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Testing Radeon Adrenalin 20.10.1 Shadowlands pre-patch support

On 21th of October AMD released new version of Radeon Adrenalin drivers for their GPUs. Support for Shadowlands pre-patch was one of heavily highlighted points of this release so lets check if anything changed.

AMD and Shadowlands

New driver for AMD GPUs is marked with version number 20.10.1 and highlights support for the World of Warcraft: Shadowlands pre-expansion patch even though Shadowlands beta as well as pre-patch did work fine with previous versions of drivers. AMD did not specify what has changed - if it's bugfix, performance optimization or alike which is bit odd.

WoW Shadowlands support highlighted for new driver version

WoW Shadowlands support highlighted for new driver version

AMD is engaged in a marketing campaign for World of Warcraft: Shadowlands as well as few other games. You can check their landing page as well as their promotion page - you can get free Shadowlands if you buy one of RDNA1 graphics cards (aside of RX 5500 group). So the driver release with such highlight can also be a part of the marketing campaign.

Performance comparison

I've compared two drivers - 20.9.1 and the new 20.10.1 using retail pre-patch realm (9.0.1 36322) in Dazar'alor and new zones on the beta realm (9.0.2 36294). Benchmarks were done with Vega 64 on Threadripper 1920X platform with 32GB quad-channel RAM at 3440x1440 resolution and mode 7 settings.

20.9.1 old driver benchmark
20.10.1 new driver benchmark

Results are quite similar. To see any difference more clearly let us use a delta of the results:

Adrenalin drivers performance delta

Positive value means that the new driver is faster while negative means it's slower. The differences are within 10 FPS and I would say this is all in the margin of error, aside maybe minimal uplift in Maldraxxus.

The frametime measurements were done on a static widefield view in each zone. As there can be some difference in recreating exact field of view between benchmarks it gives some small margin of error for such comparisons. Either way there seems to be no significant changes in the performance of the new driver. This could be a bugfix release or updates for some other Radeon GPU family (like RDNA 1 cards).

Even with the latest patch Oribos is still showcasing a sort of stuttering that can be seen on frametime graphs and on aggregated data from many frames:

Oribos benchmark

The effect is visible on frametime graph as recurring, quite regular dips in FPS so it can be something with the game itself rather than the GPU drivers.

Bastion benchmark view

Bastion benchmark view

Big Navi / Navi 21 / New AMD graphics cards

On 28th of October AMD will reveal new graphics cards based on RDNA2 architecture. New range of cards will be a direct competitor to Nvidia latest lineup of Ampere cards while exact performance and pricing is to be seen. Leaks position top AMD card close to RTX 3080 with the promise of similar, likely slightly undercut price.

The top SKU nicknamed Big Navi will also support ray tracing thus allowing for ray traced shadows in WoW. Just note that this feature is optional. Ray traced shadows without ray traced reflections or illumination give quite poor On/Off effect while impacting FPS in WoW greatly so I don't see a point in rushing a new GPU only to support this feature.

As you can see from above Vega 64 benchmarks at 3440x1440 - ultrawide 1440p there are already zones like Ardenweald (and The Maw) that run below 60 FPS on mode 7. Similar results can be seen in my WoW Shadowlands GPU comparison. On 1080p the requirements for good FPS are lower but still with increasing resolution on high or ultra settings you actually will need a modern mid/top range GPU.

So if you want to play at larger resolutions or also other, much more GPU demanding games then looking for a powerful GPU is a must. RTX 3080 stock is pretty much non-existent, launch stock of RTX 3070 likely will sell out quickly as well while Big Navi cards will likely be available in the second half of November with currently unknown stock quantities. Either get lucky and pull the trigger early or look for discounts on previous generation of Nvidia and AMD cards that may happen later this year when stock starts to normalize.

RkBlog

World of Warcraft Shadowlands Beta benchmarks, 22 October 2020, Piotr Maliński

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