AMD CrossFireX Drivers - Opportunity Lost

AMD likes to tell us that it is "Gaming Evolved." The fact of the matter is that when it comes to driver support for its high end GPU configurations in CrossFireX, AMD has been doing anything but evolving. In fact, we think AMD has been regressing in the last year. AMD still has an opportunity to shine in 2012. Will it step up?

Has AMD learned from past mistakes? We thought so, but at this early stage of new Radeon HD 7970 AMD may be falling back into the usual practices when it comes to driver support, specifically with CrossFireX. Unfortunately, these driver issues concerning CrossFireX is not something new, and have hit gamers hard in 2011.

Last year, we saw many games launched, many of those were AAA titles, and there were issues with CrossFireX support not being available at launch. In fact, sometimes it took AMD a month or more before CrossFireX was working. Now that Catalyst Control Center 12.1 Preview supports CrossFireX profiles is this issue behind us? Apparently not for the 7970 as we still do not have a CFX driver to put together a CrossFireX review.

The Radeon HD 7970 reviews were embargoed till December 22nd, that was pushing out 2.5 weeks ahead of the previous launch date of January 9th. Then on January 9th, we finally saw "retail availability" of the Radeon HD 7970, although that dried up fast. On January 9th AMD released a new driver on its website for the Radeon HD 7970. We examined this driver and found that it was the same "review driver" that was sent to us for evaluation in December. It wasn't a "new" driver at all. This gave us pause, because we knew that review driver did not officially support CrossFireX. To compound that we saw many HardOCP readers purchase two or three new Radeon 7970s on release day.

While this driver can technically run Radeon HD 7970 CrossFireX, it isn't the recommended driver and AMD has told us that specifically. There is supposedly a new driver coming with CFX support and CAP support for 7970 CFX.

Now, over a week after the launch of the Radeon HD 7970, and still no CFX driver. We know that people like you have had Radeon HD 7970 cards in their hands since early last week. We have seen the posts from people running Radeon HD 7970 CrossFireX in their systems. (Kyle is too, and he is also without a CFX driver!) Yet, AMD is already one week delayed in getting you a proper driver for CrossFireX. Where is this driver? Why wasn't it ready on January 9th when people would be purchasing multiple Radeon HD 7970 cards? Is AMD forsaking its highest end GPU customer? AMD has no answers for us, but we all know the answer to the last question.

AMD has consistently put out great hardware on the GPU front for years. We've never really had any issue with the hardware, these past few generations have been power efficient and packed in a ton of features. The Radeon HD 7970 itself supports DX11.1, which is the first video card to do so before DX11.1 is even released. It is features like this that AMD puts in that we commend. It is highly likely that the 7970 could be seen as the best GPU AMD has ever built. However, the hardware is nothing without the software. Once again we have great hardware, with the software holding it back.

We've already seen where one game has a major bug under DX11 on the new Radeon HD 7970. Granted DX11 support in the game is new, but our GeForce GTX 580 with December drivers is able to run it just fine with a performance boost under DX11. We've seen multiple reports in our forums of people having issues with CrossFireX and 7970. The point is, people are using CFX now, and we need that driver last week. AMD seems to have no problem with forsaking its users that have spent $1100 to $1200 on its new GPU, which sold out immediately at almost all e-tailers.

In our attempt to get this driver so that we can begin CrossFireX testing emailed AMD on January 9th. Our question was simply, "Is there going to be a new driver drop anytime soon for testing CrossFireX?" The answer was that we would have a new driver the next day. January 10th came and went with no new driver. We then proceeded to ask when we will see this driver? The next answer was that the driver has been delayed a day or two. Two days we again asked when we will get this new driver. The response is that the earliest we could get it would be Friday, January 13th. Here we are on January 17th and we just now got an early internal build Beta driver that won't even be the final public driver, that is still yet to come. That's what matters most, a public CFX driver.

We know many of you are anxious to read a Radeon HD 7970 CrossFireX evaluation from us. We are anxious to write it! We have been as polite as we can, and given AMD every opportunity to give us the best driver to show off the Radeon HD 7970 CFX in the best light possible, but here we are one week in with no driver or CAP for public consumption.

One week is simply unacceptable to not have a proper CrossFireX driver and CAP for your new GPU. First impressions are very important, and AMD is leading with a bad first impression with Radeon HD 7970 CrossFireX. We let AMD know last year that we thought its driver ways were turning into a huge negative for AMD GPU owners. We were told in December at the Radeon HD 7970 press briefing that 2012 was going to be different in terms of software support. What AMD is doing and what AMD is saying are two different things. It brings up painful memories about last year's CrossFireX support in games and reminds us of the Radeon's past when it comes to drivers.

The Bottom Line

We have to just sit here with our heads in our hands and wonder why AMD is seemingly trying its best to piss off its customers that spend the most on its retail products; the CrossFireX gamer. We have seen more than a few AMD video card owners openly express that AMD’s lacking driver support is pushing them to not consider an AMD GPU for their next buy. And honestly, it is hard to hold that decision against them.

Remember the days of monthly Catalyst Driver releases? Remember the days of Terry Makedon, the "CatalystMaker" pushing those out? That all seemingly ended when Terry moved to CPU marketing and AMD seems to think that all of those efforts are no longer important. Let’s sit back and see if AMD squanders what could likely be it best GPU ever.

As we are getting ready to publish this, AMD's PR company has sent us a new CFX driver, but it is still full of bugs. We have been told though that RC11 is coming later this week, and "that is planned to be released publicly as well." No date was given. If you put down big cash on HD Radeon 7970 CrossFireX you are not being ignored, but you surely are not being attended to either.