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New drivers add a performance-enhancing reminiscence entry function to older AMD GPUs

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Enlarge / The Radeon RX 5700 XT.

GPU driver releases are usually not very newsworthy; They usually fix bugs, improve performance in some games, and add support for new GPUs. However, owners of the latest generation of AMD Radeon RX 5000 graphics cards should take note of today’s Adrenalin 21.9.1 release. This update adds support for AMD’s Smart Access Memory (SAM) feature for older GPUs. According to AMD, the feature can improve gaming performance for some games by up to 15 percent.

SAM support has so far been limited to the Radeon RX 6800 series (and Nvidia’s GeForce RTX 3000 series, which supports a largely identical feature that Nvidia calls the Resizable BAR). In addition to the correct GPU and drivers, you must also be running a supported processor on a supported chipset: either a 10th or 11th generation Intel Core CPU in a 400 or 500 series motherboard, or a 3000 or 5000 series Ryzen CPU. Series in a 400 or 500 series motherboard.

Whether SAM or Resizable BAR, the different names all refer to the same PCI Express functionality. Typically, your computer’s processor can only directly access 256MB of your GPU’s video memory at a time, and the memory requires larger assets to be broken up into smaller chunks for transmission. BAR resizable removes this limit and noticeably improves performance in some games. A TechSpot test of 36 games with RX 6800 GPU and Ryzen 5950X processor showed an improvement of up to 20 percent, depending on the game and settings. However, for most games, performance improved by a much smaller amount or not at all. Some games even showed performance degradation with activated SAM, but never so far that games became unplayable.

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Even with the new drivers and supported hardware, users of existing PCs will have to go through a few steps to ensure they are using Smart Access Memory. Start by installing the latest BIOS update on your motherboard (motherboard manufacturers started adding support for Resizable BAR and SAM in late 2020 and early 2021). Then enter your BIOS settings and enable the feature; Depending on your motherboard, it may be called a Resizable BAR or Smart Access Memory. Or your motherboard manufacturer calls it something weird and GPU-independent like ASRock’s “Clever Access Memory”. You may also need to enable a separate but related feature called Above 4G Decoding.

AMD says the Adrenalin 21.9.1 driver version is also the first to officially support Windows 11 and that it will support automatic overclocking of Ryzen 5000 series CPUs when paired with an RX 6000 series GPU. Overclocking Ryzen processors in Windows usually requires the separate Ryzen Master utility which supports a wider range of processors and doesn’t care which GPU you are using.

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