Later this week, AMD is going to release a fresh batch of beta Catalyst drivers. These new drivers will feature a gaggle of optimizations for graphics processors based on the Graphics Core Next architecture—that is, most members of the Radeon HD 7000-series family, from the 7750 on up.
These optimizations will purportedly yield substantial dividends in the form of performance increases, which should be visible across the board, in both DirectX 10 and DirectX 11 titles. AMD touts an "average" performance boost of 15%, but it says increases of as much as 30-40% can be seen in some Battlefield 3 maps. Only GCN-based offerings will benefit, though. AMD says it's already had five years to optimize the VLIW architectures of 6000-series and older Radeons, but it's only beginning to tap into the full potential of newer, GCN-based products.
In the case of the 12.11 beta drivers, tapping more deeply into that potential has involved a number of tweaks throughout the software stack. AMD says many of the tweaks have to do with memory management—specifically, the handling of textures and surfaces as they move back and forth across the GPU's memory and caches. Other tweaks involved understanding how popular shaders run on GCN-based products and where bubbles occur in the pipeline. AMD says it's also optimized thread and surface management, and it mentions miscellaneous, "generic level" improvements.
Radeon HD 7000-series users can purportedly look forward to further performance increases over the next year or so, too, as AMD continues to optimize its drivers for the GCN architecture.
Coupled with the new game bundles introduced today, these optimizations could further sway consumers toward Radeons during the holiday shopping rush. Of course, we'll have to see for ourselves whether AMD's performance claims check out in the real world. It's not uncommon to see driver releases promise meaty performance increases that turn out only to apply in best-case scenarios. We already know the latest optimizations may yield only marginal benefits at higher tessellation and antialiasing levels.
Incidentally, AMD also has WHQL-certified 12.10 Catalyst drivers in the pipeline for this week. However, those drivers won't feature the GCN optimizations. Radeon HD 7000-series users will want to grab the non-WHQL-certified 12.11 beta release in order to enjoy the best performance.
Update 4:00 PM: The Catalyst 12.11 beta drivers are now available from AMD's knowledge base site. They support Windows 8, 7, and Vista.