Say hello to Radeon Crimson, goodbye to Catalyst

Owners of Radeon graphics cards can look forward to a fresh, modernized user interface in the coming months. AMD will soon be replacing its venerable Catalyst driver stack with a revamped software suite known as Radeon Crimson. Gone is the Catalyst Control Center, supplanted by "Radeon Settings."

The updated driver suite will bring with it a user interface overhaul and a fresh design motif featuring deep red brushed metal and flat, clean controls rendered in shades of gray.

Here's an example from the Overdrive settings that nicely illustrates the new look in action.

I think it looks sharp, with crisp and legible representations of key info.

Radeon Crimson isn't just a cosmetic update, though. The current Catalyst Control Center was constructed with Microsoft's .NET tools, but the new UI is being built using the Qt framework. Partially as a consequence of that change, the start-up time for the UI—long a point of frustration for Radeon users—should be dramatically reduced. AMD says the average start time for Catalyst Control Center is about eight seconds, while Radeon Settings ought to fire up in about 0.6 seconds—possibly quicker on high-end systems. The UI animations are supposed to be faster and more fluid, too.

We can't yet verify those claim since we haven't gotten our hands on a pre-release version of the new software. AMD tells us it plans to release the software to the public before the end of this year, just "weeks from now." As a result, what we know about Radeon Crimson comes from AMD presentations, not hands-on experience.

That said, the firm did go into some detail in disclosing its plans for Crimson. The revised settings app includes a number of new or updated features. Radeon Settings can detect which games are present on a user's system and allow the user to tweak the control panel options like antialiasing modes and Frame Rate Target Control on a per-game basis. The familiar video options UI gets simpler to use with the addition of several pre-baked profiles for enabling scaling and post-processing enhancements.

AMD has even taken the risk of reworking the Eyefinity multi-display setup dialogs, which are pretty solid and deeply tweakable in Catalyst. The setup of multi-display configurations purportedly becomes quicker and simpler as a result.

All in all, this early preview of Radeon Crimson looks quite promising. This software release also symbolically heralds a changing of the guard inside of AMD, with the formation of the Radeon Technologies Group as a largely separate entity under the leadership of Raja Koduri. Indeed, the Catalyst brand has long been a part of AMD's "fusion" theme. The introduction of Crimson marks a return to more straightforward Radeon-themed branding from the graphics side of AMD.

Meanwhile, one can't help but notice the similarities, from the wide aspect ratio of the settings window to the deep grays of the color palette, to another familiar UI: Nvidia's GeForce Experience. GFE has become Nvidia's primary user interface for most of GeForce owners, and it will soon become the only way to obtain certain driver releases.

Radeon Settings will do some of what GFE does, including auto-detection of installed games, notifications of driver releases and other news, and quick downloads of driver updates. It will not, however, offer recommended image quality settings on a per-game basis, nor will it record gaming sessions or stream them to services like Twitch. Radeon owners will still have to use the Gaming Evolved app from Raptr in order to get those features—at least for the time being. On the other hand, Radeon Settings does replace AMD's older control panel entirely, while Nvidia's has soldiered on virtually unchanged for years.

AMD hasn't yet said whether the Radeon Crimson drivers will include performance improvements for Radeon GPUs, but perhaps we'll find out more on that front once the release date approaches.

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