It’s the end of an era. Catalyst Control Center, Radeon’s software hub since the ol’ ATI days, is finally being laid to rest by AMD’s newly founded Radeon Technologies Group.
But don’t shed tears over the loss! Catalyst’s been ho-hum, drab, and overly complicated for years now. Rising from its ashes is Radeon Software Crimson, spearheaded by the new Radeon Settings interface—a seriously slick piece of software ready to go toe-to-toe with Nvidia’s vaunted GeForce Experience, buoyed by interesting new features like per-game overclocking and one-click Eyefinity configuration.
“Software is the first thing people see on their screen, the first part of their experience,” says AMD’s Sasa Marinkovic. With Crimson, Marinkovic added, Radeon’s “software is as equally represented as the hardware.”
Radeon Settings is nothing short of a complete reimagining of AMD’s software, rebuilt using the Qt software architecture and designed with a focus on speed, simplicity, and intuitiveness. Those goals certainly appear to have been achieved—AMD says Radeon Settings opens in 0.6 seconds versus Catalyst’s 8 seconds on an E-350 APU-based Windows 10 system. Alas, AMD didn’t provide journalists with a beta build of the software, as it won’t be ready until sometime before the holidays, so I can’t speak to it firsthand.
Instead, let’s take a walk through Radeon Setting’s nooks and crannies via the scads of screenshots AMD provided. That way, you can judge for yourself whether AMD’s self-proclaimed pursuit of simplicity and intuitiveness paid off.
A tour of AMD’s Radeon Software Crimson’s Settings
Before we dive, let’s discuss about the Radeon Software Crimson name for a brief moment.
“Crimson” doesn’t replace Catalyst; “Radeon Software” does. “Crimson” is the name for the major 2015/2016 release of Radeon Software, similar to how last year’s was dubbed Omega. Periodic driver updates—AMD hopes to push about six WHQL-certified drivers per year going forward, not tied to an email registration, though it promises more details in coming weeks—will be designated by a “year.month” date stamp. So a driver released next February would be named Radeon Software Crimson 02.16. Each major yearly update will be christened with a new name revolving around a red hue—Radeon Software Burgandy being an example provided by AMD.
But enough about naming conventions. Here’s what Radeon Settings looks like when you open it up. Click on the image to enlarge it if need be.
As you can see, it’s built around several straightforward sections: Gaming, video, display, Eyefinity, and system info reside across a bar at the top, while information about preferences, notifications from AMD, and available updates gather at the bottom. The large central section will house promotional ads for new games and AMD hardware, just like the splash area in the current Catalyst Control Center, though AMD also hopes to embed Twitch streams of big events in there as well.
Clicking the Gaming tab reveals an interface that displays all the games installed on your PC, as well as an option for global settings. While AMD’s optional, Raptr-powered Gaming Evolved app automatically optimizes your graphics options based on your hardware configuration at an in-game level, Radeon Software Crimson forces the changes at a deeper hardware level. In other words, the two programs perform two different tricks, and both will be available going forward.
Diving into the Global Settings option of the Gaming tab reveals two different tools: Graphics options you can enable for every game you play…
…and AMD’s longstanding OverDrive overclocking tools, which perform as before.
Radeon Settings also lets you create individual graphics profiles for your games, so you can enable, say, specific anti-aliasing methods in certain games but not others. Individual game profiles are nothing new, but Crimson adds a very interesting twist: Unique OverDrive settings for individual games.
If your graphics card can handle most games without breaking a sweat, but needs a little extra oomph to hit that sweet, sweet 60 frames per second on a particularly beefy title, you can now configure the game’s profile to kick in overclocking on that title alone, rather than universally. That’s hella cool, especially since some people are scared to overclock because increased heat can reduce the lifespan of a graphics card.
Next page: Finishing the tour of Radeon Software Crimson
Moving on, the Video tab offers tools for people who want to exert a bit more control over—you guessed it—video playback.
The core part of the tab revolves around numerous video profiles optimized for specific situations, such as sports, home videos, and the outdoors. Clicking on the Demo option in the upper-right “toggles a split-screen demo mode,” presumably so you can preview the visual difference between various profiles.
Clicking on “More…” next to the Demo option reveals additional unknown settings, while creating a Custom video profile brings up these configurable options.
The Display tab is pretty straightforward. Each monitor in your setup is represented, with some quick-action options for each. (Obviously, if your hardware doesn’t support a particular feature—like FreeSync —it’ll be grayed-out.) Both the More and Additional Settings options in the upper right reveal more detailed screen-tweaking options.
While it could thematically be bundled inside the Display tab, Eyefinity earns its own dedicated tab in Radeon Software Crimson. The most notable feature here is a new Quick Setup option, which, with a single click, automatically configures your multi-monitor setup—no muss, no fuss.
Once Quick Setup performs its magic, you’ll be able to reshuffle your display layout manually if the automagic got it wrong. For even more control there’s an Advanced Setup option, presumably stocked with all the granular settings you can already find in Catalyst Control Center.
The System tab displays all the nitty gritty information about your PC, from the high-level overview above…
…to deeper hardware information, down to your total memory bandwidth, bus settings, and BIOS date…
…to in-depth details about the software on your system, like the operating system, driver specifics, and even OpenCL/OpenGL/Direct3D version information.
Speaking of software, the Updates tab lets you know if your Radeon Software Crimson driver’s up to date, or if a new one’s available. You can also manually check for updates.
The Preferences tab, meanwhile, lets you configure how Radeon Software Crimson itself behaves. You can tell it to stick around in the Windows system tray or disable the banner ads on Radeon Setting’s main page, for example.
Outside of the core Radeon Software Crimson interface, the new software also introduces a revamped right-click context menu with quick options for changing graphics settings, video profiles, and more.
That’s it for our tour of Radeon Software Crimson and Radeon Settings, the much-needed overhaul of AMD’s graphical software. On paper, it looks pretty damned appealing in a way that Catalyst never did.
Don’t get too excited just yet though. Crimson won’t be available until sometime later in the fourth quarter, and when it does land, it’ll be restricted to Windows alone—though the fact that it’s based on the cross-platform Qt architecture hints that it could spread further as time goes on. Patience, grasshopper.