AMD releases game-changing Mantle support in new Catalyst beta driver

AMD has released the latest beta driver of its Catalyst software, making its Mantle API a reality for those with supported graphics cards.

AMD’s Catalyst 14.1 beta driver was expected last week, although a few glitches delayed the release. Over the weekend, AMD published the beta driver to its Web site. Note that you’ll need to uninstall the current driver before installing the beta.

AMD is positioning Mantle as a low-level API optimized for its own hardware, offering significantly better performance than the generic DirectX API that powers both AMD and Nvidia graphics cards and integrated CPU/GPU chips, known as APUs. (For more, see our earlier deep dive into Mantle technology.)

So far, just one game, EA’s Battlefield 4, has been optimized for Mantle, although a tech demo of an upcoming game, Star Swarm, has also been released. According to AMD, gamers who load the new beta Catalyst driver should see up to 45% improvement in frame rate running Battlefield 4, and 200% when using the driver and playing the Star Swarm demo. A few other games, including the Thief reboot and Wing Commander creator Chris Roberts’ Star Citizen, will also support Mantle, the developers have said.

PCWorld hasn’t had a chance to test Mantle yet, but real-world tests conducted by Anandtech showed gains of up to 30 percent when running Battlefield 4 on an Intel i7 4960x CPU. Naturally, because the Catalyst driver is a beta, future improvements are expected.

The new driver also includes support for AMD’s “frame pacing” technology, which smooths the handoffs between multiple GPUs working together in a Crossfire alignment to an “even and regular pace,” according to AMD.

AMD says that the following graphics cards will support the new Catalyst driver, and by extension, Mantle: the AMD Radeon R9 and R7 cards, plus the Radeon HD 8000 and 7000 series, and as well as the A10-7000 and A8-7000 APUs. Don’t expect to see the same dramatic gains in frame rate using the older cards, however, AMD warns—you’ll have to wait for future updates to see those improvements.

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