Last month I showed how AMD's open-source driver performance evolved in 2015 while today's article is looking at how the closed-source AMD / Radeon Technologies Group proprietary driver has evolved over the course of the year.
For this article are performance tests comparing the last release of 2014 (Catalyst 14.12 Omega) to the last release of 2015 (Radeon Software Crimson Edition 15.12). For needing a GPU that was supported back in 2014, the Radeon R9 290 was used for conducting this comparison atop Ubuntu 14.10 -- for maintaining X.Org Server / Linux kernel ABI compatibility going back to the end of 2014.
In 2015 there were sadly just five Linux driver updates made available for users of the proprietary driver. For Catalyst there was 15.5, 15.7, 15.9, and 15.11... It took almost a half-year for the first update of 2015 to become publicly available. Then in December was the Radeon Software Crimson Edition release under the new branding, albeit no big changes for Linux users.
In going back through the official AMD change-logs, Catalyst 15.5 brought SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop 12 support and two bug fixes for PowerXpress and screen corruption when resuming from S3.
Catalyst 15.7 for Linux brought PowerXpress support for Intel Skylake laptops, atomics and SVM fine-grain buffer support for Carrizo, and multi-device support for OpenCL 2.0.
Catalyst 15.9 for Linux had just more bug fixes with a handful of Linux games being fixed up from DiRT Showdown to Dota 2 to Shadow of Mordor.
As the last Catalyst release, 15.11 for Linux presented two fixes: a glxgears stuttering fix and intermittent mouse cursor corruption.
The only official change mentioned as part of Radeon Software Crimson Edition Linux 15.12 was fixing of Ubuntu 15.10 failing to build the Debian packages. As shared during my testing, the performance was largely unchanged and the release rather a letdown -- there was no new Qt control panel like found on Windows, etc.
Describing the Catalyst / Radeon Software changes of 2015 largely come down to a year of fixing bugs. There were a few new features like the OpenCL 2.0 multi-device support, but by and large these releases mostly just maintained the status quo of support for newer Linux kernels and X.Org Servers while providing OpenGL driver fixes for new Linux games. In fact, it was only in 2015 that Counter-Strike: Global Offensive finally got an application profile for the Catalyst Linux driver.
During the tests ran for this article, Catalyst 14.12 Omega couldn't even run the Metro Redux games without locking-up. There were also minor rendering issues with DiRT Showdown.
Sadly, in 2015, the binary driver support didn't come for making use of the AMDGPU DRM driver nor any other breakthroughs in improving the OpenCL performance and support.