This time last year we saw the launch of Radeon Crimson. This was AMD’s big attempt to state that a yearly cadence for software features was a good thing, and helped streamline the process for the number of initiatives that AMD participates in when it comes to GPUs. This year the update is called ‘Crimson ReLive’, and features a number of updates such as integrating the professional aspect of Radeon Pro into the cadence, a push towards VR features, and additional elements to gamers/streamers and even screen recording for professional software.

Then vs. Now

As was made clear during various presentations during 2016, AMD’s driver and software teams have been shaken up and put on a quest to improve the user experience. This has been explicitly stated as more quality assurance, no fixed update schedule (fixes are published when they are ready) and a new push to ensure game-ready drivers are good-to-go when the game is launched. As a result we were promised more beta driver releases and a half-dozen WHQL releases during the year to ensure that steady stream. (The WHQL process takes time and doesn’t take into account game-specific issues, but offers a certified set of collected updates which can be required in certain environments.)

Users were promised six WHQL updates in 2016, and so far there have been eight. There have been a total of 29 driver releases (which makes 21 betas / hotfixes) with 28 new games supported and optimized, most of which were supported on day one. AMD has stated that this resulted in a user satisfaction rating (as rated through their metrics) of 9/10, and have been key to promote that the newer Crimson style of doing things is a stark contrast to the perception of AMD driver tools and software of generations past.

Back at the launch of Radeon Crimson in 2015, we saw the launch of a streamlined interface taking over from Catalyst Control Center, the introduction of Frame Pacing, Liquid VR integration (which was expected given the launch of VIVE/Oculus in 2016), shader caching, custom resolution support, FreeSync improvements, FrameRate Target Control  (FRTC), Game Profiles, improved Eyefinity support and a new driver branch for performance. Ryan and Daniel wrote about this last year, and it’s still worth a read for users that do not recognize any of the terms in that list (some of which will be used in this piece).

For the 2016 update, Crimson ReLive, AMD has focused the updates into three key areas: Consumer, Developer and Professional. These are not hard-and-fast divisions, given that features for one market may also be used for another. However package-level updates typically fall into two areas: bug fixes and new tools.

AMD is keen to promote that for 2016, due to the immediate driver release methodology, the driver program can be on top of more bug-fixes and they're released as required. Part of this comes through the additional level of automated quality assurance but also an increased level of real-world/end-user test procedures as well as rigorous VR testing. AMD is aiming that the increased testing and focus on launch-day drivers that are right first time will give optimum performance. If there are updates to come, this way of testing also allows performance updates to be rolled out quicker, which AMD has tested compared to the RX 480 launch drivers. It was stated that the days of 40%+ performance increases due to drivers is set to disappear in part due to this refocused effort to get it right on day one.

Crimson ReLive on Linux

Before we get into the meat of the launch, a side note about Linux. The new launch will extend driver support to all AMD discrete graphics cards that are based on GCN architecture (so from AMD HD 7000-series and newer) but also gives Linux official FreeSync 1.0 support.

Supported operating systems for this are Ubuntu 14.04 / 16.04, RHEL 6.8 / 7.2 / 7.3, and SLED/SLES 12 SP2.

2016 into 2017: Developer Tools
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  • Ian Cutress - Friday, December 9, 2016 - link

    That's OK, I install one version and use it for 10+ systems. It evens out.
  • SydneyBlue120d - Friday, December 9, 2016 - link

    Is VP9 GPU decoding finally enabled with this release? Thanks.
  • overseer - Sunday, December 11, 2016 - link

    Warning! I got black screen right after installing of the ReLive driver. Was running ok with RX 480 and 16.9.2 whql driver and chose clean install with the new one, then desktop went black upon the last bit of installation. Tried reboot and recovery, no use. Now I have to reinstall my Win 10 - what a ReLive for the computer, oops..
  • darkvader75 - Sunday, December 11, 2016 - link

    This driver causes my screen to go black randomly like my card is turning off. I have 2 AMD Fury's in crossfire. I reverted back to the 11.5 and have no problems.
  • profdre - Thursday, December 15, 2016 - link

    Same black screen problem here: Win 10 boots, but at the exact time I try to right click on the desktop, screen goes black. Win 10 64 bit Pro, R9 290X. This is crap, AMD, test your drivers. I had to safe boot and uninstall with AMD Uninstaller and then installed the second newest version.
  • twtech - Wednesday, December 21, 2016 - link

    Who comes up with these names for AMD? I cringe reading some of them from the corniness. "ReLive"? "RyZen"? Sounds like MMO handle names of a 14 year old.
  • IntoGraphics - Tuesday, January 3, 2017 - link

    "Supported operating systems for this are Ubuntu 14.04 / 16.04, RHEL 6.8 / 7.2 / 7.3, and SLED/SLES 12 SP2."
    This should be written on the boxes of AMD based graphics cards. But AMD cock suckers prefers to take your money for nothing in return. Well to be honest you do get a lemon for your money. AMD, there are more Linux distros than Ubuntu, RHEL, CentOS, and SLED/SLES. If the green camp can release a common Linux driver for all distros ...
  • Furzeydown - Wednesday, January 4, 2017 - link

    That's .... just for the AMDGRU-PRO drivers. The open source Mesa drivers (which are arguably better, for gaming at least) are available as part of the Linux Kernel. Sheesh.

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