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AMD Catalyst Omega graphics drivers give GPUs and APUs a boost

Tom Morgan
9 Dec 2014
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Up to 19% performance improvements on Radeon graphics cards, up to 29% boost on AMD APUs

AMD has officially revealed Omega, a new driver for the company's GPUs and APUs designed to boost performance significantly over the outgoing WHQL Catalyst drivers, as well as give developers the latest programming support in applications that support GPU-based Compute tasks.

The headline performance figures show major fps gains in some of the biggest PC games available today, with the R9 290x improving by as much as 19% when running games like Bioshock Infinite and Call of Duty: Ghosts at Ultra HD resolutions. Of course, not everyone has a flagship GPU and a 4K monitor, but all Radeon card owners should see small gains across the board. Depending on the game, frame rates should jump by between 1 and 10fps.

integrated APU graphics stand to see even larger benefits than dedicated GPUs, with Batman: Arkham Origins seeing a massive 29% performance increase versus the outgoing Catalyst driver.

There's better news for anyone running dual GPUs, or who has paired an AMD APU with a dedicated graphics card for hybrid Crossfire performance; Omega was designed specifically with you in mind. AMD admits gameplay on dual graphics wasn't particularly smooth on older driver versions, but aims to improve things dramatically with Omega. Frame rates have increased across a range of games, but more importantly frame pacing has improved as well. This means the average time between subsequent frames has dropped to give the impression of smoother gameplay, with fewer visible 'micro-stutters'. Sniper Elite 3 has improved by as much as 75%, with Metro Last Light Redux, Alien Isolation, Batman Arkham Origins and Tomb Raider all benefitting from the tweaks too.

Finally, gamers will be able to give their graphics cards a real workout with Virtual Super Resolution, a super-sampling process that forces the GPU to render games at a higher resolution than your monitor supports, before downscaling the image to fit. It means smoother edges and textures and super sampling anti-aliasing (SSAA) in games that don't support it. Enabled through Catalyst control centre, the feature lets you select resolutions beyond your monitor's capabilities both in-game and on the desktop.

Beyond gaming improvements, Omega contains plenty of video processing upgrades over previous driver releases. Fluid Motion Video uses GPU compute power to interpolate frames, smoothing out video judder when playing back video filmed at 24p, contour removal automatically removes compression artifacts from online videos and the Perfect Picture 1080p upscaling system has been carried across from dedicated GPUs to APUs for the first time.

AMD Freesync is also fully supported on 7x00 series APUs and Radeon R-series graphics cards. The refresh rate synchronisation tech effectively eliminates screen tearing, without introducing lag or latency. The first monitors are set to arrive early next year, with Samsung already confirmed to be on board.

It's not just gamers that will see the benefit from upgrading: the Omega driver also improves things for developers. Radeon GPUs now officially support OpenCL 2.0, and both CodeXL and TressFX technologies have been updated to new versions. AMD's home-grown graphics API Mantle has also been given a boost, enabling video recording, Twitch streaming and game capture when in Mantle-powered games.

The Omega driver will be rolling out shortly - gamers with compatible graphics cards and APU owners will be able to download it and install it later today.

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