Let’s be honest: GPU driver updates are rarely a source of much excitement. We’re normally talking about tiny, marginal improvements, or simply fresh support for performance-boosting software in newly-released games. But every now and then, we see an update that makes a genuine difference – and that’s what we’ve seen today.
A new graphics driver update for AMD’s Radeon Software Adrenalin Edition has shown a whopping 67% performance improvement for the Radeon RX 7900 XT. Granted, that’s just one specific GPU playing one specific game at one specific resolution (Forza Horizon 5 at 1080p), but it’s still a wildly impressive leap in framerate.
The flagship Radeon RX 7900 XTX also gets a big boost in Forza Horizon 5 and The Last of Us, though it’s not quite as pronounced. Looking at a wider slew of results as tested by YouTuber Ancient Gameplays, performance boosts are a bit less impressive at higher resolutions, with an average framerate increase of 23-24% at 4K for both cards (although, since testing was performed with a Ryzen 7 CPU, it’s possible there was a processor bottleneck at play here).
Driver updates aren’t all Adrenalin is good for
While most of the best graphics cards – certainly the most popular ones, anyway – might be made by Nvidia, it’s fair to say that AMD’s software interface has the lead. Adrenalin offers a more robust feature set than Nvidia’s GeForce Experience software (though Nvidia’s less complex offering might be preferable to users who prefer to simply hit ‘optimize settings’ and jump straight into a game).
These latest drivers really put Adrenalin in the spotlight. It’s rare to see performance leaps this significant purely from a free software update and it’s an interesting testament to the effectiveness of good driver support. Nvidia and AMD both routinely release new graphics drivers, but they sometimes feel more like an afterthought than a vital improvement.
Part of why these sorts of driver updates are important is how they impact older GPUs. AMD’s last-gen RX 6000 graphics cards also benefited from a 10-25% performance boost in the relevant games with this new update, and some of those GPUs are close to three years old now. There’s a constant push from PC hardware manufacturers to upgrade and buy new components, but performance boosts this significant purely from free, instantly downloadable software tweaks indicate that maybe, just maybe, nobody actually needs to buy a new GPU every two years.
Think about it. AMD’s recently-released RX 7600 outperformed its predecessor the RX 6600 by about 19% in our testing process. If that sort of performance boost in the latest games could be secured for the 6600 without a hardware upgrade, why bother with the 7600 at all? It’s a question some GPU makers probably don’t want us asking – especially with two hotly-anticipated AMD GPUs now very close to release.
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Christian is TechRadar’s UK-based Computing Editor. He came to us from Maximum PC magazine, where he fell in love with computer hardware and building PCs. He was a regular fixture amongst our freelance review team before making the jump to TechRadar, and can usually be found drooling over the latest high-end graphics card or gaming laptop before looking at his bank account balance and crying.
Christian is a keen campaigner for LGBTQ+ rights and the owner of a charming rescue dog named Lucy, having adopted her after he beat cancer in 2021. She keeps him fit and healthy through a combination of face-licking and long walks, and only occasionally barks at him to demand treats when he’s trying to work from home.