December is a big month for AMD Radeon graphics users as that's when the company rolls out an annual, feature-packed release of its graphics drivers. Over the years, AMD and NVIDIA have refrained from calling their system software mere "drivers" and have instead branded them as either "Radeon Software" or "GeForce"; that's because these releases have become so much more than driver packages that interface your operating system to the hardware - they've become rich packages of visual technology that let you consume a variety of content in a variety of different ways on one or more screens or a VR headset.
The December 2016 release by AMD is named the Radeon Software Crimson ReLive Edition 16.12.1.
AMD originally simply sought to call this release (and subsequent releases through 2017) "Radeon Software ReLive Edition," but decided to keep the "Crimson" moniker as they felt it had established itself as a brand people recognized, especially after AMD retired the Catalyst brand, to identify its system software.
The December 2014 release was Catalyst Omega, which introduced a boat-load of features and performance optimizations, and last year's was the Radeon Software Crimson Edition, which replaced Catalyst Control Center with the new Radeon Settings application built from the ground up and implemented a large complement of features and optimizations.
With this release, the term "ReLive" has been added to the marketing name string. Something like a "Radeon Software Crimson ReLive Edition 17.10.4 Hotfix" could be quite a mouthful, but by this time next year, we predict "ReLive" to become the new vernacular, just as enthusiasts simply use contractions such as "Crimson 16.xx" to refer to drivers, at least on our forums.
ReLive may not sound as glorious as Omega or Crimson, but is actually a reference by AMD to the namesake of its flagship software feature being introduced with these drivers. The company is responding to a growing demand by the game-streaming community which records or live-streams its gameplay across platforms such as Twitch and YouTube Gaming, which has become a serious business model for some of the more popular playing/looking streamers. What was being sought is a feature that lets you record and stream your gameplay at minimal hardware overhead. NVIDIA solved this challenge with GameStream ShadowPlay way back in 2013. It's now AMD's turn, and it has some pretty neat features and performance-cost claims to outdo NVIDIA.
ReLive is hardly the only major feature being released today. The company also introduced Radeon Chill, a software feature that works to reduce power consumption and GPU temperatures during gameplay, new media hardware-acceleration support, HDR 10 support, improved FreeSync, 8K display readiness, XConnect external display technology, and a brand-new installer that simplifies clean driver installs.
In this article, we explore the various new features being introduced with Radeon Software Crimson ReLive and conduct a quick performance test of the new drivers on our test-bench.
FeaturesAMD is referring to the Radeon Software Crimson ReLive Edition 16.12.1 as its biggest software release ever. The company is also releasing the Radeon Pro Software ReLive Edition alongside these drivers for users of its new range of Radeon Pro graphics cards; an improved Linux versions of both the Crimson and Pro drivers that adds features to the existing open-source codebase.
The list of new features is indeed exhaustive, but let us first get the list of bug-fixes out of the way. AMD has addressed a plethora of recent and long-overdue bugs and feature requests from the community. They're listed as the following:
The number of new software features being introduced with this release far outweigh the performance improvements (of the kind Catalyst Omega introduced). AMD has been making gradual performance improvements over each WHQL, Beta, and Hotfix release. Below are AMD's claims. Later on in the article, we are putting these claims to the test. AMD also introduced a neat tool within Radeon Settings that lets you send feedback, bug reports, and feature requests directly to AMD's driver team, and you can also participate in user surveys.
With this release, AMD worked with a 3rd party to develop a benchmarking utility called Open Capture and Analysis Tool, a vendor-neutral FCAT alternative that lets you study frame-time. It also introduced through GPUOpen its new TressFX 4.0 tessellated hair-drawing feature. The company also added Advanced Media Framework (AMF) 1.4 support, which adds H.265 encoding.
LiquidVR ImprovementsAMD expanded the feature set of LiquidVR, its all-encompassing VR-enablement platform. It begins with GPU affinity in multi-GPU setups. This lets you set each of the two viewing planes of your VR HMD to be processed by each individual GPU. The company also introduced VR MultiView, which treats each of the view planes as two display heads and reduces rendering overhead, and there is VR MultiRes rendering, which renders different portions of your frame at different resolutions - the portions with the most detail are rendered at higher resolutions and those with fewer details at lower resolutions, thereby improving performance. The company also optimized TrueAudio to the VR HMD generation with TrueAudio Next, which uses GPU compute to process how sounds react to different surfaces in a 3D scene.
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