AMD revamps Catalyst to Radeon Software Crimson

Now bigger, prettier, and far less useful screens

AMD Radeon Logo 2013AMD is finally bringing their drivers into the current decade, partially, with the new Crimson release. With luck this initial window dressing will extend to real change, SemiAccurate will wait and see.

The big news today is that the Catalyst drivers are now history, welcome the new Crimson drivers. To be fair to the marketing people we technically have to call them Radeon Software Crimson Edition 15.11, but we will just use Crimson from now on. Every year will see a different shade of red for the name, Crimson is the 2015/2106 version. This new direction change has one real benefit, sort of, and a lot of fluff. The people behind Crimson say that this is just the first step, the real deep changes are going to follow as they are ready.

The biggest changes are to the framework used to build the user facing UI, it went from .NET to QT, a really smart change. This alone brings about a reduction in startup times from a claimed 8 seconds to .6 seconds, .NET is really the pig you think it is. QT is also fully cross-platform and that means… that means AMD still neglects other platforms who won’t be getting these changes. The Linux driver base, when it works, is still based on their 2006 era code base with most features removed, this alone makes us really not care about the rest of the fluff ‘added’.

What is that fluff? A new UI that apes the really miserable Windows 8/10 tile crap that no one other than a single SemiAccurate writer and about a dozen others seem to like. Now the AMD driver settings can look like that too, big boxes with low content density. The company says this is a step forward but from the look of it, don’t count on it being better unless you can’t handle anything more complex than a few big buttons.

AMD Crimson drivers main screen

Some find vast empty spaces comforting

Before you say, “you haven’t tried it so don’t knock it yet”, AMD hasn’t provided any beta versions for us to even play with so we can’t. Launching a product while hoping for great fanfare without providing an opportunity for independent evaluations is always a really bad sign. AMD has been doing far too much of this lately for us to give them the benefit of the doubt too. It is piss-ugly, has all the UI concepts that are ruining the web, and we can’t try it for several weeks, any more questions?

Another big change is per-game settings, something you will have to manually configure for now. Unlike the current methods, whatever they may be they are Windows only so we can’t actually test them, the new method does not change things in-game. There is also per-game overclocking settings too so that you can tweak just about all you want on the fly. It all sounds useful enough on paper but implementation details will make or break it.

Moving on AMD pulled out the Video settings into a different set of menus so those of you who like clicking on big boxes and tiles will be very satisfied. Instead of information dense screens you have a new empty screen with massive boxes around each checkbox. If you crave that cell phone UI for the ‘slow user set’ experience, you are going to love this new driver release. “Several optimized video profiles allow you to customize your video experience with ease and simplicity”. Yes it does, a full screen for eight radio buttons is indeed aimed at the simple, if you weren’t you would be annoyed that the granular and useful setting are much harder to get to now.

AMD Crimson drivers video settings screen

Won’t this utilize a 4K screen well?

If the video profile page isn’t enough for you, there are also full pages for Freesync and Eyefinity, yes full pages at no extra cost! Instead of one page with all the setting you need, you can have three each with less than a dozen things to click on. For those that feel overwhelmed by this plethora of choices, the Eyefinity setup page has only two comforting choices, Quick and Advanced setups. Luckily system information is on a completely different page because eight tiny bits of information that could be shown all the time on all pages is much better when it takes up a full screen half filled with eight big tiles. Any questions why Microsoft has lost about 1/3 of their TAM recently? We only have one, why is AMD following this path?

But wait, there is more! The UI has moved from ugly but fairly useful information dense screens to a new brushed metal look with sparsely populated boxes. But now there are omnipresent social media buttons, and a big box at the bottom with a check to indicate new versions available. The center of the box is called the customer communications space, essentially a place for OEMs to put their marketing fluff and AMD to push out new game info and the like. Before you get nervous, this isn’t a prelude to forced ads like Windows 10 now does, it is essentially what Catalyst does at the moment just bigger and more obvious. While presently innocuous it is not a good trend but thankfully it is Windows only. Better yet there appears to be a box to turn off banners be they advertising or not.

In the end that is what Crimson looks like to us, a rearchitected UI based on painfully failed paradigms that are tanking the PC market and ruining the web. These dumbed down UIs with big boxes and little to no useful information per screen are unquestionably not a step forward. They may be pretty to some but clicking down 17 steps to get to 1/7th of the options you need are not a good trend. Neither is not letting anyone play with the changes before they are asked to heap praise upon them, but the usual suspects will anyway. We will care sometime in 2019 when AMD may release a version for an OS we can use.S|A

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Charlie Demerjian

Roving engine of chaos and snide remarks at SemiAccurate
Charlie Demerjian is the founder of Stone Arch Networking Services and is a technology news site; addressing hardware design, software selection, customization, securing and maintenance, with over one million views per month. He is a technologist and analyst specializing in semiconductors, system and network architecture. As head writer of, he regularly advises writers, analysts, and industry executives on technical matters and long lead industry trends. Charlie is also available through Guidepoint and Mosaic. FullyAccurate