A troubled launch to be sure
AMD has released some important new drivers with drastic feature additions over the past year. Remember back in August of 2013 when Frame Pacing was first revealed? Today’s Catalyst 14.1 beta release will actually complete the goals that AMD set forth upon itself in early 2013 in regards to introducing (nearly) complete Frame Pacing technology integration for non-XDMA GPUs while also adding support for Mantle
and HSA capability.
Frame Pacing Phase 2 and HSA Support
When AMD released the first frame pacing capable beta driver in August of 2013, it added support to existing GCN designs (HD 7000-series and a few older generations) at resolutions of 2560x1600 and below. While that definitely addressed a lot of the market, the fact was that CrossFire users were also amongst the most likely to have Eyefinity (3+ monitors spanned for gaming) or even 4K displays (quickly dropping in price). Neither of those advanced display options were supported with any Catalyst frame pacing technology.
That changes today as Phase 2 of the AMD Frame Pacing feature has finally been implemented for products that do not feature the XDMA technology (found in Hawaii GPUs for example). That includes HD 7000-series GPUs, the R9 280X and 270X cards, as well as older generation products and Dual Graphics hardware combinations such as the new Kaveri APU and R7 250. I have already tested Kaveri and the R7 250 in fact, and you can read about its scaling and experience improvements right here. That means that users of the HD 7970, R9 280X, etc., as well as those of you with HD 7990 dual-GPU cards, will finally be able to utilize the power of both GPUs in your system with 4K displays and Eyefinity configurations!
This is finally fixed!!
As of this writing I haven’t had time to do more testing (other than the Dual Graphics article linked above) to demonstrate the potential benefits of this Phase 2 update, but we’ll be targeting it later in the week. For now, it appears that you’ll be able to get essentially the same performance and pacing capabilities on the Tahiti-based GPUs as you can with Hawaii (R9 290X and R9 290).
Catalyst 14.1 beta is also the first public driver to add support for HSA technology, allowing owners of the new Kaveri APU to take advantage of the appropriately enabled applications like LibreOffice and the handful of Adobe apps. AMD has since let us know that this feature DID NOT make it into the public release of Catalyst 14.1.
The First Mantle Ready Driver (sort of)
A technology that has been in development for more than two years according to AMD, the newly released Catalyst 14.1 beta driver is the first to enable support for the revolutionary new Mantle API for PC gaming. Essentially, Mantle is AMD’s attempt at creating a custom API that will replace DirectX and OpenGL in order to more directly target the GPU hardware in your PC, specifically the AMD-based designs of GCN (Graphics Core Next).
Mantle runs at a lower level than DX or OGL does, able to more directly access the hardware resources of the graphics chips, and with that ability is able to better utilize the hardware in your system, both CPU and GPU. In fact, the primary benefit of Mantle is going to be seen in the form of less API overhead and bottlenecks such as real-time shader compiling and code translation.
If you are interested in the meat of what makes Mantle tick and why it was so interesting to us when it was first announced in September of 2013, you should check out our first deep-dive article written by Josh. In it you’ll get our opinion on why Mantle matters and why it has the potential for drastically changing the way the PC is thought of in the gaming ecosystem.
Subject: Graphics Cards, Processors | January 29, 2014 - 03:44 PM | Ryan Shrout
Tagged: video, nvidia, Intel, gt 630, APU, amd, A10-7850K, 7850k
The most interesting aspect of the new Kaveri-based APUs from AMD, in particularly the A10-7850K part, is how it improves mainstream gaming performance. AMD has always stated that these APUs shake up the need for low-cost discrete graphics and when we got the new APU in the office we did a couple of quick tests to see how much validity there to that claim.
In this short video we compare the A10-7850K APU against a combination of the Intel Core i3-4330 and GeForce GT 630 discrete graphics card in five of 2013's top PC releases. I think you'll find the results pretty interesting.
UPDATE: I've had some questions about WHICH of the GT 630 SKUs were used in this testing. Our GT 630 was this EVGA model that is based on 96 CUDA cores and a 128-bit DDR3 memory interface. You can see a comparison of the three current GT 630 options on NVIDIA's website here.
If you are looking for more information on AMD's Kaveri APUs you should check out my review of the A8-7600 part as well our testing of Dual Graphics with the A8-7600 and a Radeon R7 250 card.
Subject: Graphics Cards | January 29, 2014 - 03:00 PM | Ryan Shrout
Tagged: R9 290X, r9 290, r9 270, mining, litecoin, dogecoin, amd
I know we have posted about this a few times on PC Perspective and have discussed it on the PC Perspective Podcast as well, but if you are curious as to why the prices of AMD's latest generation of R9 graphics cards have skyrocketed, look no further than this enterprising consumer and his/her Dogecoin mining rig.
What you are looking at are six MSI Gaming series R9 270 cards running through the aid of PCI Express to USB 3.0 riser cards.
Subject: General Tech | January 29, 2014 - 01:16 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: SoC, seattle, opteron, arm, amd, A1100
The Opteron A1100 will be the name born by AMD's first SoC, which we knew previously as Seattle and is the first chip which will contain ARM Cortex A57 architecture working in tandem with AMDs. It will be a full 64bit chip and will sport up to 4MB of shared L2 cache and 8MB of shared L3 cache and it will support of to four DIMMs of either DDR3 or DDR4 in dual channel with ECC. It will boot using UEFI into a Linux environment based on Fedora and will be optimized to handle web front ends and data centre tasks. As far as connectivity it will have 8 lanes of PCIe 3.0 and 8 SATA 3 ports. You can follow links from The Register to see the AMD Press Release.
"CHIP DESIGNER AMD is preparing to sample its 64-bit ARM based server processors codenamed Seattle, which will be the company's first stab at a system on chip (SoC) design for data centre products."
Here is some more Tech News from around the web:
- Heatsink Tester Shows Thermal Resistance Isn’t Futile @ Hack a Day
- Socle agrees to merge with Foxconn @ DigiTimes
- Teeny, tiny state machine could BREATHE NEW LIFE into Moore's Law @ The Register
- Toshiba twirls its HAMR, ponders whether to smash spinning rust @ The Register
- Good news! Today is Data Privacy Day ... Stop sniggering at the back @ The Register
- Ubuntu Now Often Leads Windows 7 On Intel SNB Graphics Performance @ Phoronix
- Warning - Microsoft Opened A Security Hole In Internet Explorer 11 @ Tech ARP
Hybrid CrossFire that actually works
The road to redemption for AMD and its driver team has been a tough one. Since we first started to reveal the significant issues with AMD's CrossFire technology back in January of 2013 the Catalyst driver team has been hard at work on a fix, though I will freely admit it took longer to convince them that the issue was real than I would have liked. We saw the first steps of the fix released in August of 2013 with the release of the Catalyst 13.8 beta driver. It supported DX11 and DX10 games and resolutions of 2560x1600 and under (no Eyefinity support) but was obviously still less than perfect.
In October with the release of AMD's latest Hawaii GPU the company took another step by reorganizing the internal architecture of CrossFire on the chip level with XDMA. The result was frame pacing that worked on the R9 290X and R9 290 in all resolutions, including Eyefinity, though still left out older DX9 titles.
One thing that had not been addressed, at least not until today, was the issues that surrounded AMD's Hybrid CrossFire technology, now known as Dual Graphics. This is the ability for an AMD APU with integrated Radeon graphics to pair with a low cost discrete GPU to improve graphics performance and gaming experiences. Recently over at Tom's Hardware they discovered that Dual Graphics suffered from the exact same scaling issues as standard CrossFire; frame rates in FRAPS looked good but the actually perceived frame rate was much lower.
A little while ago a new driver made its way into my hands under the name of Catalyst 13.35 Beta X, a driver that promised to enable Dual Graphics frame pacing with Kaveri and R7 graphics cards. As you'll see in the coming pages, the fix definitely is working. And, as I learned after doing some more probing, the 13.35 driver is actually a much more important release than it at first seemed. Not only is Kaveri-based Dual Graphics frame pacing enabled, but Richland and Trinity are included as well. And even better, this driver will apparently fix resolutions higher than 2560x1600 in desktop graphics as well - something you can be sure we are checking on this week!
Just as we saw with the first implementation of Frame Pacing in the Catalyst Control Center, with the 13.35 Beta we are using today you'll find a new set of options in the Gaming section to enable or disable Frame Pacing. The default setting is On; which makes me smile inside every time I see it.
The hardware we are using is the same basic setup we used in my initial review of the AMD Kaveri A8-7600 APU review. That includes the A8-7600 APU, an Asrock A88X mini-ITX motherboard, 16GB of DDR3 2133 MHz memory and a Samsung 840 Pro SSD. Of course for our testing this time we needed a discrete card to enable Dual Graphics and we chose the MSI R7 250 OC Edition with 2GB of DDR3 memory. This card will run you an additional $89 or so on Amazon.com. You could use either the DDR3 or GDDR5 versions of the R7 250 as well as the R7 240, but in our talks with AMD they seemed to think the R7 250 DDR3 was the sweet spot for the CrossFire implementation.
Both the R7 250 and the A8-7600 actually share the same number of SIMD units at 384, otherwise known as 384 shader processors or 6 Compute Units based on the new nomenclature that AMD is creating. However, the MSI card is clocked at 1100 MHz while the GPU portions of the A8-7600 APU are running at only 720 MHz.
So the question is, has AMD truly fixed the issues with frame pacing with Dual Graphics configurations, once again making the budget gamer feature something worth recommending? Let's find out!
Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards | January 28, 2014 - 07:00 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: Mantle, BF4, amd
A number of sites have reported on Toshiba's leak of the Catalyst 13.35 BETA driver. Mantle and TrueAudio support highlight its rumored changelog. Apparently Ryan picked it up, checked it out, and found that it does not have the necessary DLLs included. I do not think he has actual Mantle software to test against, and I am not sure how he knew what libraries Mantle requires, but this package apparently does not include them. Perhaps it was an incomplete build?
Sorry folks, unlike the above image, these are not the drivers you are looking for.
The real package should be coming soon, however. Recent stories which reference EA tech support (at this point we should all know better) claim that the Mantle update for Battlefield 4 will be delayed until February. Fans reached out to AMD's Robert Hallock who responded that it was, "Categorically not true". It sounds like AMD is planning on releasing at least their end of the patch before Friday ends.
This is looking promising, at least. Something is being done behind the scenes.
Subject: General Tech, Systems | January 28, 2014 - 04:54 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: gigabyte brix, gigabyte, amd
If you feel a little déjà vu while reading this, it is because this system is identical to the MAINGEAR SPARK. Both devices are powered by an AMD A8-5557M APU backed with an AMD Radeon R9 M275X mobile discrete GPU. They even use the same case with the same color scheme. The only difference that I could find is the MAINGEAR logo on the front versus the GIGABYTE logo on the top. I think we could safely say that both devices are made at the same place. I expect that GIGABYTE was the OEM for MAINGEAR's Steam Machine.
Check out Tim's post about the SPARK.
Check out GIGABYTE's product page for the BRIX Gaming.
When Tim published his post about the SPARK for CES, back on January 6th, little was known about the R9 M275X (beyond its 2GB of GDDR5). That is still the case. AMD has not said anything further about the mobile GPU. The press release from GIGABYTE claims that it will support DirectX 11.1 (which implies it will not support DirectX 11.2) and OpenGL 4.1 (which implies a lack of support for OpenGL 4.2, 4.3, and 4.4). GIGABYTE also claims that it will support "the latest OpenCL 1.1 standard" (which implies lack of support for OpenCL 1.2).
I seriously doubt that this is true.
I cannot see AMD regressing that heavily on API compatibility. OpenGL 4.2 has been supported since the HD 5000 (desktop) and HD 6000M (laptop) series. OpenCL 1.2 has been supported since the HD 5000 (desktop) and HD 7000M (laptop) line. One of the main features of OpenCL 1.2 is the ability share resources with DirectX 11 (OpenCL 1.1 shares with DirectX 10). In fact, I cannot find a single chip that AMD produced which supports OpenGL 4.1 and OpenCL 1.1 and fails to support OpenGL 4.2 and OpenCL 1.2.
I would not trust GIGABYTE's press release when it comes to the R9 M275X.
Still nothing on pricing and availability for the GIGABYTE BRIX Gaming. Its product code will be the "GB-BXA8G-8890", which totally rolls off the tongue, so we have that going for us. It is a very interesting device. I wonder if we will see it, and other BRIX entries, find their way into the catalogs of other system builders.
Subject: General Tech, Processors | January 27, 2014 - 03:24 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: overclocking, Kaveri, amd
HCW does quite a few overclocking reviews for both Intel and AMD processors. This time, Carl Nelson got a hold of the high-end AMD A10-7850K and gave it a pretty healthy boost in frequencies. By the time he was done with it, the CPU was operating a whole gigahertz above stock simultaneous with a 300 MHz boost to its integrated graphics.
Image Credit: HCW
3DMark 2013 Fire Strike scores gained 27%.
One again, they break down tests along a suite of different games of varying engines and add some OpenCL tests to round things out. In real-world applications, the increase was not quite as dramatic as the one seen in 3DMark but still significant. This overclock allowed certain games to jump from 720p to playable at 1080p. Apparently this silicon is a decent little overclocker.
Subject: General Tech, Processors | January 26, 2014 - 09:28 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: AM1, Kabini, amd
Chinese VR-Zone published claims that AMD will have up to four processors planned for AM1. This is the brand of socket designed for the upcoming Kabini APUs that we have discussed since the CES time frame. Three of the upcoming processors will be quad-core with one dual-core for variety. Regardless of core count, all four processors are listed at 25 watts (TDP).
Kabini pairs Jaguar cores, for x86-based serial processing, with a GCN-based graphics processor supporting DirectX 11.1. Users planning to purchase Kabini for use with Windows 8.1 should expect to miss out on some or all of the benefits associated with DirectX 11.2 (along with everyone on Windows 8 and earlier). Little of value would be lost, however.
These products are expected to be positioned against Bay Trail-D which powers Intel's Pentium and Celeron lines. The currently available products from Intel are classified at 10W TDP and around 2 GHz.
Kaveri and socketed Kabini at CES 2014
AMD is pushing lesser-clocked (and higher TDP) products based on Jaguar against Intel's Silvermont. I am not sure sure how the two architectures compare although I would expect the latter to win out clock-for-clock and watt-for-watt. Then again, cost and graphics performance could be significantly superior with AMD. Ultimately, it will be up to the overall benchmarks (and pricing) to see how they will actually stack up.
Subject: Graphics Cards | January 23, 2014 - 06:01 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: amd, asus, R9 290X DC2 OC, overclocking
[H]ard|OCP has had a chance to take the time to really see how well the R9 290X can overclock, as frequencies get lower as heat increases a quick gaming session is not enough to truly represent the performance of this new GPU. The ASUS R9 290X DirectCU II OC offers a custom cooler which demonstrated the overclocking potential of this GPU on air cooling, or at least this specific GPU as we have seen solid evidence of performance variability with 28nm Hawaii GPUs. You should read the full review to truly understand what they saw when overclocking but the good news is that once they found a sweet spot for fan speed and voltage the GPU remained at the frequency they chose. Unfortunately at 1115MHz the overclock they managed was only 75MHz higher than the cards default speed and while that could beat a stock GTX 780 Ti, the NVIDIA product overclocked higher and proved the superior card.
"We will take the ASUS R9 290X DC2 OC custom AMD R9 290X based video card and for the first time see how well the 290X can overclock. We will also for the first time compare it to an overclocked GeForce GTX 780 Ti video card head-to-head and see who wins when overclocking is accounted for."
Here are some more Graphics Card articles from around the web:
- Sapphire R9 290 4GB TRI-X OC Review @ Hardware Canucks
- HIS R9 270X IceQ X² Turbo Boost 2GB @ eTeknix
- Sapphire R9 290 Tri-X 4GB @ eTeknix
- Powercolor R9 280X TurboDuo 3GB @ eTeknix
- ASUS R9 290X DirectCU II OC 4 GB @ techPowerUp
- Gigabyte AMD Radeon R9 290X WF OC Video Card Review @ Madshrimps
- Sapphire Radeon R7 260X OC Review @ TechwareLabs
- EVGA GTX 780 Ti Classified 3072 MB @ techPowerUp
- Gigabyte GTX 780 Ti GHZ Edition Review! @ Bjorn3D