Summary of Events
In January of 2013 I revealed a new testing methodology for graphics cards that I dubbed Frame Rating. At the time I was only able to talk about the process, using capture hardware to record the output directly from the DVI connections on graphics cards, but over the course of a few months started to release data and information using this technology. I followed up the story in January with a collection of videos that displayed some of the capture video and what kind of performance issues and anomalies we were able to easily find.
My first full test results were published in February to quite a bit of stir and then finally in late March released Frame Rating Dissected: Full Details on Capture-based Graphics Performance Testing which dramatically changed the way graphics cards and gaming performance was discussed and evaluated forever.
Our testing proved that AMD CrossFire was not improving gaming experiences in the same way that NVIDIA SLI was. Also, we showed that other testing tools like FRAPS were inadequate in showcasing this problem. If you are at all unfamiliar with this testing process or the results it showed, please check out the Frame Rating Dissected story above.
At the time, we tested 5760x1080 resolution using AMD Eyefinity and NVIDIA Surround but found there were too many issues and problems with our scripts and the results they were presenting to give reasonably assured performance metrics. Running AMD + Eyefinity was obviously causing some problems but I wasn’t quite able to pinpoint what they were and how severe it might have been. Instead I posted graphs like this:
We were able to show NVIDIA GTX 680 performance and scaling in SLI at 5760x1080 but we only were giving results for the Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition in a single GPU configuration.
Since those stories were released, AMD has been very active. At first they were hesitant to believe our results and called into question our processes and the ability for gamers to really see the frame rate issues we were describing. However, after months of work and pressure from quite a few press outlets, AMD released a 13.8 beta driver that offered a Frame Pacing option in the 3D controls that enables the ability to evenly space out frames in multi-GPU configurations producing a smoother gaming experience.
The results were great! The new AMD driver produced very consistent frame times and put CrossFire on a similar playing field to NVIDIA’s SLI technology. There were limitation though: the driver only fixed DX10/11 games and only addressed resolutions of 2560x1440 and below.
But the story won’t end there. CrossFire and Eyefinity are still very important in a lot of gamers minds and with the constant price drops in 1920x1080 panels, more and more gamers are taking (or thinking of taking) the plunge to the world of Eyefinity and Surround. As it turns out though, there are some more problems and complications with Eyefinity and high-resolution gaming (multi-head 4K) that are cropping up and deserve discussion.
Subject: General Tech | September 10, 2013 - 04:10 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: Steppe Eagle, SoC, Hierofalcon, GCN, Bald Eagle, amd, Adelaar
AMD have announced their new mobile roadmap and have changed their naming scheme drastically for these new processors. The first of their ARM based processors will be called Hierofalcon and feature up to eight Cortex A57 processors capable of hitting 2GHz with a pair of 64-bit ECC DDR3 or DDR4 memory channels. It will be a true SoC and feature both network and PCIe controllers as well as support for ARM's TrustZone. Bald Eagle will have Steamroller cores and will be low TDP processors with a maximum of 35W and allow you to configure the maximum TDP to even lower levels if you so wish. The final announcement dealt with the new GCN-based embedded series of GPUs called Adelaar which arrive in three different packages, a multi-chip module, a mobile PCIe module and a discrete GPU. You can glean a bit more about these new families at DigiTimes.
"AMD has disclosed its roadmap for the embedded computing market, as it becomes the first company to offer both ARM and x86 processor solutions for low-power and high-performance embedded compute designs. The new lineup includes two x86 accelerated processing units (APUs) and CPUs, a high-performance ARM system-on-chip (SoC) and a new family of discrete AMD Embedded Radeon graphics processing units (GPUs) expected to launch in 2014."
Here is some more Tech News from around the web:
- Globalfoundries opens new office in Shanghai @ DigiTimes
- Move over, Atom; Intel's Quark is one-fifth the size @ The Tech Report
- Mcrosoft to unveil new Surface slabs at September 23 event @ The Register
- Can't get enough of flashy upstarts, can you, WD? Firm pays $685m for Virident @ The Register
- Microsoft does a U-turn, releases Windows 8.1 to developers early after all @ The Register
- Rogue Android Skype app is open to premium SMS fraud @ The Inquirer
- EA Selects New BioWare Boss @ [H]ard|OCP
- Apple Unveils iPhone 5C, iPhone 5S @ Slashdot
- iOS 7 will be released on 18 September @ The Inquirer
- How the Cable TV is Used for Internet Access @ Hardware Secrets
- The Tech ARP 2013 Mega Giveaway Contest
Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards, Systems | September 10, 2013 - 12:51 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: amd, never settle forever, never settle, Saints Row IV
A month after the launch of the choose your own adventures, "Never Settle Forever", we get another entry for the gold tier: Saint's Row IV.
Yet another territory they claim.
Two Radeon cards, the HD 7950 and the HD 7970 (with or without GHz edition), qualify for this tier in AMD's promotion. Desktop PCs built with a Radeon HD 8900 installed also count toward this promotion. When you go for the gold, so to speak, you can choose three of the following (now) eleven games to enjoy your new hardware with:
- Saint's Row IV
- Tomb Raider
- Hitman: Absolution
- Sleeping Dogs
- Far Cry 3
- Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon
- Deus Ex: Human Revolution
- DiRT 3
- DiRT: Showdown
- Sniper Elite V2
AMD prepared a statement about their partnership with Saint's Row IV publisher, Deep Silver:
“AMD and Deep Silver have a long and successful history of collaboration across their many excellent games, and Saints Row IV is another example of their outstanding development talent. We are very proud to have their partnership in the AMD Gaming Evolved program and Never Settle Forever bundle,” said Ritche Corpus, director of developer relations and alliances team, Graphics Business Unit, AMD. “As a result, PC gamers with AMD Radeon™ graphics cards can fire up their copy of Saints Row IV knowing that they are receiving the best possible experience. And as the exclusive hardware partner for Saints Row IV, the AMD Gaming Evolved program continues to demonstrate its relentless commitment to ensuring the world’s most exciting games are exclusively optimized for AMD Radeon™ hardware.”
AMD is not finished with Never Settle and claims more will arrive in the coming months. I would expect the switch to choose-your-bundle gives the company slightly more freedom to add extra titles without ballooning costs or removing popular entries. I hope we will see titles available in other tiers, except for the HD 7990 which should keep its 8 game promotion, along with more gold entries.
Either way, we will keep you updated as we hear more.
Retiring the Workhorses
There is an inevitable shift coming. Honestly, this has been quite obvious for some time, but it has just taken AMD a bit longer to get here than many have expected. Some years back we saw AMD release their new motto, “The Future is Fusion”. While many thought it somewhat interesting and trite, it actually foreshadowed the massive shift from monolithic CPU cores to their APUs. Right now AMD’s APUs are doing “ok” in desktops and are gaining traction in mobile applications. What most people do not realize is that AMD will be going all APU all the time in the very near future.
We can look over the past few years and see that AMD has been headed in this direction for some time, but they simply have not had all the materials in place to make this dramatic shift. To get a better understanding of where AMD is heading, how they plan to address multiple markets, and what kind of pressures they are under, we have to look at the two major non-APU markets that AMD is currently hanging onto by a thread. In some ways, timing has been against AMD, not to mention available process technologies.
Subject: Processors, Mobile | September 4, 2013 - 11:32 AM | Ryan Shrout
Tagged: Temash, ifa 2013, asus, APU, amd, a4-1200
The hits just keep coming from ASUS this morning with the announcement of a new ultraportable notebook with the ambiguous name of X102BA. Though the name might not be catchy the device itself is more interesting because of the hardware that is powering it, specifically an AMD Temash A4-1200 APU.
This marks one of the few highly visible systems being powered by the AMD Temash architecture and I will be very curious to its reception. The APU itself is a dual-core part that runs at 1.0 GHz with integrated Radeon HD 8180 graphics that is more than enough for a modest Windows 8 working environment. There is a quad-core variant of Temash available but ASUS decided to go with the dual-core option. If you need more information on the new architecture that AMD created for Kabini and Temash (based on Jaguar CPU cores and GCN GPU cores) then you should see our coverage from their announcement back in May.
The rest of the specifications are a bit more tame, including a 1366x768 10.1-in 10-point multi-touch screen, USB 3.0, 802.11n WIFI, bundled Microsoft Office Home and Student 2013 and a touted 2-second resume time.
Even though the battery life is only listed at 5 hours, the 2.4 pound weight makes the X102BA a very portable machine. Plus you can get it in Hot Pink!
Subject: General Tech | August 29, 2013 - 11:22 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: xbox one, SoC, microsoft, gaming, console, amd
At the Hot Chips conference earlier this week, Microsoft showed off several slides detailing the SoC used in its upcoming Xbox One gaming console.
The Xbox One uses a System on a Chip (SoC) designed by AMD’s Semi-Custom Business Unit. The processor features eight “Jaguar” AMD CPU cores, an AMD GCN (Graphics Core Next) based GPU with 768 shader cores, an audio co-processor, and 32MB of on-chip eSRAM.
The SoC, measuring 363mm^2 is manufactured on TSMC’s 28nm HPM process. The chip can interface with 8GB of DDR3 main memory with bandwidth of 68.3 GB/s or utilize the on-chip SRAM which has bandwidth of 102GB/s. The embedded SRAM is in addition to the smaller L1 and L2 caches. The slides indicate that the GPU and CPU can at least access the SRAM, though it still remains frustratingly unknown if the SoC supports anything like AMD’s hUMA technology which would allow the CPU and GPU to both read and write to the same memory address spaces without having to copy data between CPU and GPU-accessible memory space. It may be that the CPU and GPU can use the SRAM, but the same memory spaces can not be shared, though that may be the pessimist in me talking. On the other hand, there could be something more, but it’s impossible to say from the block diagram spotted by Semi-Accurate at the Microsoft presentation.
With that said, the slides do reveal a few interesting figures about the SoC that were not known previously. The Xbox One SoC has 47MB of on-chip memory including 32MB eSRAM used by the CPU and GPU and 64KB of SRAM used by the audio co-processor. The chip’s GPU is rated for Microsoft’s DirectX 11.1 and above graphics API. Further, Microsoft rates the GPU at 1.31 TFLOPS, 41 Gigatexels-per-second, and 13.6 Gigapixels-per-second. Additionally, the GCN-based GPU is able to hardware-encode multi-stream H.264 AVC MVC video and hardware decode multiple formats, including H.264 MVC. The hardware encoder is likely being used for the console’s game capture functionality.
The audio processors in the Xbox One SoC use two 128-bit SIMD floating point vector cores rated at 15.4 GFLOPS and “specialized hardware engines” and “signal processing optimized vector and scalar cores.”
The final interesting specification I got from the slides was that the SoC is able to go into a low power state that is as low as 2.5% of the chip’s full power using power islands and clock gating techniques.
You can find all of the geeky details in these slides over at SemiAccurate.
Subject: General Tech | August 29, 2013 - 02:45 PM | Ken Addison
Tagged: xbox one, video, ps4, podcast, msi, hUMA, hsa, gtx 780, corsair, case, amd, air 540, 780 lightning
PC Perspective Podcast #266 - 08/29/2013
Join us this week as we discuss the Corsair Air 540 Case, MSI GTX 780 Lightning, hUMA in the PS4, and more!
The URL for the podcast is: http://pcper.com/podcast - Share with your friends!
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Hosts: Ryan Shrout, Josh Walrath, Allyn Malventano, and Morry Teitelman
Program length: 1:12:24
Week in Review:
0:04:20 Corsair Air 540 Case Review
News items of interest:
Hardware/Software Picks of the Week:
Josh: Was on special last week
1-888-38-PCPER or email@example.com
Subject: General Tech | August 27, 2013 - 12:30 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: amd, roadmap, 2014, Kaveri, Kabini, carrizo, beema, Excavator, Nolan, 2015, socket sf1b
As is usually the case, AMD will not comment on the accuracy of DigiTimes information but as we have seen in the past their roadmaps have been spot on. Over the next 8 months or so will see the arrival of the Hawaii GPU family and the entrance of Kaveri and Kabini chips, nothing new there but good to have independent confirmation. In the latter part of 2014 and 2015 things are a little more interesting as Beema will replace Kabini with an HSA compliant architecture and use a new socket called FS1B. In 2015 Beema will be replaced by a chip called Nolan and we will finally see the Excavator based Carrizo which are slated to have 45W and 65W versions.
You can expect to see FM1 and AM3 phased out of active production by the end of 2013, with AM3+ and FM2 being the two active sockets until FS1B arrives.
"AMD has recently updated its product roadmap and is set to release its Hawaii-based GPUs at the end of September, Kaveri-based APUs for the high-end segment and Kabini-based APUs for the entry-level segment in the first quarter of 2014, according to sources from the upstream supply chain."
Here is some more Tech News from around the web:
- What Surface RT flop? Nokia said to be readying WinRT slab for September @ The Register
- Java 6 exploit found in the wild @ The Inquirer
- Chlorine has got graphene covered @ Nanotechweb
- Samsung will launch a 55in curved OLED 3D TV in the UK on 5 September @ The Inquirer
- The 20 most bizarre and innovative motherboards: 1999 - 2010 @ Hardware.Info
- NAND flash vendors gearing up for 3D chips @ DigiTimes
- Epic Games’ Tim Sweeney and AMD don’t see eye-to-eye on hUMA @ VR-Zone
- Linksys Smart Wi-Fi Router EA6500 @ Kitguru
- TP-Link TL-PA551KIT AV550+ Gigabit Powerline Kit With AC Passthrough @ eTeknix
- Making S’mores with 50,000 Volts @ Hack a Day
Subject: Graphics Cards | August 26, 2013 - 01:24 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: amd, Windows 8.1, microsoft, directx 11.2, graphics cards, gaming, GCN
Earlier this month, several websites reported that AMD’s latest Graphics Core Next (GCN) based graphics cards (7000 series and 8000 series OEM lines) would not be compatible with the Windows 8.1-only DirectX 11.2 API. This was inferred from a statement made by AMD engineer Laylah Mah in an interview with c1 Magazin.
An AMD Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition.
Fortunately, the GCN-based cards will fully support DirectX 11.2 once an updated driver has been released. As it turns out, Microsoft’s final DirectX 11.2 specification ended up being slightly different than what AMD expected. As a result, the graphics cards do not currently fully support the API. The issue is not one of hardware, however, and an updated driver can allow the GCN-based 7000 series hardware to fully support the latest DirectX 11.2 API and major new features such as tiled resources.
The updated driver will reportedly be released sometime in October to coincide with Microsoft’s release of Windows 8.1. Specifically, Maximum PC quoted AMD in stating the following:
"The Radeon HD 7000 series hardware architecture is fully DirectX 11.2-capable when used with a driver that enables this feature. AMD is planning to enable DirectX 11.2 with a driver update in the Windows 8.1 launch timeframe in October, when DirectX 11.2 ships. Today, AMD is the only GPU manufacturer to offer fully-compatible DirectX 11.1 support, and the only manufacturer to support Tiled Resources Tier-2 within a shipping product stack.”
So fret not, Radeon 7000-series owners, you will be able to fully utilize DX 11.2 and all its features once games start implementing them, and assuming you upgrade to Windows 8.1.
Subject: Graphics Cards | August 23, 2013 - 04:40 PM | Ryan Shrout
Tagged: never settle, gamescom, amd
In much the same way as it was at E3 this year, AMD has plastered themselves all over the show floor at Gamescom 2013 in Cologne, Germany. The annual game celebration in Europe focuses not just on PC gaming but consoles as well but with AMD APUs at the heart of both the upcoming Xbox One and PlayStation 4, they are about as universal as you can get.
The AMD booth at Gamescom obviously leans heavily on the world of PC gaming with both next-generation consoles not coming until November but the big draw is obviously the Battlefield 4 section that allows gamers to walk up and play. Due out October 29th here in North America, BF4 is likely to be one the biggest titles of the year available on current consoles, PC and the PS4 and Xbox One. And though nothing is confirmed it will likely be bundle game for Radeon graphics cards at some point as well...
Red capes and Battlefield 4
Much like the Penny Arcade Expo coming up next month in Seattle, Gamescom is an event where the public is invited to get hands on with impressive games and impressive technology without having to filter it through the eye of the media. AMD showcases unique capabilities of the PC gaming market in the booth as well like the 5-screen Eyefinity configuration seen here DiRT Showdown.
As is usually the case with public events, you're going to meet some interesting characters while you walk around but that is part of the fun! If you have never attended Gamescom, PAX, Blizzcon, Quakecon or anything like it, I would highly encourage you make plans to do so as it will really revitalize your excitement for gaming! While shows like CES and Computex drain me of energy, these public-facing experiences are much more spirited.
Other booths at the show are also running AMD-powered gaming systems for all of their demonstrations including Gaming Evolved partners like Deep Silver, Square-Enix, EA/DICE and Red5. If you haven't seen games like Thief or Saints Row IV in action then you are missing out and locals in Cologne still have the opportunity to do so. AMD claims that all the demo systems running these PC games are Radeon-powered: Battlefield 4, The Sims 4, Firefall, Saints Row IV, Need for Speed Rivals, FIFA 2014, Murdered Soul Suspect, and Final Fantasy XIV.
Even with all the other discussion and debate about AMD graphics technologies, the second half of 2013 is going to be incredibly exciting on all fronts!