AMD's Catalyst 14.1 drivers are incoming with Mantle update and more

Josh Norem

Mantle update, frame pacing fixes, and more arriving soon

AMD let us know that it's on-schedule with its highly-anticipated Mantle API update for Battlefield 4, and will be delivering it January 30th . Following the update it will release Catalyst 14.1 Beta drivers, which are required to run the Mantle API in Battlefield. The new drivers will include the mantle update as well as a host of additional updates that include phase two of its frame pacing fix, HSA implementation for Kaveri APUs , and more.

According to AMD, the Mantle patch will arrive via an update through the Origin client for Battlefield 4 on January 30th, at 4:00AM EST. To receive the update you must update the game through Origin. The game won't automatically default to using the Mantle API however, but you'll be able to select it in the game's options. To be honest, we're still a bit unclear on whether you'll be able to run Mantle on a driver other than Catalyst 14.1, but we'll find out soon enough. AMD tells us the Catalyst 14.1 drivers are required to run Mantle in Battlefield 4, so you can update your game apparently but won't be able to run it unless you have the new driver. The highly-anticipated Mantle demo StarSwarm will also be coming out in on Steam January 30th at "roughly" 3:00PM. You can see a video of it in action right here .

Since you are probably wondering what kind of performance improvement you will see with the Mantle update, assuming you are using a GCN-based GPU (HD 7000, R9, and R7 GPUs), AMD has sent us information from its testing that will give you some insight. First off, it notes that the biggest gains will be achieved on systems with mid-to-low end CPUs that are essentially CPU constrained. According to AMD, "Mantle makes the most significant (and we do mean significant ) performance benefit for gaming scenarios that are CPU-limited."

For those of you with beefy CPUs where the GPU is the limiting factor, AMD says don't get your hopes up. It writes, "An API change is unlikely to make a drastic change in these scenarios, as GPU resources are being maximally utilized in a fashion that is difficult to improve at the API-level."

Briefly, here are the numbers AMD has provided for Battlefield 4 :

CPU: AMD A10-7700K with Radeon R9 290X - 40.9% improvement at 1080p, 40.1% improvement at 1600p.

CPU: Intel Core i7-4960x with Radeon R7 260x - 2.7% improvement at 1080p, 1.4% improvement at 1600p.

It also provided numbers for the upcoming RTS demo from Oxide games named StarSwarm:

CPU: AMD A10-7700K and Radeon R9 290X - 319% improvement at 1080p, 281% improvement at 1600p.

CPU: Intel Core i7-4960X and Radeon R7 260X - 5.1% at 1080p, 16.7% at 1600p.

In addition, AMD has released a list of known issues for its Catalyst 14.1 drivers. It told us that rather than delay the release of Mantle because of these issues it wanted to get it into the hands of gamers as soon as possible so it can get real-world feedback as it works to fix the issues. Here they are:

1. Mantle performance for the AMD Radeon HD 7000/HD 8000 Series GPUs and AMD Radeon R9 280X and R9 270X GPUs will be optimized for BattleField 4 in future AMD Catalyst releases. These products will see limited gains in BattleField 4 and AMD is currently investigating optimizations for them as they are the next highest priority products.

2. Multi-GPU support under DirectX and Mantle will be added to StarSwarm in a future application patch.

3. Intermittent stuttering or stability issues may occur when utilizing Mantle with AMD CrossFire technology in BattleField 4.

4. Notebooks based on AMD Enduro or PowerXpress™ technologies are currently not supported by Mantle in Battlefield 4.

5. Portrait mode display configurations are currently not supported under Mantle in Battlefield 4.

6. AMD Eyefinity technology is not currently supported in the StarSwarm application.

7. Disabling AMD CrossFire technology in the AMD Catalyst Control Center may cause a system hang. If you experience this, a reboot will ensure that AMD CrossFire is disabled.

But wait, there's more! In addition to all this the Catalyst 14.1 drivers will also include AMD's "phase 2" frame pacing driver it promised last year. If you recall, the first release of this driver only supported it on one display up to 2560x1600 resolution. It also only worked on DX11 games. Phase 2 broadens support to DX10 and DX11, and allows resolutions higher than 2560x1600, so those of you with 4K panels will appreciate this update. The update also applies to any GPUs that don't feature AMD's XDNA technology, which are the R9 290 and R9 290X boards (it gets rid of the CrossFire cable as they communicate directly through PCI Express). The driver update also helps frame pacing in dual GPU configurations where an APU is coupled with a GPU.

Finally, the Catalyst 14.1 driver is also the first HSA-enabled driver, which allows Kaveri APUs to intelligently cooperate with a GPU to share the workload. The only supporting applications listed by AMD at this time are LibreOffice v4.2.0.1+ and Core AfterShot Pro v1.2.0.6+, but it says more will come online soon.

That's quite a list, so sit tight while AMD works its fingers to the bone prepping the driver to be in your hands very soon. We hope to have some benchmarks up very soon after release. We will also make a new post when the driver is available, and will update this post as well.

Update: When the driver goes live you can download it here .

Also, Dice has posted its own Mantle benchmarks using different configs, and you can read them here .

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