ubuntu and Red Hat Enterprise Linux distribution specific packages – much easier for users of those distributions to install AMD Catalyst Linux drivers

TOP BUG FIXES

TOP BUG FIXES
Bug/Problem Status
14. 9 Install issues for intermittent crash or black screen after install Fixed
14.9 Catalyst™ Control Center issues have occasional AMDMantle64.dll error popups during install Fixed
Online video can sometimes crash when watching Youtube videos with hardware acceleration enabled Fixed
Watching online flash videos in Google Chrome sometimes causes the browser to hang when hardware acceleration is enabled Fixed
Displays that go in to sleep mode intermittently causes the display to not wake up Fixed
AHCI Chipset Drivers can sometimes cause the system to crash on bootup Fixed
144Hz displays in AMD CrossFire™ configurations can cause intermittent crashing when launching D3D Applications Fixed
Game stuttering or screen tearing in Quad CrossFire™ Fixed
State of Decay textures can intermittently extrude beyond their boundaries or be corrupted Fixed
HDMI audio stays disabled when a connected TV is disabled and then reenabled Fixed

Source: SweClockers

AMD’s Catalyst Omega drivers are stuffed with new features, philosophy

Let’s be honest: Most of us don’t update our graphics drivers religiously.

Okay, maybe you do, Mr. Hardcore #PCMasterRace enthusiast, but a vast swath of gamers fiddle with drivers only when they absolutely have to—when something breaks, or when a new game is acting funky. AMD’s new “Catalyst Omega” driver and its underlying philosophy are designed around that behavior.

Catalyst Omega marks the beginning of a new driver release schedule for AMD. The usual game updates and bugfix drivers will continue to roll out continuously as before, but going forward, AMD plans to reveal a major release brimming with new features once per year, to entice even the most stubborn of holdouts into updating their software. Catalyst Omega is just such a goodie-stuffed driver—and it’s also the start of a new era of quality assurance for the company, according to Robert Hallock, AMD’s technical communications lead.

But it also appears to be the potential dawn of a more ominous age for AMD enthusiasts, because the vast majority of Catalyst Omega’s new features aren’t available for one-generation-old Radeon 7000-series graphics cards, nor the current-gen R9 280 and R9 280X (which are basically rebrands of the older Radeon 7950 and 7970). When asked whether some of the features might hit 7000-series cards in the future, Hallock said “This driver is focused on R9 and R7.”

AMD’s Catalyst Omega is scheduled to roll out today. I’ve been testing the drivers for a couple of weeks now. Let’s dig in!

Virtual Super Resolution

As you may have guessed from the name, Virtual Super Resolution is AMD’s rival to Nvidia’s Dynamic Super Resolution, and it’s new in Catalyst Omega. When VSR is enabled, your graphics card will render games at a higher resolution than your monitor natively supports, and then downsample the image to native resolution when it’s sent to your monitor. Virtual Super Resolution supports resolutions up to full 4K, even if you’re using a 1080p monitor.

The technology gives you far smoother edges and textures than you’d see at your native resolution, as well as a much wider field of view—though that can occasionally wreak some havoc in games with small interface elements, as highlighted in the AMD-provided comparison below of Civilization: Beyond Earth at 1080p with VSR disabled (left) and enabled at 4K resolution (right). Downsampling also negates the need for anti-aliasing.

AMD Catalyst Omega’s Virtual Super Resolution in action.

Actually using AMD’s Virtual Super Resolution technology is much more seamless than using Nvidia’s Digital Super Resolution, in my opinion—at least if you don’t let Nvidia’s software automatically ‘optimize’ your in-game settings. While Nvidia’s DSR settings are buried inside its GeForce Experience software, AMD’s technology lets you simply select higher-than-native resolutions via in-game options after you’ve enabled VSR in the Catalyst Control Center.

If your system supports it, that is. The first iteration of Virtual Super Resolution requires scaler hardware found only in a handful of graphics cards: The R9 285, R9 290, R9 290X, and dual-GPU R9 295X2. Sure, the price of Radeon cards has plummeted recently, but those models are still on the beefy end of the spectrum. Fear not, budget gamers! AMD hopes to release a driver that enables VSR in the rest of the R-series lineup using software tricks sometime in early 2015—which, admittedly, takes some of the shine off Catalyst Omega’s “ONE DRIVER PER YEAR!” pitch.

It’s also hard not to feel a wee bit disappointed that this feature is limited to current-gen Radeon hardware alone, as Nvidia rolled DSR out to GTX 500, 600, and 700-series cards after establishing it in the new GTX 970 and 980.

The monitor resolutions and timings supported by Virtual Super Resolution, along with the virtual resolutions available on that hardware.

Your monitor’s resolution and refresh timing also need to be supported for Virtual Super Resolution to function, though the most common resolutions are. If your monitor doesn’t meet spec, the option to enable VSR won’t even be available in the Catalyst Control Center, as I discovered when I tried using Catalyst Omega with a 30-inch, 2560×1600 monitor. Also note that full virtual 4K resolution is available only with the R9 285.

It’s great to see graphics vendors actively supporting downsampling after years of leaving it to third-party solutions like Peter “Durante” Thoman’s (stellar) GeDoSaTo. Technologies like Virtual Super Resolution are a smart way to utilize the extra horsepower of modern high-end graphics cards with monitors that gamers actually use—especially when you consider how screen resolutions have been largely stalled for the past decade.

New monitor support galore—including FreeSync

Speaking of displays, Catalyst Omega also enables support for AMD’s FreeSync technology. FreeSync is similar (yet again) to Nvidia’s G-Sync: Both technologies force your graphics card and monitor to sync their refresh rates, alleviating the pesky screen tearing and stuttering issues that can pop up under normal circumstances. We’ve seen Nvidia’s G-Sync implementation in action, and the result is stunningly smooth.

FreeSync prevents the screen tearing sometimes seen when your GPU and monitor refresh at different rates.

Catalyst Omega paves the road for AMD’s response. The first FreeSync monitors have yet to hit the streets, but Samsung recently announced FreeSync support for a whole line of 4K displays, and Hallock says at least three other display vendors will be showing FreeSync-compatible monitors at CES 2015. The initial FreeSync monitors are expected to be released next year, with Samsung’s UD590 and UE850 4K displays launching in March.

Dell’s 27-inch UP2715K in its (rendered) 5K glory.

But the first 5K monitor is already here, in the form of Dell’s 27-inch UP2715K. Catalyst Omega includes support for the display and its eye-popping 5120×2880 resolution, though your graphics card needs at least a pair of DisplayPort 1.2 connections to power such a beastly screen.

And if you’re running an insanely beefy system, Catalyst Omega boosts AMD’s Eyefinity multi-monitor support all the way up to a ludicrous 24 simultaneous displays in a quad-GPU setup, along with a tweaked Eyefinity interface. In a word: Damn. If you get a glorious setup like that up and running, be sure to shoot us a picture!

Gaming performance enhancements

Catalyst Omega also includes the in-game performance enhancements that are the bread and butter of graphics drivers, though they’re mostly a secondary focus behind the new features and QA enhancements. As Hallock told me, “We’re not promising the world here.”

Indeed, AMD’s supplied performance stats even compare Omega against launch-day Catalyst drivers for APUs and GPUs, rather than the most recent drivers. That makes a bizarre sort of sense, though, as Omega’s targeted toward people who rarely update their drivers.

AMD APUs—which combine an AMD CPU with Radeon graphics on the same chip—see the biggest benefit here. Per AMD’s supplied statistics, several titles see frame rate increases in the double-digit percentages compared to the launch-day Catalyst 14.2 driver. (I don’t have an APU system on hand to test myself.)

You may also see some frame rate boosts when you’re using discrete Radeon graphics cards, but even AMD’s supplied stats (which compare Catalyst Omega against the older Catalyst 13.12 driver) show modest improvements.

In most of our testing suite—comprised of Metro: Last Light Redux, Sleeping Dogs Definitive Edition, Alien: Isolation, Ryse: Son of Rome, and the Unigine Valley and 3DMark 11 Firestrike benchmarking tools—frame rate improvements were negligible over the Catalyst 14.11 beta drivers. Bioshock Infinite’s average frame rate indeed improved drastically, however, leaping from 51. 4 fps to 61.7 fps at 2560×1600 resolution, on Ultra settings with Diffusion Depth of Detail enabled.

Catalyst Omega has another nifty trick up its sleeve: It brings the frame pacing enhancements previously available for multi-graphics card CrossFire setups to AMD Dual Graphics configurations, which is basically AMD’s fancy-pants way of saying an APU paired with a Radeon processor. Better frame pacing means less drastic leaps in minimum/maximum frame rate rendering, giving games a far smoother, less jittery feel.

Again, I don’t have an APU on hand to test the claim, but here are AMD’s supplied stats from a system pairing an A10-7850K APU with a Radeon R7 250 processor, with both games run on medium graphics settings at 1080p.

Catalyst Omega (the red line) shows tighter frame pacing than Catalyst 14.9 in systems with an APU and a Radeon GPU.

Catalyst Omega also includes frame pacing improvements for a handful of memory-intensive games being played in a CrossFire setup: Tomb Raider, Hitman Absolution, Watch Dogs, and Far Cry 3.

Video enhancements

Games aren’t the only media getting a boost from Catalyst Omega. The new driver aims to give video playback a shot in the arm through the introduction of several new features, which is especially great news for folks who tapped AMD’s Radeon-bolstered APUs for a home theater PC.

Contour Removal more efficiently removes those blocky little compression artifacts so common in compressed videos. Contour removal is supported on 25W or higher APUs and R7- or R9-series Radon graphics cards only (but not on the Radeon R9 280 or 280X).

AMD’s Contour Removal compared to a still from a video that wasn’t optimized with the technology. (Click to enlarge the image for full effect.)

1080P Detail Enhancement hits a similar note, improving the clarity and sharpness of compressed, low-resolution video when you’re playing it at 1080p resolution. This technology’s supported on AMD 7×00 A-Series APUs and only the Radeon R9 285 graphics card, which is powered by AMD’s new Tonga GPU. Since the R9 285’s GPU is so fresh, presumably this feature will be supported in wider fashion whenever AMD’s next-gen R9 300-series graphics cards appear.

1080P Detail Enhancement versus a non-enhanced still.

FullHD to UltraHD Video performs the same action but for beefier hardware, by using processing trickery to improve the clarity of 1080 video when it’s blown up on a 4K display. To use it you’ll need a AMD 7×00 A-Series APU, any R-series Radeon GPU of R7 260 or higher, and—of course—a 4K monitor. (It seems a bit odd that this is supported by the R9 280 and 280X but not Radeon 7000-series cards.)

Finally, Fluid Motion Video “uses GPU compute to interpolate inferred frames with real frames,” according to AMD, making playback smoother. Unfortunately, I didn’t have a chance to test the tech because it’s available only in insanely specific scenarios.

Beyond requiring an 35W or higher AMD 7×00 A-Series APU or a Radeon R7 260 or higher R-series graphics card (again, sans the 280X and 280) on the hardware front, Fluid Motion Video works only when you’re watching a Blu-ray disc with Cyberlink PowerDVD 14. And even then, you have to enable it manually in the TrueTheater/Hardware Decoding submenu, which is hidden in the Video, Audio, and Subtitles submenu of PowerDVD’s Player Settings options while you’re watching a Blu-ray. Whew, that’s a lot of caveats.

Quality assurance improvements

I started this article with a call for honesty, and if we’re being honest, AMD’s drivers have long had a reputation—fair or not—of being not quite as stable as Nvidia’s. With Catalyst Omega, AMD tackled the issue head-on, a fact that Hallock stressed repeatedly.

Compared to previous drivers, AMD performed 65 percent more automated QA testing on Catalyst Omega. Beyond letting machines do their thing, AMD also engaged in rigorous internal “dogfooding” of the driver, performing 12 percent more manual testing on Catalyst Omega, across 10 percent more system configurations and 10 percent more display types. All told, Hallock says the team engaged in hundreds of thousands of tests, which found—and fixed—several hundred issues before Catalyst Omega’s release.

A list of the top bugfixes found in Catalyst Omega.

That’s all well and good, but AMD still has a way to go before it wins over skeptical gamers. To that end, AMD’s been actively asking for quality feedback from its users. Catalyst Omega fixes the ten most devastating driver bugs mentioned by those users, which you can see below. The company’s maintaining a dedicated bug report page and plans to focus on squashing the top community-reported bugs going forward.

And much, much more

Those are only the key consumer features included in Catalyst Omega. The full list of new goodies is too long to list in full, but here are a few more highlights:

  • The hair-enhancing TressFX 3.0 adds support for animal fur.
  • AMD’s Gaming Evolved client now includes Mantle support for game streaming
  • OpenCL 2.0 and OpenGL ES3.0 are now supported
  • AMD CodeXL 1.6 and HSA Runtime support for developers
  • Catalyst packages for the Red Hat and Ubuntu Linux distros
  • Streamlined Catalyst installation and faster hardware detection

A full list of the new features found in AMD’s Catalyst Omega drivers.

Sure, we’re still eagerly awaiting AMD’s Radeon hardware response to Nvidia’s masterful 900-series graphics cards. But Catalyst Omega shows AMD’s still fighting on the software side of things, too—and you can expect that whenever all those new Radeon R9 300-series graphics cards do start showing up, they’ll take full advantage of the slew of features buried within this driver.

AMD Omega Driver — What Matters to Gamers

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Over the past day or two you’ve probably seen the announcement of AMD’s Catalyst «Omega» driver. I’ve been digging through the details in the press deck, and I’ve reached out ot AMD with a few clarifying questions. This article outlines the features that I think will be of most interest to gamers.

Usually I don’t both with video enhancements and updates in new drivers. Generally they don’t impact me that much, and its’ not worth digging into the details. I usually chalk it up to a set of general updates to performance and quality. The Omega driver includes a couple of enhancements that I think I will actually notice, so I think it’s worth pointing them out.

The first is Contour Removal. This one is designed to clean up compression artifacts in movies, without impacting the detail. Pristine sources such as Blu-Ray rarely have to deal with the artifacts that appear in compressed/streamed media such as an iTunes movie.

When watching an iTunes movie, either on a PC or AppleTV, The «splotchy» color artifacts seen in gradients such as shadows and sky are readily apparent in blue sky or dark shadows. Contour Removal works to remove these artifacts, giving the compressed video a higher quality appearance, more akin to the original source.

The second set of features is used to enhance the overall quality and sharpness of video. «1080p Detail Enhancement» works to improve the quality of sub-1080p video, when played back on APU-based systems. This type of enhancement is well suited for an APU-powered HTPC, when playing back older and/or lower quality video content.

Similarly the Omega driver works to improve the quality of 1080p video when viewed on a 4k UHD display. This will be useful for anyone with a greater than 1080p display — be it 1440p, 1600p or 4k UHD. This type of detail enhancement will also come in handy when playing back 2:35 1080p video on an ultra-wide display (which is enlarged to fit the wider aspect ratio).

Now, on to the gaming. Frame Pacing has been a nagging issue for AMD users with dual-GPUs. While performance increased with a second GPUs, the variability from one frame to the next also increased. AMD has worked over the last year to implement and improve Frame Pacing in its various driver releases. The Omega driver continues this trend with improvements on a number of titles.

AMD is also releasing a new technology called Virtual Super Resolution. This is similar to NVIDIA’s «Dynamic Super Resolution». AMD’s Virtual Super Resolution allows you to render games at a higher resolution, and then scale them down to your monitor’s resolution for display. The benefit is higher resolution textures and more details in the image. It also simulates for SSAA (Super Sampling Anti-Aliasing) for games that don’t support it.

This features also brings an additional reason for the WSGF to test games in 4k. If the game doesn’t properly support 4k UHD, then you won’t be able to successfully use Virtual Super Sampling. If the HUD or other elements don’t work in 4k, then the game would be unplayable in VSA.

Currently, full 4k VSA is only available on the RP 285. The new board has additional hardware that is used for the 4k rendering without additional performance hit (over the 4k rendering itself). The R9 290 family allows scaling up to 3200×1800 — Quad 1600×900. AMD is working to release a new driver in the Jan/Feb timeframe that will add full 4k scaling to all R9 and R7 products, 260 and higher.

This will be a software solution, and will add a bit of extra overhead. Future hardware releases should have the necessary hardware for full 4k UHD scaling out of the box, without the extra performance hit.

There are a number of other features in the release, many of which are outlined in these two slides. Some have already been touched on, such as the Frame Pacing improvements. The slides also lay out several improvements to setup and configuration: improved time for display enumeration, fewer clicks to install the driver, faster hardware autodetect, and distro-specific driver packages for Ubuntu and Red Hat Enterprise.

There is one feature that stands out amongst pack — Rotated Eyefinity Support. This feature, which allows for «PLP» (Portrait Landscape Portrait) Eyefinity configurations, is limited to the new R9 285. The solution requires additional hardware on the card, to handle the display rotation, and still give a single Eyefinity SLS (Single Large Surface).

Due to the hardware requirements, this feature is currently limited ot the R9 285, but will be supported in future hardware releases. I know that PLP has been a desired feature for quite some time. But, with the release of 21:9 panels, and the 3440×1440 panels in particular, I’m not sure how much demand there still is for PLP.

Traditionally, PLP has been thought of as a smaller widescreen or 4:3 panel, rotated to match the height of a center landscape panel in widescreen. A configuration of 1200×1600 — 2560×1600 — 1200 results in a resolution of 4960×1600 and an aspect ratio of 3:1. This compares to 21:9 3440×1440, which is 2.39:1.

Both of these configurations are significantly wider than 16:9 (1.78:1) or 16:10 (1.6:1), but I’m not sure that the PLP would be worth the extra hassle and cost — over a large 21:9 panel. I reached out to AMD to get some details about the support, and to see what use cases were supported, and received some interesting feedback.

Give the newer options for «Fit» and «Fill», you could do PLP using three widescreen monitors set in an «H» pattern. I know many folks (myself included) who like using a widescreen in portrait for web browsing, coding, or working on documents and spreadsheets. PLP in this setup would allos you to use a center section of each L/R monitor, adding extra field of vision beyond the center widescreen.

This could be really cool and allow for users to have 2xP and 1xL for regular «productivity» work, and then game in «greater than widescreen» — all without having to rotate monitors. Above is a mockup for how that might look.

Like most drivers, the Omega release contains performance increases. Comparing to original launch, we’re seeing an average of 10% — 20% increase in performance. While these numbers sound great, and any performance increase is welcome, we need to put them in context.

On the first bar of the first graph, we see that Batman: Arkham Origins has seen a 10% increase in performance wiht the R9 290X at 4k UHD. Given that the game only averaged just above 40fps, we’re only looking at 4-5fps increase. With Bioshock Infinite, that 19% increase is only about 6fps.

Many of the APU increases at 1080p are a higher percent, and start from a higher baseline. This results in a larger absolute fps increase, and pushes several titles past the 40fps mark. Again, the performance improvements are always welcome, but some are minimal in terms of absolute fps.

For this driver, AMD also reached out to the gaming community and asked for their help in creating a Top 10 list of bugs to squash. Several of the fixes were gaming related, involving 144Hz panels, and multi-GPU configurations. The full Top 10 list is located in the second slide, and you can contribute to an ongoing list by logging your issues at www.amd.com/report

AMD’s Gaming Evolved client from Raptr also saw an update, in that it can now capture, stream and benchmark with Mantle enabled. Mantle has been really well received by the development community, and has enabled significant performance improvement. But, it’s been hard to measure or capture this, as program such as FRAPS leverage DirectX.

I’m excited about this option, as I’m working to move away from FRAPS (it often crashes when taking 4k UHD screenshots), and these update gives me one more tool to try out.

Finally, AMD has released the 3.0 update of TressFX. Beyond just seeing the lovely locks of Laura croft swing in the breeze, you could now see the hair of an animal company move realistically as its head was being scratched. The new release also comes with improvements and new features for developers.

There were a few more bits released, such as support for FreeSync. This is AMD’s open source solution for variable monitor refresh. There aren’t any monitors out now, so it isn’t a huge deal at this moment.

Samsung is releasing several 4k UHD monitors in 2015 with Freesync support. These are the UE590 (23.6″ and 28″), and the UE850 (23.6″, 27″, and 31.5″). These will be welcome features to 4k gamers, where frame rates certainly suffer.

AMD also released support for Dell’s 5k monitor, which runs at 5120×2800 (Quad 1440p). This panel won’t be gaming focused, due to the insane pixel count of 14.7M pixels. The panel will require dual DisplayPort 1. 2 inputs.

Also, if you’ve seen the reports of «Eyefinity 24», where you can run 24 displays off of four GPUS, don’t get too excited. The support is limited to FirePro cards, and is intended for video walls and digital signage. Besides, the horsepower to push that would be enormous.

Lots of really good updates in this driver release, and a number of new feature releases, which will only improve with time. AMD has put together a huge update, and gamers should be excited about the new features, the performance improvements and a renewed interest to squash bugs and make installs easier.

90,000 AMD Catalyst Videraiter 14.12 Omega

Review of improvements and testing of the new version

  • Introduction
  • Improvement of video data
  • new 3D rendering features
  • Improvement in the image of
  • Optimizing 3D performance
  • Conclusion

Introduction

A simple update of the driver version for video cards from one of the GPU manufacturers does not often become the topic of our articles, even if such «magic» versions promise wild performance gains. We are already accustomed to them (such promises, the gains themselves are often much less impressive), but in conditions of a certain stagnation in the graphics solutions market, even the release of a new series of video drivers may be a reason to write a detailed note.

Especially if we are talking about AMD solutions, which have not released new video card models since September, and even then — the Tonga chip released by them then does not differ too much from similar graphics processors released earlier. So today we’re taking a look at the big AMD Catalyst update, which promises both new features and rendering performance boosts in many popular games and applications. Video card drivers are important to two main categories of users of AMD video cards: mass users, as well as developers of game projects and other software that uses graphics processors in their work.

Gradual development of drivers and the release of their improved versions is a necessary thing, because buyers purchase hardware and software solutions, and software is the most important part of them. Which, moreover, can be constantly improved without the need to replace hardware solutions, releasing updated versions of the software at least once a month. As AMD did before, by the way, but then they prudently abandoned this option, since the release of drivers does not need a clear calendar plan, it is more convenient to release fresh versions when new game projects are released or a really big update is ready — like today, for example.

Drivers for AMD video cards under the now familiar Catalyst name were first released a long time ago and have a rich history. Recall the main steps: the first version of ATI Catalyst appeared in 2002, in 2005 drivers added support for CrossFire technology, in 2009 — support for OpenCL computing, in 2010 — support for Eyefinity technology, in 2012 a special edition of «Catalyst — Never Settle» was released, seriously which increased the performance of the company’s solutions, and in 2014 Catalyst introduced support for the new Mantle graphics API, which will be covered in a separate article. And today another important video driver update for the company, called AMD Catalyst Omega .

AMD says the Catalyst Omega brings many new features and improvements to already supported technologies across the company’s entire GPU and APU lineup, as well as optimizing their 3D performance. The «special edition» of the video driver released today includes over 20 new features, driver quality improvements and multiple fixes for issues with previous versions, as well as up to 19% faster 3D rendering in games (AMD Radeon graphics cards) or up to 29% faster.% (hybrid APU chips).

Video playback improvements

First of the new features in the Catalyst Omega we will note improvements in video playback quality. For example, the new drivers introduced AMD Fluid Motion Video technology , which increases the frame rate and smoothness of the video sequence when viewing video data from Blu-ray discs. Similar technologies for increasing the frame rate by inserting interpolated frames between those received from a video stream have long been known in television technology.

AMD Fluid Motion Video is different in that the calculation and insertion of additional frames into the video sequence is performed using the computing capabilities of the GPU. High-quality frame rate upscaling eliminates rough video playback even on relatively low-power hybrid APU solutions. According to AMD, their solution provides better picture quality than the best TVs — but we can’t confirm this yet.

To enable Fluid Motion Video technology in AMD Catalyst Control Center (CCC), open the Options panel in Advanced View mode and on the Video Quality page, enable the Fluid Motion option by moving the slider to one of three quality levels.

It should be noted that so far Fluid Motion Video works exclusively in the Cyberlink PowerDVD 14 player and only for data from Blu-ray discs. In the PowerDVD 14 options, this also needs to be set to «Enable AMD Fluid Motion for Blu-ray movies».

From a hardware standpoint, this feature will require at least an AMD 7×00 series APU with a power consumption of 35 W or more, or any of the dedicated Radeon R7 and R9 series graphics cards: R9 295X2, R9 290(X), R9 285, R7 260X or R7 260 — no worse.

The second option for improving the quality of video data is the so-called «contour removal» ( Contour Removal ) — this algorithm automatically improves the quality of compressed video data using special post-processing. Which is designed to remove compression artifacts like «banding» (colored bands of the same color instead of a smooth color transition), typical of all known video encoders, without losing its detail — the effect is clearly visible in the illustration:

You can enable this feature in the Catalyst Control Center on the «Video Quality» page — it’s called «De-contouring». Edge enhancement works on Athlon and AMD 7×00 APUs 25W and above, and on all Radeon graphics cards from R7 260 onwards. There are other types of post-processing in stock, brought together under the general name 1080p Detail Enhancement . These features improve the clarity and sharpness of low-resolution compressed video data, as well as reduce the level of noise in them when played back on an output device of an image of a relatively high resolution — 1920 × 1080 pixels.

All of these technologies were previously available to AMD graphics card users, but the Catalyst Omega driver version includes the ability to use them for users of the AMD 7×00 series APUs. These technologies are supported by any video player and work by default for low-resolution compressed video.

To enable these features, in the Catalyst Control Center, on the Video Quality page, you need to enable the following options: Edge-enhancement, De-noise, High-frequency noise reduction ” (“Mosquito Noise Reduction”) and “De-blocking”, all of which have the ability to fine-tune the degree of processing:

In the video data processing subsection, it remains only to mention the so-called improvements FullHD to UltraHD Video . This feature combines Fluid Motion Video and the detail enhancements mentioned above, as well as adaptive scaling of FullHD to UltraHD video for playback on appropriate devices.

This technology is enabled by default in the drivers and will work on any AMD 7×00 series APUs and AMD Radeon discrete graphics cards from the R7 260. It is enabled only when playing video on UltraHD displays with a resolution of 3840×2160 pixels.

New 3D rendering capabilities

First among the 3D graphics-related improvements in the new version of AMD video drivers is support for smoother multi-chip rendering with Frame-pacing technology not only for CrossFire configurations consisting of dedicated desktop GPUs , but also when combining the power of APU and GPU when working on rendering — that is, in AMD Dual Graphics configurations.

Frame-pacing improvements were introduced in previous versions of AMD Catalyst, but only worked on Radeon, and the Catalyst Omega driver brings these same rendering smoothness improvements to mixed configurations. Frame-pacing support will be improved in the future, but this version of the drivers has already included the appropriate optimizations for games such as Tomb Raider, Sniper Elite 3, Batman Arkham Origins, the Metro series of games and others. AMD gives the following data on frame rate, frame render time and its deviation from the average to confirm its words:

Tested in several games on a system with an AMD A10-7850K APU with an optional AMD Radeon R7 250 graphics card, comparing the new AMD Catalyst Omega driver (internal version 14. 501) with AMD Catalyst 14.9 at 1920×1080 rendering resolution at medium quality settings . As can be seen from the graphs and the table, the new version of Catalyst is clearly better able to handle the work of motley graphics cores, giving smoother frame changes with a slight increase in FPS.

But such configurations of weak APUs and GPUs are quite rare, we see a much more interesting innovation as the introduction of a technology similar to the competitor’s recent solution — «virtual ultra-high resolution» called Virtual Super Resolution (VSR) . As we already know from Nvidia graphics cards, this feature simulates Super Sampling Anti-Aliasing (SSAA) in games that do not support this feature on their own.

Roughly speaking, this is a simple rendering at a higher resolution than the output device supports and then converting this virtual resolution to the real resolution of the monitor. And to put it simply, if you have only a FullHD monitor, you can thus get a rendering quality close to UltraHD resolution without having an appropriate monitor.

GPU manufacturers don’t need anything special for this technology, they just need to let games choose a virtual resolution, outputting it at a lower resolution, or force rendering at higher quality in the driver, and let the game think that it is displaying the image on a lower resolution monitor .

Nvidia and AMD have slightly different approaches to these settings. If the first gave in the drivers a setting for the degree of increase in the resolution of «virtual» rendering, then AMD’s approach is simpler — it only gives 3D applications the ability to render at several fixed «virtual» resolutions, as if the monitor supports them, and when the image is displayed on the display, it leads to lower resolution. It turns out a separate choice of the resolution of the output of the picture and its rendering. Understanding the degrees of resolution increase in Nvidia drivers is somewhat more difficult, but this approach allows you to more flexibly adjust the final image quality.

It is important that VSR is absolutely independent of the game or the game engine, the “virtual” resolution in the AMD version can be selected not only in games, but even the Windows desktop can be rendered at a higher resolution, additionally smoothed by the GPU, which can be useful in some cases. Not to mention games such as real-time strategy games, where a greater view with the inclusion of a virtual resolution will give a very real advantage.

Additional «virtual» resolutions simply appear in the display capabilities, and such an analogue of supersampling will work in any case if the game supports high resolutions in principle. At the same time, SSAA additionally smoothes not only the edges of polygons, but also everything else — textures, including translucent ones, as well as the result of pixel shaders. Well, a side effect may be some decrease in the clarity of the picture.

VSR hardware requirements are quite strict, the technology works on single or multi-processor configurations based on AMD Radeon R9 295X2, R9 290(X) or R9 285 video cards. However, lower-powered GPUs still could not provide the desired performance. And the disadvantage of VSR, in our opinion, is its lack of flexibility in terms of choosing virtual monitor resolutions, since top-end video cards only support virtual resolutions up to 3200 × 1800 pixels, and only in the case of Radeon R9285 based on Tonga graphics chip, the resolution can be upscaled to 3840×2160:

VSR virtual resolution can be enabled via AMD Catalyst Control Center — on the «Properties (Digital Flat Panel)» page («Properties — Digital Flat Panel») must be enabled the “Allow GPU down-scaling” setting, similar to the same setting for GPU-scaling the image from a lower resolution.

After that, virtual resolutions appear in any applications that exceed the capabilities of your display device. The ability to increase the resolution is also available in the Windows desktop resolution settings — with VSR enabled, additional virtual resolutions also appear in the list of possible resolutions.

AMD Catalyst Control Center monitor resolution settings:

Windows desktop settings for a FullHD monitor:

Windows desktop settings for a monitor with a resolution of 2560×1440 pixels:

You will have to evaluate the relevance of this feature and the resulting quality for yourself . Moreover, we cannot show the actual rendering quality in 3D games obtained using VSR scaling in screenshots, since screenshots are obtained by any means simply in increased rendering resolution (up to 3200 × 1800 pixels), as if the monitor supports it .

And what algorithms in the AMD driver scale this virtually enlarged image onto a lower-resolution screen — we don’t know for sure. But if this is a simple bilinear filtering, then here are the screenshots from the game Far Cry 4:

9

9

9016 9016 9011

1920 × 1080 NO AA 9016
2560×1440 No AA 3200 × 1800 SMAA

The above screenshots in the resolution of 190 × 1080, the first is the 4 -tenth for the SMAAS, in the third virtual virtual rendering picture quality by combining SMAA and SSAA (virtual resolution 3200×1800).

As you can see, rendering at a higher (virtual) resolution and bringing it to the real resolution of the monitor works well, the quality of anti-aliasing clearly improves better than the software SMAA method does. The question remains — how much does this reduce performance? Let’s see:

We did several tests in the same Far Cry 4 game, and we can say that the speed of rendering at a «virtual» resolution of 2560×1440 and outputting it to a monitor with a resolution of 1920×1080 is no different in speed from rendering and outputting in real resolution to a display device with a resolution of 2560×1440 pixels.

It can be seen that the frame rate drops much more with increasing resolution than when the advanced (albeit lower quality) modern SMAA anti-aliasing method is enabled — and users will have to find the balance of quality and performance in each game on their own. In any case, the opportunity to improve the quality of the picture is very useful, especially for owners of powerful video cards who play not too demanding 3D games.

Display improvements

The new version of the AMD Catalyst Omega video driver also brings improved display capabilities. Thus, the long-awaited support for the AMD FreeSync dynamically variable refresh rate technology has appeared in the new driver, which eliminates output artifacts such as image tearing (“tearing”, appears when V-Sync is turned off — V-Sync off) and eliminates delays and unsmooth output frames when synchronization is turned on (V-Sync on).

In general, AMD FreeSync technology is similar to G-Sync technology from their competitor — Nvidia, it precisely synchronizes the display of frames on the monitor screen during 3D rendering, and the frames on the screen, when it is turned on, are displayed on the monitor exactly when they finish preparing GPU — very smooth and comfortable for the player. Users have been waiting for FreeSync technology for a long time, especially since it has become an industry standard in DisplayPort 1.2a called Adaptive-Sync .

We will talk about G-Sync and FreeSync technologies in separate materials on iXBT.com, and to use this technology you need a DisplayPort 1.2a-compatible monitor with Adaptive-Sync support, and on the PC side you need only an AMD Radeon R7 series or R9. FreeSync will be improved in the future, and support for multi-monitor configurations is also planned.

Monitors with the required specifications are already being prepared for release and their performance is being tested by their manufacturers in conjunction with AMD. The release of several models on the market is planned in the first quarter of next year — in reality, they will be available for purchase, most likely, a little later. Most likely, the choice of Adaptive-Sync-compatible monitors will be quite wide. For example, company Samsung has already prepared several UltraHD monitors with this support: model UE590 with a screen diagonal of 23.6 and 28 inches, as well as model UE850 with a diagonal of 23. 6, 27 and 31.5 inches.

The AMD Catalyst Omega driver also supports the highest resolution professional monitor Dell UP2715K . It is based on a 5K-resolution matrix — 5120 × 2880 pixels at a refresh rate of 60 Hz and a pixel density of 218 dpi. For such a high resolution, a simultaneous connection via two DisplayPort 1.2 cables is required, respectively, an AMD Radeon HD 7000 series, Radeon R7 / R9 graphics card will be required to work.or AMD FirePro with two such image output ports (the set of connectors may differ depending on the manufacturer of the video card and its model). Also, such a configuration will require the use of the operating system Windows 8.1 .

For AMD FirePro professional solutions, the new driver also introduces a change in technology Eyefinity — one-time support for displaying information on 24 displays (for 4 GPUs) in Windows has appeared. Naturally, in order to display information on so many displays, you need either the presence of an appropriate number of DisplayPort ports, or the use of active MST hubs. Also in the Catalyst Omega, the Eyefinity quick configuration interface has been updated and new options for scaling the output system have appeared.

New for developers

The quality and rich functionality of graphics solution drivers are of interest not only to end users — ordinary gamers and professional users of AMD solutions, but also software developers, and 3D games in particular. Naturally, the most important thing for the company in this area now is the promotion of its own graphic API Mantle , which we have written about in our articles more than once and will write a separate article.

The use of a closer to the hardware graphics API gives game developers the ability to squeeze the most performance out of AMD Radeon GPUs, and this is especially important for relatively weak APU graphics cores — for them, every additional 5% speed is very important and will help to stay above the edge comfortable playability.

I must say that before the release of DirectX 12, this proprietary graphics API from AMD was quite able to gain some use, albeit not the widest one — the majority of developers are still waiting for an update to the industry standard API. However, Mantle is supported by four game engines: Frostbite, CryEngine, Nitrous Engine, and Asura Engine, and many development companies have announced such support, not to mention more massive beta testing. Announced the use of the AMD graphics API in more than twenty gaming applications, already released or in development. In general, everything is serious.

But there is not much new in the Catalyst Omega in terms of Mantle capabilities, there is only specialized support for the AMD Gaming Evolved client, which introduced the ability to capture gameplay in video format, the ability to edit and stream it to Twitch, as well as determine instant performance in in the form of an FPS counter ala FRAPS or other similar utilities. All of this runs on GCN architecture graphics cores and should be in demand as the AMD Gaming Evolved client is already used by more than 15 million users worldwide, according to the company.

TressFX 3.0 hair simulation technology has been updated in the new video driver — it has received a new version and now supports the rendering of fur and hair on dynamic objects using skinning (skinned). TressFX 3.0 includes a plug-in for the Maya editor to work with wool and hair and export the result to the internal TressFX format.

The new version of TressFX has new rendering capabilities to scale performance on different GPUs, and also includes libraries for reading and rendering this native file format, with full source code included, unlike similar solutions from competitor Nvidia GameWorks, which do not give the public free access to the code.

The new Catalyst Omega driver also features support for the new version OpenCL 2.0 (Open Computing Language) — an open and free standard for programming general-purpose computing on heterogeneous systems (for example, containing a CPU and GPU at the same time). OpenCL allows developers to achieve excellent computing results from modern systems with multi-core CPUs, GPUs, and APUs.

Importantly, OpenCL is supported by all companies in the market and provides developers and end users with a cross-platform solution independent of only one of the companies. AMD is one of the first developers to support OpenCL and provides full support for the OpenCL platform across the entire spectrum of products: CPU, APU and GPU. The second version of OpenCL has many important innovations (one shared virtual memory is worth something), which make it possible to reveal the capabilities of heterogeneous systems more fully than previous versions of the standard.

Of the new features important for software developers, we note support for OpenCL 2.0 in APP SDK 3.0 — the most complete OpenCL 2.0 SDK to date, which includes detailed documentation and a complete set of source codes for using all the basic features of the latest version of OpenCL. Accordingly, all interested parties can start developing software that uses the capabilities of OpenCL 2.0 right now — with hardware support on AMD APUs and GPUs. And all this is supported in the AMD Catalyst Omega driver.

Let’s mention a couple of important solutions for developers that AMD is promoting. So, AMD CodeXL 1.6 is a set of utilities for full-fledged work on profiling, analyzing and finding errors in software for developers. CodeXL works both integrated into the Microsoft Visual Studio package and separately, and does not require the introduction of special code into the applications under study.

New features that appeared specifically in CodeXL 1.6 are power profiling (power consumption, frequencies, voltage and temperature of cores in real time, including separately for APU components: video core and universal computing cores) and GPU profiling for OpenCL 2.0. The latter feature allows developers to monitor OpenCL 2.0 API calls, their input parameters and the result of code execution, find bottlenecks, identify resource leaks, and collect information about the use of GPU execution units.

And the last program for 3D developers that we will consider in our material will be GPU PerfStudio 3.1 . This utility is for analyzing GPU performance and finding errors in the code of programs such as games and other software that uses real-time 3D rendering. PerfStudio includes profiling capabilities, a debugger, API call tracking, and GPU and CPU code execution information. The latest version of specialized software supports Windows and Linux applications using DirectX 11, OpenGL 4.x and Mantle, it does not require installation and implementation of special code.

What’s new in GPU PerfStudio 3.1 is the built-in shader program analyzer ( GPU Shader Analyzer ), Mantle support (for developers registered in the corresponding beta program), OpenGL 4.4 support, and optimizations to improve performance and stability. Shader Analyzer works on all GCN architecture GPUs, supports DirectX 11 and shader compiler in Windows SDK 8.1 HLSL (it can be replaced with an older version if necessary). GPU Shader Analyzer gives the 3D developer information about how the shader code will be executed on a particular GPU, not necessarily installed in the workstation, but for all video chips supported by the installed driver.

Bug fixes for previous versions of Catalyst

But that’s not all that has appeared and has been improved in the new version of the AMD video driver. Employees of the company came up with an interesting move in order to improve their Catalyst. They decided to give users the opportunity to express themselves by answering the question of what they would like to fix in the AMD video driver in the first place.

On September 5 this year, the company’s public relations managers asked PC users relevant questions, receiving powerful feedback in the form of a near-ready list of priority issues for the current driver version at that time. It is quite natural that after that, AMD engineers did everything to correct the shortcomings indicated by users.

Here is a list of the ten most important fixes in the Catalyst Omega driver:

  • Version 14.9 driver installation problems causing a black screen after installation.
  • Catalyst Control Center bugs in version 14.9 driver causing errors in AMDMantle64.dll during installation.
  • Code errors that caused the software to stop working when watching online videos on Youtube with hardware acceleration enabled.
  • Google Chrome browser freezes when viewing streaming online video using Flash Player with hardware acceleration enabled.
  • Inability to exit the display from sleep mode in some cases.
  • AHCI chipset driver errors when loading the operating system.
  • Incorrect operation of CrossFire configurations on 144 Hz displays, causing the running Direct3D applications to stop.
  • Image artifacts in the form of frame breaks, as well as delays in uneven frame output when four-chip CrossFire configurations are used.
  • Problems with texture distortion in State of Decay.
  • Incorrect operation of the driver when transmitting sound via HDMI, when turning off and then turning on the TV connected to the video card.

And to further improve the overall quality of the Catalyst driver, the Quality Assurance process has been improved since the Omega release: testing time has increased, the number of test configurations and output devices used has been increased, and an even wider set of custom scenarios.

Optimizing 3D performance

We’ve saved the best for last, because it’s the increase in rendering speed in games that most ordinary users expect from any video driver, and even more so from a special «magic» edition that even got its own name — Omega.

It is quite logical that the performance optimizations in the new driver version were carried out to a slightly larger extent than is usually done. Yes, most driver versions in the description of changes contain some unrealistic speed increase numbers obtained in some extreme and / or atypical conditions, and most often the average user gets a 5-7% «free» speed increase in such cases.

In the case of the AMD Catalyst Omega version, the company declares much higher gains, but … it compares the speed of desktop GPUs and APUs on the latest drivers and very old versions — like Catalyst 14.2, which came out during the announcement of the APU series solutions under the general name AMD 7000 And in this comparison, for its hybrid APUs, AMD claims a performance increase of up to 29% (observed on a system based on the AMD A10-7850K chip in Batman Arkham Origins):

Naturally, most often the gains, even according to their own data, are much more modest — 5-10%, but there are also large accelerations. It would be a nice speed boost if this Catalyst Omega (14.50) comparison was not with the old Catalyst 14.2, but with the newer driver. However, it worked out so well. But we are sure that our readers are more interested in the growth figures on gaming graphics cards for desktop PCs — and there is something to rejoice here too.

The performance improvement for AMD GPUs from the new driver will be noticeable in many games. AMD measured frame rates in several games on a system with a Radeon R9 graphics card290X at 3840×2160 rendering resolution, getting up to 19% gains, but alas, this time they are comparing the speed of the new software with the even older Catalyst 13.12 driver:

Indeed, in such conditions, the new Catalyst Omega driver provides a noticeable frame rate increase for owners of desktop graphics cards, and the comparison with the Catalyst 13.12 driver is of course interesting because it was the driver that launched the Radeon R9 290X on the market. But still, it would be much more interesting to compare the speed of the latest version with more current ones: the latest Catalyst 14. 9 WHQL driver available on the siteand Catalyst 14.11.2 Beta, which we did ourselves.

The set of games for our own rapid test came out as follows: Batman: Arkham Origins, Metro: Last Light, Tomb Raider, Sleeping Dogs, Far Cry 4 (custom map), Thief and Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor . We also used the Radeon R9 290X graphics card and an additional test system based on the top Intel processor, 2560×1440 resolution and maximum gaming settings. And we got increments, although less than declared, but still very tangible in the case of several games:

So, in the last released game of the Batman series, the AMD video card received an additional 14% increase in speed, in the game Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor, released under the auspices of the TWIMTBP program from a competitor, the increase turned out to be up to 20%, well, in «Own» Thief and Tomb Raider, we note about 5-7% increase in the average frame rate. In other games, the gains were within the measurement error. Given that we compared with the best of the previous versions of the drivers, such an increase from the Catalyst Omega can be considered quite good.

AMD also notes an improvement in the performance of the new driver when running all of the company’s GPUs on systems with multi-core CPUs. So, in the game Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare with a not too high rendering resolution of 1920 × 1080, in which the speed is not completely limited by the capabilities of the GPU, the increase in frame rate when switching from Catalyst 14.9 to Catalyst Omega is up to 15%, which will also be good an increase, especially for fans of network games, the speed of which often depends more on the capabilities of the CPU and the efficiency of the video driver in parallelizing its work.

Conclusion

Summing up our note on the release of a special version of the AMD Catalyst Omega video driver, we note that the company’s software novelty really gives users and software developers quite a lot of new things, and the old Catalyst capabilities have been improved in many ways.

Again, Catalyst Omega announced a list of more than 20 new features and technologies, stability improvements and many bug fixes from previous versions, including those reported by users themselves. Also, 3D rendering performance in some games has been significantly improved under certain conditions (system configuration, driver and game settings, previous version of Catalyst), and this increase reaches 20-30% in extreme cases.

Among the new features for ordinary users, there are numerous improvements to improve the quality of video data playback — a special post-processing that allows you to improve image quality in various conditions: removing compression artifacts, increasing detail, inserting additional interpolated frames. Also, Omega has added support for monitors with a resolution of 5K and 3K, the long-awaited introduction of FreeSync dynamically variable refresh rate technology has taken place, even if for now such support is only in the driver — it’s up to monitor manufacturers.

Very curious is the possibility of choosing the virtual resolution Virtual Super Resolution to improve the quality of the image, not only in games, but even for the operating system and window applications! AMD has chosen the most universal approach in which any software will work with a virtual resolution — for this you just need to select the required virtual resolution in the settings, and the Catalyst Omega driver will automatically scale it to the resolution of the display device.

And for software developers, the new driver has also added many new interesting and useful features to help them in their work, among which we note the appearance of support for the new version of TressFX 3.0, improved support for the Mantle graphics API and OpenCL 2.0 — the latest version of this standard. New versions of utilities like CodeXL 1.6 and GPU PerfStudio 3.1 will also come to the aid of 3D developers, as well as much more.

The full list of improvements in the Catalyst Omega contains more than a page of rather small text, but we tried to cover all the main points in our material. The final driver is version number 14.12 (month 12, 2014) and is available for download from the AMD website.

AMD introduced a major driver update — Catalyst Omega

3DNews Software News Drivers AMD has introduced a major driver update…

The most interesting in the reviews


09.12.2014 [08:00],

Konstantin Khodakovsky

As every PC gamer knows, the final performance depends not only on the power of the graphics accelerator — the optimization of the game itself and, of course, the quality of the video card manufacturer’s drivers play a huge role. The developers of AMD Catalyst and NVIDIA GeForce are constantly trying to get the most out of their respective hardware and offer users unique features. Usually, new driver versions arrive every few months, but there are also very large updates that happen once a year or even less often. This time we are talking about just such an update — we meet AMD Catalyst Omega.

The company says people don’t buy products, they buy solutions. At the same time, software is an important part of AMD solutions. The new driver has been fundamentally redesigned with a focus on the highest quality environment for users and convenience for developers. AMD recalled the main milestones in the development of Catalyst software: the package was first launched in 2002, CrossFire technology was introduced in 2005, OpenCL support for CPU and GPU was added in 2009, Eyefinity was added in 2010, the first Never Settle package was released in 2012, In 2014, the low-level Mantle API was announced. Now it’s time for Omega.

The purpose of the new driver is not only to improve the performance of GPU and APU, but also to bring a number of new features and improve the quality of the software, as well as provide a reserve for the future. The company promises over 20 new features, tons of fixes and improvements, GPU performance up to 19% (Radeon R9 290X in Bioshock Infinite) and APU up to 29% (7850K APU in Batman Arkham Origins).

New features include a host of multimedia features. For example, AMD Fluid Motion Video technology harnesses the power of the GPU to intelligently increase frames per second for a smoother picture when watching Blu-ray movies. The technology will be supported in Cyberlink PowerDVD 14 on 7000 A series APUs with a TDP of 35W or more, and on Radeon R9 graphics accelerators295X2, R9 290X, R9 290, R9 285, R7 260X, R7 260.

Another video-related technology, Contour Removal, is available on the same hardware and aims to suppress compression artifacts like blocking without losing video detail. For example, in the sky, turn a poorly compressed video into an almost perfect gradient.

The third innovation is the enhancement of low-resolution video footage when played back on a 1080p monitor. This feature is already present in AMD drivers, but now it has appeared not only on GPUs, but also on the latest 7000 A series APUs.0003

Another feature similar to the previous one, but designed to maximize 1080p video upscaling on Ultra HD (4K) screens. It requires a 4K display, a Radeon R7 260 or higher GPU, or an APU 7000 A.

The AMD Catalyst Omega driver also brings support for 5K displays like the Dell UP2715K at 5120×2880 @60Hz. This will require Radeon HD 7000 or higher graphics with two or more separate DisplayPort 1.2 outputs. When you connect a monitor to two of these ports and boot into Windows 8.1, the monitor will be automatically configured.

The new driver also significantly improved the rate of frame output. Previously, the technology was used only for Crossfire configurations, but now it is also available in Dual Graphics mode (joint work of APU and GPU). AMD also notices a slight increase in performance (which, however, is not fundamental).

One of the driver’s key graphics innovations is the Virtual Super Resolution (VSR) technology. Its essence is quite simple: it renders an image in 4K resolution, and then scales it to a lower resolution. This allows you to get a better picture on a monitor with 1080p support. VSR is game or engine agnostic, allowing for essentially full-screen anti-aliasing in any game (including those without SSAA support) and even on the Windows desktop.

Also in some games (for example, in strategies), the VSR mode allows you to achieve a more widescreen and full picture output mode. VSR is currently supported only by Radeon R9 series accelerators.

With the release of the Omega driver for more thorough debugging, AMD increased the number of automated tests by 65%, manual tests by 12%, tested configurations and monitors by 10%. In addition, the company promises to listen more carefully to user feedback.

As a nice plus, a graph of performance improvement on AMD Catalyst Omega compared to AMD Catalyst 14.2 on APU 7000 A:

As well as a graph of performance improvements for AMD Catalyst Omega discrete graphics cards versus AMD Catalyst 13.1 for the Radeon R9 290X:

Other innovations include support for FreeSync, an open technology for synchronizing the rendering frequency with the refresh rate of monitors. Samsung promises to release the first compatible displays in early 2015.

There is also a new Eyefinity mode that allows you to combine up to 24 monitors into a huge display without additional software (requires 4 video cards).

Other new features include OpenCL 2.0, CodeXL 1.6 support, OGL ES3.0, faster display mode counting, Color Gamut Remap, Linux Distro Specific Packaging, configurable UVD sessions, and more. The driver is already available on the AMD website in versions for Windows and Linux.

Source:


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AMD Catalyst Omega Video Driver: Enhancements Overview and New Version 9 Performance Testing0001

Overview of improvements and performance testing of the new version
Introduction
Simply updating the driver version for video cards from one of the GPU manufacturers does not often become the topic of our articles, even if such “magic” versions promise wild performance gains. We are already used to them (to such promises, the gains themselves are often much less impressive), but in a certain stagnation in the graphics solutions market, even the release of a new series of video drivers may be a reason to write a detailed note.

Especially when it comes to AMD solutions, which have not released new video card models since September, and even then — the Tonga chip they released then is not too different from similar graphics processors released earlier. So today we’re taking a look at the big AMD Catalyst update, which promises both new features and rendering performance boosts in many popular games and applications. Graphics card drivers are important to two main categories of users of AMD graphics cards: mainstream users, as well as developers of game projects and other software that use GPUs in their work.

Gradual «finishing» of drivers and release of their improved versions is a necessary thing, because buyers purchase hardware and software solutions, and software is the most important part of them. Which, moreover, can be constantly improved without the need to replace hardware solutions by releasing updated versions of the software at least once a month. As AMD did before, by the way, but then they prudently abandoned this option, since the release of drivers does not need a clear calendar plan, it is more convenient to release fresh versions when new game projects are released or a really big update is ready — like today, for example.

Drivers for AMD video cards under the now familiar Catalyst name were first released a long time ago and have a rich history. Recall the main steps: the first version of ATI Catalyst appeared in 2002, in 2005 the drivers added support for CrossFire technology, in 2009 — support for OpenCL computing, in 2010 — support for Eyefinity technology, in 2012 a special edition of «Catalyst — Never Settle» was released, seriously which increased the performance of the company’s solutions, and in 2014 Catalyst introduced support for the new Mantle graphics API, which will be covered in a separate article. And today, another important video driver update for the company, called AMD Catalyst Omega, is being released.

AMD says the Catalyst Omega brings many new features and improvements to already supported technologies across the company’s GPU and APU lineup, and optimizes their 3D performance. The «special edition» of the video driver released today includes more than 20 new features, driver quality improvements and numerous fixes for previous versions, as well as up to 19% faster 3D rendering in games (AMD Radeon graphics cards) or up to 29% faster (Hybrid APUs) ).

Video playback enhancement
First among the new features of the Catalyst Omega, we note improvements in the quality of video playback. For example, new drivers include AMD Fluid Motion Video technology, which increases the frame rate and smoothness of the video sequence when viewing video data from Blu-ray discs. Similar technologies for increasing the frame rate by inserting interpolated frames between those received from a video stream have long been known in television technology.

AMD Fluid Motion Video is different in that the calculation and insertion of additional frames into the video sequence is performed using the computing capabilities of the GPU. High-quality frame rate upscaling eliminates rough video playback even on relatively low-power hybrid APU solutions. According to AMD, their solution provides the best picture quality compared to the best of TVs — but we cannot yet give confirmation of this.

To enable Fluid Motion Video technology in AMD Catalyst Control Center (CCC), open the Options panel in Advanced View mode and on the Video Quality page, enable the Fluid Motion option by moving the slider to one of three quality levels.

It should be noted that so far Fluid Motion Video works exclusively in the Cyberlink PowerDVD 14 player and only for data from Blu-ray discs. In the PowerDVD 14 options, you also need to set the «Enable AMD Fluid Motion for Blu-ray movies» setting for this.

From a hardware standpoint, this feature will require at least an AMD 7×00 series APU with a power consumption of 35W or more, or any of the dedicated Radeon R7 and R9 series graphics cards: R9 295×2, R9 290(X) , R9 285, R7 260X or R7 260 — no worse.

The second option for improving the quality of video data is the so-called Contour Removal, an algorithm that automatically improves the quality of compressed video data using special post-processing. Which is designed to remove compression artifacts like «banding» (color bands of the same color instead of a smooth color transition), typical of all known video encoders, without loss in its detail — the effect is clearly visible in the illustration:

You can enable this feature in the Catalyst Control Center on the «Video Quality» page — it’s called «De-contouring». Edge enhancement works on Athlon and AMD 7×00 APUs 25W or higher, and on all Radeon graphics cards from R7 260.

And that’s not all about the improved video playback in the AMD Catalyst Omega. There are other types of post-processing in stock, brought together under the general name 1080p Detail Enhancement. These features improve the clarity, sharpness, and noise reduction of low-resolution compressed video data when played back on a relatively high-resolution output device — 1920×1080 pixels.

All of these technologies were previously available for AMD graphics card users, but the Catalyst Omega driver version includes the ability to use them for users of AMD 7×00 series APUs. These technologies are supported in any video player and work by default for low-resolution compressed video.

To enable these features, in the Catalyst Control Center, on the Video Quality page, you need to enable the following options: Edge-enhancement, De-noise, High-Frequency Noise Reduction ” (“Mosquito Noise Reduction”) and “De-blocking”, all of which have the ability to fine-tune the degree of processing:

In the video processing subsection, it remains only to mention the so-called FullHD to UltraHD Video improvements. This feature combines Fluid Motion Video and the detail enhancements mentioned above, as well as adaptively scaling video from FullHD resolution to UltraHD for playback on appropriate devices.

This technology is enabled by default in the drivers and will work on any AMD 7×00 series APUs and AMD Radeon discrete graphics cards from the R7 260. It is only enabled when playing video data on UltraHD displays with a resolution of 3840×2160 pixels.

New 3D Rendering Features
First among the improvements in the new version of AMD video drivers related to 3D graphics, we note support for smoother multi-chip rendering using Frame-pacing technology, not only for CrossFire configurations consisting of dedicated desktop GPUs, but also when combining APU and GPU power at work over rendering — that is, in AMD Dual Graphics configurations.

Frame-pacing improvements were introduced in previous versions of AMD Catalyst, but they only worked on Radeon, and the Catalyst Omega driver brings the same rendering smoothness improvements to mixed configurations. Frame-pacing support will be improved in the future, well, this version of the drivers has already included the appropriate optimizations for games such as Tomb Raider, Sniper Elite 3, Batman Arkham Origins, the Metro series of games and others. AMD provides the following data on frame rate, frame render time and its deviation from the average to confirm its words:0003

Tested in multiple games on a system with an AMD A10-7850K APU with an optional AMD Radeon R7 250 graphics card, comparing the new AMD Catalyst Omega driver (internal version 14. 501) against AMD Catalyst 14.9 at 1920×1080 rendering resolution at medium quality settings. As can be seen from the graphs and the table, the new version of Catalyst clearly copes better with the work of motley graphics cores, delivering smoother frame changes with a slight increase in FPS.

But such configurations of weak APUs and GPUs are quite rare, we see the introduction of a technology similar to the competitor’s recent solution — «virtual ultra-high resolution» called Virtual Super Resolution (VSR) — as a much more interesting innovation. As we already know from NVIDIA graphics cards, this feature simulates Super Sampling Anti-Aliasing (SSAA) in games that don’t support it on their own.

Roughly speaking, this is a simple rendering at a higher resolution than the output device supports and then converting this virtual resolution to the real resolution of the monitor. And if it’s completely simplified, then if you have only a FullHD monitor, in this way you can get a rendering quality close to UltraHD resolution without having an appropriate monitor.

Nothing special is required from GPU manufacturers for this technology, it is only necessary to give games the ability to choose a virtual resolution, outputting it at a lower resolution, or force rendering at higher quality in the driver, and let the game think that it displays the image on a lower resolution monitor .

This is exactly the difference between the approaches of NVIDIA and AMD. If the first gave in the drivers the setting of the degree of increase in the resolution of the «virtual» rendering, then AMD’s approach is simpler — it gives 3D applications the ability to render to a fixed «virtual» resolution, as if the monitor supports it, but when the image is displayed on the display, it leads to a lower resolution . It turns out as if a separate choice of the resolution of the image output and its rendering, which can be recognized as a more universal approach. Understanding the levels of resolution enhancement in NVIDIA drivers is somewhat more difficult, but their approach allows you to more flexibly adjust the final image quality. In general, both approaches have their advantages.

It is important that VSR is absolutely independent of the game or the game engine, the “virtual” resolution in the AMD version is as universal as possible — it can be selected not only in games, but even the Windows desktop can be drawn at a higher resolution, additionally smoothed by the GPU, which can be useful in some cases. Not to mention games such as real-time strategy games, where a greater view when virtual resolution is turned on will give a very real advantage.

Additional «virtual» resolutions just appear in the display capabilities, and AMD’s analog of supersampling will work anyway if the game supports high resolutions in principle. At the same time, SSAA additionally smoothes not only the edges of polygons, but also everything else — textures, including translucent ones, as well as the result of pixel shaders. Well, a side effect may be a slight decrease in the clarity of the picture.

VSR hardware requirements are quite strict, the technology works on single or multi-processor configurations based on AMD Radeon R9 295×2, R9 290(X) or R9 285 video cards. However, lower power GPUs still could not provide the required performance. And the disadvantage of VSR, in our opinion, is its lack of flexibility in terms of choosing virtual monitor resolutions, since top-end video cards only support virtual resolutions up to 3200×1800 pixels, and only in the case of Radeon R9285 based on Tonga graphics chip, the resolution can be upscaled to 3840×2160:

VSR virtual resolution can be enabled through the AMD Catalyst Control Center — on the «Properties (Digital Flat Panel)» page («Properties — Digital Flat Panel»), you need to enable the «Allow GPU down-scaling» setting, similar to the same setting for GPU-scaling the image from a lower resolution.

After that, virtual resolutions appear in any applications that exceed the capabilities of your display device. The ability to increase the resolution is also available in the Windows desktop resolution settings — with VSR enabled, additional virtual resolutions also appear in the list of possible resolutions.

AMD Catalyst Control Center monitor resolution settings:

Windows Desktop Settings for FullHD Monitor:

Windows desktop settings for a monitor with a resolution of 2560×1440 pixels:

You will have to evaluate the relevance of such an opportunity and the resulting final quality yourself. Moreover, we cannot show on screenshots the actual rendering quality in 3D games obtained using VSR scaling, since screenshots are obtained by any methods simply in increased rendering resolution (up to 3200 × 1800 pixels), as if the monitor supports it .

And what algorithms in the AMD driver scale this virtually enlarged image onto a lower resolution screen — we don’t know for sure. But if this is a simple bilinear filtering, then here are screenshots from the game Far Cry 4 reduced by this method to a single resolution of 1920 × 1080:

1920×1080 NoAA
1920×1080 SMAA

2560×1440 NoAA
3200x1800SMAA

Above are screenshots in 1920×1080 resolution, the first pair has SMAA software anti-aliasing turned on, the third one has a virtual rendering resolution of 2560×1440, and the fourth one shows the maximum image quality, combining SMAA and SSAA (virtual resolution 3200×1800).

As you can see, rendering at a higher (virtual) resolution and bringing it to the real resolution of the monitor works well, the quality of anti-aliasing clearly improves better than the software SMAA method does. The question remains — how much does this reduce performance? Let’s see:

We have run several tests in the same Far Cry 4 game, and we can say that the speed of rendering at a «virtual» resolution of 2560×1440 and outputting it to a monitor with a resolution of 1920×1080 is no different in speed from rendering and outputting at a real resolution on display device with a resolution of 2560×1440 pixels.

It can be seen that the frame rate drops much more with increasing resolution than when the advanced (albeit lower quality) modern SMAA anti-aliasing method is turned on — and users will have to look for a balance of quality and performance in each game on their own. In any case, the appeared possibility of improving the quality of the picture is very useful, especially for owners of powerful video cards playing not too demanding 3D games.

Image output improvements
The new version of the AMD Catalyst Omega video driver also brings improved display capabilities. For example, the new driver introduced the long-awaited support for AMD FreeSync dynamically variable refresh rate technology, which eliminates output artifacts such as image tearing («tearing» appears when V-Sync is turned off — V-Sync off) and eliminates delays and uneven frame output when turn on synchronization (V-Sync on).

In general, AMD FreeSync technology is similar to NVIDIA’s G-Sync technology, it precisely synchronizes the display of frames on the monitor screen during 3D rendering, and the frames on the screen, when turned on, are displayed on the monitor exactly when they are finished preparing GPU — very smooth and comfortable for the player. FreeSync technology has been long awaited by users, especially since it became the industry standard in DisplayPort 1.2a under the name Adaptive-Sync.

We will talk about G-Sync and FreeSync technologies in separate articles on iXBT. com, and to use this technology you need a DisplayPort 1.2a-compatible monitor with Adaptive-Sync support, and on the PC side you need only an AMD Radeon R7 series or R9. FreeSync will improve in the future, and support for multi-monitor configurations is also planned.

Monitors with the required specifications are already being prepared for release and their performance is being tested by their manufacturers in conjunction with AMD. Several models are planned to enter the market in the first quarter of next year — in reality, they will be available for purchase, most likely a little later. Most likely, the choice of Adaptive-Sync-compatible monitors will be quite wide. For example, Samsung has already prepared several UltraHD monitors with this support: model UE590 screen sizes of 23.6″ and 28″, and the UE850 in 23.6″, 27″ and 31.5″.

The AMD Catalyst Omega driver also supports the highest resolution professional monitor, the Dell UP2715K. It is based on a 5K-resolution matrix of 5120×2880 pixels at a refresh rate of 60Hz and a pixel density of 218dpi. Such a high resolution requires simultaneous connection via two DisplayPort 1.2 cables, therefore, an AMD Radeon HD 7000 series, Radeon R7 / R9 graphics card will be required for operation.or AMD FirePro with two such image output ports (the set of connectors may differ depending on the manufacturer of the video card and its model). Also, such a configuration will require the use of the Windows 8.1 operating system.

For professional AMD FirePro solutions, the new driver also includes a change in Eyefinity technology — one-time support for displaying information on 24 displays (for 4 GPUs) in Windows. Naturally, in order to display information on so many displays, you need either the presence of an appropriate number of DisplayPort ports, or the use of active MST hubs. Also in Catalyst Omega, the Eyefinity quick configuration interface has been updated and new options for scaling the output system have appeared.

New for developers
The quality and rich functionality of graphics solution drivers are of interest not only to end users — ordinary gamers and professional users of AMD solutions, but also software developers, and 3D games in particular. Naturally, the most important thing for a company in this area now is the promotion of its own Mantle graphics API, which we have written about in our articles more than once and will write a separate article.

The use of a closer to the hardware graphics API gives game developers the ability to squeeze the most performance out of AMD Radeon GPUs, and this is especially important for relatively weak APU graphics cores — for them, every additional 5% speed is very important and will help to stay above the edge comfortable playability.

I must say that before the release of DirectX 12, this proprietary graphics API from AMD was quite able to gain some use, albeit not the widest one — the majority of developers are still waiting for an update to the industry standard API. However, Mantle is supported by four game engines: Frostbite, CryEngine, Nitrous Engine, and Asura Engine, and many development companies have announced such support, not to mention more massive beta testing. Announced the use of the AMD graphics API in more than twenty gaming applications already released or in development. In general, everything is serious.

But there is not much new in the Catalyst Omega in terms of Mantle capabilities, there is only specialized support for the AMD Gaming Evolved client, which has the ability to capture gameplay in video format, the ability to edit and stream it to Twitch, as well as determine instant performance in the form of a counter FPS ala FRAPS or other similar utilities. All of this runs on GCN architecture graphics cores and should be in demand as the AMD Gaming Evolved client is already used by more than 15 million users worldwide, according to the company.

The TressFX 3.0 hair simulation technology has been updated in the new video driver — it has received a new version and now supports the rendering of fur and hair on dynamic objects using skinning (skinned). TressFX 3.0 includes a plugin for the Maya editor to work with wool and hair and export the result to the internal TressFX format.

The new version of TressFX has new rendering capabilities to scale performance on different GPUs, and also includes libraries to read and render this native file format, with full source code included, unlike comparable competitor solutions from NVIDIA GameWorks, which do not give the public free access to the code.

The new Catalyst Omega driver also features support for the new version of OpenCL 2.0 (Open Computing Language), an open and free standard for programming general-purpose computing on heterogeneous systems (for example, containing a CPU and GPU at the same time). OpenCL allows developers to achieve excellent computing results from modern systems with multi-core CPUs, GPUs, and APUs.

Importantly, OpenCL is supported by all companies in the market and provides developers and end users with a cross-platform solution independent of just one of the companies. AMD is one of the first developers to support OpenCL and provides full support for the OpenCL platform across the entire spectrum of products: CPU, APU and GPU. The second version of OpenCL has many important innovations (one shared virtual memory is worth something), which make it possible to reveal the capabilities of heterogeneous systems more fully than previous versions of the standard.

Among the new features important for software developers, we note support for OpenCL 2.0 in APP SDK 3.0, the most complete OpenCL 2.0 SDK to date, which includes detailed documentation and a complete set of source codes for using all the basic features of the latest version of OpenCL. Accordingly, all interested parties can start developing software that uses the capabilities of OpenCL 2.0 right now — with hardware support on AMD APUs and GPUs. And it’s all supported in the AMD Catalyst Omega driver.

Let’s mention a couple of important solutions for developers that AMD is promoting. So, AMD CodeXL 1.6 is a set of utilities for full-fledged work on profiling, analyzing and finding errors in software for developers. CodeXL works both integrated into the Microsoft Visual Studio package and standalone, and does not require the injection of special code into the applications under study.

New features that appeared specifically in CodeXL 1.6 are power profiling (power consumption, frequencies, voltage and temperature of cores in real time, including separately by APU components: video core and universal computing cores) and GPU profiling for OpenCL 2.0. The latter feature allows developers to monitor OpenCL 2.0 API calls, their input parameters and the result of code execution, find bottlenecks, identify resource leaks, and collect information about the use of GPU execution units.

And the last program for 3D developers, which we will consider in our material, will be GPU PerfStudio 3.1. This utility is for analyzing GPU performance and finding errors in the code of programs such as games and other software that uses real-time 3D rendering. PerfStudio includes profiling capabilities, a debugger, API call tracking, and GPU and CPU code execution information. The latest version of specialized software supports Windows and Linux applications using DirectX 11, OpenGL 4. x and Mantle, it does not require installation and implementation of special code.

What’s new in GPU PerfStudio 3.1 is the built-in GPU Shader Analyzer, Mantle support (for developers registered in the corresponding beta program), OpenGL 4.4 support, and optimizations to improve performance and stability. Shader Analyzer works on all GCN architecture GPUs, supports DirectX 11 and shader compiler in Windows SDK 8.1 HLSL (it can be replaced with an older version if necessary). GPU Shader Analyzer gives the 3D developer information about how the shader code will be executed on a particular GPU, not necessarily installed in the workstation, but for all video chips supported by the installed driver.

Bug fixes for previous versions of Catalyst
But that’s not all that has appeared and been improved in the new version of the AMD video driver. Employees of the company came up with an interesting move in order to improve their Catalyst. They decided to give users the opportunity to speak by answering the question of what they would like to fix in the AMD video driver in the first place.

On September 5 of this year, the company’s public relations managers asked PC users relevant questions, receiving powerful feedback in the form of a near-ready list of priority issues for the current driver version at that time. It is quite natural that after that, AMD engineers did everything to correct the shortcomings indicated by users.

Here is a list of the ten most important fixes in the Catalyst Omega driver:

Problems installing driver version 14.9 causing a black screen after installation.
Catalyst Control Center bugs in driver version 14.9 causing errors in the AMDMantle64.dll library during installation.
Code errors that caused the software to stop working when watching online videos on Youtube with hardware acceleration enabled.
Google Chrome browser freezes when watching online streaming video using Flash Player with hardware acceleration enabled.
Inability to exit the display from sleep mode in some cases.
AHCI chipset driver errors when loading the operating system.
Incorrect work of CrossFire-configurations on 144 Hz displays, causing the stop of running Direct3D applications.
Image artifacts in the form of frame breaks, as well as delays in non-smooth frame output when using four-chip CrossFire configurations.
Texture distortion issues in State of Decay.
Incorrect operation of the driver when transmitting sound via HDMI, when turning off and then turning on the TV connected to the video card.
And to improve the overall quality of the Catalyst driver going forward, the Quality Assurance process has been improved since the Omega release: testing time has increased, the number of test configurations and output devices used has been increased, and an even wider set of user scenarios are now checked.

3D Performance Optimization
We left the most “delicious” for last, because most ordinary users expect an increase in rendering speed in games from any video driver, and even more so from a special “magic” edition that even received its own name — Omega.

It is quite logical that the performance optimizations in the new driver version were carried out to a slightly larger extent than is usually done. Yes, most driver versions in the description of changes contain some unrealistic speed increase numbers obtained in some extreme and / or atypical conditions, and most often the average user gets 5-7% of the “free” speed increase in such cases.

In the case of the AMD Catalyst Omega version, the company declares much larger gains, but … it compares the speed of desktop GPUs and APUs on the latest drivers and very old versions — like Catalyst 14.2, which came out during the announcement of the APU series solutions under the general name AMD 7000. And in this comparison for its APUs, AMD claims a performance increase of up to 29% (observed on a system based on the AMD A10-7850K chip in Batman Arkham Origins):

Naturally, most often the growth, even according to their own data, is much more modest — 5–10%, but there are also large accelerations. It would be a nice speed boost if this Catalyst Omega (14.50) comparison was not with the old Catalyst 14.2, but with the newer driver. However, it worked out so well. But we are sure that our readers are more interested in the growth figures on gaming video cards for desktop PCs — and there is something to rejoice here too.

Performance improvements for AMD GPUs from the new driver will be noticeable in many games. AMD measured frame rates in several games on a system with a Radeon R9 graphics card290X at 3840×2160 rendering resolution, getting up to 19% gains, but alas, this time they compare the speed of the new software with the even older Catalyst 13.12 driver:

Indeed, in such conditions, the new Catalyst Omega driver provides a noticeable frame rate boost for desktop graphics card owners, and the comparison with the Catalyst 13.12 driver is, of course, curious due to the fact that this was the driver that launched the Radeon R9 290X graphics card on the market. But still, it would be much more interesting to compare the speed of the latest version with more current ones: the latest Catalyst 14. 9 WHQL driver available on the siteand Catalyst 14.11.2 Beta, which we did ourselves.

The set of games for our own rapid test was Batman: Arkham Origins, Metro: Last Light, Tomb Raider, Sleeping Dogs, Far Cry 4 (custom map), Thief and Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor. We also used the Radeon R9 290X graphics card and an additional test system based on the top Intel processor, 2560×1440 resolution and maximum gaming settings. And we got increments, although less than declared, but still very tangible in the case of several games:

So, in the last released game of the Batman series, the AMD video card received an additional 14% increase in speed, in the game Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor, released under the auspices of the TWIMTBP program from a competitor, there was an increase of up to 20%, well, in «own » Thief and Tomb Raider note about 5-7% increase in average frame rate. In the rest of the games, the gains turned out to be within the measurement error. Given that we compared with the best of the previous versions of the drivers, such an increase from the Catalyst Omega can be considered quite good.

AMD also notes an improvement in the performance of the new driver when running all of the company’s GPUs on systems with multi-core CPUs. So, in the game Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare, with a not too high rendering resolution of 1920 × 1080, in which the speed is not fully limited by the capabilities of the GPU, the increase in frame rate when switching from Catalyst 14.9 to Catalyst Omega is up to 15%, which will also be good an increase, especially for fans of network games, the speed in which often depends more on the capabilities of the CPU and the efficiency of the video driver in parallelizing its work.

Conclusion
Summing up our note on the release of a special version of the AMD Catalyst Omega video driver, we note that the company’s software novelty really gives users and software developers quite a lot of new things, and the old Catalyst capabilities have been improved in many ways.

Again, the Catalyst Omega announced a list of more than 20 new features and technologies, stability improvements and many bug fixes from previous versions, including those reported by users themselves. Also, 3D rendering performance in some games has been significantly improved under certain conditions (system configuration, driver and game settings, previous version of Catalyst), and this increase reaches 20-30% in extreme cases.

Among the new features for ordinary users, there are numerous improvements to improve the quality of video data playback — a special post-processing that allows you to improve image quality in various conditions: removing compression artifacts, increasing detail, inserting additional interpolated frames. Omega also introduced support for monitors with 5K and 3K resolutions, the long-awaited introduction of FreeSync dynamically variable refresh rate technology took place, even if such support is only in the driver for now, it is up to monitor manufacturers.

The ability to select Virtual Super Resolution to improve image quality is also very interesting, not only in games, but even for the operating system and window applications! AMD has chosen the most universal approach, in which any software will work with virtual resolution, and not just supported by the driver.