AMD Software: Adrenalin Edition Brings Radeon Super Resolution & More in Big 2022 Update

👤by Tim Harmer Comments 📅17.03.2022 13:01:58

In late 2014 AMD Radeon began the long and oftentimes arduous process of improving their driver development pipeline. Updates became more frequent, pre-release testing more comprehensive, and the venerable Catalyst Control Centre was retired in favour of a slick new UI. There were hiccups along the way but, all things considered, the transition to Radeon Software Adrenalin Edition drivers in recent years has been a huge net positive for hardware owners (and hopefully the driver development team too).

The pandemic was a major impediment to software development in 2020/21 but the Radeon team succeeded in releasing day 0 updates for over 40 games last, improving stability and hence the overall launch experience in those crucial hours and days after a game’s release. As the drivers matured they offered 15% improvement in performance on average across a range of titles year-on-year, from new favourites to classic staples of your gaming library.

Today the Adrenalin Edition software stack has grown into a feature set that extends outwards from AMD’s graphics expertise but is increasingly not tied to their discrete hardware, and as a result the driver package is being renamed AMD Software: Adrenalin Edition. It was felt that this new name for a new year was appropriate given its ongoing importance to AMD’s overall ecosystem (particularly software features and APUs, not just GPUs), warranting dropping the Radeon name.

For now at least the name Radeon endures in spirit.. and as an integral part of the core features of the new driver utility.

The Future of FidelityFX Super Resolution

Like their competitors, AMD Radeon also hasn’t been shy in developing new features to benefit broader gaming communities the world over. Perhaps the most successful of these was AMD FreeSync, their implementation of the VESA Adaptive Sync standard that took the wider monitor ecosystem by storm. It may however be usurped by AMD FidelityFX Super Resolution as the fastest adopted AMD technology.

FSR is a hardware agnostic upscaling technology that allows rendering at lower than monitor native resolutions for meaningful performance gains; think NVIDIA DLSS, but for everyone. Selectable performance/quality bands make it easy for the user to tweak to their needs, and can make a huge difference in the experience from 1080p all the way to 4K. It’s been scarcely 9 months since FSR was released and over 80 games have integrated or announced that the technology will be adopted in the near future / on the games release.

AMD aren’t resting on their laurels however. FSR 2.0 is currently in development to add temporal awareness to their upscaling algorithm, i.e. knowledge of frames rendered immediately prior to the current frame. This, alongside better anti-aliasing techniques, should serve to greatly improve image quality but will be more computationally costly than first gen FSR.

FSR 2.0 will be critical in making Ray Traced games enjoyable on Radeon hardware in the long-term, particularly in mid-tier and lower hardware segments.

Not much has been revealed about the precise techniques involved in FSR 2.0 thus far, but AMD Radeon will present a GDC 2022 Session on the topic next Wednesday (March 23nd). They have however divulged that the technology won’t require specialised Machine Learning hardware, but we can also infer that will likely require a little more tinkering under the hood by games developers to implement by virtue of it needing to be aware of previously rendered frames.

Also left unsaid is whether FSR 2.0 will continue to be as hardware agnostic as the previous generation, or if aspects will be exclusive to recent AMD Radeon silicon. The feature should be available in Q2 2022.

UPDATED 28.03.2022: As outlined in our subsequent article discussing FSR 2.0, AMD have clarified that the technology is indeed GPU vendor agnostic and can therefore also be used in conjunction with AMD and non-AMD GPUs. It's also not limited to current hardware; cards going back multiple generations can exploit FSR 2.0.

Radeon Super Resolution is Here

It may be a little later than planned but Radeon Super Resolution has finally arrived. Originally announced at CES 2022 and scheduled for launch with a driver update in January, RSR was delayed as part of the whole Radeon Software Adrenalin Edition 2022 release today.

To refresh your memory, Radeon Super Resolution is a generic full-screen upscaler that is supported solely by the AMD Radeon driver, requiring no significant in-game tweaking to implement. The technology is powered by underlying techniques similar to FSR (which may be a hint at why a 2nd generation algorithm is now in the works), but unlike FSR does require at least Radeon 5000-series hardware to support.

RSR, not to be confused with the now depreciated AMD Virtual Super Resolution (VSR), upscales games running in exclusive full screen modes to the native monitor resolution on a frame-by-frame basis, greatly improving overall performance. It’s supported by literally thousands of games (essentially any that support Exclusive Fullscreen Mode in Windows 10/11) and can boost framerates by as much as 2 or even 3x with only modest drops in image quality.

Enabling RSR looks straightforward enough:

1. Turn on RSR in AMD Software (globally or on a per-game basis). An on-screen wizard will explain the process and its benefits.

2. Set the in-game render resolution. This will be available in the Graphics Settings menu of games supporting Exclusive Fullscreen Mode, and will have defaulted to your monitor’s native resolution. Simply knock it down a rung or two (from 4K to 1440p, or 1440p to 720p etc.), based on the performance you want to reclaim.

3. RSR should do the rest automatically, leaving you free to game at higher frame rates.

The biggest benefactors may be those gaming on 4K monitors without the GPU horsepower to comfortably enjoy >60fps gaming, and they’re certainly the segment AMD’s marketing is focussing on. Like NVIDIA’s DLSS however the mid and entry level tiers might see the most benefit in the long term, pushing for >100fps at 1080p or >60fps at 1440p on the most affordable hardware available. It will all depend on how good the upscaling algorithm is.

There might understandably be some confusion over the differences between FSR and RSR, and so AMD have produced the handy comparison slide above as a general explainer.

A New Addition to AMD Link

AMD Link has gone largely unheralded in prior Adrenalin releases, but it may get a new lease on life with a brand new feature in Adrenalin 2022.

To cut a long story short, AMD are leveraging their game streaming technology to play ‘local multiplayer’ games with your friends anywhere in the world. Up to four players can connect to a single Radeon-powered PC using AMD Link, and a wide range of devices can be used including iOS or Android smartphones and Windows PC-based solutions (including those powered by Intel and NVIDIA hardware).

To connect all you will need to do is share an AMD Link pin number or QR code (provided by the utility) and the remote device will be able to act as both a proxy locally attached controller and (if desired) a shared screen.

There are no shortage of PC games that support local multiplayer, and with the worldwide gamer tribe encouraging those from far-flung nations to play together, AMD Link may become the ideal solution for games that once wouldn’t have a solution of this type.

AMD Link and the AMD Software desktop app more generally have also had a facelift to make them more streamlined and approachable. Hotkey configuration, controller setup, ‘smartphone as controller’ setup and more have all become much more approachable.

Other features, including setting up your mobile device as a performance monitoring and tracking display window for your Radeon-powered PC, remain mainstays of AMD Link and will be joined by remote Voice Activation and Control functionality. Initially available in English and Chinese (Cantonese and Mandarin), users will be able to use 30 voice commands to perform tasks on PC remotely, including volume control and limited benchmarking.

Globally Available: Radeon Image Sharpening

FidelityFX Super Resolution and Radeon Super Resolution may have received the majority of plaudits over the past year, but pre-dating both as an image clarity boosting tool was Radeon Image Sharpening.

As part of 2022’s Adrenalin Edition update AMD are rolling out the feature to multimedia and productivity use cases. RIS will be able to provide contrast adaptive sharpening (CAS) to videos and photos across a wide range of applications including web browsers and media playback utilities, and can be enabled universally or on a per-application basis.

A Long Road Ahead in 2022

AMD are laying the foundations of a strong 2022 with features that are actually worthwhile to Radeon-powered gamers, but they can’t take their eyes off the ball. Regular driver updates, offering stability and performance improvements whenever a new game is released, need to continue and the feature set available through AMD Software should be maintained and expanded where possible rather than left to wither on the vine. The red team has been strong in recent years, but will come under more pressure as Intel releases their own discrete graphics solutions in 2022.

Perhaps more importantly, AMD should be more agile in responding to user feedback and addressing issues as they crop up, rather than relying on fan sites and subreddits to suggest workarounds to common ills. No driver is perfect, and users understand that, but it’s a mark of good service when faults are found and adroitly fixed before being vilified by the community at large. Criticism of AMD drivers have grown as their GPUs have been pushed into premium price brackets; a lack of marketing boasting ‘record user satisfaction’ reflects this.

The elephant in the room however remains GPU affordability. AMD have shown they’re willing to put in the hard yards when it comes to driver development, now they need to show that their hardware is a mainstream rather than luxury purchase. Substandard 1080p GPUs priced in excess of £200 may mean that all their effort will come to nought as the majority of PC gamers are pushed to legacy hardware or console platforms.

You’ll be able to download AMD Software: Adrenalin Edition from today. The drivers are compatible with 64-bit versions of Windows 10 and 11, and are the backbone of support for graphics cards going as far back as the Radeon RX 400-series (Polaris-based). Note that not all features will be available on all card generations.

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