After new beta Catalysts, AMD to slow driver release cycle

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.

Comments closed
    • ew
    • 7 years ago

    [quote<]you’ll only need to upgrade to a new Catalyst driver, when it makes sense[/quote<] I was already skipping versions that weren't relevant to me.

    • HisDivineOrder
    • 7 years ago

    I was reading the same over at Anandtech and he seemed to think it was a great move. I remain skeptical, but hopeful. I acknowledge that they might do as “well” as nVidia and do alright by this (though nVidia had a period there where they had no new drivers for a long, long while). I’m concerned though that AMD is using the potential for how this could be better as a cover for the real intention of just reducing driver development altogether.

    Look how long it took them to merge the 79xx series into the main driver series. Look at how they managed the Rage, BF3 releases with separate and disparate driver releases. Seeing the AMD that could so badly screw up a driver release (Rage), could release Bulldozer, could release the 7970 as a high end part that’s barely ahead of the 580 and gets smacked around by a part designed to just be a mainstream part (680) from nVidia, given all of the firings of the last year and the fact that Bulldozer’s not getting a full-on replacement for a good while yet in favor of more Trinity for the high end desktop market…

    Well, I don’t trust their motives.

      • cynan
      • 7 years ago

      [quote<]I'm concerned though that AMD is using the potential for how this could be better as a cover for the real intention of just reducing driver development altogether.[/quote<] On point. I think most people's trepidations can be summed up by that sentence. Time will tell I guess. [quote<] ...could release the 7970 as a high end part that... ...gets smacked around by a part designed to just be a mainstream part (680) from nVidia.[/quote<] This, however, is just fanboi nonsense :P. Does the GTX 680 outperform the stock clocked HD 7970 in most games, particularly at resolutions below 4 MP? Yes. But the performance increase is relatively marginal, and will be more so when 1 Ghz becomes the norm stock clock for the 7970. Furthermore, as long as the HD 7970 can be had for roughly 10% less than a GTX 680 (as is curently the case, especially due to GTX 680 supply issues) it is priced accordingly. And not a high end part? I don't want to live in a world where a $500 GPU is considered just "mainstream".

      • Draphius
      • 7 years ago

      i agree, this is just another move away from the amd of old. that new ceo is really shaking up there world and it seems us enthusiasts are the ones left hung out ot dry

    • jdaven
    • 7 years ago

    So this means all the people who ignored the regular release schedule of drivers for the past six years and criticized Radeon drivers for infrequent updates can now claim they were right all along.

    • Arclight
    • 7 years ago

    But won’t this hinder driver support for multi GPU set-ups when new games come out in between long time driver releases? Great…..

      • Myrmecophagavir
      • 7 years ago

      I thought Crossfire profiles had been pulled out separately from the main driver releases anyway. So they can push out such profiles between driver releases. It’s been a while since I’ve had an AMD card though, so not sure if that still applies.

        • cygnus1
        • 7 years ago

        yep, profiles are separate. they did that last year i believe.

        • bittermann
        • 7 years ago

        Separating profiles from the drivers right now is just plain stupid. They include all sorts of other bloated crap in the drivers but they can’t include the 3MB profiles…stupid!

          • siberx
          • 7 years ago

          The point of separating the profiles is that they can be updated independently on a more frequent cadence than the driver packs themselves. My understanding is that the driver packs *do* include a set of profiles that are current at the time of release, but that they’re really treated as a separate piece and can be provided independent of the main driver updates (and thus requiring much less validation, etc… so we get them more often).

          This also makes things much easier for clever characters like the guy doing CCAP: [url<]http://forums.guru3d.com/showthread.php?t=354718[/url<] to fill in when AMD is behind on their profile releases.

            • Waco
            • 7 years ago

            Except that this only works in theory…

            When they started baking support for games into the drivers themselves (instead of doing it “the right way”) they completely ruined the CAP model.

            EDIT: This is coming from someone who was running Crossfire when Skyrim came out and it was UNPLAYABLE. I actually had to remove my second 4870X2 for a while because the scaling was so far negative I couldn’t play. Even then, I had to resort to RadeonPro to get it playable with “regular” Crossfire until they finally released the updated driver. Even then, scalability was poor at best.

    • Meadows
    • 7 years ago

    Finally. For too long they’ve been releasing incomplete snapshots every month with little benefit. Every month, two or three obscure titles would get a 3% improvement under obscure conditions, while some bugs continued to slip through.

    A “when it’s done” schedule does have advantages.

      • l33t-g4m3r
      • 7 years ago

      Except that ATI had no problem doing monthly snapshots, and there usually was decent benefits. AMD screwed it up.

      Not saying it doesn’t need to be fixed from what it is now, only that this didn’t use to be a problem, and they could fix the monthly releases if they wanted to. I’m with the other people seeing this as a cost cutting measure.

      Another thing, I see most of the pro-change posters as past nvidia owners who have little or no previous experience with ATI’s monthly updates, and have recently been burned with AMD’s poor releases, rage included. There’s a reason ATI released drivers monthly, and that’s because they don’t dedicate the same resources to game development like nvidia does with the twimtbp program. Unless ATI copies that too, slower releases won’t be as good as you think. I do agree something needs to be done, but whatever it is, it needs to be done right.

        • Meadows
        • 7 years ago

        About the “coming from NVidia” bit: I don’t use AMD graphics in any of my PCs (quite a sharp contrast to my CPU usage, which are all from AMD), and we have an intel/ATI configuration in the family where I update the drivers maybe twice a year when it hits me.

          • l33t-g4m3r
          • 7 years ago

          Exactly. You’re making a comment based off your experience with nvidia, not past experience with ATI. Updating onboard ati drivers twice a year doesn’t count, especially since you’re not using it as your main system.

          ATI =! Nvidia. Just because nvidia does it one way doesn’t mean amd should too.

            • Meadows
            • 7 years ago

            Of course it does. NVidia are better.

            • l33t-g4m3r
            • 7 years ago

            Tell that to the people experiencing TDRs.

            • Meadows
            • 7 years ago

            I am telling, every time. I’m getting none of that since 2008.

            • l33t-g4m3r
            • 7 years ago

            You might not, but plenty of other people are, and they don’t appreciate being marginalized.

            • Meadows
            • 7 years ago

            They’re probably holding it wrong.

            • l33t-g4m3r
            • 7 years ago

            Whatever that’s supposed to mean….. I feel like I’m talking to the reincarnation of Prime1 here.

            • Krogoth
            • 7 years ago

            Citation needed*

    • RedAdmiral
    • 7 years ago

    I would like to say that so far I’m very impressed with the crossfire performance on my 7970’s compared to 12.3 & 12.4. I’ve been using them for around three hours now with the 12.6 beta driver and several stuttering and other performance bugs have been fixed in at least a couple of games (Mafia II and Battlefield 3 so far). The screen tearing issue on the Display ports is fixed for me too. I’m glad they finally got these working on my system. Hopefully others experience good results too.

    • l33t-g4m3r
    • 7 years ago

    Problem being AMD needs to update drivers faster to compensate for not working with devs like nvidia does. Also, there didn’t use to be a problem with monthly updates back when they were ATI. What happened? If I’m not mistaken, amd had separate driver work paths, beta, stable, bugs? Probably was too much overhead and confusion. One noticeable incident was with Rage, being that Carmack had working drivers in house, but AMD screwed up the public release. IMO, something goofy happened shortly after the AMD merger, that’s when the confusion started, leading to this. Remember the separate betas for AGP cards? Didn’t those problems coincide with the merger, or is my time frame off? I may be wildly speculating here, but still…

    Regardless of how we got to this point, something does need to change, but whether this is a good change remains to be seen.

      • Forge
      • 7 years ago

      The real underlying problem is that ATI had a clear release schedule and stuck to it. AMD has been rushing “beta” drivers out to fix all + dog, and have been pulling them from whichever code tree made sense at the moment.

      Used to be:

      Team 1

      Team 2

      Team 3

      Releases: 1 2 3 1 2 3

      Worked nice!

      Now we get: (R) = Release (B) = Beta

      1R 2R 1B 3R 2B 3B 1R 1B 3B 2R 1B 2B 3R

      Or to strip away the ‘beta’ and ‘release’ tags, showing the codebase CLUSTERMUG that has resulted:

      1 2 1 3 2 3 1 1 3 2 1 2 3

      AND IN THE SAME PERIOD OF TIME! The three codebases are NOT INTERCHANGABLE, and should NOT BE PULLED FORWARD. Congrats AMD, you have mismanaged something SO SIMPLE that my 8 year old daughter understood it and pointed out the problems.

    • wiak
    • 7 years ago

    i think amd will release new WHQL drivers every 2-3 months and more beta/preview drivers, that way people have more time to test drivers before they come out as WHQL, we might well see more features this way, as they get more matured by time

    • MrJackson
    • 7 years ago

    It’s also helpful to have the CAP to go along with the new preview driver, [url<]http://sites.amd.com/us/game/downloads/pages/crossfirex-app-profiles.aspx[/url<]

    • Deanjo
    • 7 years ago

    The future is looking pretty bleak for users of the blobs in Linux as well. Guess this is what AMD meant when they recently admitted that the openCL implementation on them needed a lot of work.

    [url<]http://www.phoronix.com/scan.php?page=news_item&px=MTExMTA[/url<]

    • nstuff
    • 7 years ago

    I hope I’m wrong, but when i read “AMD would also like to announce that we are moving away from our Monthly Catalyst release plan” my initial reaction was that they are reducing staff to cut costs and would no longer be able to maintain the monthly cycle.

      • Stranger
      • 7 years ago

      that definitely could be true but I’d suspect the head count reduction would be mostly from the testing and QC. (knock on wood)

      • Rand
      • 7 years ago

      The pessimist in me agrees, AMD wants to save money. Driver development is a deemed a good place to chop employees.
      It also says they’ll hold back on fixes because they haven’t yet reached some unspecified “significant benefit” quota.

      The optimist in me says, who cares? nVidia updates their drivers whenever needed. Sometimes months between drivers, it doesn’t seem to hurt them any. Sometimes there just isn’t much to fix, so may as well keep quietly working in the background on new features/options/functionality/harder to resolve/rare bugs rather then throwing out a release just to say we have one.

        • Zoomer
        • 7 years ago

        Many people don’t bother updating anyway if nothing significant changed. For example, I’m still on 11.12 for my 6870. The new drivers have been focused on GCN. With the 5xxx/6xxx and APUs being on VLIW5/4, there’s much more validation to be done for the two separate branches of the driver.

      • Corrado
      • 7 years ago

      I thought they had two driver teams working with two month release schedules, alternating. Its possible they consolidated into one?

    • indeego
    • 7 years ago

    muddled[b<].[/b<]<----Green period.

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