A change is coming in 2013
If the new year will bring us anything, it looks like it might be the end of using "FPS" as the primary measuring tool for graphics performance on PCs. A long, long time ago we started with simple "time demos" that recorded rendered frames in a game like Quake and then played them back as quickly as possible on a test system. The lone result was given as time, in seconds, and was then converted to an average frame rate having known the total number of frames recorded to start with.
More recently we saw a transition to frame rates over time and the advent frame time graphs like the ones we have been using in our graphics reviews on PC Perspective. This expanded the amount of data required to get an accurate picture of graphics and gaming performance but it was indeed more accurate, giving us a more clear image of how GPUs (and CPUs and systems for that matter) performed in games.
And even though the idea of frame times have been around just a long, not many people were interested in getting into that detail level until this past year. A frame time is the amount of time each frame takes to render, usually listed in milliseconds, and could range from 5ms to 50ms depending on performance. For a reference, 120 FPS equates to an average of 8.3ms, 60 FPS is 16.6ms and 30 FPS is 33.3ms. But rather than average those out by each second of time, what if you looked at each frame individually?
Scott over at Tech Report started doing that this past year and found some interesting results. I encourage all of our readers to follow up on what he has been doing as I think you'll find it incredibly educational and interesting.
Through emails and tweets many PC Perspective readers have been asking for our take on it, why we weren't testing graphics cards in the same fashion yet, etc. I've stayed quiet about it simply because we were working on quite a few different angles on our side and I wasn't ready to share results. I am still not ready to share the glut of our information yet but I am ready to start the discussion and I hope our community find its compelling and offers some feedback.
At the heart of our unique GPU testing method is this card, a high-end dual-link DVI capture card capable of handling 2560x1600 resolutions at 60 Hz. Essentially this card will act as a monitor to our GPU test bed and allow us to capture the actual display output that reaches the gamer's eyes. This method is the best possible way to measure frame rates, frame times, stutter, runts, smoothness, and any other graphics-related metrics.
Using that recorded footage, sometimes reaching 400 MB/s of consistent writes at high resolutions, we can then analyze the frames one by one, though with the help of some additional software. There are a lot of details that I am glossing over including the need for perfectly synced frame rates, having absolutely zero dropped frames in the recording, analyzing, etc, but trust me when I say we have been spending a lot of time on this.
Subject: Graphics Cards | January 2, 2013 - 04:08 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: powercolor, 7870 LE, MYST edition, tahiti LE, amd
The 7870 Limited Edition is a bit of an odd duck when you compare it to a stock 7870GHz Edition; it has 1536 stream processors as opposed to 1280 on the stock card, the base clock of 925MHz (975MHz Boost Clock) is slower than the 1GHz but the RAM is clocked even higher than a 7950 at 6GHz. [H]ard|OCP wanted to see just how these tweaks effected the performance of the card, both at stock speeds and at their highest stable overclock of 1.2GHz GPU and 6.2GHz VRAM. Check out the performance results to see if this card can approach the HD7950's power.
"PowerColor has released a new graphics card based on the new AMD "Tahiti" 7870 LE core. We will investigate whether it is a worthy Limited Edition or simply a Lame Edition by comparing it to a Radeon HD 7870 GHz edition and a GTX 660 Ti with comparisons also to an HD 7950. Will this card be a deal, or a dud? You may be surprised."
Here are some more Graphics Card articles from around the web:
- AMD Radeon HD 8790M Video Card Preview @ Legit Reviews
- PowerColor PCS+ Radeon HD 7870 (Tahiti LE) 2GB Myst @ Tweaktown
- HIS Radeon HD 7850 IceQ Turbo 2GB Review @ Custom PC Review
- HIS Radeon HD 7950 3GB IceQ X2 Overclocked @ Tweaktown
- VTX3D HD7990 @ Kitguru
- ASUS HD 7970 DirectCU II Review @ OCC
- HIS Radeon HD 7850 2GB IceQ Turbo Video Cards in CrossFire @ Tweaktown
- Graphics cards in Windows 8 and DirectX 11.1: more efficient with better performance @ Hardware.info
- Arctic Cooling Accelero Hybrid VGA Cooler Review: Not For the Faint of Heart @ AnandTech
- Water and Air for a Graphics Card: ARCTIC Accelero Hybrid Cooling System @ X-bit Labs
- Nouveau NVIDIA Driver Can Be Faster With Linux 3.8 @ Phoronix
The AMD Closed Loop System
Closed loop water cooling is not new, but it certainly is a pretty hot topic now. Some of the first units out there had some interesting issues (like internal corrosion clogging everything up), but once those teething problems were solved the closed loop systems turned out to be pretty effective and easy to install. Initially these units had the performance of a top end air cooler, but with a lot lower noise. The latest generation of liquid cooling systems (LCS) is now further improved and provides performance approaching that of larger, more complex cooling systems. These products will not replace exotic systems like phase change, but they provide a lot of cooling in a fairly decent sized package.
Clean lines and graphics give this box a striking look without being tacky.
Last year with the introduction of the AMD FX-8150, AMD decided to create a SKU which not only included the CPU, but also a fairly robust LCS. This unit is based on an Asetek design which features a double wide cooler/reservoir with the push-me/pull-ya fan combination. Other manufacturers offer this particular product under a variety of names, but this is simply an AMD FX branded unit with some small cosmetic changes to differentiate it from other units.
AMD will eventually offer this cooler with the new Vishera based FX-8350 CPU (or at least we assume they will), and we wanted to take this combination out for a spin. In our FX-8350 review we did not hit the overclocking targets that AMD had set. In most literature that we were provided AMD stated that most FX-8350 parts would be able to hit around 5 GHz with some aggressive cooling. In our review I was able to get to around 4.6 GHz max and around 4.5 GHz stable with better than average cooling. The results were not as impressive as we had hoped, but we again did not have a top end cooling solution such as what AMD provides with this particular LCS.
With a brand new LCS in hand, I retested the FX-8350 to see how hard it could be pushed. I also wanted to see how this particular unit performance in terms of thermal properties. The results were quite surprising for me, as this is my first real experience with a LCS.
Subject: Editorial, General Tech, Graphics Cards | December 28, 2012 - 02:43 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: opencl, nvidia, amd
The GPU is slowly becoming the parallel processing complement to your branching logic-adept CPU. Developers have been slow to adopt this new technology but that does not hinder the hardware manufacturers from putting on a kettle of tea for when guests arrive.
While the transition to GPGPU is slower than I am sure many would like, developers are rarely quick on the uptake of new technologies. The Xbox 360 was one of the first platforms where unified shaders became mandatory and early developers avoided them by offloading vertex code to the CPU. On that note: how much software still gets released without multicore support?
Phoronix, practically the arbiter of all Linux news, decided to put several GPU drivers and their manufacturers to the test. AMD was up first and their results showed a pretty sizeable jump in performance at around October of this year through most of their tests. The article on NVIDIA arrived two days later and saw performance trended basically nowhere since February with the 295.20 release.
A key piece of information is that both benchmarks were performed with last generation GPUs: the GTX 460 on the NVIDIA side, with the 6950 holding AMD’s flag. You might note that 295.20 was the last tested driver to be released prior to the launch of Kepler.
These results seem to suggest that upon the launch of Kepler, NVIDIA did practically zero optimizations to their older "Fermi" architecture at least as far as these Linux OpenCL benchmarks are concerned. On the AMD side, it seems as though they are more willing to go back and advance the performance of their prior generation as they release new driver versions.
There are very few instances where AMD beats out NVIDIA in terms of driver support -- it is often a selling point for the jolly green giant -- but this appears to be a definite win for AMD.
Subject: General Tech | December 20, 2012 - 03:16 PM | Ken Addison
Tagged: video, virtu, VIA, tegra 4, Samsung, radeon, podcast, nvidia, nvelo, nuc, lucid, Intel, hackintosh, gigabyte, Dataplex, arm, amd, 8000m
PC Perspective Podcast #231 - 12/20/2012
Join us this week as we talk about the Intel NUC, AMD 8000M GPUs, Building a Hackintosh 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, Allyn Malventano and Chris Barbere
Program length: 1:13:41
Podcast topics of discussion:
- 0:01:50 We are going to try Planetside 2 after the podcast!
- Week in Reviews:
- 0:32:35 This Podcast is brought to you by MSI!
News items of interest:
- 0:33:30 Cutting the Cord Complete!
- 0:36:10 VIA ARM-based SoCs in upcoming ASUS tablet
- 0:42:00 Lucid MVP 2.0 will be sold direct
- 0:44:50 Samsung acquires NVELO SSD Caching Software
- 0:49:00 AMD announces mobility 8000M series of GPUs
- 0:54:15 Some NVIDIA Tegra 4 Details
- 0:58:55 NEC Unveils Super Thin Ultrabook
- 1:00:30 Win a Sapphire HD 7870 GHz Edition FleX!!
- 1-888-38-PCPER or email@example.com
- http://twitter.com/ryanshrout and http://twitter.com/pcper
Subject: Editorial, Graphics Cards | December 19, 2012 - 06:56 PM | Ryan Shrout
Tagged: video, sweepstakes, sapphire, never settle, giveaway, contest, amd
Remember those really cool game streams we hosted with AMD on Medal of Honor Warfighter, Hitman: Absolution and Far Cry 3? Well can you believe that one of the winners from our Far Cry 3 event hasn't replied to our request for a shipping address which means only one thing:
We have an extra Sapphire Radeon HD 7870 GHz Edition FleX graphics card to hand out!
Lucky you! Since it is the holiday season, we wanted to make this EASY for you. Here is how you enter:
- First entry: Leave a comment in this very news post!
- Second entry: Subscribe to our YouTube channel (http://youtube.com/pcper) and leave a comment on this video on YouTube!
- Wait patiently.
We'll randomly pick a winner from anywhere in the world to get this kick ass prize on December 26th, so you'll have something to look forward to on the day after Christmas.
Good luck to all of you and our most heartfelt thanks to AMD, Sapphire and of course the fans of PC Perspective for a great 2012!!
Subject: Graphics Cards, Mobile | December 17, 2012 - 03:08 PM | Ryan Shrout
Tagged: radeon, mobility, amd, 8800m, 8700m, 8600m, 8500m, 8000m
AMD appears to be jumping the gun a bit here but has decided to announce the Radeon 8000M-series of mobile GPUs prior to CES. Before you get all riled up about the next generation of graphics technology, you should know that the new parts we are showing here are still built on the same 28nm Graphics Core Now (GCN) architecture that you'll find in the Radeon HD 7000 series of desktop graphics cards and even some already-existing Radeon mobility parts like the HD 7970M. We were told there are "some changes" but details were minimal.
Radeon HD 8500M and 8600M GPUs will both feature 384 stream processors with the variance related to the maximum clock speed. The 8600M will hit 775 MHz core clock while the 8500M will cap out at 650 MHz. Memory speeds are identical. Keep in mind that the desktop Radeon HD 7750 card has 512 stream processors and it runs at up to 900 MHz so you that can put the performance of these mainstream GPUs in perspective.
The 8700M uses the same 384 stream processor GPU though it gets a bit higher clock speed at 850 MHz. The 8800M is the only GPU announced today to increase the core count to 640 stream processors and a clock speed of 700 MHz for a total compute capability of 992 GFLOPs. Though the specifications are nearly equivalent to the build of the desktop Radeon HD 7770 part it is worth mentioning that the theoretical peak performance of that GPU is 1.28 TFLOPs; nearly 30% higher than the 8800M.
AMD was coy but hinted that this mainstream product announcement will be added to later in Q1 with higher end enthusiast-level SKUs. No 8900s yet guys, check back later.
When asked about the changes in this mobility GPU release compared to the 7000M series already available today, we only know that this is built on the same 28nm process but that the "architecture is slightly different and more efficient" than the 7000 chips. These are NEW chips and are NOT rebrands of currently available products. We don't have die sizes, transistor counts or TDPs until further notice.
AMD did provide a couple of quick graphs comparing the performance of the Radeon HD 8870M against the GeForce 650M G5 and The 8770M against its own previously releaesd 7670M part. Take all of this with a grain of salt until we can do our own testing, as per usual.
For now, I would say our readers should be very timid about the idea of a new series of GPUs from AMD without more information on the actual changes in performance will be compared to Souther Islands. Based on what we are hearing the changes are very minor.
Subject: Processors | December 6, 2012 - 01:21 PM | Ryan Shrout
Tagged: socket, BGA, Intel, amd
Okay, so this has been an interesting debate. After the first rumors and reports that Intel might be killing the DIY PC (or at least crippling it) by removing the socketed option for future processors after the Broadwell architecture, the Internet had a hissy-fit. Josh debated here that the future didn't look at that bleak at all and AMD chimed in later with its commitment to sockets into 2014 and beyond.
It looks like Intel has officially addressed the issue through a story at MaximumPC.com:
Intel remains committed to the growing desktop enthusiast and channel markets, and will continue to offer socketed parts in the LGA package for the foreseeable future for our customers and the Enthusiast DIY market. However, Intel cannot comment on specific long-term product roadmap plans at this time, but will disclose more details later per our normal communication process.
While those in the community that see the glass half empty will look at Intel's use of "foreseeable future" as a red herring, we have to at least attempt to take Intel at its word until any more details might be released to counter it.
Let the debate continue!
Subject: Processors | December 5, 2012 - 05:33 PM | Ryan Shrout
Tagged: socket, Intel, BGA, amd
Over the past week or more we have been seeing a lot of news about Intel's rumored move to leave the world of socket-based processors behind after the pending Broadwell parts are released as BGA - ball grid array - and are soldered to motherboards directly. I would highly encourage everyone to read Josh's thoughts on the subject that are not nearly as damning as others might have you believe.
However, we got this official note from AMD earlier in the week that I thought I would share:
AMD has a long history of supporting the DIY and enthusiast desktop market with socketed CPUs & APUs that are compatible with a wide range of motherboard products from our partners. That will continue through 2013 and 2014 with the “Kaveri” APU and FX CPU lines. We have no plans at this time to move to BGA only packaging and look forward to continuing to support this critical segment of the market.
As the company that introduced new types of BGA packages in ultrathin platforms several years ago, and today offers BGA-packaged processors for everything from ultrathin notebooks to all-in-one desktops, to embedded applications and tablets, we certainly understand Intel’s enthusiasm for the approach. But for the desktop market, and the enthusiasts with whom AMD has built its brand, we understand what matters to them and how we can continue to bring better value and a better experience.
Obviously AMD is trying to persuade PC builders that not only is its path the safest in the future but maybe that supporting AMD today might help make sure it can arrive to the future well enough to continue the enthusiast path.
If Intel even starts to heavily side with BGA processors, is a move to AMD in your future again? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!
Subject: Graphics Cards | December 5, 2012 - 04:47 PM | Ryan Shrout
Tagged: video, tahiti, radeon, never settle, live, far cry 3, amd
UPDATE: If you missed the live stream you can watch the replay embedded right here! Tune in to see some Far Cry 3 action as well learn about some of the technology that Ubisoft has included in the title!
On December 4th on the PC Perspective Live! page we will be streaming some single player game action of the new Far Cry 3. Far Cry has long been a franchise that includes great gameplay and never before seen graphics technology and the third installment looks to follow that trend! Early previews of the game have been very exciting!
Far Cry 3 Game Stream
5pm PT / 8pm ET - December 4th
Warning: this one will DEFINITELY have mature language and content!!
The stream will be sponsored by AMD and its Never Settle game bundles which we previously told you about. Depending on the AMD Radeon HD 7000 series GPU that you buy this holiday season you could get as much as $170 in gaming content including:
- FREE Sleeping Dogs
- FREE Hitman: Absolution
- FREE Far Cry 3
- 20% off Medal of Honor Warfighter
AMD's Robert Hallock (@Thracks 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 Far Cry 3 Game Stream:
- 2 x Sapphire FleX HD 7870 GHz Edition 2GB (!!)
- 3 x Complete Never Settle Bundles (Sleeping Dogs, Hitman, Far Cry 3, 20% Off MoH)
- 5 x Sleeping Dogs keys
- 5 x Hitman: Absolution keys
- 5 x Far Cry 3 keys
Pretty nice, huh? That's a LOT of games (as well as some Radeon graphics cards) and 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 December 4th for some PC gaming fun!!