More games get a Chill
Radeon Chill also enjoys greatly expanded compatibility with today's games in Adrenalin. If you're not already familiar with the feature, Radeon Chill analyzes in-game action and inputs to dynamically adjust frame rates. This feature prevents the waste of power and computing resources on largely static scenes with small frame-to-frame differences. In our experience, Chill can net major power-consumption and noise-reduction figures for Radeon cards without affecting games' responsiveness. Neat as Chill is, though its appeal has been limited since its launch thanks to a restrictive list of compatible games: a total of 22 as of Radeon Software 17.7.2.
Since Chill's introduction, AMD says it's continued to test a wide range of games with the feature while tuning its algorithm and ensuring that software plays well with its dynamic nature. With Adrenalin Edition, the company is now confident enough that Chill won't have adverse effects on gameplay that it's doing away with the whitelist entirely and replacing it with a blacklist of incompatible titles. AMD is stopping short of enabling the feature by default in its drivers, but it's so sure that Chill won't muck with gameplay experiences that it hasn't put a single title on its blacklist yet. In short, when Chill is on, it's on in Adrenalin.
Chill now starts with a 70-FPS minimum target and a 144-FPS maximum, though it doesn't jump right to that FPS maximum when a game transitions from largely static content to a regular movement speed in a shooter, for example. (If you want a rev limiter for your frame rate, you want Frame Rate Target Control.) Instead, Chill's algorithm throttles back a game to the minimum frame rate possible in largely static scenes, as promised. In more active sequences, it won't floor the card's accelerator pedal. Instead, our frame-rate monitoring tools show that Chill tends to find something resembling a midpoint between the minimum and maximum frame rate settings, or it'll simply run the card at its maximum possible frame rate if a given game can't run at that apparent midpoint. To be fair, we know that frame rates change far faster than a one-second or wider update window can capture in most monitoring utilities, so it's likely that some especially fast frames are being rendered behind the scenes. Still, the net result is not a flat 300 FPS on average in lightweight titles, even if you do max out Chill's slider. This is still a power-saving feature, after all.
On our reference Radeon RX Vega 64, and with a 60 FPS-to-300-FPS range, this behavior tended to ramp the card's fan speeds up and down in a rather annoying—though understandable—pattern in Wolfenstein II. Chill was allowing the Vega 64 to hit its well-over-100-FPS potential when the game was in full motion, and we know that the card is sucking down plenty of wattage at those frame rates. Using Chill's narrower 70-FPS-to-144-FPS range, the algorithm tended not to cause quite so much of a racket. Even with its newfound range of compatibility, Chill still seems best employed in games like Doom, Wolfenstein II, and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive that have performance potential to spare on high-end, high-wattage Radeons. I'd appreciate the option to bias Chill's apparent "midpoint" toward extra-quiet operation or higher performance when a game is in motion, but the feature otherwise lives up to its promises without catastropic consequences for the games I tested.
Enhanced Sync enhances all GCN Radeons
In keeping with the same-features-in-more-places theme, AMD is also bringing Enhanced Sync to every GCN-powered graphics card, not just those with Polaris and Vega GPUs. Recall that Enhanced Sync is a rendering method that allows the graphics card and game engine to run at unlimited frame rates while letting the monitor display only the most recent completed frame. This approach provides better input lag than traditional vsync while minimizing ugly tearing artifacts. The company claims this update was the most requested by its users since the feature made its debut back in July. On top of its broader graphics-card support, Enhanced Sync now works with Vulkan titles like Doom and Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus. It works with multi-GPU configurations. It works with Eyefinity. Whatever esoteric Radeon setup you have, Enhanced Sync likely works with it now so long as it's GCN.
I didn't play with Enhanced Sync when it first launched with Radeon Software Crimson ReLive Edition 17.7.2, and boy, was I missing out. In combination with a 144-Hz FreeSync monitor, Adrenalin's Enhanced Sync proved utterly intoxicating when I fired up Doom's Vulkan renderer on our Radeon RX Vega 64 testbed. The preternatural smoothness and responsiveness of Enhanced Sync with the game running at its 200-FPS cap is hard to put into words, and my FreeSync monitor never let tearing rear its head even when frame rates dipped below the display's maximum refresh rate. Not every Radeon graphics card will offer a similarly swift experience, to be fair, but if yours can push more than even 60 FPS on a 60-Hz display, it's definitely worth enabling Enhanced Sync in exchange for its minor input lag penalty.
As with every Radeon Software release, there are some minor improvements that are largely self-explanatory. Here's a grab bag of those improvements, in no particular order:
- Folks who create custom overclocking profiles using the WattMan utility can now save and share those profiles with others using an import-and-export function in the WattMan interface. Although overclocking potential varies by chip, shared profiles for a given GPU might help members of the community get off on a better foot when exploring the untapped performance potential of their Radeons.
- Frame Rate Target Control, which places a hard cap on the frame rate a Radeon can produce for better efficiency, now works with Vulkan titles like Doom, Dota 2, Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus, and The Talos Principle.
- A new Compute profile under the GPU Workload setting in WattMan could potentially increase performance for cryptocurrency mining applications on some Radeons.
- Those with multiple Radeons in their PCs can now enjoy borderless-window mode for theoretically smoother alt-tabbing in and out of games.
Now that we've seen the various refinements and additions that make up Adrenalin Edition, let's see how AMD is bringing some those features together into one easy-to-access in-game interface.