AMD Catalyst 14.1 Beta Driver Brings Mantle to Gamers

By Published February 02, 2014 at 8:42 pm

AMD's newest Catalyst 14.1 bet drivers introduce Mantle support on all GCN-enabled GPUs available, including modern APUs and all Radeon 7000 cards and onwards (7000, 8000, RX 200, and Kaveri APUs). In testing performed around the web, the most significant performance gains can be found in the 290 & 290X, 260 / 7790, and Kaveri APUs.

Mantle makes the most sense as a booster for low-end hardware (like APUs) moreso than the high-end stuff; with an APU, your borderline between medium and high settings at 1080p is going to be more noticeable than on a 290X (which is already more powerful than any game can truly utilize). Mantle makes the difference between playable and unplayable FPS on Kaveri chips and low-end discrete GPUs.

For those not current on AMD, the short of Mantle is that it is an API bypass (alternative) to DirectX, giving software programmers more direct access to the GPU and eliminating dX overhead. This means more of the GPU can be leveraged to drive draw calls, equalizing load distribution (lifting some API load from the CPU) and eliminating bottlenecks in the software/OS layers.

After delays due to a bug infestation, Battlefield 4 stands as the first mainstream game on the market to officially support AMD's Mantle. The recent 1GB+ patch served almost entirely to add Mantle support to AMD GPUs (though nVidia users still had to download what was effectively useless data), and now that AMD's driver is out, players on supported devices should start seeing performance improvements in the form of higher framerates and smoother frame delivery.

On that note, the new 14.1 Catalyst driver update brings what AMD calls "phase 2" frame-pacing to older AMD hardware. We've frequently noted that nVidia offers the most consistent frame-time delivery among GPU manufacturers; historically, nVidia GPUs have tended to render frames with a tighter latency (interval) than AMD's offerings, which reported slightly more sporadic frame delivery in most games. Catalyst 14.1 beta's introduction of phase 2 frame-pacing will resolve multi-monitor (Eyefinity, 4K) frame output issues experienced previously. The driver update also finally puts Dual Graphics into the fight, giving owners of both discrete and integrated GPUs (an APU + dedicated configuration, for instance) a means to utilize both GPUs simultaneously to bolster performance.

The driver can be downloaded here: http://support.amd.com/en-us/kb-articles/Pages/latest-catalyst-windows-beta.aspx

- Steve "Lelldorianx" Burke.

Steve Burke

Steve started GamersNexus back when it was just a cool name, and now it's grown into an expansive website with an overwhelming amount of features. He recalls his first difficult decision with GN's direction: "I didn't know whether or not I wanted 'Gamers' to have a possessive apostrophe -- I mean, grammatically it should, but I didn't like it in the name. It was ugly. I also had people who were typing apostrophes into the address bar - sigh. It made sense to just leave it as 'Gamers.'"

First world problems, Steve. First world problems.

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