AMD graphics cards could get a free speed boost

AMD could give its graphics cards a big boost with an incoming driver that considerably improves performance, or that’s the word from the GPU grapevine.

This comes from YouTube leaker RedGamingTech (RGT) who has heard from a couple of separate sources that AMD is in the process of making some meaningful changes across its driver stack.

Specifically, we’re talking about DirectX 11 (DX11) improvements, plus OpenCL and OpenGL, and performance could be ramped up to the extent that AMD gives the driver a new name – supposedly ‘Vanguard’ (take that with an especially heavy dose of condiments, though, as it might just be a pre-release codename).

The revamped driver version is rumored to arrive in a month or two, apparently, though it might make sense to launch it alongside AMD’s incoming RDNA 3 graphics cards to make an even bigger impact with those next-gen GPUs (which will likely come later in 2022 – but we don’t know exactly when, of course).

The performance tweaks won’t be limited to RDNA 3 products, mind, and should apply to all of AMD’s more recent graphics cards. RGT isn’t sure how far back support will go with the new driver, but we can hope it’ll reach multiple past generations. (Although the reality is it could quite possibly be limited to RDNA 3 plus RX 6000 GPUs, at least in terms of the big performance upticks, if recent driver changes are anything to go by – we’ll discuss that in the next section).

Analysis: Boosting performance – and changing public perceptions?

As RGT points out, this theoretical driver would potentially usher in some important performance boosts, because there are still a good number of games that use DX11, even though it’s been superseded by DX12, or titles that offer both but may run better with the former.

This rumor holds more weight because we’ve seen with a fresh beta graphics driver that AMD is already trying to push forward with DX11 performance, making some big claims of average frame rate gains of around 10% with RX 6000 series GPUs (current-gen products are the ones which see the biggest difference).

And it’s true that a third-party, the developer of CapFrameX (a frame time capture and analysis utility) has done some benchmarking and discovered a few major leaps forward with certain games, like God of War performing up to 41% better with the new driver, and a 24% surge in frame rates for Crysis Remastered.

Clearly, this is something AMD wants to work at, so it makes sense that it’ll be an ongoing focus – and if the future driver is indeed furnished with a new name, that indicates some fairly hefty changes under the hood. We shouldn’t get carried away with rumors, though, so let’s temper our expectations for now.

To some extent, this may all be part of a grander plan for AMD to distance itself from the idea that it has somewhat wonkier drivers than Nvidia, as that perception is still one that clouds Team Red’s GPU range. Indeed, it’s something that Nvidia recently had a jab at as you may recall, asserting that it has ‘superior’ GPU drivers.

There was a time, not so long ago, when most everyone thought Intel was the ‘safe’ CPU bet above AMD, and then Ryzen came along to turn that idea around, or at least level the playing field in terms of reputation for reliability. Now, maybe AMD is attempting to perform a similar trick with its GPUs…

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