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Opinion | Releasing stable Navi Radeon Adrenalin drivers still seems to be an uphill task for AMD

AMD's Navi lineup is great value for money but is let down by buggy drivers. (Image Source: AMD)
AMD's Navi lineup is great value for money but is let down by buggy drivers. (Image Source: AMD)
Nearly eight months on since launch, many AMD Navi GPU owners are complaining about random black screens and other driver inconsistencies even with the latest Radeon Adrenalin drivers. This puts prospective GPU owners in a conundrum as while AMD offers better value for money hardware, NVIDIA's drivers seem to be comparatively more stable.

When AMD released the Radeon Software Adrenalin 2020 driver last December, many users complained of performance loss and screen freezes, requiring them to use workarounds such as Display Driver Uninstaller (DDU) to completely remove and reinstall the drivers. With the Radeon RX 5700 series launching nearly eight months ago, one would expect AMD to have fairly stable drivers by now — turns out that is not the case. 

During the release of the Adrenalin driver version 20.0.3, AMD did acknowledge that some Radeon RX 5700 series users may experience intermittent black screens while gaming or in the desktop. The same issue still continues to be acknowledged in the latest 20.2.1 version of the driver and AMD's temporary workaround is to disable hardware acceleration in web browsers and apps such as Discord. The black screen issue is becoming understandably annoying as it occurs randomly, and the only way to come out of it is via a hard reboot. Many users seem to be affected by the issue as is evident in this Reddit thread

Driver stability has always been AMD's Achilles heel in general. In a recent YouTube survey conducted by Hardware Unboxed, 19% of AMD GPU users reported they had problems with Radeon drivers whereas 47% of the respondents said they did not face any issues with NVIDIA drivers. This is unfortunate as AMD has some real good hardware that can effectively take on NVIDIA's upper mid-range and a well-performing AMD GPU lineup is essential to keep NVIDIA in check.

Having stable drivers is a key part of delivering a consistent gaming and computing experience and while NVIDIA has its own share of driver quibbles, AMD apparently needs to do more extensive work to iron out teething troubles that could potentially jeopardize sales of Radeon cards.

AMD is not turning a blind eye to the issue, however. According to an AMD statement, 

Stability of our drivers is a key priority for our software team. They are monitoring forum discussions closely, including the black screen and other issues users are reporting, and we are actively identifying and working on fixes. As soon as we have more information to share, we will let you know. We encourage users to report issues they are experiencing here [] so that our team can investigate."

If you are experiencing black screens or other driver inconsistencies, you can try the following workarounds in the meantime:

  • Completely uninstall the current drivers using DDU in Safe Mode and re-install the latest Radeon Adrenalin drivers from the AMD website.
  • Manually configure PCIe Link Speed Detection in the BIOS to use PCIe 3.0 instead of leaving it on Auto 2.0/3.0/4.0. Refer to your motherboard's manual for specific instructions. 

Having slightly inconsistent drivers in the initial phase of a new GPU launch is understandable, but some introspection is needed if issues persist several months down the line. And it's not that AMD is insouciant on the software side of things. The manner in which AMD could extract every drop of performance from GCN cards should silence some harsh naysayers although a few Vega cards also seem to be affected by buggy Radeon Adrenalin drivers.

Although not all AMD GPUs are affected in equal measure, the current state of drivers means that recommending a Radeon RX 5700 over an RTX 2060 is not without apprehension. We are hopeful AMD would get to the bottom of this as soon as possible. 

Have you experienced driver issues with AMD GPUs, let us know in the comments below.

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> Expert Reviews and News on Laptops, Smartphones and Tech Innovations > News > News Archive > Newsarchive 2020 02 > Releasing stable Navi Radeon Adrenalin drivers still seems to be an uphill task for AMD
Vaidyanathan Subramaniam, 2020-02-15 (Update: 2020-02-15)