Update: AMD Retires Catalyst Control Center and Introduces Radeon Software Crimson Edition, First Benchmarks Here

AMD has gone through significant changes as a company over the last few months. Recently, we’ve seen them enter into a joint venture with Nantong Fujitsu for final assembly and test operations and form the new Radeon Technologies Group, led by longtime graphics guru Raja Koduri.

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Today, AMD is announcing another big change, and this one affects a piece of software that many of you reading this have running on your systems right now—assuming there’s a Radeon in that rig of yours. AMD is ditching Catalyst Control Center in favor of newly architected solutions dubbed Radeon Settings, which is a critical part of what AMD is calling the Radeon Software Crimson Edition.

The video above, featuring Raja Koduri and Terry “Catalyst Maker” Makedon, explains AMD’s thinking with this announcement. We’ve also got a quote to share that also helps put things into perspective, “AMD has been delivering graphics drivers for the past 20+ years, and during this time the graphics driver evolved way beyond the graphics device driver. Now we have user interfaces, libraries, tools, applications, packaged as what we call drivers. The software has morphed into a mini graphics Operating System. With the formation of Radeon Technologies Group, AMD has decided to call this mini graphics Operating System, Radeon Software.”

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Radeon Software Crimson Edition is completely re-architected and will offer new features, improvements to stability and responsiveness, and performance improvements as well. The update will include a new Game Manager, video quality presets, social media integration, simplified EF setup, a system notifications tab, and more. When it is released some time before the end of the year, the naming convention will be similar to CCC. And if this slide is any indicator, the first version will be out this month.

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The Radeon Settings portion of the software is based on Qt; Catalyst Control Center was based on .NET and doesn’t perform terribly well. The design priciples behind this update focused on responsiveness, discoverability, and ease of use. The Radeon Settings menus will offer a completely new UX, that been modernized and appears to be simple to navigate.

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Another advantage of using the Qt application framework for Radeon Setting is speed. Whereas Catalyst Control Center could take a few seconds to launch, we’re told Radeon Settings will open in a fraction of a second. 

The menus will have a new brushed metal design, with more Intuitive Navigation. At the top, of the window, main sections are listed with large buttons—Gaming, Video, Display, Eyefinity, and System. At the bottom, users will find buttons for updates, preference, notification, and social links. And the large center portion will be used for customer communications and to show the configurable options under each menu.

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The new Game Manager will give users the ability to set per-game profiles. And the video manager will feature several optimized profiles for various video types (sports, classic cinema, home video, outdoor, etc.) and also allow for easy customization.

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The Overdrive menu returns, with a similar feature set to what’s already offered in CCC, but the new Overdrive menu is revamped with the same design aesthetic that graces the rest of the Radeon Software suite.

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The Display Settings menu has also been completely revamped and will allow for customized settings on individual screens. The Eyefinity configuration menu and System Info tabs have similarly been redesigned.

We recently had the chance to take a beta build of the Radeon Software Crimson Update for a spin, and can confirm many of AMD’s claims. The software installed without a hitch and the super-fast launch times are very real.

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The Radeon Settings portion of the Crimson update is quick to launch and buttery smooth when clicking through the various menus as well. When you click a button up top on the main screen, the menu slides downward and reveals the options underneath.

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If you’ve been a long-time Radeon user and are intimately familiar with the outgoing Catalyst Control Center, the vast majority of the options in the Crimson update will be familiar to you, but how to find them may seem a bit foreign.

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Under the Gaming section, for example, the game specific profiles are front and center when the menu first opens. Users have to click the Global Graphics button to get to the traditional options for tweaking V-SYNC, anti-aliasing, etc., they may be used to. It’s also under the Global Graphics menu that the Global Overdrive tab is available.

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There are a number of new feature additions in the release too. Low Framerate Compensation (LFC) is new for FreeSync users. LFC features an adaptive algorithm that automatically adjusts the GPU output and refresh rate to prevent juddering from sudden drops in framerate, that fall below the monitor’s minimum refresh rate. Frame pacing has also been extended to support DX9 titles, and Windows 10 users with 150 DPI (or higher) monitors will be able to set virtual super resolutions to increase effective desktop real estate. There are new video features, like directional scaling and content adaptive dynamic contrast, designed to improve video quality, and the flip queue size has been optimized to improve mouse / keyboard latency and responsiveness.

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The Radeon Software Crimson Update features optimizations for recently released games and a new shader cache, that allows compiled shaders to be stored on a systems drive, which can enhance level load times and overall performance in DX10 and DX11 games. With large, complex games, shaders are often sent to the graphics driver during gameplay. And when those shaders are compiled, performance can briefly take a hit. The Shader Cache in the Crimson Update stores the compiled shaders so that retrieval is faster and less work is required while gaming. It can also help with level load times. This feature will be enabled by default for some games, but users can choose to enable or disable it for any given title. The shader cache can also be purged with a click of a button in the Global Graphics menu.

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We installed the Radeon Software Crimson Update on our test rig and ran a few tests with a Radeon R9 390 installed. There were performance improvements almost across the board, though there were not dramatic. 3DMark showed a small gain, as did Shadow of Mordor, but the average frame rate in Metro LL Redux remained the same. What did increase by a relatively sizeable margin in both games was the minimum framerate.

We have only had on hands on the Radeon Software Crimson Update for a couple of days, but our initial impressions are good. There will be a bit of learning curve for users familiar with CCC, but the modernized interface and responsiveness of update are well worth it.
Tags:  AMD, Radeon, graphics, GPU, crimson