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
Subject: General Tech | January 23, 2014 - 02:58 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: opengl, linux, amd, nvidia
If you are a Linux user who prefers to use OpenGL graphics there is still a huge benefit to choosing NVIDIA over AMD. The tests Phoronix just completed show that the GTX680, 770 and 780 all perform significantly faster than the R9 290 with even the older GTX 550 Ti and 650 GPUs outperforming AMD's best in some benchmarks. That said AMD is making important improvements to their open source drivers as that is where they are lagging behind NVIDIA. The new RadeonSI Gallium3D for the HD7000 series shows significant performance improvements when paired with the new 3.13 kernel though still falling a bit behind the Catalyst driver they are now much closer to the performance of the proprietary driver. For older cards the performance increase is nowhere near as impressive but some certain benchmarks do show this Gallium3D driver to provide at least some improvements. Pity the Source engine isn't behaving properly during benchmarks which is why no tests were run on Valve's games but that should be solved in the near future.
"In new tests conducted last week with the latest AMD and NVIDIA binary graphics drivers, the high-end AMD GPUs still really aren't proving much competition to NVIDIA's Kepler graphics cards. Here's a new 12 graphics card comparison on Ubuntu."
Here is some more Tech News from around the web:
- Testing Out The Configurable TDP On AMD's Kaveri @ Phoronix
- Lenovo shares in trading halt ahead of 'disclosable transaction' @ The Register
- BT's breakneck broadband test hits unimaginable speeds over plain ol' fiber @ Engadget
- NETGEAR CES 2014 New Products Showcase @ Benchmark Reviews
- Symantec uncovers malware that uses Windows to infect Android devices @ The Inquirer
- Windows 8.1 update 'screenshots' leak: Metro apps popped into classic desktop taskbar @ The Register
- AMD starts year, checks watch, hurries out Warsaw Opterons @ The Register
- Luxa2 H5 Premium Car Phone Mount @ eTeknix
- Nvidia Grid – Is It The Future Of High Performance Computing? @ eTeknix
Subject: Processors | January 22, 2014 - 11:12 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: server, piledriver, opteron 6300, amd, 32nm
AMD has updated its Opteron 6300 series lineup with two new processors with lower TDPs. Previously code-named "Warsaw," the Opteron 6370P and Opteron 6338P boast 99W TDPs and 12 and 16 Piledriver cores respectively.
The chips are similar to the existing Opteron 6300-series chips including the 32nm manufacturing process, dual die design, and the use of AMD's older Piledriver CPU cores instead of the latest Steamroller cores found in AMD's new Kaveri APUs. According to Supermicro, the lower 99W TDP parts offer up to 27% higher performance/watt compared to the existing "Abu-Dhabi" 6300 CPUs.
The Opteron 6338P is a twelve core processor clocked at 2.3 GHz base and 2.8 GHz turbo. The Opteron 6370P is a sixteen core part clocked at 2.0 GHz base and 2.5 GHz turbo. As such, the chips are two six and two eight-core silicon dies in one package respectively. The chips have 16MB of L3 cache and support the same instruction sets as the existing 6300 lineup including FMA3, BMI, and F16c. The new chips use AMD's Socket G34 which supports up to 4 sockets (dual die processors) per motherboard.
The new 99W 12-core 6338P and 16-core 6370P are available now for $377 and $598 respectively. The chips will be used in servers from Supermicro and Sugon, and purchasable directly from system integrators including Avnet and Penguin. AMD is aiming these chips at large data centers and cloud computing tasks. While the drop to 99W from the top-end series' 140W TDP does not seem like much, it makes a dramatic difference in the data center world where the electricity costs for racks of servers adds up rapidly.
Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards, Processors | January 22, 2014 - 09:41 PM | Scott Michaud
AMD had a decent quarter and close to a profitable year as a whole. For the quarter ending on December 28th, the company managed $89 million dollars in profits. This accounts for interest payments on loans and everything else. The whole year averaged to a $103 million dollar gain in operating income although that still works out to a loss of $74 million (for the year) all things considered. That said, a quarterly gain of $89 million versus an annual loss of $74 million. One more quarter would forgive the whole year.
This is a hefty turn-around from their billion dollar operating loss of last year.
This gain was led by Graphics and Visual Solutions. While Computing Solutions revenue has declined, the graphics team has steadily increased in both revenue and profits. Graphics and Visual Solutions are in charge of graphics processors as well as revenue from the game console manufacturers. Even then, their processor division is floating just below profitability.
Probably the best news for AMD is that they plan the next four quarters to each be profitable. Hopefully this means that there are no foreseen hurdles in the middle of their marathon.
Subject: General Tech | January 20, 2014 - 12:31 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: linux, 3.13, amd, radeon
There is a new Linux kernel in the wild today and it comes with a lot of enhancements. IPTables has been replaced with the NFTables packet filtering and firewall engine, with backwards compatibility for those who actually forced IPTables to behave. There is a new scalable block layer to deal with the previously unreachable I/O that PCIe SSDs can reach and designed specifically for multi-core systems. There is much more but the update many are most excited about is the performance improvements to Radeons of the 7000 family and new models. The benchmarks that Phoronix posted are very impressive but that is only half the story, there are updates to HDMI audio and Radeon Dynamic Power Management is now enabled by default. Check out the full list of updates here.
"Linux kernel 3.13 has been released. This release includes nftables (the successor of iptables); a revamp of the block layer designed for high-performance SSDs; a framework to cap power consumption in Intel RAPL devices; improved squashfs performance; AMD Radeon power management enabled by default and automatic AMD Radeon GPU switching; improved NUMA and hugepage performance; TCP Fast Open enabled by default; support for NFC payments; support for the High-Availability Seamless Redundancy protocol; new drivers; and many other small improvements."
Here is some more Tech News from around the web:
- AMD is being sued by investors over Llano expectations @ The Inquirer
- AMD Kaveri: Gallium3D vs. Catalyst Drivers @ Phoronix
- AMD readies ‘native’ 16-core chips based on ‘Steamroller' @ Kitguru
- Specs and highlights of Intel’s 9-series chipset revealed @ Kitguru
- Intel confirms it will axe 5,400 workers in 2014 @ The Register
- HP Brings Back Windows 7 'By Popular Demand' @ [H]ard|OCP
- How To Fix Keychain Corruption In OS X Mavericks @ Tech ARP
- The Android Experiment: I miss the Windows windows @ The Inquirer
- How-To: Kill Your Phone @ MAKE:Blog