.AMD’s OpenGL Boosting Drivers

With the release of AMD’s new 22.7.1 GPU drivers, Radeon GPUs have recieved a huge boost to their OpenGL performance, significantly increasing the smoothness of classic OpenGL games. In games like Minecraft (Java Edition), AMD has marketed performance gains of around 90%, almost doubling the game’s framerate on AMD hardware.

While most modern PC games run on DirectX 12, Vulkan, or DirectX 11, OpenGL remains the only usable API for many popular games. Minecraft is an obvious example here, though classics like Wolfenstein: The New Order are also worth mentioning. Practically no newly released games use the OpenGL graphics API, making the impact of AMD’s new OpenGL optimisations limited in scope. That being said, these optimisation have forever addressed a weakness within AMD’s graphics drivers, and that is a big deal.

The Problem that AMD could have Ignored

As mentioned before, OpenGL is not a commonly used API anymore. Vulkan has effectively replaced OpenGL, and that means that AMD’s new OpenGL optimisation will not impact any newly launched PC games. That said, the games that launched using OpenGL still exist, and players of those games deserved more performance from modern AMD hardware.

A prime example of AMD’s problems with OpenGL is Wolfenstein: The New Order, a game that can only be played using the OpenGL graphics API. Before the release of AMD Software version 22.7.1, Wolfenstein: The New Order ran poorly with AMD graphics cards. This results in a situation where Radeon graphics users a disappointed in their new hardware whenever they play this modern classic. This results in a poor user experience, and a poor reception of the Radeon brand, so AMD decided to fix things.

Credit where credit is due, AMD could have said that their poor OpenGL performance only affected a minority of games and left their OpenGL drivers as they were. Instead, AMD decided to work on their OpenGL drivers to make their performance issues a thing of the past. Wolfenstein fans rejoice!

For our testing, we will be comparing Radeon’s newest AMD Software release, version 22.7.1, and AMD’s older AMD Software 22.6.1 driver. This drivers will allow us to test AMD’s OpenGL performance before and after the release of their new OpenGL optimisations with AMD Software 22.7.1.

The good news for AMD users is that the company’s new OpenGL optimisations are available to all currently supported Radeon graphics cards. This includes graphics cards as old as AMD’s Polaris-based RX 480.

Full Test System Specifications

Below are the full specifications of our game testing system, which we built in mid-2020 to meet the needs of future games. Alongside this system, we will be testing using AMD’s Radeon RX 6800

To help support the website, we have included Amazon affiliate links below should you wish to purchase the same or similar PC parts. You can read more about our games testing system here.

OC3D Game/GPU Test Rig (Affiliate Links Below)

AMD Ryzen 9 3950X Processor with Prescision Boost Overdrive

ASUS ROG Crosshair VIII Formula (X570) Motherboard

Corsair Dominator Platinum RGB Series DDR4 3600MHz (2x8GB) Memory

Corsair RM1000i Power Supply

Corsair iCUE H150i RGB Pro XT All-in-One Liquid CPU Cooler

Corsair MP600 2TB PCIe 4.0 SSD

Corsiar Obsidian 500D RGB SE Case

Windows 10 x64

Unigine Heaven

Unigine Heaven is an old benchmark, and even when we used it as part of our GPU test suite we used it with DirectX 11, not OpenGL. That said, this is a test case that shows us some clear performance benefits when using AMD’s new OpenGL driver optimisations, giving us average framerates that are between 36% and 41% higher. Those are some huge performance gains, and these performance gains apply to 1080p, 1440p, and 4K testing.

Unigine Valley

In Ungine Valley we saw similar performance gains with AMD’s latest GPU drivers to what we saw with Unigine’s older Heaven benchmark. At 4K, we saw average framerates increase by 24%, at 1440p we saw average framerates increase by 36.6%, and at 1080p we saw average framerates increase by 31.2%. These are huge performance gains, especially when considering that these optimisations are not benchmark-specific, they apply to practically all OpenGL games.

Unigine Superposition

Superposition is Unigine’s newest benchmark, and again most users will be using this benchmark with the DirectX 11 API. That said, OpenGL is an available option, and when using OpenGL, we have seen some hige performance boosts with AMD’s Radeon RX 6800 graphics card.

At 1080p High settings, our test system’s score increased from 13073 to 20124 with our Radeon RX 6800. That’s a performance increase of 53.9%. That’s huge, and the performance gains that we saw at 4K and 8k were equally impressive.

With AMD’s new 22.7 1 drivers, our 4K Optimised performance was almost as high as the benchmark’s 1080p performance when using AMD’s older 22.6.1 drivers. To say the least, moving from 1080p to 4K is a big deal, so seeing AMD’s new drivers deliver 4K performance that’s similar to their old driver’s 1080p performance is a bug deal. That said, this benchmark’s high settings are higher than the benchmark’s optimised settings (not that you would notice the difference).

DOOM (2016)

DOOM’s 2016 reboot was one of the first games to feature with both an OpenGL and a Vulkan codepath, and even at launch the game’s Vulkan version delivered smoother framerates and a stronger gameplay experience for most PC gamers. That said, DOOM is now one of the most recent AAA games to release with an OpenGL codepath, making it an ideal game to benchmark AMD’s latest OpenGL optimisations.

To say the least, our test system did not run DOOM Eternal well when using AMD’s older 22.6.1 drivers when using OpenGL. In this configuration the game stuttered frequently and delivered performance levels that were simply not playable. To play DOOM optimally, you need a smooth framerate. Thankfully, AMD’s new OpenGL drivers can give us that, though I would recommend using the game’s Vulkan codepath when using any modern graphics card.

At 1080p and 1440p, DOOM 2016 ran with average framerates of over 150 FPS with AMD’s 22.7.1 drivers. That said, the game’s minimum framerates 1st percentile framerates remained held back at all resolutions at a similar level with AMD’s latest drivers. This implies that the game’s performance is being limited by CPU/memory performance.

When playing the game at 4K, AMD’s latest drivers moved DOOM 2016’s OpenGL mode from an unplayable mess to smooth gameplay. 1st and 5th percentile framerates became stable, and the game’s average framerate increased by 71.4% from 71.2 FPS to 122.1 FPS.

Wolfenstein: The New Order

By default, Wolfenstein: The New Order is capped at 60 FPS. For these tests, we moved the game’s framerate cap from 60 FPS to 140 FPS. This change gave us the ability to get some meaningful comparative data.

Without AMD’s latest OpenGL drivers, Wolfenstein: The New Order stuttered frequently and did not run smoothly. This even applies to the game when it is capped at 60 FPS. This is not a good look for one of AMD’s newest graphics cards, and thankfully AMD’s 22.7.1 drivers address these issues.

With AMD’s 22.7.1 drivers, our Radeon RX 6800 was able to deliver much more consistent framerates in Wolfenstein: The New Order, making the game a lot more enjoyable. When the framerate cap is moved, gamers will also achieve much higher average framerates. That said, unlocking this game’s framerate can bring bugs into the game. Unlock Wolfenstein’s framerate at your own risk.

Conclusion – We love AMD’s 22.7.1 driver update

There are two ways that you can look at AMD’s new OpenGL optimisations, and both are valid perspectives. Since all modern games do not use OpenGL, it is valid to see AMD’s latest wave of optimisations as unnecessary. That said, OpenGL is the API behind Minecraft Java edition, and all PC gamers that value their back catalogues will appreciate having stable performance in their older PC games.

Before the release of AMD’s 22.7.1 drivers, Radeon users could return to classic games with Wolfenstein: The New Order and despair at how poorly the game can run on modern AMD graphics cards. Additionally, Minecraft fans could see Nvidia’s graphics cards as an obvious hardware choice for them due to AMD’s poor OpenGL performance. While AMD could ignore their poor OpenGL performance, there is a cost to doing so.

In recent months, the newest releases of AMD Software have been reworked by AMD’s engineers to make sure that games running on legacy graphics APIs run well on AMD hardware. First there was AMD’s DirectX 11 boosting driver, which we have tested here, and now we have a new optimised driver from AMD for OpenGL. For gamers who enjoy replaying older titles, these new driver releases are transformative for AMD.

Following the release of AMD’s 22.7.1 drivers, the company’s detractors can no longer look at the performance of Radeon GPUs on older PC games to take an easy shot at AMD. AMD has fixed a genuine complaint that many PC gamers could level at them, and now AMD can focus their attention on other new goodies for Radeon users.

AMD’s OpenGL and DirectX 11 optimising GPU drivers send a clear message, and that message is that today’s AMD is a company that is ready to address the problems that gamers face. My question today is what should we expect next from AMD Software? As a PC gamer, that question excites me.

Backwards compatibility is one of PC gaming’s greatest strengths, and that is why the performance of these legacy graphics APIs matter. Improving the performance of OpenGL and DirectX 11 may not seem like a huge priority for the engineers at Radeon, but AMD’s efforts have ensured that their customers can better enjoy classic PC games when using their graphics cards, and that’s great news for all Radeon users.

Unlike DirectX 11, OpenGL is a graphics API that no modern PC games use. That means that AMD’s new OpenGL optimisations will not improve the performance of any modern PC game. This immediately lessens the impact of AMD’s OpenGL optimisations when compared to their DirectX 11 optimisations. Even so, AMD’s changes to OpenGL are welcome, and our benchmark results show that they have a huge impact on the playability of classic PC games.


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