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Radeon OpenGL: AMD's biggest struggle is no more... kinda

Published: Aug. 5, 2022

OpenGL performance is something that has been an issue for Radeon GPUs for ages - essentially forever - but AMD has been working on a revised OpenGL software stack to fix this very issue, today we check how it really performs!

As a long time Minecraft player, this is something I've run into many times, back in 2019 I actually switched to a GeForce GTX 1660 from a Radeon RX 480 almost entirely because of unplayable FPS in Minecraft. Recently (actually today as of writing this) I've acquired an RX 6600, so I immediately got to testing the new praised Adrenalin 22.7.1 driver, so let's see the results...


Let's actually start with some clarification info before diving into the graphs, since Minecraft is not a particularly simple game to dissect in terms of performance - there are many pitfalls and caveats - the most obvious one is the existence of third party performance optimization mods such as Optifine and CaffeineMC Sodium. These mods largely nullify AMD's performance issues, but that doesn't mean they don't see further performance gains from the new driver.

Furthermore, there are shaderpacks, and since I'm testing with rather slow GPUs, I also tested most things at 480p to make sure the GPU is not the limiting factor and we can actually see the performance gains from the driver update.

Lastly, Minecraft is a game where you shape the world and as such also the game performance, so I included a late-ish game test from my survival base from a private 1.17.1 server I used to play on with friends. Otherwise all the other tests use the same default-generated world with no complex structures built.

Test setup and software

 System used for testing
  • AMD Ryzen Threadripper 3960X
  • 128 GB of DDR4-3200 RAM
  • GIGABYTE GeForce GTX 1660 OC 6GB
  • Sapphire Pulse RX 6600 8GB

CPU was run at stock performance settings with no PBO/OC applied and in NPS1 mode. Memory was running at 3200Mbps JEDEC timings.

The Zen 2 based AMD Threadripper 3960X is actually quite a poor CPU for Minecraft, something like the AMD Ryzen 7 5800X or Intel Core i5 12600K will quite easily get double the framerate with the same GPU in the same area, but I suppose that works in favor of AMD's OpenGL driver update in this case.

 Software versions
  • Microsoft Windows 10 Pro build 19044.1865
  • Radeon Adrenalin 22.5.1 was used as the old baseline driver.
  • Radeon Adrenalin 22.7.1 was used as the new improved driver.
  • GeForce Game-Ready driver 516.59
Minecraft 1.19 testing included
  • Fabric 0.14.8-1.19
  • Sodium 1.19-0.4.2 build 16
  • Iris 1.19-1.2.5
  • Optifine 1.19-HD-U-H9
  • Sildurs Vibrant Shaders v1.20 Medium
  • Sildurs Vibrant Shaders v1.281 Extreme-VL

Minecraft 1.17.1 was tested by itself with no mods.
Data was captured using OCAT 1.6.2.

 In-game settings
  • Difficulty: Hard
  • FOV: 79
  • Render Distance: 20 chunks
  • Max Shadow Distance: 16 chunks
  • Simulation Distance: 12 chunks
  • Brightness: Bright/Maximum
  • View Bobbing: On
  • Graphics: Fancy
  • Clouds: Off
  • Weather: Default
  • Leaves Quality: Default
  • Particles: All
  • Smooth Lighting: On/Maximum
  • Biome Blend: 3x3 (vanilla, optifine), 1 block (sodium)
  • Entity Distance: 400%
  • Entity Shadows: On
  • Vignette: On
  • Mipmap Levels: 2
  • Optimizations: enabled if available (threaded chunk builder, fast math, etc)
 Testing methodology

All data presented is an average of three manually performed runs.
After every save file reload or game restart, prior to testing, all chunks in the nearby area have been loaded by flying around and also performing an unrecorded test run.

Example clip of the 1.19 "Landscape" test

Example clip of the 1.17.1 "Late-Game Base" test

Minecraft 1.19 Performance

Here I tested standard (typically referred to as "Vanilla") Minecraft 1.19 but also the Sodium and Optifine mods - both at 1440p and 480p.

The performance gains from the 22.7.1 driver actually put AMD ahead of NVIDIA in the un-modded version of the game! But in my opinion the more impressive part is how blazing fast the community made mods are compared to the base game, regardless of GPU.

Minecraft 1.19 - 1440p

 Average FPS 1% Low FPS
GeForce GTX 1660
Radeon RX 6600 22.5.1
Radeon RX 6600 22.7.1
GeForce GTX 1660
Radeon RX 6600 22.5.1
Radeon RX 6600 22.7.1
GeForce GTX 1660
Radeon RX 6600 22.5.1
Radeon RX 6600 22.7.1

Minecraft 1.19 - 480p

 Average FPS 1% Low FPS
GeForce GTX 1660
Radeon RX 6600 22.5.1
Radeon RX 6600 22.7.1
GeForce GTX 1660
Radeon RX 6600 22.5.1
Radeon RX 6600 22.7.1
GeForce GTX 1660
Radeon RX 6600 22.5.1
Radeon RX 6600 22.7.1

Interestingly enough, Optifine already has the Radeon RX 6600 ahead of the GeForce GTX 1660, but keep in mind the RDNA architecture already saw decent performance gains in Minecraft compared to GCN without any fancy drivers, so this would have likely been a tie or even a loss if I was testing GCN based cards.

Comparing the 1440p and 480p charts also reveals the Radeon RX 6600 has quite a lot more raw performance when not CPU-bound, but that is expected as it averages around 50% faster than the GeForce GTX 1660 in most other games.

Performance with Shaders

Here I tested two different use-cases, a rather hard to run shaderpack at both 1440p and 480p and then a lighter shaderpack at 480p only. This was to show a properly CPU-limited scenario in the setting of shaders, which are naturally much harder on the CPU due to having to render the world multiple times for various visual effects (shadows, reflections, refractions, etc). This only really benefited the GeForce GTX 1660 though as the Radeon RX 6600 is fast enough to get CPU limited at 480p even with the heavier shaderpack.

Minecraft 1.19 Shaders - 1440p and 480p

 Average FPS 1% Low FPS
GeForce GTX 1660
Radeon RX 6600 22.5.1
Radeon RX 6600 22.7.1
GeForce GTX 1660
Radeon RX 6600 22.5.1
Radeon RX 6600 22.7.1
GeForce GTX 1660
Radeon RX 6600 22.5.1
Radeon RX 6600 22.7.1

The GeForce GTX 1660 struggles to match even the crippled Radeon RX 6600, this is simply because the RX 6600 is much faster and the vanilla game does not support shaders, so we are using Sodium with the Iris mod to use them, which means we are using a rendering engine that was written with AMD's poor performance in mind.

Late-game Performance

Lastly here is the 1.17.1 late-game base with many chests scattered everywhere, a sizeable mob farm, slime farm, item sorting systems and many farms.

Minecraft 1.17.1 Late-Game Base - 1440p

 Average FPS 1% Low FPS
GeForce GTX 1660
Radeon RX 6600 22.5.1
Radeon RX 6600 22.7.1

As can be seen here, the GeForce GPU has quite a sizeable 20% performance lead, this is actually on the lower scale of what I've experienced in late-game environments, but amazingly enough, the 22.7.1 driver manages to put AMD in the lead with an incredible 33% performance uplift over the 22.5.1 driver in this demanding area of the game.

Shader Compatibility

Lastly let's take a look at shader compatibility, which has been a fairly big issue over the years as Radeon support for most shader developers seems to be an afterthought, hopefully that changes now that their performance is superior though.

However, that does not change the fact there still are some compatibility pains if you plan to use a Radeon GPU with shaders, I tested my local (and somewhat outdated) pile of shaders with the following results.

ShaderGeForce GTX 1660Radeon RX 6600 22.5.1Radeon RX 6600 22.7.1
Continuum 2.0.4OKOKBlack screen
Continuum 1.3OKArtifacting waterEverything is gray
SEUS PTGI HRR Test 2.1OKDoes nothingOK
SEUS Renewed 1.0.0OKCrashes on loadOK
Sildurs Vibrant Shaders v1.281 Extreme-VLOKOKOK
Sildurs Vibrant Shaders v1.20 MediumOKOKOK
TME Shaders v2.5.2 MediumOKDoes nothingDoes nothing

As is apparent from the table, this driver somewhat improves compatibility, but only barely. This remains a weakness for the Radeon GPUs.


My conclusion is twofold but let's start with the simple part - AMD truly did an incredible job getting their OpenGL software stack into shape when it comes to performance, so much so they are beating NVIDIA in every case I've tested. And looking at the Vanilla 1.19 performance gains of 84%, it is safe to say AMD's driver release notes were not lying with their claims.

Which means if you simply want to play Minecraft as is, or maybe with some light mods, Radeon is finally an option I can truly recommend. On the other hand, if you're looking into shaders, high end modpacks or just in general want to get much deeper into the game, there will be compatibility issues to overcome and in that case I would still recommend you to stick with a GeForce GPU.

All that said, I will continue using this RX 6600, even for Minecraft... at least until RTX 4000 cards are out.

Thank you for reading all of this and I hope you found it helpful!
The raw capture data and scripts used to process it can be found here.