Renewed, Rejuvenated - AMD's Crimson ReLive Edition 17.7.2 Drivers Are More Than Just A Number

👤by Tim Harmer Comments 📅26.07.2017 22:00:57


With RX Vega GPUs likely just around the corner, it's time for AMD to set the stage with a major new graphics driver release. No tinkering around the edges here; new features for both consumers and developers are a part of the Radeon Software Crimson ReLive Edition 17.7.2 update.

AMD sure have a important few weeks on the cards as huge product launches in both their CPU and Graphics businesses are scheduled for both July and August. Tomorrow we’re expecting the retail debut of Ryzen 3, an entry-level contender which is taking the fight to Intel’s Core i3 CPU; more Radeon Vega details are expected to be unveiled at SIGGRAPH on July 30th; and who could forget the looming opportunity that is Ryzen Threadripper and the X399 motherboard platform. It makes sense therefore to lay some groundwork beforehand, such as launching a major new graphics driver package ahead of any hardware. Such is the case today.

The Radeon Software Crimson ReLive Edition driver was originally made publicly available at the tail end of 2016, addressing a series of perceived weaknesses in the software bundled as standard with AMD’s range of GPUs. Most prominent was the inclusion of the ReLive utility, software which makes use of the hardware video encoder on GCN architecture graphics cards to capture video for recording and streaming without the use of 3rd-party utilities. Radeon Chill – a power efficiency mode for RX 400-series cards, and new FreeSync modes were also part of what turned out to be a comprehensive update.



AMD have released sixteen driver updates since the original ReLive Edition driver, generally with the aim of improving performance and stability in the plethora of new games over that period. The driver team have reaped the rewards of their efforts, and now enjoy a 6-month long, 90+% user satisfaction rating; given that the market has struggled with graphics drivers over the last decade, that’s quite an achievement. Crimson ReLive Edition 17.7.2 is the first major update to this driver package however, not only addressing performance but also expanding on features and rolling in consumer feedback to improve user experience.

As is always the case, the latest drivers can be found at http://support.amd.com/en-us/download, but given the size of the update we wanted to go over some of the key features AMD are highlighting with this new release.

Farewell To Radeon Additional Settings

A major rationale for the development of the Crimson Edition driver was the streamlining of the user interface. Broadly speaking it’s been successful, but one on-going legacy of the old Catalyst drivers has been the Radeon Additional Settings, AKA the Catalyst Control Centre. Its incorporation into the Radeon Settings UI has been the #1 most requested feature, and finally that’s become a reality with the 17.7.2 release.

Theoretically, finding just the feature or display setting you need will now be more straightforward and require fewer clicks than before. One exception however are advanced Radeon Eyefinity controls; we’ll have to wait a little longer before we see those in the main Radeon Settings UI.

Radeon Relive – Higher Bitrate and More!



Radeon ReLive is AMD’s answer to NVIDIA ShadowPlay, offering a utility for gameplay capture, broadcast via game streaming platforms such as Twitch.TV, or sharing on other video distribution platforms. This type of functionality is obviously available from third parties such as XSplit or OBS, but offering it as part of the out-the-box experience for new PC gamers in a manner that's wholly straightforward is a big plus, especially as PC gaming and livestreaming continues to grow. Improving this experience is an ongoing process, and Crimson Relive Edition 17.7.2 is just the latest step.

One value you can never have too much of is encoding bitrate. Although upstream bitrate will almost always be limited by your internet connection when streaming, there is a lot more leeway for encoding of local recordings. Storage bandwidth is much higher, and of course graphics hardware may be capable of vastly more. These latest driver effectively doubles the recording bitrate from 50Mbps to 100Mbps, allowing for much higher fidelity game capture at higher resolutions and frame rates.

Just as important is reducing the impact on performance (i.e. FPS) when using the ReLive Utility, and AMD are claiming yet more success in reducing overheads. Results will vary depending on title, but some tests have shown 33% improvement in ReLive 17.7.2 compared to 17.7.1 - that is to say a 33% reducing in the frame rate tax of running ReLive. As they say, ‘every little ‘elps’, doubly-so when it comes to your gaming experience when streaming.

Finally, the latest drivers come with a few quality of life improvements. Chief among these is a new Enhanced Audio Control toolkit in Radeon Settings, offering a little more fine-grained control for microphone options (including push-to-talk) in one centralised location. Better and more descriptive overlay notifications are also now available. Oh, and Camera Transparency, when you don’t want your face to completely obscure relevant parts of the screen.

All in all, that’s a pretty solid set of upgrades for ReLive. Next up: Radeon Chill.

Radeon Chill & Wattman - Improving Efficiency, One Slider At A Time



Also launched with Radeon Software Crimson ReLive Edition was Radeon Chill, a utility designed to regulate frame-rates based on movement in-game. Seventeen games were supported on launch, with Chill offering both reduced power consumption and GPU temperatures. Now over 30 games are supported across a range of APIs, including both DirectX 12 and Vulkan. It’s now been taken out from under the Wattman umbrella and make it far more visible within Radeon Settings, underlining its rise to prominence as a marketable feature.

Radeon Chill – available on a per-game-profile basis until Profile Graphics - offers both minimum and maximum frame rates, a feature that’s especially useful in games without frame-capped menus and cinematics, which also means that you can ensure that it isn’t too aggressive. Some games have seen a reduction in power usage by as much as 31% and GPU temps by 13%, and that’s significant however you want to shake it so long as the gameplay experience isn’t impaired.

Radeon Chill now supports both AMD laptop graphics – a clear boon in that arena to extend laptop battery life – and multi-GPU configurations. Furthermore, the nascent XConnect Technology for external graphics enclosures utilising Thunderbolt 3 connectivity is also supported by Radeon Chill, ensuring that they’re keeping an eye towards a potential future for performance laptop system configurations.

Oh, and just in case you thought Wattman was being left out in the cold, it’s gaining the ability to under-clock video memory in the latest drivers. Not bad at all.

Enhanced Sync – Better Gaming, For Those With or Without FreeSync

GPU manufacturers are fighting a seemingly never-ending battle against V-Sync, and doing all they can to provide measurably better experiences. AMD FreeSync has been the red team’s most comprehensive solution, but despite their best efforts not every monitor in the hands of gamers supports the technology… yet. So, what can AMD offer the poor souls still shackled by V-Sync? Enter Enhanced Sync.

Although there are myriad issues with V-Sync, Enhanced Sync addresses two specific concerns: increased input latency caused by games limited by V-Sync when the system can run comfortably above the V-Sync mark, and substantial stuttering when operating below this mark.



In the first case, Enhanced Sync allows the game engine to operate at an unrestricted frame rate rather than 60 updates per second (as is typical with V-Sync enabled). Frames are drawn as usual and discarded if necessary, and the display is only updated with the most recent completed frame. The result (as measured by AMD) is substantially reduced input latency whilst retaining the same tear-less experience as V-Sync.

Clearly the largest impact this will have is when potential rendered frame rates are massively in excess of the V-Sync mark, and that’s often the case with ‘eSports’ titles including older ones such as League of Legends and DOTA 2.

When addressing low frame rates, Enhanced Sync prioritises the elimination of stuttering rather than tearing. Rather than wait for a new frame, Enhanced Sync will update the display to the latest partially complete frame; the resultant image will have one ‘tear’ seam, but there should be no stutter and an overall more consistent experience.



Enhanced Sync even operates with FreeSync, placing no cap on the game engine whilst limiting the displayed frame rate to the top end of the FreeSync Range. At the bottom end, FreeSync displays without Low Framerate Compensation benefits by removing the stuttering and introducing tearing only so long as frames are drawn more slowly than the FreeSync Minimum.

Unfortunately Enhanced Sync technology is exclusive to AMD Polaris GPUs (i.e. 400 and 500-series) and consumer cards based on the upcoming RX Vega.

General Performance Improvements.

With all this talk of new features, I bet you were worried about a lack of general performance improvements stemming from the updated driver. Well fret ye not…

Crimson ReLive Edition 17.7.2 builds on the double-digit performance improvements seen since the first Relive driver last year, but the primary target has been certain DirectX 9 titles. These games remain vitally important for eSports and are also immensely popular amongst streamers, requiring a renewed emphasis where AMD has been relatively weak in the past. An example of this is with the Shader Cache, where the new drivers add support for this DirectX 11 feature to selected DX9 titles such as Starcraft 2, improving load times.

But that’s not all. AMD are claiming an extensive investment in reducing the driver wait-time between CPU drawcall to GPU Present, a major source of in-game latency in DirectX 9 and 11 titles. Once again AMD have lined up double-digit improvements, although whether you’ll feel any difference in the real world likely depends on how close to the cutting edge you play.

Ii should be stated however that currently optimisations tend to occur on a per-game basis, with large strides made upon the release of Day-1 driver updates. Although they tinker with the rendering pipeline a little – particularly in DirectX 11 and 9 APIs – large FPS gains aren’t the goal here. Save that for the incremental releases which AMD have done sterling work at releasing.

Bug Fixing and Beta Testing – Introducing the Vanguard Beta Testing Program.



AMD’s efforts in stamping out bugs ramped up in 2015 with the original Crimson Edition drivers, soliciting feedback directly from users and prioritising fixes. A huge number of the improvements you will see in this driver have been suggested by users rather than undertaken as a speculative project by driver engineers, and that also allows them to optimise their workflow.

Dozens of major bugs have all been resolved since the launch of the ReLive Edition in December, a selection of which are shown above. Some are crippling, others are extreme corner cases, but any can be difficult to know about – never mind pin down - without direct feedback.

Recognising the success of their feedback system, AMD are beginning the Radeon Software Vanguard Beta Tester Program. The program is available to both gamers and developers, and will provide those who sign up with early access to Radeon software and drivers, as well as a more prominent channel for discussing feedback and ideas.

Developer Drivers – Radeon GPU Profiler Enters The Game

Released alongside the Consumer driver is the Developer Driver, which typically rolls in the performance improvements of the consumer version whilst also broadening the scope of or addressing any outstanding issues with the various toolkits available to software developers. This differs again from the Professional variant, which is a driver without the typical gaming optimisations that’s instead built to ensure stability and processing of professional workloads.

Included amongst the AMD Radeon Software Crimson ReLive Edition developer driver are SDKs for LiquidVR – notably receiving a boost in this update with HEVC 4K x 4K VR video playback – and game engine plugins for content such as GPU accelerated video playback. Normally the developer driver is beyond the scope of these articles, but this time around there has been a particularly exciting development which could have far-reaching ramifications: the Radeon GPU Profiler.

PC game development using new low-level APIs can be something of a ‘black box’ process: you feed code in, and you get an output, but you don’t know what’s going on inside the GPU. This can make bottlenecks difficult to track and optimisations hard to find, increasing development overhead. The PC stands in contrast console development, where a greater level of access to the hardware can provide robust reporting. Making PCs a little more console-like, in this aspect, could be a major boon.



The Radeon GPU Profiler shines a lighting into that GPU black box, providing visualisations of hardware events as they move through the rendering pipeline. By using these visualisations developers can trace specific workloads, gaining improved understanding not only of when they occur, but also the load it places on the graphics hardware

Radeon GPU Profiler’s Beta was unveiled at GDC, and the sea-change in the audience from beginning to end was apparently quite marked. Early scepticism was replaced with overt enthusiast by the end of the GDC talk, and developers were quite keen to get their hands on this new tool. Some have already tested Radeon GPU Profiler, going on to integrate it into their workflow:

”RGP very quickly became an indispensable tool in my optimization workflow. I’m sure that other graphics programmers will fall in love with it, just like I did!” – Yuriy O’Donnell, Rendering Engineer @ DICE

"With Radeon GPU Profiler, AMD has produced a high quality tool that fills a much-needed role of providing deep performance introspection and analysis of modern GPUs beyond simple hardware counters. With AMD’s unmatched collaboration and sharing with the rest of the industry and open tools, the future of co-operation amongst the graphics tools ecosystem is really exciting." – Buldur Karlsson, Senior Technical Architect @ RenderDoc.

"AMD Radeon GPU Profiler is nothing short of a revelation in GPU performance analysis for Vulkan on Windows and Linux. I was able to gain insights into Source 2 Vulkan in VR that I had previously never known. We are able to figure out exactly where the work is happening in the frame. It just works for every Vulkan workload we have thrown at it. RGP has now become my go-to tool for GPU performance analysis." – Dan Ginsburg, VR Developer @ Valve *


Radeon GPU Profiler supports DirectX 12 and Vulkan APIs, as well as Window 7, 10 and Linux operating systems. It’s compatible with all GCN-based graphics hardware, including the older Radeon HD7000-series all the way through to the upcoming Vega designs.

A commitment to the open development of tools and specification has been one way in which AMD have sought to differentiate themselves from the competition. It’s for this reason why the Radeon GPU Profiler will be available through their GPUOpen initiative, which has already released tools such as TressFX 4.0, OCAT and the Vulkan Memory Allocator.

In Summary



So to sum up, the Crimson ReLive Editon 17.7.2 drivers are another significant step forward from AMD, just ahead of what's sure to be a busy few weeks. As well as performance tweaks AMD have added new features to Radeon Chill, a brand new frame syncing methodology which aims to provide better experiences than V-Sync, and new developers tools which will help them make better games for years to come. Not bad guys, not bad at all.

The latest drivers, along with complete release notes, can be found at http://support.amd.com/en-us/download.

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