To coincide with the recent Radeon Settings: Crimson Edition release, here is our full look into the performance side using our base Windows 8.1 test system. As we all know by now, Radeon Settings is the official release name of the recently discontinued Catalyst Control Center software and comes from the newly formed Radeon Technologies graphics division.
Radeon Settings: Crimson Edition sets out to put AMD back on the map with drivers and customer support, something that has let them down in the past and ridiculed on many forums and member bases. Moving from sporadic releases of non-WHQL certified drivers, the aim is to now release 6 WHQL drivers a year with interim updates, which isn’t as many as the Green team, but it’s a vast improvement from recent years and a huge step in the right direction.
Putting stability as the core of this software, four main pillars of User Experience, Features, Performance and Efficiency are what will make the bulk of the software.
From the first look, we saw a decent improvement in performance for the sample cards and tests, but now it’s time to test our entire catalogue of AMD graphics cards from the Fury and 300 series to see how this driver really stacks up.
Test Systems and Procedures
Before we delve into any testing we would like to take this opportunity to overview our test system. All tests will be conducted with the latest stable drivers available, with results will be taken from an average of three tests. All tests will be conducted using the highest factory setting if multiple options are available.
- Motherboard – Gigabyte X99-Gaming G1 WiFi LGA 2011-3 Motherboard
- Processor – Intel Core i7 5820K at Stock 3.3GHz
- RAM – 16GB (4 X 4GB) Crucial Ballistix Sport DDR4 2400MHz
- CPU Cooler – Thermaltake Water 3.0 with Gelid GC-Extreme
- Power Supply – BeQuiet Dark Power Pro 11 1200W
- Main Storage Drive – Crucial M550 512GB
- Chassis – Lian Li T80 Test Bench
- Displays – AOC U2868PQU 4K
- Operating System – Windows 8.1 Pro 64 Bit
- Battlefield 4
- Bioshock Infinite
- Grand Theft Auto V
- Metro Last Light
- Tomb Raider
- Unigine Valley
- Unigine Heaven
- CPU-ID HWMonitor
- TechPowerUp GPU-Z
During our testing, we use a range of readily available synthetic benchmarking tools which are free to download from the respective websites. We do this so the readers can download and compared to our results. Download links are contained within the “Software” subheading.
With electricity becoming increasingly expensive across most parts of the world the need for computer components to become power efficient has never been more relevant. Graphics cards are often the most power-hungry components inside a desktop system so having an efficient graphics card is very important to keeping power bills under control. Power is often correlated to heat and so lower power consumption means a graphics card is likely to run slightly cooler and put out less heat into your system meaning your other components will run cooler with improved longevity. AMD and Nvidia have both made power consumption an integral part of the way graphics cards dynamically overclock so the need for graphics card vendors to use efficient VRM and PCB designs is becoming important to maximise performance. We take power readings after 5 minutes of two different load scenarios: desktop idle and Unigine Heaven load.
The cooling solution which graphics card vendors choose to implement is one of the main differences that consumers have to contend with when choosing a graphics cards. Apart from their acoustic properties, the thermal properties of graphics card coolers are extremely important. Lower temperatures are always better and with AMD and Nvidia opting to use dynamic overclocking algorithms that take temperature into account it is important that graphics card vendors use high-performance cooling solutions in order to maximise performance. The era of graphics cards reaching dangerous temperatures are now in the past but the importance of lower temperatures still remains. Lower temperatures mean better stability, longer component longevity and lower fan speeds .We take temperature readings after 5 minutes of two different load scenarios: desktop idle and Unigine Heaven load. We always record actual temperatures and make a note of the ambient; in the case where more than 1 GPU is used an average is created.
Throughout the testing in 3DMark, all of the tested cards saw a small performance increase. The only cards to suffer was the R9 390 in all tests and the R9 380 in the 4K test.
The performance gain is slightly more noticeable during this test. The performance between each card has a nice linear line, so every cloud has a silver lining I guess.
While Unigine Valley isn’t interactive, the benchmark is extremely demanding and is the perfect test to determine the worst case scenario of performance at each resolution. At 1080p, we see all apart from the bottom two cards taking a negative hit to performance. The R9 Fury X drops 3 FPS.
Things aren’t getting much better at 1440p with the R9 Nano performance dropping below the prior R9 390X.
4K is too demanding for the R9 380 and was removed from this and the rest of the 4K tests. Performance levels out at this resolution, but the new update performs worse on average.
A driver can’t increase the overall pure grunt of a GPU core and as such increases and decreases here are negligible.
Batman: Arkham Knight
Moving onto our first gaming benchmark and it seems that performance is reasonably increased by a few FPS. The biggest difference here is the inclusion of the R9 380, previous drivers were incompatible with this game for that particular card.
The Fiji based cards see another increase here, whereas the older technologies see minor decreases.
At 4K, despite no playable FPS scores here, the new Crimson drivers seem to offer lower minimum FPS than the previous tests; a clear example of that is the R9 Nano and R9 390X.
Battlefield 4 is a forgiving game to test on and lets the cards stretch a little. However, at 1080p the overall performance is worse with the newest driver.
This is starting to become a running theme with 1-3 FPS being the average performance drop across all of the cards. The only card seemingly benefitting from this new driver is the R9 380.
Again, an overall drop in performance. The R9 390X gets a negligible increase of .3FPS.
We haven’t been able to test Bioshock for a few weeks due to the driver issues presented in the CCC 15.11.1 update, so the last known working update was used, CCC 15.10 Beta. Even though the performance has seen a drop across all of the cards, I’m actually just happy that AMD corrected the compatibility issue.
Grand Theft Auto V
We had a few issues with Grand Theft Auto in regards to underachieving performance. With that in mind, the entire settings were reviewed and the MSAA settings was dropped from X2 to Off. This increased the performance to a much more reasonable level and now the R9 380 is able to achieve over 60FPS at 1080p.
The performance figures here aren’t in line with the rest of the Crimson performance figures, so talking about the increases wouldn’t be a true representation of this drivers performance.
As previously stated, with the slight modification to the graphical settings, the Crimson Edition drivers perform much better. However, still not able to break the 60FPS mark.
Metro Last Light
Very little in the way of performance changes here, just 1FPS difference for the majority of the cards tested is enough to be a negligible difference.
1440p and 4K sees a slight increase for the R9 Fury X, but again the differences are so small that it could just be the way the test went on that particular set of runs.
Tomb Raider is one of the easiest games we have to test with and that shows with the incredibly high figures. Performance at 1080p doesn’t see much of an increase or decrease between the driver versions.
1440p and 4K seem to change things with the Crimson driver being of benefit to the cards and increasing performance by a few FPS. Nothing that you will notice in gaming, but figures are worth talking about.
Power Consumption and Temperatures
Power consumptions is one of the few tests that lower is better and Crimson Edition driver is an overall good thing here. Drops aren’t spectacular for most cards, but the R9 Fury X has a huge 28W drop.
Lower input power means lower operating temperatures. Overall a nice drop to coincide with the drop in power. The higher Idle temperature for the R9 380 using the Crimson driver is expected for the 0db operation of this series of graphics cards where the fans turn off at around 50°c.
I’m very confused right now. When I conducted my first look testing for the drivers, performance saw a reasonable increase, however that doesn’t seem to be the case. Each test was conducted at least 3 times with the average score taken to present in our results, but variations between tests could be apparent here. The Crimson driver is underpinned with the 15.11.1 driver mechanics and just CCC was replaced with a more streamlined UI, so maybe in the next Crimson instalment we could see a greater performance boost.
At least the power consumption is somewhat as promised with the majority of cards seeing a reasonable drop with the R9 Fury X dropping a huge 26W. Hopefully, future updates will see that saved power being utilised to gain higher performance. The drop in power input leads to a similar drop in temperatures also. Most differences were only 1-3°c, but the R9 Fury X saw a decent 6°c drop and the R9 390 experienced a huge 11°c drop.
We have started to see reports of the new software interfering with default fan speeds and causing some cards to overheat, I didn’t experience any of these issues myself but I am aware they are an issue. AMD have addressed this and as of writing this article, a patch will be released shortly.
Probably the most noticeable point of this driver was the re-introduction of Bioshock Infinite into our testing. It’s an old game, but it’s still demanding and a good point of reference. If this patch was included with Crimson with a really quick turn around after CCC 15.11.1, then I’m sure the fan patch will be delivered similarly as quick.
Would I recommend this driver? Simply put, yes! The additional features that Radeon Settings brings are enough to warrant the upgrade on its own. Couple that with the drop in power and temperatures and it makes a lot of sense to upgrade. Performance didn’t suffer enough to not recommend it, a drop of just a few frames per second can be down to the interference between tests and not actually down to the driver itself. If you still haven’t updated, here is the download.
Thank you to all our partners who provided the hardware and software that made this driver analysis possible.