AMD's new Catalyst Omega drivers close the gap with Nvidia

AMD Catalyst Omega header

AMD's new Catalyst Omega drivers have been released, and this may be the single-biggest driver update we've ever seen. There are performance optimizations for a range of AMD's cards, but more importantly, AMD has added a heap of features, like downsampling support and FreeSync. This is a big deal for AMD, which has been lagging behind Nvidia's GeForce Experience Software, especially since the release of the GTX 970 and 980.

The best performance improvements come for AMD's top-end graphics cards, the R9 295X2, 290X, 290, and 285. GPU optimization has let AMD crank 10-20% more performance out of these cards across a swath of popular games.

A new feature for the R9 cards, Virtual Super Resolution (VSR), is similar to Dynamic Super Resolution (DSR) found on Nvidia's Maxwell cards. It renders a game at a higher resolution (up to 4K) then displays it at a lower resolution (typically the monitor's native, like 1080p), making for smoother textures and edges and simulating super sampling anti-aliasing (SSAA) for games that don't support it. Unfortunately, VSR's resolution is limited to 3200x1800 on several cards, though it can go up to 3840x2160 on the R9 285.

The drivers also enable AMD's open-source FreeSync technology, which will reduce stuttering and tearing in games running at less than 60 FPS when using a compatible monitor—the first of which should be hitting the market in early 2015.

AMD Catalyst Omega bug fixes

Even for older AMD Radeon cards, the Catalyst Omega drivers provide a slew of bug fixes and performance tweaks. For AMD systems running dual graphics (using an AMD APU and GPU in conjunction) or CrossFire (dual-GPU) setups, frame pacing has been an issue, which causes games to feel choppy or sluggish—despite a high framerate—when the frames are not delivered at a regular interval. The Catalyst Omega greatly improves this issue, offering as much as a 29% performance increase on the AMD A10 7850K APU as compared to the original Catalyst 14.2 drivers from when that processor was released.

Legitreviews points out that AMD's frame pacing improvements are for "15 popular game titles," including Batman: Arkham Origins, Tomb Raider, and the Metro series.

Nvidia's still beating AMD in the hardware game, but this is a much-needed driver update to bring AMD's software closer to Nvidia's. There's a ton more features detailed on the AMD community blog, and the drivers are currently available for download here.

Bo Moore

As the former head of PC Gamer's hardware coverage, Bo was in charge of helping readers better understand and use PC hardware. He also headed up the buying guides, picking the best peripherals and components to spend your hard-earned money on. He can usually be found playing Overwatch, Apex Legends, or more likely, with his cats. He is now IGN's resident tech editor and PC hardware expert.