After new beta Catalysts, AMD to slow driver release cycle


— 5:37 PM on May 31, 2012

There's a new set of graphics drivers out for Radeon users. The Catalyst 12.6 Beta Driver is available here, and it adds a handful of bug fixes (mostly related to multi-GPU and multi-display configs), support for Dual Graphics configurations with Trinity APUs, and Dual Graphics profiles for several games (among them: Diablo 3, Skyrim, and StarCraft 2).

More notably, AMD has used this opportunity to announce a major change to its driver update cycle. Turns out the company will stop serving up new Catalyst graphics drivers every month; instead, updates will come out only if they deliver "a substantial benefit to . . . end users." Here's the full text of the announcement, as posted by AMD:

With the release of the AMD Catalyst™ 12.6 Beta driver (“Catalyst”), AMD would also like to announce that we are moving away from our Monthly Catalyst release plan. Our goal is to ensure that every Catalyst release delivers a substantial benefit to our end users; as we have today with the release of the Catalyst 12.6a Beta. We will still continue with the Catalyst naming convention; Catalyst: Year.Month. You just won’t see a new driver every single month. We are confident that this will only benefit the end user; you’ll only need to upgrade to a new Catalyst driver, when it makes sense.

Catalyst drivers have been coming out every month like clockwork since before AMD acquired ATI in 2006, so this signals a big change of direction for the company. I suppose it might be for the best, though. Earlier this year, we saw the firm virtually pelt users with new drivers. Updates came out several times a month, features showed up in "preview" drivers but were absent from subsequent WHQL-certified updates, and things were generally rather muddled.

Nvidia has managed to stay on top of new game releases with a much slower update schedule, so perhaps AMD will follow along the same path. And perhaps users will be better off for it. I hope this doesn't mean we'll have to wait longer for bug fixes and important additions, though.

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