It hasn’t been true for years now, but people still say AMD’s drivers suck. Radeon Software Adrenalin Edition definitively proves them wrong.
The latest in a series of massive annual Radeon Software feature updates, Adrenalin builds on the success of Catalyst Omega, Crimson, ReLive, and ReLive 17.7.2 before it, polishing up existing tools like WattMan and Radeon Chill while adding in the most-requested features of Radeon users. But more notably, Adrenalin adds a new on-screen overlay and AMD Link mobile app to make it easier than ever to fine-tune your game settings or keep an eye on your PC’s performance.
What you won’t find are gargantuan performance updates. Some reports written when AMD teased the Adrenalin name suggested this new Radeon Software could supercharge your frame rate. Nope. AMD constantly releases new drivers throughout the year as games are released, and those are where you’ll find performance bumps. Sure, you might see some nice cumulative gains if you’ve haven’t updated your drivers since last year’s milestone ReLive launch, but these annual releases focus on adding in new features. Adrenalin sure delivers on that part.
Let’s start with the flashiest features before diving deep into the bountiful quality-of-life updates. Before Adrenalin, adjusting the software options for your Radeon graphics card required exiting your games and diving into the Radeon Settings app. The new Radeon Overlay lets you tune some of your Radeon Settings in-game and constantly monitor your PC’s performance.
Pressing Alt + R with Radeon Software Adrenalin Edition installed summons the Radeon Overlay, a slick interface that pops in from the right side of your screen. You’ll see several different settings available: ReLive, Performance, Chill, FRTC, FreeSync, and Color options. Some of these may be missing if you open the Radeon Overlay outside of a game—I didn’t see the Performance or FreeSync options when I opened the Overlay on the Windows desktop, as you can see in the image above.
Let’s go through them one-by-one. (You can click on any image in this article to enlarge it.)
The ReLive tab includes all the options previously found in the ReLive pop-up toolbar. If you want to record, stream, or screenshot your gameplay, this is the place to be. You can also adjust your microphone volume if you’re doing voice-overs. Helpfully, keyboard shortcuts for the tools in the ReLive tab are listed underneath each option, so you can avoid having to navigate through the Radeon Overlay to quickly activate or deactivate ReLive features.
The Performance tab lets you enable a separate performance monitor overlay that shows your system performance, similar to the on-screen displays found in overclocking software like EVGA’s Precision XOC and MSI’s Afterburner. AMD’s version gives you abundant control over how the performance monitor behaves, though. It doesn't appear in these screenshots for some reason, but it's a tiny black box with a column of data in a white font.
The Select Metrics section of Radeon Overlay’s Performance tab lets you pick and choose which data you’re interested in. FPS (frames per second) is a no-brainer, but you can also track GPU utilization, GPU engine clock, GPU memory clock, GPU temperature, GPU power, GPU fan speed, CPU utilization, and system RAM utilization. Snazzy! You can decide which corner of the screen houses the performance monitor, and the Metrics Options section lets you dictate how often Radeon Software checks for performance information (the default is every two seconds) or even select a file location to log your performance data.
That’s all incredibly useful for PC enthusiasts. While GeForce Experience pumps up the fun with Ansel and ShadowPlay Highlights, Nvidia’s software contains nothing that rivals AMD’s performance monitor. One bummer: The performance monitor disappears every time you exit a game, so you need to reactivate manually every time you load into a game. I’d love to see a future update add an option to keep it persistent.
Next up is the Chill tab, which lets you enable or disable AMD’s power-saving, temperature-lowering Radeon Chill feature. The tab lets you enable Chill globally or just for the game you’re currently playing, as well as set the minimum and maximum frame rates you want Chill to work inside. Try it out, especially if you've got a power-hungry Vega 64 graphics card. AMD made some big changes to Chill in Radeon Software Adrenalin Edition, which we’ll address more directly later.
Frame Rate Target Control (FRTC) puts a cap on your maximum frame rate to keep your GPU from working harder than it needs to, and thus keep power draw and temperatures lower. Why let your Radeon RX 580 scream at 200 fps when you’re using a 60Hz monitor? The Radeon Overlay lets you activate the feature and specify your FPS cap, though you’ll need to restart your game for it to kick in.
Likewise, the very simple FreeSync tab lets you manually enable or disable AMD’s screen- and tearing-killing FreeSync feature if you have a compatible monitor, like the stellar Nixeus EDG 27 ($410 on Amazon).
Finally, the Color section adjusts your display’s color temperature, brightness, hue, contrast, and saturation on the fly. If you’re running multiple displays, you can fine-tune each one.
All in all, the Radeon Overlay puts a lot of information and performance at your fingertips that used to require leaving your game or downloading a third-party monitoring tool. It’s fast and responsive, too. Color me a fan—but that isn’t the only way Radeon Software Adrenalin Edition gives you more control over the way you play.
AMD Link mobile app
The new AMD Link mobile app is launching as a complement to Adrenalin, with both iOS and Android apps available. AMD Link intertwines with your Radeon-powered gaming PC, giving you access to performance monitoring, ReLive functionality, and AMD news from your phone or tablet.
Connecting AMD Link to your gaming PC couldn’t be easier, though both devices need to be on the same network. Clicking Add a PC will walk you through the straightforward process, which involves enabling the AMD Link server in the Radeon Settings on your PC and connecting it to your phone using a QR code or on-screen code. You’ll be up and running in no time.
Signing back into the app is a little trickier. The connection between your devices gets severed when you turn off your PC. Launching AMD Link again returns you to the Add a PC interface on the home screen. Repeating the process reconnects everything but seems like unnecessary busywork. I asked AMD about it, and a representative informed me that you can reconnect AMD Link to your PC by heading into the Link app’s Settings tab, finding the name of your previously connected PC, and checking the box next to it. Indeed, doing so worked—but it’s clunky and unintuitive. AMD software head Terry Makedon told me they’ll improve discoverability in future versions of the app.
The core AMD Link experience is superb, though. For me, the star of the show is performance monitoring. That tab shows you exactly how your PC is performing in real-time, sliced three different ways depending on how you want your data. A current performance sub-tab gives you a snapshot of, well, your PC’s current performance. You can use the settings gear at the top of the screen to fine-tune what’s being monitored—I disabled memory clock and system RAM usage to watch GPU temperatures and graphics card VRAM usage instead, for instance.
The performance monitoring section also offers a timeline tab that shows performance over time, and yes, you can customize those metrics, too. Finally, a dedicated FPS tab goes deep on frame rate information, showing your current, average, minimum, and maximum frames per second, along with the total time elapsed during your monitoring session.
AMD Link keeps the screen active while it’s open. A a person who dislikes cluttering up my gaming experiences with overlays, I’ve found it useful to plug my phone into a USB port and just lean it against my monitor while I play, using AMD Link to keep an eye on PC metrics.
AMD Link’s ReLive functionality is just as useful—perhaps even more so if you routinely stream or record your gameplay. AMD Link is basically a ReLive remote control; you can use it to activate all of the feature’s streaming, video recording, and screenshot capabilities right from your phone. You can also browse through a gallery of any media you’ve captured using ReLive.
Finally, there’s also a news feed that shows content from AMD’s various social accounts. I don't expect it to get much action.
Next page: Improvements to WattMan, Radeon Chill, Enhanced Sync, FreeSync, and more.