AMD Radeon Settings – What Do They All Mean?

If you have a gaming PC and decided to go down the less-trodden (but still scenic) AMD path for your graphics card, then you’ll be familiar with the Radeon Settings – formerly known as AMD Catalyst Control Center. For most people, this is probably a no-go zone, and you’re quite happy to let each individual game decide what graphics settings are best for you.

Use it wisely, however, and this tool can take your gaming up a few notches. So to help you, here’s a list of all the main features you’ll find in Radeon Settings, with a particular focus on the “Gaming” and “Display” sections.

In the Radeon Settings menu, clicking “Display” will take you to the settings relating to your monitor. Here’s everything you need to know about them.

AMD FreeSync

AMD’s answer to Nvidia G-Sync, this “adaptive sync” technology is built into certain GPUs and monitors and all but removes screen tearing. It synchronizes the refresh rates of your monitor and graphics card, adapting the monitor’s refresh rate to the graphics card’s. Think of it as a very powerful version of V-Sync which you can read about further down.

Virtual Super Resolution

AMD’s fancy word for “downsampling.” This sort of unlocks resolutions higher than your monitor is capable of (4k for a 1080p monitor, for example), then squishes the resolution down to your monitor size, resulting in a crisper image with less jaggies.

GPU Scaling

This uses your graphics card (instead of your monitor) to fit the resolution of whatever you’re running to your screen. For most decent gaming graphics cards, this is a better option than leaving your monitor to do the work and should lead to a clearer image.

Scaling Mode

In most cases you’ll be using the full size of your screen, but if you’re playing games at a 4:3 aspect ratio, then forcing it to fit the whole screen will stretch the image in an ugly way. Maybe that doesn’t bother you, in which case go for “Full panel,” but we recommend the “Preserve aspect ratio” option here.

These settings only come into play when you’re gaming. You can either apply them to individual games by clicking the game in question under the gaming tab, or if you want to apply certain settings across all your games, click “Global Settings”.

Anti-aliasing Mode

Particularly on screens with lower resolutions, diagonal lines in video games (which are made of individual square pixels) may look jaggy and “staircased” rather than smooth. Anti-aliasing (AA) resolves this by effectively filling the gaps in these staircased lines to smooth them out.

If you choose the “Enhance application settings” option,  it will utilize something called “Enhanced Quality Anti-Aliasing,” which layers over your AA in-game settings to further smooth edges. If you choose “Override application settings,” it will use the settings outlined below.

Anti-aliasing Method

There are three types of anti-aliasing you can use in Radeon Settings:

Morphological Filtering (MLAA)

An AMD-specific type of anti-aliasing that claims to have a similar effect to SSAA but with less of a performance hit. In reality, its effectiveness varies from game to game, so it’s worth experimenting with it to see where and when it works best.

Anisotropic Filtering Mode

Much like anti-aliasing reduces jaggies on edges, this improves them within textures (making wooden crates look more like wooden crates, for example, rather than boxes with a “wooden crate” sticker slapped onto them). It also keeps textures looking good in the distance rather than letting them get blurry and prevents textures from getting jaggy when viewed from tight angles.

If you turn this on, you get options for 2x, 4x, 8x and 16x anisotropic filtering, with even the highest level running fairly well on modern graphics cards.

Texture Filtering Quality

This changes texture quality on the fly to improve game smoothness and performance. Its effects are fairly negligible compared to other texture options, and the popular opinion in the gaming community currently is to set it to “Performance.”

Surface Format Optimization

Another somewhat outdated setting, this was used some years back on games to decrease graphical quality and improve performance but is unlikely to have much effect on modern games and modern GPUs. You certainly won’t miss it if you leave it off.

Wait for Vertical Refresh

This is a slightly roundabout way of saying “VSync” (Vertical Synchronization), which you may have heard of. If you have a game that’s running at a higher frame-rate (fps) than the refresh rate (Hz) of your monitor, then you may see jarring horizontal lines on your screen known as screen tearing. VSync combats this by limiting your GPU’s frame-rate to your monitor’s refresh rate.

OpenGL Triple Buffering

Not a huge number of games use the OpenGL API these days (here’s a list of ones that do), but for those that do, having this turned on together with VSync will allow your frame-rate to fluctuate more smoothly. So where double buffering would drop the fps to 30 even though it could technically be running at 55 to make up for the delay caused by synchronisation, Triple buffering removes this issue,  allowing frame-rates to run at whatever fps your GPU can handle.

Shader Cache

Stores shaders for games locally on your hard drive, greatly increasing load times (particularly if you don’t have an SSD). Be warned that this takes up quite a lot of hard drive space (3oGB or so).

Tessellation Mode

Increases in-game graphics by breaking larger polygons up into smaller pieces, making graphics smoother (a bit like crushing peppercorns into powdered pepper – if you’re into your foody analogies). “AMD Optimized” uses x64 tessellation, but if you select “Override application settings,” you can set a lower rate if you think the performance impact is too high.

Power Efficiency

It won’t save you much on electricity bills, but this feature reduces the clock speeds on your GPU for low-demand games, making your graphics card run quieter when it’s not being pushed to the limit. Some people have reported this to have a negative if left on during more modern games; it’s best to only switch this on in the ‘Profile’ settings for older games.

Frame Rate Target Control

Essentially a frame rate limiter, ensuring that your GPU isn’t overworking itself churning out, such as 120fps on an older game when your monitor can only handle 75Hz or running at massive frame-rates in game menus. It means your graphics card will be quieter when possible, stay cooler, and therefore live longer.

Plenty to take in, but these will hopefully give you the confidence to play around with your AMD settings a little bit more. Remember that all of these settings can also be applied to individual games (To add game profiles to Radeon Settings, go to “Gaming -> Add -> Scan.”), and what works for some games might not work for others. Happy tinkering!