Gamers are ditching Radeon graphics cards over driver issues

Steve

Posts: 2,638   +2,537
Staff member

As I planned and was beginning to run our next big graphics card benchmark test, I felt I had to shift gears to discuss AMD's driver woes after a recent poll we ran on the community. We've already reached out to AMD for a statement and they have responded and we’ll cover that towards the end of this article.

At this point it’s no secret AMD is struggling to iron out some driver related issues with their Radeon RX 5000 GPUs. Typically we like to give both AMD and Nvidia a few months to iron out bugs when releasing a new GPU series, especially when they're based on a new or mostly new architecture, as was the case with Turing and Navi.

Nvidia went through a fair share of teething issues with Turing, but we think it’s fair to say they went on top of any major issues very quickly. AMD, on the other hand, has had seven months to sort out Navi, and by the looks of it, they just haven’t been able to deliver. We’ve received countless reports of crashing, flickering issues, and of course, the black screen bug.

I should preface this by saying we haven't run into any major issues after countless hours of testing new Radeon GPUs in our labs. Around 4-5 months ago I ran into the black screen bug once. We’re not even sure if it's the same "black screen bug" people are complaining about, or if the two are even related. My issue was seen when updating the display driver, after a reset the Windows desktop wasn’t seen again, I was instead presented with a blank screen every time Windows loaded.

The fix was to hard reboot until it prompted me to load Windows into safe-mode. Then I used the Display Driver Uninstaller tool (DDU) to remove the bad driver install. I was able to load back into Windows 10 normally, clean installed the driver, and after that I never saw the issue again.

The only other issue we’ve encountered at some point is the green or pink screen bug after installing new drivers, though I haven’t seen that one for at least the last few driver updates. Not as big of a nuissance, a reboot fixed that every time.

It’s worth noting that Tim hasn’t used a 5700 series graphics card as a daily driver, so his experience is more limited to testing on a clean system. Though he's been running extensive game tests spanning several hours that cover pretty much every quality setting in games, and not a single hiccup in all that testing.

As for me, I’ve been using the Radeon 5700 XT in my main rig for about 4 months now and in that time I’ve only had a single system lockup which forced a hard reboot and I don't even know if it was related to the graphics card. For the first few months I coupled the Radeon with a Core i9-9900K, and then recently moved to Threadripper with the 3960X and a fresh install of Windows 10, no issues as yet.

Since we bought about half a dozen 5700 XT cards for testing, we’ve also fitted out my family's gaming systems with 5700 XTs, and after a few months of operation, neither have suffered any glaring issues. With that kind of experience, we're a little puzzled as to why so many people are having problems, but of course, with nearly unlimited combination of systems and software setups, far too many people are reporting problems and many are telling us similar stories, so there’s clearly an issue at play, or series of issues.

AMD has publicly acknowledged these bugs as "known issues" in their 20.0.3 driver release notes, stating the following.

Some Radeon RX 5700 series graphics users may intermittently experience a black screen while gaming or on desktop. A potential temporary workaround is disabling hardware acceleration in applications running in the background such as web browsers or Discord.

Also, they claim to have solved the following.

An intermittent black screen or loss of display may occur when performing parallel actions such as web browsing, gaming or watching video.

An intermittent black screen or loss of display may occur when the system is left idle at desktop.

Meanwhile, in the latest 20.2.1 release notes they still acknowledge the random black screen issue with the disabled hardware acceleration workaround. They also say: "A black screen may occur when performing a mode change with a limited number of displays on Radeon RX 5700 series graphics products."

In other words, several months after launch, AMD is still working on fixing the black screen bug. As we understand, if the situation has improved a lot, it still persists for some users. Given we haven’t run into any major bug ourselves, we decided to run a poll on HUB's YouTube community channel to try and work out how many AMD users are affected and get some feedback on the problems they’re encountering.

Nearly half of all AMD users who took part in the poll responded ‘Yes’, they are having or have had serious issues with their Radeon GPU. The poll suggests that 48% of all AMD users have suffered major issues, while we see less than half that figure for Nvidia users at 22%.

The poll was conducted as a general question and we didn’t target Navi specifically, but based on the comments that went below the poll, most AMD users claimed to be running a 5700 series graphics card.

Naturally, there’s going to be some dodgy votes in there, but we don’t believe a few fanboys are going to skew the data too heavily after gathering over 49,000 votes. That’s a large enough sample size to take as evidence that AMD has a major problem they need to address.

Because we haven't experienced these issues ourselves, we've been unable to troubleshoot them on our own. One educated guess is this stems from a hardware compatibility issue which is more and more likely based on the data and feedback we received from our recent poll. Another possibility is that a lot of these problems could be caused by bad driver installs.

Over the years we've run into numerous issues with AMD, and sometimes Nvidia drivers, after updates. The solution is always to reboot into safe-mode, remove all display drivers, then load back into Windows and install the driver package from scratch. AMD’s drivers appear especially sensitive and this has been the case for as long as I can remember.

As for the theory regarding hardware compatibility, don't be surprised if AMD doesn’t have the ability to test the degree of hardware they need to before release, making a good portion of the population beta testers. It’s not an unacceptable approach, assuming they can squash bugs as they crop up in a timely manner, but unfortunately this is not something they’ve managed properly and has lead to Radeon customers having a crappy experience. This situation will result in a death spiral for the Radeon Technologies Group if they can’t get a handle on the problem. In order for them to detect bugs they need a large user base submitting crash reports. But if they fail to address issues in a timely manner as they are reported, users will seek alternatives and I can’t tell you how many people have told me they sold their 5700 XT and replaced it with a GeForce graphics card.

Drivers have always been an uphill battle for AMD, but at times they’ve managed to get on top of things and get the most out of their GPUs. 4th-gen GCN is a good example, even though it took them about 12 months before they squeezed all the possible performance out of the hardware, stability never seemed to be an issue... on the fourth iteration of that architecture.

Over the years we’ve heard countless stories about how AMD has been bullied by mean old Nvidia, and while some of the stories are true, I can’t help but feel AMD’s been kicking AMD the hardest.

Over the years we’ve heard countless stories about how AMD has been bullied by mean old Nvidia, and while some of the stories are true, I can’t help but feel AMD’s been kicking AMD the hardest. Back in the good old days when AMD had superior graphics tech it was let down by drivers. Popular titles such as League of Legends were well known to play poorly with Radeon GPUs, suffering from stuttering and poor performance relative to the Nvidia competition.

Getting back to the upcoming GeForce RTX 2060 vs. Radeon 5600 XT battle (article incoming!), with these two products so close in terms of price and performance, we're going to find it really hard to recommend the Radeon GPU.

For AMD to charge comparable prices, they have to offer a similar or superior experience than Nvidia, and right now they're failing at that. It seems many of you agree as we dive into our Amazon sales data. Basically whenever competing AMD and Nvidia products come in at a similar cost per frame, readers always seem to favor Nvidia. We saw this with the RX 5700 and RTX 2060 when both were priced at $350. Worst case scenario, having someone buy a RX 5700 series graphics card only to get fed up with issues months later and sell or return it for a GeForce product is devastating for the company and the user. No doubt, it'll be very hard for that customer to buy a Radeon on the next upgrade cycle.

~$350 GPU sales share since July 2019 - HUB Amazon data

Rather than launching more Navi-based GPUs, AMD should have taken a step back and addressed the problems with the RX 5700 series before pushing out more products that rely on the same buggy drivers. Long term, it seems quite clear that rushing out these products before fixing major bugs will do more harm than good. It also has to be placing a huge amount of pressure on board partners who have to deal with unnecessary RMA requests.

Reading though your feedback on the poll (1,700 comments and counting), the main issue appears to be the "black screen bug." This issue sees the display randomly turn black, as if the monitor had turned off, and there is no way to recover the system without a hard reboot. Those reporting this bug say it happens at random: when gaming, when not gaming, and even when the system is sitting idle.

There are also a number of users reporting workarounds to solve the black screen, a combination of the following: Disabling hardware acceleration as suggested by AMD, editing the TdrDelay in the registry, disabling PCIe link state power management, and even installing the Intel iGPU driver if they’re using an Intel CPU with an iGPU. Having said that, apart from having to execute a clean driver install using DDU in safe-mode, we haven't had to do any of the above to use, test and successfully benchmark RX 5700 GPUs properly. That is using different graphics cards and in completely different hardware.

The reason we haven’t been all over AMD about this issue until now is, as I’ve said more than once, we haven't run into any problems ourselves. It wasn’t until the poll that we got a better sense of just how widespread these problems are.

We’ve also spoken with a few retailers to see if they’re seeing issues with 5700 XT boards and we’ve received some interesting reports. Basically the return rate for 5700 XT's is more than 5x that of competing Nvidia products and when they get these systems back with various reported issues, they’re unable to replicate them due to their random nature.

It may be part of the reason why we often see GeForce graphics cards dominating pre-builts. That's another example of why Nvidia ends up doing so much better -- they aren’t bribing these retailers to predominantly use their hardware as some would suggest -- the retailers are simply trying to avoid unhappy customers along with the costs associated with having systems returned.

We have reached out to AMD, informing them of our poll and asked if they cared to comment. Here's their official statement:

Stability of our drivers is a key priority for our software team. They are monitoring forum discussions closely, including the black screen and other issues users are reporting, and we are actively identifying and working on fixes. As soon as we have more information to share, we will let you know. We encourage users to report issues they are experiencing here ‘amd.com/report’ so that our team can investigate.

AMD acknowledging the issues is a positive. But working to fix them on a 7 month old product is not. The hardware itself is good and as you know we love the pressure it puts on the graphics card market, so we end up paying less for more capable GPUs. Hopefully at this point they’re throwing every possible resource at this problem and shortly we’ll have a proper fix. Until then, it’s going to be hard to recommend Radeon graphics cards when competing with Nvidia at a similar price to performance ratio.

Shopping Shortcuts:
  • GeForce RTX 2070 Super on Amazon
  • GeForce RTX 2080 Ti on Amazon
  • GeForce RTX 2060 Super on Amazon
  • GeForce RTX 2060 on Amazon
  • GeForce GTX 1660 Super on Amazon
  • AMD Radeon RX 5700 XT on Amazon
  • AMD Radeon RX 5700 on Amazon
  • AMD Ryzen 9 3900X on Amazon
  • AMD Ryzen 5 3600 on Amazon

Permalink to story.

 

psycros

Posts: 3,155   +3,293
AMD drivers have been terrible for nearly a decade. When I get them to actually install successfully its a miracle. For crying out loud, when you do an error report it invokes Internet Explorer to display it - THAT'S how little attention they've paid.
 
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BigRedPDX

Posts: 104   +91
I'll always be an NVIDIA consumer. I've tried the old ATI Diamond cards and all the red cards in between, but drivers have always been awful. AMD took over and the driver software really didn't get any better. I haven't really had any issues with the hardware at all. AMD really should try some new progressive strategies with their software development team.
 

Federelli

Posts: 362   +4
After extensive testing on my own setup, (RX580) I've identified the black screen intermittent issue (also includes pauses and freezes without a black screen) to be related to having a second monitor/screen connected via HDMI and having it off. As soon as the second screen is turned on, all issues disappear. You can turn the screen off again and as long as it doesn't go into low power mode, the issues won't reappear.
 

Nobina

Posts: 2,561   +2,171
Surprisingly, I haven't had any issue with drivers on a RX 570. I used to have some small annoyances but they're gone for months now. Then again, never had any issues with Nvidia drivers. They are still better in that regard.
 

Adhmuz

Posts: 2,021   +813
I've had poor experiences with several AMD products over the years, from drivers to cards failing prematurely, crossfire problems, loud hot running cars. Really not interested in any of that anymore when you can just as easily purchase a product which just works.

And this naturally makes me a Nvidia fanboy if I'm not mistaken...
 
It sounds to me like Bethesda had something to do with this. At least that's what I got when I heard "may be caused when running parallel with browsing the internet or other tasks while gaming window is open".
 

mrvco

Posts: 83   +71
I didn't realize the black screen bug was related to the Radeon drivers. I have a 5700 XT and it only occurs for me in Minecraft. I can recover from it without a hard reboot if I hit CTRL-ALT-DEL fast enough when it occurs.
 
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Vulcanproject

Posts: 1,162   +1,923
Wattman gave me endless pain so I avoided AMD GPUs for a few years in my own personal builds. Haven't heard much against the series of RX570 and 580 cards I put into machines for other people though.

I actually had to explain to several who were asking 'Where's my Geforce???' which goes to show how much casual consumers know about AMD graphics cards. They calmed down when I showed them Techspot's graphs of the same money alternative to their RX570, which was a GTX1050Ti......

It seems this is not an isolated issue, perhaps AMD have been overlooking some stability to eke out maximum performance in this war with Nvidia....
 

Shadowboxer

Posts: 770   +451
The state of AMDs drivers is worse than it ever has been. I think all reviewers should be telling users not to buy until it gets sorted out. Otherwise AMD aren’t going to do anything about it. And believe me, AMD will do the bare minimum when it comes to drivers, they always have done.

I’m currently suffering from the black flicker along with 2 other friends of mine. It’s infuriating and purely unacceptable. I thought it was the monitor at first but not at all surprised to find out it was the AMD GPU.

AMD are doing an excellent job of turning me into an Nvidia “fanboy”.
 

Ravalo

Posts: 279   +127
I thought the black screen bug was caused by my new monitor xD

I’d normally fix that bug by enabling PBP/PPP and then returning it to normal (works every time unless its not available)
 

Evernessince

Posts: 5,196   +5,553
Might be related to hardware / software config as some users are having a ton of issues while others have nothing.

In any case those numbers appear to be far to high. If AMD had 48% of users having issues, they would have been review bombed a long time ago. If you look at amazon and newegg though, most cards get a 4 or 4.5 star rating. Heck the 2080 Ti has a lower average review score.
 
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amstech

Posts: 2,643   +1,802
No sh*t, AMD drivers have ALWAYS been a mess. Literally always. I had my first AMD GPU like 15 years ago, and the situation hasn't improved since then.
I knew Steve would eventually have to write a formal article addressing the elephant in the room with AMD software, and I find myself actually feeling guilty for some reason, even though I have been 100% correct all of these years... sorry @Evernessince but is it what it is.
(I know your reply already, you'll downplay this and downplay my comments...go ahead, if it really makes you feel better.)
I also mentioned a few weeks ago many people were returning AMD cards...and what do you know, that's also true. By god.
It's not just blackouts or flickering, or the latest black screen symptoms, over the years with various builds and GPU's, there's been pixilation issues, mipmapping issues, refresh rate issues, games freezing or opening in windowed mode when you have it set to full screen, games not working at all, issues with advanced features, AF types, dynamic range, ext ext ext. I was going on over 200+ flames (which are likes by folks on overclock.net for helping others) and it was mostly guiding them through AMD issues.
Even at my previous work when I was at a Hospital with the little HD5450's and other similar GPU's, we ran into dual monitor issues, bugged out driver installs, ext ext. Rarely ever had issues with our little GeForce 310's.
And before the red tide jumps on my back about Nvidia being so great, I do admit they are not perfect either, but in my experience with my GTX's through the years, they have been MUCH more solid on average with far less issues, hiccups and other weird things and I am not saying that to slam or diss AMD, I don't wish bad results on them.

IMO they need to recode their Directx, OpenGL and all other drivers.
This is beyond a few folks having issues and now they have a reputation that will not be easy to change.
I don't think its quite catastrophic, but 16% of Steam gamers is a real punch to the gut for a company pushing PC gaming, I don't care what side you favor... that's a nightmare result.
 
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mrvco

Posts: 83   +71
I didn't realize the black screen bug was related to the Radeon drivers. I have a 5700 XT and it only occurs for me in Minecraft. I can recover from it without a hard reboot if I hit CTRL-ALT-DEL fast enough when it occurs.
I've been out of town for a few days, but just installed the latest driver update. I haven't read the release notes yet, but jumped into Minecraft for a bit and no issues, black screen bug or otherwise, yet.
 
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Evernessince

Posts: 5,196   +5,553
I knew Steve would eventually have to write a formal article addressing the elephant in the room with AMD software, and I find myself actually feeling guilty for some reason, even though I have been 100% correct all of these years... sorry @Evernessince but is it what it is.
(I know your reply already, you'll downplay this and downplay my comments...go ahead, if it really makes you feel better.)
I also mentioned a few weeks ago many people were returning AMD cards...and what do you know, that's also true. By god.
It's not just blackouts or flickering, or the latest black screen symptoms, over the years with various builds and GPU's, there's been pixilation issues, mipmapping issues, refresh rate issues, games freezing or opening in windowed mode when you have it set to full screen, games not working at all, issues with advanced features, AF types, dynamic range, ext ext ext. I was going on over 200+ flames (which are likes by folks on overclock.net for helping others) and it was mostly guiding them through AMD issues.
Even at my previous work when I was at a Hospital with the little HD5450's and other similar GPU's, we ran into dual monitor issues, bugged out driver installs, ext ext. Rarely ever had issues with our little GeForce 310's.
And before the red tide jumps on my back about Nvidia being so great, I do admit they are not perfect either, but in my experience with my GTX's through the years, they have been MUCH more solid on average with far less issues, hiccups and other weird things and I am not saying that to slam or diss AMD, I don't wish bad results on them.

IMO they need to recode their Directx, OpenGL and all other drivers.
This is beyond a few folks having issues and now they have a reputation that will not be easy to change.
I don't think its quite catastrophic, but 16% of Steam gamers is a real punch to the gut for a company pushing PC gaming, I don't care what side you favor... that's a nightmare result.
These issues started with the 2020 driver update. I don't know what your post is going on about recoding DirectX / OpenGL but that's not the solution.
 

deksman2

Posts: 9   +27
Why aren't people using DDU to clean install their drivers?
When I used RX 580 and Vega 56, I haven't had any of those issues even upgrading the drivers to latest version was relatively painless.
The only problem I encountered with Vega 56 was that my system would wake up from sleep mode by displaying Static noise on the display which could only be remedied with an OS restart (and this issue started appearing on drivers after version 19.5.2 - but nothing in regards to flickering, black screens, pink or green screens, or driver crashes - and the static noise on display is relatively easily remedied by using Hybernate as opposed to sleep, though I'd prefer AMD fixed that problem).

With major changes to drivers, yes, you'd be expected to use DDU to clean up any residuals from before (as there are too many changes in between drivers to expect a 'clean transition') and do a clean install of latest drivers instead.

Its standard practice.
If you had an NV gpu in your PC and then decided to change for AMD, how the freaking heck do you expect your GPU to function if you have REMNANTS in your OS from the previous GPU you used?
Those are NOTORIOUS for causing problems and people were recommending clean driver installs (and removing remnants of old drivers) before installing a new GPU in your system.

Not saying that AMD doesn't have driver problems, but I also do think people are exacerbating this issue with their own lack of competence by not using any logic or reason for that matter.
 

deksman2

Posts: 9   +27
The state of AMDs drivers is worse than it ever has been. I think all reviewers should be telling users not to buy until it gets sorted out. Otherwise AMD aren’t going to do anything about it. And believe me, AMD will do the bare minimum when it comes to drivers, they always have done.

I’m currently suffering from the black flicker along with 2 other friends of mine. It’s infuriating and purely unacceptable. I thought it was the monitor at first but not at all surprised to find out it was the AMD GPU.

AMD are doing an excellent job of turning me into an Nvidia “fanboy”.
Have you tried using DDU to remove old drivers and clean install the new ones?
Sometimes even if you used older drivers and updated to new ones, there are massive changes in the drivers that can cause problems for people.
Every few iterations (or if there's a major driver release), I just use DDU to remove older drivers and then clean install latest ones.
This method tends to solve most problems.
 

cfbcfbcfb

Posts: 28   +17
These issues started with the 2020 driver update. I don't know what your post is going on about recoding DirectX / OpenGL but that's not the solution.
LOL, you did exactly what he said you'd do. Look up. The article you're posting about says 48% of people with AMD cards reported driver problems among all cards still in use. Not a thing about "Just since the 2020 update". The problems clearly existed well before that and were SUPPOSED to have been FIXED by the 2020 update. They weren't.

Try being a little more objective and a little less fanboy.
 

yRaz

Posts: 3,345   +2,820
Now that AMD has more.money coming in from ryzen they really should invest some money into their graphics driver devision. Especially considering the potential of their products is very high.

 
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deksman2

Posts: 9   +27
Wattman gave me endless pain so I avoided AMD GPUs for a few years in my own personal builds. Haven't heard much against the series of RX570 and 580 cards I put into machines for other people though.

I actually had to explain to several who were asking 'Where's my Geforce???' which goes to show how much casual consumers know about AMD graphics cards. They calmed down when I showed them Techspot's graphs of the same money alternative to their RX570, which was a GTX1050Ti......

It seems this is not an isolated issue, perhaps AMD have been overlooking some stability to eke out maximum performance in this war with Nvidia....
AMD drivers do come with some issues, but I also think that many people are fairly incompetent when it comes to driver installations.

For instance, how many people use DDU to remove old drivers from the OS (as they are known to cause problems) and then clean install new ones?
Very few.
Those few who do so, seem to encounter LEAST amount of problems with AMD drivers and are otherwise stable/solid.

Now think what's going to happen on a PC which had NV gpu in it, and people just slap in an AMD gpu inside and install AMD drivers ON TOP of NV drivers.
On more than one occasion it results in problems.

I've used RX 580 and Vega 56.
I had no trouble with the drivers as people describe them... nor did others for whom I've set the systems up with AMD gpu's.
I DID have to use DDU when AMD brought out a major driver update as there were no guarantees that it wouldn't cause problems, and just clean installed the latest drivers after all remnants of old drivers were removed from the OS.

I did encounter a problem with Vega 56 in Helios 500 PH517-61 with latest drivers though... but only in relation to a static noise appearing on the display every time the OS comes out of sleep mode (which is remedied by having the OS hybernate instead - still its a problem I reported to AMD and started appearing with drivers AFTER version 19.5.2 which they have yet to resolve) - otherwise, I haven't had black screens, intermittent black screen issues, performance problems, nor green or pink colours covering the screen, or driver crashes - the drivers have been pretty stable/reliable for me apart from the static noise appearing coming out of sleep.

AMD should definitely correct these issues, but to be fair, I also think general users don't understand you should really tune your system to a new GPU and remove any driver remnants using DDU (or AMD's own driver uninstall utility) before doing a clean install (especially if a major driver release was made), make sure your chipset drivers are updated, and also make sure the BIOS is updated as well (sometimes older BIOS versions don't know how to handle newest hw properly - although this is not always the case).

Next thing you know, its possible AMD will integrate a driver removal utility into their drivers and offer to CLEAN INSTALL the drivers by removing any/all old drivers and their remnants from the OS.

Funny how NV doesn't offer anything like that and their drivers cause similar problems when you have remnants of different GPU drivers in your OS... but people apparently don't seem to notice.

 

SethNW

Posts: 19   +13
Yeah, this issue is exactly what I'd pushing me to wait for RDNA2 and next gen nVidia stuff. I mean while issue is very random. One thing I also saw mentioned is RAM instability, some people reported that disabling XMP and running stock was solution for them. But beside that DDU is very common to fix stuff too. It just fes like their driver is very finicky about having perfect stability in system. So this is definitely another area where AMD needs to seriously up their game and fix issues ASAP. I mean even from standpoint of user who is tech savvy enough, I might as well pay more and get that peace of mind knowing that I won't get random issues. I love AMD, but further this goes, less I feel like I should recommend it. Hardware is great. But software is just getting worse.