The card we have been expecting
Despite all the issues that were brought up with our new graphics performance testing methodology we are calling Frame Rating, there is little debate in the industry that AMD is making noise once again in the graphics field. From the elaborate marketing and game bundles with all Radeon HD 7000 series cards over the last year to the hiring of Roy Taylor, VP of sales but also the company's most vocal supporter.
Along with the marketing though goes plenty of technology and important design wins. With the dominance of the APU on the console side (Wii U, Playstation 4 and the next Xbox), AMD is making sure that the familiarity with its GPU architecture there pays dividends on the PC side as well. Developers will be focusing on AMD's graphics hardware for 5-10 years with the console generation and that could result in improved performance and feature support for Radeon graphics for PC gamers.
Today's release of the Radeon HD 7990 6GB Malta dual-GPU graphics card shows a renewed focus on high-end graphics markets since the release of the Radeon HD 7970 in January of 2012. And while you may have seen something for sale previously with the HD 7990 name attached, those were custom designs built by partners, not by AMD.
Both ASUS and PowerColor currently have high-end dual-Tahiti cards for sale. The PowerColor HD 7990 Devil 13 used the brand directly but ASUS' ARES II kept away from the name and focused on its own high-end card brands instead.
The "real" Radeon HD 7990 card was first teased at GDC in March and takes a much less dramatic approach to its design without being less impressive technically. The card includes a pair of Tahiti, HD 7970-class GPUs on a single PCB with 6GB of total memory. The raw specifications are listed here:
Considering there are two HD 7970 GPUs on the HD 7990, the doubling of the major specs shouldn't be surprising though it is a little deceiving. There are 8.6 billion transistors yes, but there are still 4.3 billion on each GPU. Yes there are 4096 stream processors but only 2048 on each GPU requiring software GPU scaling to increase performance. The same goes with texture fill rate, compute performance, memory bandwidth, etc. The same could be said for all dual-GPU graphics cards though.
A very early look at the future of Catalyst
Today is a very interesting day for AMD. It marks both the release of the reference design of the Radeon HD 7990 graphics card, a dual-GPU Tahiti behemoth, and the first sample of a change to the CrossFire technology that will improve animation performance across the board. Both stories are incredibly interesting and as it turns out both feed off of each other in a very important way: the HD 7990 depends on CrossFire and CrossFire depends on this driver.
If you already read our review (or any review that is using the FCAT / frame capture system) of the Radeon HD 7990, you likely came away somewhat unimpressed. The combination of a two AMD Tahiti GPUs on a single PCB with 6GB of frame buffer SHOULD have been an incredibly exciting release for us and would likely have become the single fastest graphics card on the planet. That didn't happen though and our results clearly state why that is the case: AMD CrossFire technology has some serious issues with animation smoothness, runt frames and giving users what they are promised.
Our first results using our Frame Rating performance analysis method were shown during the release of the NVIDIA GeForce GTX Titan card in February. Since then we have been in constant talks with the folks at AMD to figure out what was wrong, how they could fix it, and what it would mean to gamers to implement frame metering technology. We followed that story up with several more that showed the current state of performance on the GPU market using Frame Rating that painted CrossFire in a very negative light. Even though we were accused by some outlets of being biased or that AMD wasn't doing anything incorrectly, we stuck by our results and as it turns out, so does AMD.
Today's preview of a very early prototype driver shows that the company is serious about fixing the problems we discovered.
If you are just catching up on the story, you really need some background information. The best place to start is our article published in late March that goes into detail about how game engines work, how our completely new testing methods work and the problems with AMD CrossFire technology very specifically. From that piece:
It will become painfully apparent as we dive through the benchmark results on the following pages, but I feel that addressing the issues that CrossFire and Eyefinity are creating up front will make the results easier to understand. We showed you for the first time in Frame Rating Part 3, AMD CrossFire configurations have a tendency to produce a lot of runt frames, and in many cases nearly perfectly in an alternating pattern. Not only does this mean that frame time variance will be high, but it also tells me that the value of performance gained by of adding a second GPU is completely useless in this case. Obviously the story would become then, “In Battlefield 3, does it even make sense to use a CrossFire configuration?” My answer based on the below graph would be no.
An example of a runt frame in a CrossFire configuration
NVIDIA's solution for getting around this potential problem with SLI was to integrate frame metering, a technology that balances frame presentation to the user and to the game engine in a way that enabled smoother, more consistent frame times and thus smoother animations on the screen. For GeForce cards, frame metering began as a software solution but was actually integrated as a hardware function on the Fermi design, taking some load off of the driver.
Subject: Graphics Cards | April 23, 2013 - 10:05 AM | Ryan Shrout
Tagged: amd, never settle, never settle reloaded, bundle
While browsing around on Twitter today I saw mention of a leaked slide on the Tech Report forums that seems to point in the direction of upcoming games to be included in future AMD Never Settle gaming bundles. AMD has been knocking the ball out of the park when it comes to bundled software with graphics card releases as they have gotten essentially every major PC game in the last 12 months.
This slide indicates that Grid 2, Company of Heroes 2, Rome: Total War II, Splinter Cell Blacklist, Lost Planet 3, Battlefield 4, Raven's Cry and Watch Dogs will all eventually make their way to the AMD bundle list at some point this year. Whether it will be in one mega-bundle or several different promotions throughout the year isn't known, but AMD is serious about keeping up appearances in the PC gaming front.
Subject: General Tech | April 22, 2013 - 02:04 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: opteron, history, get off my lawn, amd, 64-bit
AMD64 arrived a decade ago with the launch of the first Opteron processor in April of 2003, back in the days when NVIDIA made motherboards and ATI was a separate company. In those days AMD looked like serious competition for Intel as they were out innovating Intel and competing for Big Blue's niche markets as they were first to cross the GHz line and the first to offer a 64bit architecture on a commercially available platform. At that point Intel actually licensed AMD64, re-branded it as x86-64 and used it on their Xeon processor line, a huge victory for AMD. Unfortunately there was not much in the way of consumer software capable of taking advantage of 64-bit architecture and unfortunately remains so to this day, apart from peoples ability to benefit from the enlarged RAM pool allowed. Take a walk down memory lane at The Inquirer, and remember the good old days when AMD was prospering.
"A DECADE AGO AMD released the first Opteron processor and with it the first 64-bit x86 processor."
Here is some more Tech News from around the web:
- Intel pushing adaptive all-in-one PCs with new components @ DigiTimes
- ASUS PCE-AC66 review: 802.11ac via PCIe @ Hardware.info
- Garmin nuvi 2597LMT Review @ TechReviewSource
- The TR Podcast 132: BioShock, bundles and big SSDs
Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards | April 19, 2013 - 02:51 PM | Ryan Shrout
Tagged: raja koduri, apple, amd
Interesting information has surfaced today about the addition of a new executive at AMD. Raja Koduri, who previously worked for ATI and AMD as Chief Technology Officer, departed the company in 2009 for a four year stint at Apple, helping to turn that company into an SoC power house. Developing its own processors has enabled Apple to stand apart from the competition in many mobile spaces and Koduri is partly responsible for the technological shift at Apple.
Starting on Monday though, Raja Koduri is officially back at AMD, taking over as the CVP (Corporate Vice President) of Visual Computing. This position will result in more complete control over the entirety of the hardware and software platforms AMD is developing including desktop discrete, mobile and APU/SoC designs. This marks the second major returning visionary executive in recent memory to AMD, the first of which was Jim Keller in August of 2012 (also returning from a period with Apple).
It will take some time for Koduri to have effect on AMD's current roadmap
Having known Raja Koduri for quite a long time I have always seen the man as an incredibly intelligent engineer that was able to find strengths in designs that others could not. Much of the success of the ATI/AMD GPU divisions during the 2000s was due to Koduri's leadership (among others of course) and I think having him back at AMD at an even more senior role is great news for both discrete graphics fans and APU users.
In a discussion with Koduri recently, Anandtech got some positive feedback for PC gamers:
Raja believes there’s likely another 15 years ahead of us for good work in high-end discrete graphics, so we’ll continue to see AMD focus on that part of the market.
Koduri sees 15 years more GPU evolution
So even though this hiring isn't going to change AMD's position on the APU and SoC strategy, it is good to have someone at the CVP level that sees the importance and value of discrete, high power GPU technology.
In many talks with AMD over the last 6 months we kept hearing about the healthy influx of quality personnel though much of it was still under wraps. Keller was definitely one of them and Koduri is another and both of the hires give a lot of hope for AMD as a company going forward. Some in the industry have already written AMD off but I find it hard to believe that this caliber of executive would return to a sinking ship.
Subject: Editorial, General Tech, Graphics Cards | April 14, 2013 - 02:22 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: never settle, never settle reloaded, amd, far cry 3
So when AMD reloaded their Never Settle bundles, they left an extra round in the barrel.
Some of my favorite games were given to me in a bundle with some piece of computer hardware. You might remember from the PC Perspective game night that I am a major fan of the Unreal Tournament franchise. My first Unreal Tournament game was an unexpected surprise when I purchased my first standalone GPU. My 166MHz Pentium computer also came bundled with Mechwarrior 2 and Wipeout.
As we discussed, AMD considers bundle-offers as a way to keep the software industry rolling forward. The quantity and quality of games which participate in the recent Never Settle bundles certainly deserve credit as it is due. Bioshock: Infinite is a game that just about every PC gamer needs to experience, and there are about a half-dozen other great titles as a part of the promotion depending upon which card or cards you purchase.
As it turns out, AMD negotiated with Ubisoft and added Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon to their Never Settle bundle. The coolest part is that AMD will retroactively email codes for this new title to anyone who has redeemed a Never Settle: Reloaded code.
So if you have ever Reloaded your Never Settle in the past, check your email as apparently you can Never Settle your reloads again.
Subject: Graphics Cards | April 13, 2013 - 10:07 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: radeon hd7790, powercolor, GCN, amd, 7790
PowerColor launched a new factory overclocked graphics card recently that is a revision of a previous model. The PowerColor HD7790 OC V2 is based on AMD’s Graphics Core Next (GCN) architecture and measures a mere 180 x 150 x 38mm.
The AMD Radeon HD 7790 GPU features 896 stream processors, 56 texture units, and 80 ROP units. The GPU is clocked at 1000 MHz base and 1030 MHz boost while the 1GB of GDDR5 memory is clocked at the 6Gbps reference speed. PowerColor has fitted the overclocked card with an aluminum heatsink cooled by a single 8mm copper heatpipe and 70mm fan.
The new card features two DL-DVI, one HDMI, and one DisplayPort video outputs. Its model number is AX7790-1GBD5-DHV2/OC. According to Guru3D, the new/revised card is priced at 120 pounds sterling. However, considering the currently available OC (non-V2) card is $150, the revised card is likely to come in around that price when it hits US retailers.
Also: If you have not already, read our latest Frame Rating article to see how the Radeon HD 7790 graphics card stacks up against the competition!
Subject: General Tech | April 11, 2013 - 01:26 PM | Ken Addison
Tagged: video, xeon, thunderbolt, roccat, quadro, premiere, podcast, opencl, nerdytec, Ivy Bridge-E, haswell, frame rating, firepro, falcon ridge, DirectX 12, couchmaster, ASUS P8Z77-I Deluxe, amd
PC Perspective Podcast #246- 04/11/2013
Join us this week as we discuss the ASUS P8Z77-I Deluxe Mini-ITX motherboard, more Frame Rating, DirectX 12 and more!
The URL for the podcast is: http://pcper.com/podcast - Share with your friends!
- iTunes - Subscribe to the podcast directly through the Store
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- MP3 - Direct download link to the MP3 file
Hosts: Ryan Shrout, Jeremy Hellstrom, Josh Walrath, and Allyn Malventano
Program length: 1:01:46
Winner last week? Mike McLaughlin!! Congrats!
Week in Review:
0:24:00 NerdyTec COUCHMASTER
News items of interest:
0:47:00 Hardware/Software Picks of the Week:
1-888-38-PCPER or firstname.lastname@example.org
What to look for and our Test Setup
Because of the complexity and sheer amount of data we have gathered using our Frame Rating performance methodology, we are breaking it up into several articles that each feature different GPU comparisons. Here is the schedule:
- 3/27: Frame Rating Dissected: Full Details on Capture-based Graphics Performance Testing
- 3/27: Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition vs GeForce GTX 680 (Single and Dual GPU)
- 3/30: AMD Radeon HD 7990 vs GeForce GTX 690 vs GeForce GTX Titan
- 4/2: Radeon HD 7950 vs GeForce GTX 660 Ti (Single and Dual GPU)
- 4/5: Radeon HD 7870 GHz Edition vs GeForce GTX 660 (Single and Dual GPU)
- 4/16: Frame Rating: Visual Effects of Vsync on Gaming Animation
Today marks the conclusion of our first complete round up of Frame Rating results, the culmination of testing that was started 18 months ago. Hopefully you have caught our other articles on the subject at hand, and you really will need to read up on the Frame Rating Dissected story above to truly understand the testing methods and results shown in this article. Use the links above to find the previous articles!
To round out our Frame Rating testing in this interation, we are looking at more cards further down the product stack in two different sets. The first comparison will look at the AMD Radeon HD 7870 GHz Edition and the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 660 graphics cards in both single and dual-card configurations. Just like we saw with our HD 7970 vs GTX 680 and our HD 7950 vs GTX 660 Ti testing, evaluating how the GPUs compare in our new and improved testing methodology in single GPU configurations is just as important as testing in SLI and CrossFire. The GTX 660 ($199 at Newegg.com) and the HD 7870 ($229 at Newegg.com) are the closest matches in terms of pricing though both card have some interesting game bundle options as well.
AMD's Radeon HD 7870 GHz Edition
Our second set of results will only be looking at single GPU performance numbers for lower cost graphics cards like the AMD Radeon HD 7850 and Radeon HD 7790 and from NVIDIA the GeForce GTX 650 Ti and GTX 650 Ti BOOST. We didn't include multi-GPU results on these cards simply due to time constraints internally and because we are eager to move onto further Frame Rating testing and input testing.
NVIDIA's GeForce GTX 660
If you are just joining this article series today, you have missed a lot! If nothing else you should read our initial full release article that details everything about the Frame Rating methodology and why we are making this change to begin with. In short,
Because FRAPS measures frame times at a different point in the game pipeline (closer to the game engine) its results can vary dramatically from what is presented to the end user on their display. Frame Rating solves that problem by recording video through a dual-link DVI capture card that emulates a monitor to the testing system and by simply applying a unique overlay color on each produced frame from the game, we can gather a new kind of information that tells a very unique story.
The capture card that makes all of this work possible.
I don't want to spend too much time on this part of the story here as I already wrote a solid 16,000 words on the topic in our first article and I think you'll really find the results fascinating. So, please check out my first article on the topic if you have any questions before diving into these results today!
|Test System Setup|
|CPU||Intel Core i7-3960X Sandy Bridge-E|
|Motherboard||ASUS P9X79 Deluxe|
|Memory||Corsair Dominator DDR3-1600 16GB|
|Hard Drive||OCZ Agility 4 256GB SSD|
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 660 2GB
AMD Radeon HD 7870 2GB
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 650 Ti 1GB
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 650 Ti BOOST 2GB
AMD Radeon HD 7850 2GB
AMD Radeon HD 7790 1GB
AMD: 13.2 beta 7
NVIDIA: 314.07 beta
|Power Supply||Corsair AX1200i|
|Operating System||Windows 8 Pro x64|
On to the results!
Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards | April 5, 2013 - 11:48 AM | Ryan Shrout
Tagged: premiere pro, opencl, firepro, amd, Adobe
As we prepare for the NAB show (National Association of Broadcasters) this week, AMD and Adobe have released a fairly substantial news release concerning the future of Premiere Pro, Adobe's flagship professional video editing suite.
Earlier today Adobe revealed some of its next generation professional video and audio products, including the next version of Adobe® Premiere Pro. Basically Adobe is giving users a sneak peek at the new features coming to the next versions of its software. And we’ve decided to give you a sneak peek too, providing a look at how the next version of Premiere Pro performs when accelerated by AMD FirePro™ 3D workstation graphics and OpenCL™ versus Nvidia Quadro workstation graphics and CUDA.
This will be the first time that OpenCL is used as the primary rendering engine for Premiere and is something that AMD has been hoping to see for many years. Previous versions of the software integrated support for NVIDIA's CUDA GPGPU programming models and the revolution of the Mercury Playback Engine was truly industry changing for video production. However, because it was using CUDA, AMD users were left out of these performance improvements in favor of the proprietary NVIDIA software solution.
Adobe's next version of Premiere Pro (though we aren't told when that will be released) switches from CUDA to OpenCL and the performance of the AMD GCN architecture is being shown off by AMD today.
Using 4K TIFF 24-bit sequence content, Microsoft Windows® 7 64-bit, Intel Xeon E5530 @ 2.40 GHZ and 12GB system memory, AMD compared several FirePro graphics cards (using OpenCL) against NVIDIA Quadro options (using CUDA). Idealy we would like to see some OpenCL NVIDIA benchmarks as well, but I assume we'll have to wait to test that here at PC Perspective.
AMD also claims that by utilizing OpenCL rather than CUDA, the AMD FirePro GPUs are running at a lower utilization, opening up more graphics processing power for other applications and development work.
While this performance testing is conducted on a pre-release version of the next Adobe Premiere Pro, we’re really pleased with the results. As with all of the professional applications we support, we’ll continue to make driver optimizations for Adobe Premiere Pro that can only help to improve the overall user experience and application performance. So if you’re considering a GPU upgrade as part of your transition to the next version of Adobe Premiere Pro, definitely consider taking a look at AMD FirePro™ 3D workstation graphics cards.
You can continue on to read the full press release from AMD and Adobe on the collaboration or check out the complete blog post posted on AMD.com.
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