How Games Work

 

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:

 

Introduction

The process of testing games and graphics has been evolving even longer than I have been a part of the industry: 14+ years at this point. That transformation in benchmarking has been accelerating for the last 12 months. Typical benchmarks test some hardware against some software and look at the average frame rate which can be achieved. While access to frame time has been around for nearly the full life of FRAPS, it took an article from Scott Wasson at the Tech Report to really get the ball moving and investigate how each frame contributes to the actual user experience. I immediately began research into testing actual performance perceived by the user, including the "microstutter" reported by many in PC gaming, and pondered how we might be able to test for this criteria even more accurately.

The result of that research is being fully unveiled today in what we are calling Frame Rating – a completely new way of measuring and validating gaming performance.

The release of this story for me is like the final stop on a journey that has lasted nearly a complete calendar year.  I began to release bits and pieces of this methodology starting on January 3rd with a video and short article that described our capture hardware and the benefits that directly capturing the output from a graphics card would bring to GPU evaluation.  After returning from CES later in January, I posted another short video and article that showcased some of the captured video and stepping through a recorded file frame by frame to show readers how capture could help us detect and measure stutter and frame time variance. 

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Finally, during the launch of the NVIDIA GeForce GTX Titan graphics card, I released the first results from our Frame Rating system and discussed how certain card combinations, in this case CrossFire against SLI, could drastically differ in perceived frame rates and performance while giving very similar average frame rates.  This article got a lot more attention than the previous entries and that was expected – this method doesn’t attempt to dismiss other testing options but it is going to be pretty disruptive.  I think the remainder of this article will prove that. 

Today we are finally giving you all the details on Frame Rating; how we do it, what we learned and how you should interpret the results that we are providing.  I warn you up front though that this is not an easy discussion and while I am doing my best to explain things completely, there are going to be more questions going forward and I want to see them all!  There is still much to do regarding graphics performance testing, even after Frame Rating becomes more common. We feel that the continued dialogue with readers, game developers and hardware designers is necessary to get it right.

Below is our full video that features the Frame Rating process, some example results and some discussion on what it all means going forward.  I encourage everyone to watch it but you will definitely need the written portion here to fully understand this transition in testing methods.  Subscribe to your YouTube channel if you haven't already!

Continue reading our analysis of the new Frame Rating performance testing methodology!!

Gaming for $150 with the Radeon HD 7790

Subject: Graphics Cards | March 22, 2013 - 01:56 PM |
Tagged: hd 7790, graphics core next, GCN, ea Islands, bonaire, amd

AMD is trying to fill a gap in their product line between the less than $200 HD 7850 and the ~$120 HD 7770 with a $150 card, the HD 7790.  The naming scheme implies two GPUs but this is not the case, it is a single Bonaire GCN chip with 896 stream processors, 56 texture units and an impressive fill rate of up to 1.79 TFLOPS thanks to some optimization of the GCN architecture.  It has 1GB of GDDR5 at 6GHz effective and a CPU speed dependent on the model, in [H]ard|OCP's case the ASUS Radeon HD 7790 DirectCU II OC runs at 1.075GHz.  [H] passed it a Silver Award for being a vast improvement over the 7770 and good competition for the GTX 650 Ti but feel the card does need to be faster.

This card also makes an appearance on our front page, with a lot of Frame Rating charts so you can see not only the raw FPS data you are used to, but also an indept look at how the game is going to 'feel' while you play.

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"AMD is launching the Radeon HD 7790 today. This new video card should give the sub-$200 video card segment a kick in the pants. Will it provide enough performance for today's latest games at $149? We will find out, testing the new ASUS Radeon HD 7790 DirectCU II OC with no less than six of today's hottest games."

Here are some more Graphics Card articles from around the web:

Graphics Cards

Source: [H]ard|OCP
Author:
Manufacturer: AMD

A New GPU with the Same DNA

When we talked with AMD recently about its leaked roadmap that insinuated that we would not see any new GPUs in 2013, they were adamant that other options would be made available to gamers but were coy about about saying when and to what degree.  As it turns out, today marks the release of the Radeon HD 7790, a completely new piece of silicon under the Sea Islands designation, that uses the same GCN (Graphics Core Next) architecture as the HD 7000-series / Southern Islands GPUs with a handful of tweaks and advantages from improved clock boosting with PowerTune to faster default memory clocks.

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To be clear, the Radeon HD 7790 is a completely new ASIC, not a rebranding of a currently available part, though the differences between the options are mostly in power routing and a reorganization of the GCN design found in Cape Verde and Pitcairn designs.  The code name for this particular GPU is Bonaire and it is one of several upcoming updates to the HD 7000 cards. 

Bonaire is built on the same 28nm TSMC process technology that all Southern Islands parts are built on and consists of 2.08 billion transistors in a 160 mm2 die.  Compared to the HD 7800 (Pitcairn) GPU at 212 mm2 and HD 7700 (Cape Verde) at 120 mm2, the chip for the HD 7790 falls right in between.  And while the die images above are likely not completely accurate, it definitely appears that AMD's engineers have reorganized the internals.

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Bonaire is built with 14 CUs (compute units) for a total stream processor count of 896, which places it closer to the performance level of the HD 7850 (1024 SPs) than it does the HD 7770 (640 SPs).  The new Sea Islands GPU includes the same dual tessellation engines of the higher end HD 7000s as well and a solid 128-bit memory bus that runs at 6.0 Gbps out the gate on the 1GB frame buffer.  The new memory controller is completely reworked in Bonaire and allows for a total memory bandwidth of 96 GB/s in comparison to the 72 GB/s of the HD 7770 and peaking theoretical compute performance at 1.79 TFLOPS.

The GPU clock rate is set at 1.0 GHz, but there is more on that later.

Continue reading our review of the Sapphire AMD Radeon HD 7790 1GB Bonaire GPU!!

AMD will be reducing APU pricing by April

Subject: General Tech | March 21, 2013 - 12:35 PM |
Tagged: amd, price cuts, Richland, a4-4000

It might be worth waiting until next month if you are going to be building a low cost AMD based system as prices on the A8-5600K, FX-8320, FX-6300 and FX-4300 will be dropping in April.  You can also expect to see the A4-4000 hit stores the following month at a very low price according to DigiTimes but don't have anything new to report about the release date of the Richland chips.  It is nice to have low cost CPUs available on the market, but it seems odd when even the lowest priced motherboard will run you about twice as much as the CPU you will be putting on it.

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"AMD plans to cut some of its APU prices at the end of April to welcome its next-generation Richland APUs, set for launch in early June, according to sources from PC players.

Prices of AMD's APUs including A8-5600K, FX-8320, FX-6300 and FX-4300 will see 8-15% drops and the CPU maker will also start shipping its A4-4000 in mid-April for sales in mid-May priced at US$40."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: DigiTimes

ASUS HD 7970 DirectCU II versus a dual linked Dell 3007WFP

Subject: Graphics Cards | March 18, 2013 - 03:17 PM |
Tagged: 2560x1600, amd, hd7970 direct cu 2, asus, dell, 3007WFP

[H]ard|OCP has wanted to publish their review of the ASUS HD 7970 DirectCU II for a while but ran into a compatibility issue during their testing and ended up being a perfect example of what sometimes happens to review sites and enthusiasts on the bleeding edge.  [H] uses a Dell 3007WFP with a resolution of 2560x1600 which necessitates the use of a dual link DVI connection, which cause the issue you can see below.  No other setup seemed to reproduce this problem, even the same monitor on a single link DVI at 1920x1080 or at the higher resolution on Display Port would not display the issue.  So what began as a review of an HD 7970 with some nice extra features from ASUS became a long session of troubleshooting.  Take a read through the review as these cards should be back in stock over the next few months, very likely with a solution to this problem already incorporated.

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"Today we have the ASUS HD 7970 DirectCU II strapped to our test bench for your reading pleasure. We will compare it to the AMD Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition and to the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 680 to determine whether the custom VRMs and DirectCU II cooling solution are the droids you are looking for in your next graphics card purchase."

Here are some more Graphics Card articles from around the web:

Graphics Cards

Source: [H]ard|OCP
Author:
Subject: Motherboards
Manufacturer: ASUS

AM3+ Last Gasp?

 

Over the past several years I have reviewed quite a few Asus products.  The ones that typically grab my attention are the ROG based units.  These are usually the most interesting, over the top, and expensive products in their respective fields.  Ryan has reviewed the ROG graphics cards, and they have rarely disappointed.  I have typically taken a look at the Crosshair series of boards that support AMD CPUs.

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Crosshair usually entails the “best of the best” when it comes to features and power delivery.  My first brush with these boards was the Crosshair IV.  That particular model was only recently taken out of my primary work machine.  It proved itself to be an able performer and lasted for years (even overclocked).  The Crosshair IV Extreme featured the Lucid Hydra chip to allow mutli-GPU performance without going to pure SLI or Crossfire.  The Crosshair V got rid of Lucid and added official SLI support and it incorporated the Supreme FX II X-Fi audio.  All of these boards have some things in common.  They are fast, they overclock well, and they are among the most expensive motherboards ever for the AMD platform.

So what is there left to add?  The Crosshair V is a very able platform for Bulldozer and Piledriver based parts.  AMD is not updating the AM3+ chipsets, so we are left with the same 990FX northbridge and the SB950 southie (both of which are essentially the same as the 890FX/SB850).  It should be a simple refresh, right?  We had Piledriver released a few months ago and there should be some power and BIOS tweaks that can be implemented and then have a rebranded board.  Sounds logical, right?  Well, thankfully for us, Asus did not follow that path.

The Asus Crosshair V Formula Z is a fairly radical redesign of the previous generation of products.  The amount of extra features, design changes, and power characteristics make it a far different creature than the original Crosshair V.  While both share many of the same style features, under the skin this is a very different motherboard.  I am rather curious why Asus did not brand this as the “Crosshair VI”.  Let’s explore, shall we?

Click here to read the entire review on the ASUS Crosshair V Formula-Z

Podcast #242 - AMD's new Richland APUs, Steam Box Prototypes, Seagate Hybrid Drives and more!

Subject: General Tech | March 14, 2013 - 03:36 PM |
Tagged: Strider, steambox, steam, sshd, Silverstone, Seagate, Richland, quadro 6000, quadro, podcast, hybrid, APU, amd

PC Perspective Podcast #242 - 03/14/2013

Join us this week as we discuss AMD's new Richland APUs, Steam Box Prototypes, Seagate Hybrid Drives and more!

You can subscribe to us through iTunes and you can still access it directly through the RSS page HERE.

The URL for the podcast is: http://pcper.com/podcast - Share with your friends!

  • iTunes - Subscribe to the podcast directly through the iTunes Store
  • RSS - Subscribe through your regular RSS reader
  • MP3 - Direct download link to the MP3 file

Hosts: Ryan Shrout, Jeremy Hellstrom, Josh Walrath and Allyn Malventano

This Podcast is brought to you by MSI!

Program length: 0:59:45

Podcast topics of discussion:

  1. Week in Reviews:
    1. 0:01:30 Silverstone Strider Power supply
    2. 0:03:00 Richland Unveiled: AMD releases new A10-5750M
  2. 0:14:33 This Podcast is brought to you by MSI!
  3. News items of interest:
    1. 0:15:35 Steam Box Prototypes in the next few months
    2. 0:24:00 NVIDIA allegedly part Quadro 6000 GK110 card
    3. 0:25:30 Seagate SSHD Lineup
    4. 0:30:00 WebM now official with Google and support from MPEG LA
    5. 0:33:40 GF Actually Shipping 28 nm Product!
  4. Closing:
    1. 0:42:40 Hardware / Software Pick of the Week
      1. Ryan: Tranquil PC Intel NUC case
      2. Josh: Cheap and Pretty!
      3. Allyn: Automatic
      4. Morry: Edimax 150mbps wireless nano USB adapter
  1. 1-888-38-PCPER or podcast@pcper.com
  2. http://pcper.com/podcast
  3. http://twitter.com/ryanshrout and http://twitter.com/pcper
  4. Closing/outro

Be sure to subscribe to the PC Perspective YouTube channel!!

 

Welcome Richland, another refined die from AMD

Subject: Processors | March 12, 2013 - 02:52 PM |
Tagged: VLIW4, trinity, Richland, piledriver, notebook, mobile, hd 8000, APU, amd, A10-5750

The differences between Richland and Trinity are not earth shattering but there are certainly some refinements implemented by AMD in the A10-5750.  One very noticeable one is support for DDR3-1866 as well as better power management for both the CPU and GPU; with new temperature balancing algorithms and measurement the ability to balance the load properly has increased from Trinity.  Many AMD users will be more interested in the GPU portion of the die than the CPU, as that is where AMD actually has as lead on Intel and this particular chip contains the HD8650G, with clocks of 720MHz boost and 533MHz base and increase from the previous generation of 35 and 37MHz respectively.  You can read more about the other three models that will be released over at The Tech Report.

Don't forget Josh either!

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"AMD has formally introduced the first members of its Richland APU family. We have the goods on the chips and Richland's new power management tech, which combines temperature-based inputs with bottleneck-aware clock boosting."

Here are some more Processor articles from around the web:

Processors

Author:
Subject: Processors
Manufacturer: AMD

AMD Exposes Richland

When we first heard about “Richland” last year, there was a little bit of excitement from people.  Not many were sure what to expect other than a faster “Trinity” based CPU with a couple extra goodies.  Today we finally get to see what Richland is.  While interesting, it is not necessarily exciting.  While an improvement, it will not take AMD over the top in the mobile market.  What it actually brings to the table is better competition and a software suite that could help to convince buyers to choose AMD instead of a competing Intel part.

From a design standpoint, it is nearly identical to the previous Trinity.  That being said, a modern processor is not exactly simple.  A lot of software optimizations can be applied to these products to increase performance and efficiency.  It seems that AMD has done exactly that.  We had heard rumors that the graphics portion was in fact changed, but it looks like it has stayed the same.  Process improvements have been made, but that is about the extent of actual hardware changes to the design.

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The new Richland APUs are branded the A-5000 series of products.  The top end is the A10-5750M with HD-8650 integrated graphics.  This is still the VLIW-4 based graphics unit seen in the previous Trinity products, but enough changes have been made with software that I can enable Dual Graphics with the new Solar System based GPUs (GCN).  The speeds of these products have received a nice boost.  As compared to the previous top end A10-4600, the 5750 takes the base speed from 2.3 GHz to 2.5 GHz.  Boost goes from 3.2 GHz up to 3.5 GHz.  The graphics portion takes the base clock from 496 MHz up to 533 MHz, while turbo mode improves over the 4600 from 685 MHz to 720 MHz.  These are not staggering figures, but it all still fits within the 35 watt TDP of the previous product.

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One other important improvement is the ability to utilize DDR-3 1866 memory.  Throughout the past year we have seen memory densities increase fairly dramatically without impacting power consumption.  This goes for speed as well.  While we would expect to see lower power DIMMs be used in the thin and light categories, expect to see faster DDR-3 1866 in the larger notebooks that will soon be heading our way.

Click here to read more about AMD's Richland APUs!

PCPer Live! Tomb Raider Game Stream - Win Games and Graphics Cards from AMD!

Subject: Graphics Cards | March 4, 2013 - 04:31 PM |
Tagged: video, tomb raider, tahiti, radeon, never settle reloaded, live, crysis, amd

UPDATE: Missed the live stream?  Relive the incredible experience right here!  

On March 5th on the PC Perspective Live! page we will be streaming some game action of the new Tomb Raider.  In what might be one of the most impressive game series reboots in history, this iteration of the action-adventure gameplay is definitely the most impressive looking to date.  And don't forget all the hair animation we are likely to see...

We will be teaming up with AMD once again to provide a fun and exciting PCPer Game Stream that includes game demonstrations and of course, prizes and game keys for those that watch the event LIVE! 

UPDATE: We are excited to announce that Crystal Dynamics' Brian Horton, Senior Art Director for Tomb Raider, will be joining us on the PC Perpsective Game Stream to answer questions and to give us more detail on the visual effects at work in the PC version of the game!

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Tomb Raider Game Stream

5pm PT / 8pm ET - March 5th

PC Perspective Live! Page

Warning: this one will DEFINITELY have mature language and content!!

The stream will be sponsored by AMD and its Never Settle Reloaded game bundles which we previously told you about.  Depending on the AMD Radeon HD 7000 series GPU that you buy, you could get some amazing free games including:

  • Radeon HD 7900 Series
    • FREE Crysis 3
    • FREE Bioshock Infinite
  • Radeon HD 7800 Series
    • FREE Bioshock Infinite
    • FREE Tomb Raider
  • Radeon HD 7900 CrossFire Set
    • FREE Crysis 3
    • FREE Bioshock Infinite
    • FREE Tomb Raider
    • FREE Far Cry 3
    • FREE Hitman: Absolution
    • FREE Sleeping Dogs

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AMD's Antal Tungler (@ColoredRocks on twitter) will be joining us via Skype to talk about the game's technology, performance considerations as well as helping me with some co-op gaming!

Of course, just to sweeten the deal a bit we have some prizes lined up for those of you that participate in our Tomb Raider Game Stream:

  • 2 x Gigabyte Radeon HD 7870 OC 2GB graphics cards (plus Tomb Raider & Bioshock Infinite)
  • 1 x HIS 7850 iPower IceQ Turbo 4GB graphics card (plus Tomb Raider & Bioshock Infinite)
  • 3 x Combo codes for both Tomb Raider AND Bioshock Infinite

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Pretty nice, huh?  All you have to do to win is be present on the PC Perspective Live! Page during the event as we will announce both the content/sweepstakes method AND the winners!

Stop in on March 5h for some PC gaming fun!!

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