Does AMD’s Crimson Driver Suite Really Increase Performance By 20%?

As we reported earlier this week AMD has released an elaborate overhaul of both it’s Windows 10 / 8 / 7 drivers for AMD Radeon Cards that support the Graphics Card Next (GCN) architecture. In the interest of performance, I’ve decided to test the performance of the last AMD Catalyst Software / Driver versus the newly released AMD Crimson. Check out my testing methodology, suite of games and results after the jump!


The Testing Environment

My gaming rig should probably be considered a mid-tier or middle of the road gaming PC with the RAM speed and graphics card being the lowest performing pieces as of right now. I am using an entirely AMD based rig with an octa-core processor clocked at 4.0GHZ with stock cooling. My ram is 16GB divided into four 4GB DIMMs and for the purpose of this test my Radeon R7 370 2GB graphics card will be running at the stock clock speed – hopefully giving an “out of the box” type performance rating rather than one that’s been tweaked with additional software.
All games were tested in a recently re-freshed Windows 10 installation with any background processes / programs disabled except the required launchers needed to run the games.

PC Specs

AMD FX-8370 Octa-core Running @ 4GHZ
Radeon R7 370 2GB
500GB Western Blue Mechanical Hard-Drives x2
All of the games tested where monitored using the free version of FRAPS.


The Games

The fact is that everyone who plays games on a Windows machine will have different tastes when compared with others, even if only slightly. For this reason, I attempted to chose titles from a number of different genres to see how the drivers worked with some of the latest games but also some older titles that have been noticeably taxing on system. Given that these tests are limited by my digital library some titles may have newer versions – for example I went with Advanced Warfare over the newer Call of Duty: Black Ops III because own it. I tried to keep the gameplay experience with these games as close to “real world” performance as possible – that means playing the same sections, the same maps and for the same duration as possible between the “pre-driver” and “post-driver” installation.

All games tested on 1080p using Windows 10 on either “Ultra” or “High” graphical settings

Heroes of the Storm – Completed one complete match (around 20 minutes) with AI teammates.
Batman Arkham Knight – Loaded a save from the very beginning of the game. Swooped around several buildings and initiated at least two random encounter fights with goons at street level. (Playtime aprox 5 minutes).
Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare Multiplayer – Played at least one multiplayer game against human opponents via matchmaking.
Fallout 4 – Ran around Diamond City marketplace visiting several stalls and vendors around town. (Note: these tests do include the Dynamics Shadows Mod we covered earlier in the week)



It is clear from the testing that I performed that AMD’s brand new Crimson software and drivers will enable even medium range hardware to experience a significant improvement in terms of frames per second. In my testing the biggest difference wasn’t in the highest FPS possible while playing some of the newest games but rather in the lowest number of frames per second. Realistically this means that demanding titles like Fallout 4 and Batman: Arkham Knight will run smoother and be more accessible to players whose hardware might have been struggling to run them.

You can download the AMD crimson drivers here. If you’re interested in the raw data behind the tests that I ran here’s the numbers:


The 20% Improvement?

Due to the fact that the highest FPS possible on most of the tested games was exactly the same or within two frames pre-crimson and post-installation I decided to measure the percentage gained on the lowest FPS per title. It breaks down like this:

Batman Arkham Knight – 20% Low FPS Gain
Fallout 4 – 10% Difference Low FPS Gain
Call of Duty Advanced Warfare Multi – 65% Low FPS Gain
Heroes of the Storm – 0% Low FPS Gain
Clearly the 20% FPS difference that the leaked AMD slides mention is particular to one game and one gain only. Three out of the four games that I tested had at least a 10% Low FPS gain once Crimson had been installed. Interestingly Blizzard’s Heroes of the Storm saw no increase what-so-ever.

Will Crimson help edge AMD over Nvidia? Maybe not – but for owners of AMD’s graphics cards it’s looking like Crimson might make your favorite game just a little bit faster.

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