The AMD Argument
Earlier this week, a story was posted in a Forbes.com blog that dove into the idea of NVIDIA GameWorks and how it was doing a disservice not just on the latest Ubisoft title Watch_Dogs but on PC gamers in general. Using quotes from AMD directly, the author claims that NVIDIA is actively engaging in methods to prevent game developers from optimizing games for AMD graphics hardware. This is an incredibly bold statement and one that I hope AMD is not making lightly. Here is a quote from the story:
Gameworks represents a clear and present threat to gamers by deliberately crippling performance on AMD products (40% of the market) to widen the margin in favor of NVIDIA products. . . . Participation in the Gameworks program often precludes the developer from accepting AMD suggestions that would improve performance directly in the game code—the most desirable form of optimization.
The example cited on the Forbes story is the recently released Watch_Dogs title, which appears to show favoritism towards NVIDIA GPUs with performance of the GTX 770 ($369) coming close the performance of a Radeon R9 290X ($549).
It's evident that Watch Dogs is optimized for Nvidia hardware but it's staggering just how un-optimized it is on AMD hardware.
Watch_Dogs is the latest GameWorks title released this week.
I decided to get in touch with AMD directly to see exactly what stance the company was attempting to take with these kinds of claims. No surprise, AMD was just as forward with me as they appeared to be in the Forbes story originally.
The AMD Stance
Central to AMD’s latest annoyance with the competition is the NVIDIA GameWorks program. First unveiled last October during a press event in Montreal, GameWorks combines several NVIDIA built engine functions into libraries that can be utilized and accessed by game developers to build advanced features into games. NVIDIA’s website claims that GameWorks is “easy to integrate into games” while also including tutorials and tools to help quickly generate content with the software set. Included in the GameWorks suite are tools like VisualFX which offers rendering solutions like HBAO+, TXAA, Depth of Field, FaceWorks, HairWorks and more. Physics tools include the obvious like PhysX while also adding clothing, destruction, particles and more.
Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards | May 27, 2014 - 12:00 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: radeon, R9, R7, eyefinity, amd
AMD has just launched their Catalyst 14.6 Beta drivers for Windows and Linux. This driver will contain performance improvements for Watch Dogs, launching today in North America, and Murdered: Soul Suspect, which arrives next week. On Linux, the driver now supports Ubuntu 14.04 and its installation process has been upgraded for simplicity and user experience.
Unless performance improvements are more important to you, the biggest feature is the support for Eyefinity with mixed resolutions. With Catalyst 14.6, you no longer need a grid of identical monitors. One example use case, suggested by AMD, is a gamer who purchases an ultra-wide 2560x1080 monitor. They will be able to add a pair of 1080p monitors on either side to create a 6400x1080 viewing surface.
If the monitors are very mismatched, the driver will allow users to letterbox to the largest rectangle contained by every monitor, or "expand" to draw the largest possible rectangle (which will lead to some assets drawing outside of any monitor). A third mode, fill, behaves like Eyefinity currently does. I must give AMD a lot of credit for leaving the choice to the user.
Returning to performance with actual figures, AMD claims "up to" 25% increases in Watch Dogs at 1080p or 28% at 1600p, compared to the previous version. The new CrossFire profile also claims up to 99% scaling in that game, at 2560x1600 with 8x MSAA. Murdered: Soul Suspect will see "up to" 16% improvements on a single card, and "up to" 93% scaling. Each of these results were provided by AMD, which tested on Radeon R9 290X cards. If these CrossFire profiles (well, first, are indicative of actual performance, and) see 99% scaling across two cards, that is pretty remarkable.
A brief mention, AMD has also expanded their JPEG decoder to Kabini. Previously, it was available to Kaveri, as of Catalyst 14.1. This allows using the GPU to display images, with their test showing a series of images being processed in about half of the time. While not claimed by AMD, I expect that the GPU will also be more power-efficient (as the processor can go back to its idle state much quicker, despite activitating another component to do so). Ironically, the three images I used for this news post are encoded in PNG. You might find that amusing.
AMD Catalyst 14.6 Beta Drivers should be now available at their download site.
Subject: Graphics Cards | May 26, 2014 - 05:16 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: amd, radeon, r9 295x2, R9 290X
Through hard work or good luck you find yourself the proud owner of an R9 295X2 and a 4K display but somehow the performance just isn't quite good enough. You can't afford another X2 though there is an R9 290X in your price range but you just aren't sure if it will help your system out at all. That is where [H]ard|OCP steps in with this review where they prove that tri-fire in this configuration does indeed work. Not only does it work, it allows you to vastly increase your performance over a 295X2 or to improve the performance somewhat while raising your graphics settings to new highs. For those using 5760x1200 Eyefinity you probably already have your graphics options cranked; this upgrade will still offer you a linear increase in performance. Not bad if you have the money to invest!
"Will adding a single AMD Radeon R9 290X video card to the AMD Radeon R9 295X2 work? Will you get triple-GPU performance, ala TriFire CrossFire performance? This just might be a more financially feasible configuration for gamers versus QuadFire that provides a great gaming experience in Eyefinity and 4K resolutions."
Here are some more Graphics Card articles from around the web:
- Sapphire R9 290X Vapor-X OC @ Kitguru
- Sapphire Vapor-X R9 290X - Cooling the Savage Beast @HiTech Legion
- MSI Radeon R9 280X Gaming 6 GB @ techPowerUp
- Sapphire R9 290X Vapor-X OC 4GB Video Card Review @ Legit Reviews
- CLUB3D R9 290X RoyalAce Superoverclock @ Kitguru
- AMD Radeon R9 290 On Ubuntu 14.04 With Catalyst Can Beat Windows 8.1 @ Phoronix
- Catalyst On Ubuntu 14.04 Linux Competes Well With Windows 8.1 @ Phoronix
- High-End NVIDIA GeForce vs. AMD Radeon Linux Gaming Comparison @ Phoronix
- Windows 8.1 Still Outperforms Linux With Latest Intel GPU Drivers @ Phoronix
- Raijintek Morpheus @ techPowerUp
- PNY GTX 780 XLR8 OC Edition @ [H]ard|OCP
- Palit GTX780 Jetstream 6GB SLi (Ultra HD 4K) @ Kitguru
- Gigabyte GeForce GTX 750 @ Hardware Secrets
- ASUS GeForce GTX 780 Ti DirectCU II OC @ X-bit Labs
Subject: General Tech | May 22, 2014 - 06:42 PM | Ken Addison
Tagged: Z97 Gaming 7, z97, xiaomi, video, tegra k1, tegra, SATA Express, podcast, msi, Intel, in win 901, Broadwell, asmedia, amd, 16nm
PC Perspective Podcast #301 - 05/22/2014
Join us this week as we discuss the IN WIN 901 Chassis, MSI Z97 Gaming 7 Motherboard, R9 Price Drops 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
- RSS - Subscribe through your regular RSS reader
- MP3 - Direct download link to the MP3 file
Hosts: Ryan Shrout, Josh Walrath, Jeremy Hellstrom, and Allyn Maleventano
Week in Review:
News items of interest:
Hardware/Software Picks of the Week:
Subject: Storage | May 21, 2014 - 09:06 PM | Sebastian Peak
Tagged: storage, SATA Express, rumors, chipset, amd
The new SATA Express (SATAe) and M.2 standards are hot topics in the storage world at the moment, and SATAe is one of the more interesting features of the new Intel Z97-based motherboards. Now it looks like it won't be long until AMD counters with support of its own. Well, kind of.
ASMedia is reportedly licensing their SATA Express IP to AMD for an upcoming platform. Didn't know that ASMedia already had a SATAe implementation? The ASUS Z97 Deluxe board which Morry recently reviewed uses an ASMedia controller for one of its two SATAe ports, along with one powered by the chipset.
We can only speculate on the "next gen" platform from AMD mentioned in the report, and it will be interesting to see what kind of performance numbers might be seen from this alleged product.
Subject: General Tech | May 21, 2014 - 03:06 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: amd, Bald Eagle, embedded, hsa
AMD has just introduced their powerful new embedded chip called Bald Eagle. Depending on the model of processor you purchase you get two or four Steamroller CPU cores, and up to eight GCN GPU cores based on the HD 9000 series. That gives the higher end chips enough juice to power up to four independent 3D, 4K, or HD displays which you can bump up to nine if you include an embedded Radeon E8860 discrete GPU in your system. The cores are all fully HSA compliant and will support ECC and non-ECC DDR3 at speeds of up to 2133MHz as well as support for PCIe Gen3 x16, PCIe Gen2 2x4 and USB and SATA as well. Check out more at The Inquirer.
"Bald Eagle also enables heterogeneous system architecture (HSA), which first appeared in AMD chippery in its desktop Kaveri APUs this January, and which allows the CPU and GPU to share the same system memory, vastly simpifying the programming challenge of getting GPUs to shoulder the parallel-processing chores that they excel at far better then CPUs."
Here is some more Tech News from around the web:
- Windows Phone Live: Microsoft's plans for enterprise on mobile @ The Register
- NVIDIA On Ubuntu 14.04 Has Some New Advantages Over Windows 8.1 @ Phoronix
- Antec EU Joint Giveaway @ NikKTech
Subject: Graphics Cards | May 15, 2014 - 06:16 PM | Ryan Shrout
Tagged: radeon, R9 290X, r9 290, r9 280x, r9 280, amd
Just the other day AMD sent out an email to the media to discuss the current pricing situation of the Radeon R9 series of graphics cards. This email started with the following statement.
You’ve seen many articles, discussions online about the AMD Radeon™ R9 lineup – especially chatter about pricing and availability. As we’ve talked about it before, the demand for the R9 lineup has been nothing but astonishing, and went well beyond our most optimistic expectations. That created a situation where gamers weren’t able to purchase their desired R9 graphics card.
Clearly AMD would not bring up the subject if the current situation was BAD news so guess what? All seems to be back normal (or expected) in terms of AMD Radeon R9 pricing and card availability. Take a look at the table below to get an idea of where Radeon's currently stand.
|Radeon R9 295X2||$1524||$1499|
|Radeon R9 290X||$549||$529|
|Radeon R9 290||$379||$399|
|Radeon R9 280X||$289||$299|
|Radeon R9 280||$249||$249|
|Radeon R9 270X||$199||$189|
|Radeon R9 270||$169||$179|
There is one price change that differs from the products' launch - the SEP of the Radeon R9 280 has dropped from $279 to $249. Nothing dramatic but a nice change.
Maybe most interesting is this line from the AMD email.
Now that product is available and at suggested pricing, these prices will remain stable. No more madness like you saw in Q1.
That emphasis is AMD's. I'm not quite sure how the company thinks they can keep a tight control on pricing now if it wasn't able to do so before, but more than likely, with the rush for coin mining hardware somewhat dying off, the prediction will hold true. (As a side note, there appears to be some discounts to be found on used Radeon hardware these days...)
Of course the AMD bundling promotion known as Never Settle Forever is still going strong with these new prices as well. Scott wrote up a story detailing this latest incarnation of the promotion and he and I both agree that while free is always
good great, the age of most of the titles in the program is a bit of a problem. But AMD did note in this email that they have "lined up a few brand new games to add to this promotion, and they'll [sic] be sharing more info with you in the next few weeks!"
Another Boring Presentation...?
In my old age I am turning into a bit of a skeptic. It is hard to really blame a guy; we are surrounded by marketing and hype, both from inside companies and from their fans. When I first started to listen in on AMD’s Core Innovation Update presentation, I was not expecting much. I figured it would be a rehash of the past year, more talk about Mullins/Beema, and some nice words about some of the upcoming Kaveri mobile products.
I was wrong.
AMD decided to give us a pretty interesting look at what they are hoping to accomplish in the next three years. It was not all that long ago that AMD was essentially considered road kill, and there was a lot of pessimism that Rory Read and Co. could turn AMD around. Now after a couple solid years of growth, a laser-like focus on product development based on the IP strengths of the company, and a pretty significant cut of the workforce, we are seeing an AMD that is vastly different from the one that Dirk Meyers was in charge of (or Hector Ruiz for that matter). Their view for the future takes a pretty significant turn from where AMD was even 8 years ago. x86 certainly has a future for AMD, but the full-scale adoption of the ARM architecture looks to be what finally differentiates this company from Intel.
Look, I’m Amphibious!
AMD is not amphibious. They are working on being ambidextrous. Their goal is not only to develop and sell x86 based processors, but also be a prime moving force in the ARM market. AMD has survived against a very large, well funded, and aggressive organization for the past 35 years. They believe their experience here can help them break into, and thrive within, the ARM marketplace. Their goals are not necessarily to be in every smartphone out there, but they are leveraging the ARM architecture to address high growth markets that have a lot of potential.
There are really two dominant architectures in the world with ARM and x86. They power the vast majority of computing devices around the world. Sure, we still have some Power and MIPS implementations, but they are dwarfed by the combined presence of x86 and ARM in modern devices. The flexibility of x86 allows it to scale from the extreme mobile up to the highest performing clusters. ARM also has the ability to scale in performance from handhelds up to the server world, but so far their introduction into servers and HPC solutions has been minimal to non-existent. This is an area that AMD hopes to change, but it will not happen overnight. A lot of infrastructure is needed to get ARM into that particular area. Ask Intel how long it took for x86 to gain a handhold in the lucrative server and workstation markets.
Subject: General Tech | May 13, 2014 - 12:40 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: opengl, Intel, amd, nividia, graphics drivers
If you have ever wondered what happened to OpenGL games which used to be common then there is a good post to read over on Slashdot. A developer paints an honest and somewhat depressing picture of what it takes to write working OpenGL code in this day and age. In his mind the blame lies squarely on the driver teams at the three major graphics vendors, with different issues with each of them. While officially referred to as Vendors A, B and C anyone even slightly familiar with the market will figure out exactly which companies are being referred to. While this is a topic worthy of ranting comments be aware that this refers specifically to the OpenGL driver, not the DirectX or Mantle drivers and each company has it's own way of making programmers lives difficult, none are without blame.
"Rich Geldreich (game/graphics programmer) has made a blog post on the quality of different OpenGL Drivers. Using anonymous titles (Vendor A: Nvidia; Vendor B: AMD; Vendor C: Intel), he plots the landscape of game development using OpenGL. Vendor A, jovially known as 'Graphics Mafia' concentrates heavily on performance but won't share its specifications, thus blocking any open source driver implementations as much as possible. Vendor B has the most flaky drivers. They have good technical know-how on OpenGL but due to an extremely small team (money woes), they have shoddy drivers. Vendor C is extremely rich."
Here is some more Tech News from around the web:
- Qualcomm plans to shift 20nm orders from TSMC to Samsung or Globalfoundries, say sources @ DigiTimes
- NSA is accused of sneaking backdoors into hardware exports @ The Inquirer
- Mozilla axes HATED ads-in-Firefox tab ... but they won't stay dead for long @ The Register
- The Illusion of Overclocking Support @ Hardware Asylum
- WIN Awesome i5 4690 CYBERPOWER Z97 PC @ Kitguru
Subject: General Tech, Processors | May 11, 2014 - 11:41 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: ulv, mobile apu, laptop, Kaveri, APU, amd
According to leaked information, AMD will allegedly be releasing mobile versions of its Kaveri APU later this year. There are reportedly seven new processors aimed at laptops and tablet that follow the same basic design as their desktop counterparts: steamroller CPU cores paired with a GCN-based graphics portion and an integrated memory controller.
According to information obtained by WCCF Tech, AMD will release four ULV and three standard voltage parts. All but one APU will have four Steamroller CPU cores paired with an Radeon R4, R5, R6, or R7 graphics processor with up to 512 GCN cores. The mobile APUs allegedly range in TDP from 17W to 35W and support various AMD technologies including TrueAudio, Mantle, and Eyefinity.
An AMD slide showing a die shot of the desktop "Kaveri" Accelerated Processing Unit (APU).
Of the seven rumored APUs, two of them are OEM-only parts that feature the “FX” moniker. The FX-7500 is the fastest ULV (ultra-low voltage) APU while the FX-7600P is AMD’s flagship mobile processor.
The FX-7600P is the chip that should most interest mobile gamers and enthusiasts looking for a powerful AMD-powered laptop or tablet. This processor allegedly features four CPU cores clocked at 2.7GHz base (that turbo to a maximum of 3.6GHz), a GPU with 512 GCN cores clocked at a base of 600MHz and a boost clock of 666MHz. The chip further uses 4MB of L2 cache and is a 35W TDP part. This should be a decent processor for laptops, offering acceptable general performance and some nice mobile gaming with the beefy integrated GPU!
The leaked AMD mobile Kaveri APU lineup via WCCF Tech.
Of course, for productivity machines where portability and battery life are bigger concerns, AMD will reportedly be offering up the dual core A6-7000. This 17W ULV processor combines two cores clocked at 2.2GHz (3.0GHz boost), a GPU based on the Radeon R4 with 192 GCN cores (494MHz base and 533MHz boost), and 2MB of L2 cache. Compared to the FX-7600P (and especially the desktop parts), the A6-7000 sips power. We will have to wait for reviews to see how it performs, but it will be facing stiff competition from Intel’s Core i3 Haswell CPUs and even the Bay Trail SoCs which come in at a lower TDP and offer higher thread counts. The GPU capabilities and GPGPU / HSA software advancements (such as LibreOffice adding GPGPU support) will make or break the A6-7000, in my opinion.
In all, the leaked mobile chips appear to be a decent upgrade over the previous generation. The new mobile APUs will bring incremental performance and power saving benefits to bear against competition from Intel. I’m looking forward to more official information and seeing what the OEMs are able to do with the new chips.