Review: AMD Radeon Software Crimson Driver/Control Panel.

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A great step forward…

Having had about 8 solid hours to dig into AMD’s Radeon Software Crimson Control Panel and Driver, I can honestly say I’m happy with the changes AMD has made. The control Panel is smooth and responsive. The darker theme, and wide screen oriented buttons are also a welcome change.

 

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A darker, sleeker interface.

 

Custom profiles for each game (at least the games Crimson supports) is a great addition that helps to do away with Catalyst’s reliance on third party applications to achieve the same feat.

AMD has also kept their promise in providing significantly reduced loading times with Crimson. While I haven’t timed the loading time at startup, I can say its significantly faster than Catalyst.

Gaming performance has also apparently improved, but I can’t attest to that just yet. I currently run a R9 290 4gb paired with an FX-8350, and that combo has allowed me to play virtually every game I own on max settings at an average of 50-60fps. As of yet I haven’t noticed an actual improvement. It’s more likely that Crimson’s Driver improvements mostly benefit the lower end AMD cards.

The biggest improvement in my opinion is the addition of custom resolutions. This has been a feature of Nvidia GPUs for years, and something only possible on AMD GPUs via third party programs that create fake monitor profiles. Don’t worry if you don’t see the point or use for custom resolutions, they are for advanced users with unusual hardware setups. If you don’t have a use for the option now, you probably never will.

Advice for people trying out custom resolutions; use the GTF option first and let the control panel try and figure out the best timings. So far it’s worked great for me.

The flaws.

Despite all the improvements that AMD has brought to bear with Crimson, it’s not without its problems.

My first qualm with Crimson is the official name. “Radeon Software Crimson” is a horrible name, and whoever approved it needs a solid slap to the back of the head. The former name, “Catalyst Control Center” or CCC, at least sounded good, it kinda rolled off the tongue if you will. I personally think CCC 2.0 or CCC2 would have been a better choice. I could understand if AMD was not primarily an English speaking company and there was some kind of a translation issue going on, but Radeon Software Crimson just sounds like bad English. But this is just a personal quibble.

Some tearing and stuttering appears in videos played in Chrome where it previously hadn’t occurred. This is quite minor and will probably be taken care of in the last update.

There is also some remnants of Catalyst hanging out under Crimson’s shiny new interface. All of your basic settings appear in the new interface, but a lot of your advanced settings are presented in a window that looks like it was cut and pasted from Catalyst. This too will probably be taken care of in a future update.

 

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A bit of Catalyst still remains.

 

The final and biggest problem with Crimson is the complete lack of options to change your resolution and refresh rate, even in the advanced settings the option simply doesn’t exist. For a program who’s sole purpose is to configure a graphics card, that’s a huge omission. What makes the problem worse is when you factor in the ability to create custom resolutions and there is no option anywhere to apply them. You can verify the new resolution, and it will apply it at that point, but as soon as you go back to a standard resolution you can’t re-apply the new resolution in Crimson without remaking it and re-verifying.

Further compounding the problem is the fact that windows doesn’t seem to accept the custom resolutions and won’t display them in its own basic display settings. There is always the option of going into Windows advanced display settings and digging the custom resolutions out and forcing them to be applied there, but that doesn’t make them a permanent option in the main display settings, and it most certainly doesn’t make up for Crimson not having the option to begin with.

This could be a problem with running Crimson on windows 7, and 10 may have a better way of handling the situation, but that shouldn’t have stopped AMD from making sure all options where available to windows 7 users before indicating that Crimson was compatible with 7.

The bottom line…

Crimson, despite its flaws is a huge step forward for AMD, and you should definitely give it a try. The interface is mostly new and slick, and (depending on your system) will provide some improved gaming performance. The ability to tweak individual games will further enhance your performance.

Note: Anyone using a Radeon 7600 or lower GPU will not get further Driver support after this release. Basically, if your GPU is GCN based (ie all cards 7700 and up) you will be seeing updates for the foreseeable future. If you own a 7600 or lower, its time to consider upgrading your graphics card.

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