In addition to AMD's desktop-oriented Radeon Software Adrenalin Edition, it's also time for the company to introduce its Radeon Pro Software Adrenalin Edition.
Although we initially had trouble getting AMD's press build installed, a second version of the driver made available to reviewers did behave as expected. It included an extra bit of text in the file name: CWG-Enabled-Gaming. Those first three letters stand for CreatorWhoGames, so we weren't surprised to discover that game profiles were automatically available to our Radeon Pro WX 7100, even though it's a pure workstation card. Makes us wonder what advantages the Radeon Pro WX 9100 will offer over Radeon Vega Frontier Edition, particularly when the former costs $600 more than the latter.
The Update Cycle
Back to the driver itself. Enterprise-class means that you count on this software in terms of planning, stability, updates to support a changing operating environment, and optimizations for the professional applications that matter. Certified or not, confidence in the hardware and its underlying infrastructure plays a role in your purchasing decision. AMD is on a quarterly update schedule with fixed dates for publication so that roll-outs can be planned in advance. In fact, we already know the drivers go live on the second Wednesday of the second month each quarter.
ProRender isn't new, but it's one of those features that AMD continues to develop. With its Radeon Pro Software Adrenalin Edition update, this physically-based rendering engine gains support for interactive viewport denoising. Known information is mixed with 3D real-time content to generate a clear render preview. The advantage is obvious: you don't have to wait forever for the render to finish, yet can still identify possible mistakes.
The Game Engine Importer is also improved, making it possible to pull geometry and materials into real-time engines for viewing in VR. The boundaries between building a project, visualizing it, and even interacting with it in virtual reality continue to blur. This is by no means a gimmick. It utilizes the mature functionality and high performance of platforms like the Unreal Engine not for entertainment, but productivity. Suddenly, AMD's idea to enable workstation cards with gaming optimizations makes a lot more sense. After all, not everything coming out of game engines is diversion these days.
Physically-based rendering facilitates the use of realistic materials and lighting models, yielding a better-looking real-time preview than you'd get from static and artificial Phong shading. This PBR shader is now available for Blender, joining 3ds Max and Maya 2018 on the PC. If you're on macOS, you get support via Maya and Blender. In addition, you have to mention Cinema4D, where AMD's Radeon ProRender feature plays an interesting role, enabling content creation with decent acceleration.
ReLive And Overlay
AMD's ReLive feature also makes its way into the workstation space, delivering functionality that was previously only available through third-party software. Similar to what ReLive does on the desktop for games, you're able to save on-screen content as an image or video, with or without sound, then store, edit, or share that content with others. The new overlay, which makes it possible to fade-in your own camera using chroma keying, brings video work into a familiar interface. A lot of folks are going to find this workflow more comfortable than learning an entirely new piece of software.
AMD continues its push in the virtualization space with MxGPU technology, first discussed back in 2016 and enabled with a previous generation of GCN-based hardware. For this release, the company is talking about its open-source KVM host OS driver, available on GitHub. The argument in favor of a solution like this is that it can save costs and provide more transparency than proprietary solutions. We only have to hope its performance can keep up with those competing solutions.
Performance: From 2016 To Today
In an effort to track AMD's performance over time, we pulled out its Radeon Pro WX 7100 and installed the Radeon Pro and AMD FirePro Software Enterprise 16.Q4 driver. We determined the card's performance mid-year with Radeon Pro Software Enterprise 17.Q3 (from July '17), and then tested with the new driver, Radeon Pro Adrenalin 17.5.
We also tested the Vega-based Frontier Edition and realized that nothing really changed between its launch this summer and today. Obviously, that older 16.Q4 driver doesn't support any of the Vega cards. Actual improvements must have happened in the first half of 2017.
The benchmarks show that AMD was able to boost some of its SPECviewperf scores, though other changes between 2016 and 2017 are more modest. Fluctuations of about one percent are normal, and thus fall below our measurement tolerances.
Using the full version of professional applications yields more interesting results. After all, freely-accessible metrics like SPECviewperf receive a disproportionate amount of optimization time. Gains achieved in a test everyone can run are more likely to be reproduced around the Web, which makes for great marketing. And that's why we make it a point to run a more diverse benchmark suite.
Aside from the driver's initial failure to install, we come to the same conclusion here as our U.S. team covering AMD's desktop-oriented Radeon Software Adrenalin Edition release: this update furthers AMD's cause against a relentless competitor. Improved features, new functionality, and a well-defined roadmap make it clear that AMD has its eye on the prize, and understands what an enterprise customer needs from a professional product. Keep up the momentum, AMD. We certainly approve of your work.
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