Subject: General Tech | April 3, 2014 - 01:30 PM | Ken Addison
Tagged: video, Samsung, podcast, Mantle, Glacer 240L, GDC 2014, frame rating, dx12, cooler master, BUILD 2014, BF4, amd, adata, 4k
PC Perspective Podcast #294 - 04/03/2014
Join us this week as we discuss Frame Rating Mantle in BF4, DirectX 12, Sub-$700 4K Monitors and more!
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Hosts: Ryan Shrout, Jeremy Hellstrom, Josh Walrath and Allyn Malventano
Week in Review:
0:43:40 This podcast is brought to you by Coolermaster, and the CM Storm Pulse-R Gaming Headset
News items of interest:
Hardware/Software Picks of the Week:
BF4 Integrates FCAT Overlay Support
Back in September AMD publicly announced Mantle, a new lower level API meant to offer more performance for gamers and more control for developers fed up with the restrictions of DirectX. Without diving too much into the politics of the release, the fact that Battlefield 4 developer DICE was integrating Mantle into the Frostbite engine for Battlefield was a huge proof point for the technology. Even though the release was a bit later than AMD had promised us, coming at the end of January 2014, one of the biggest PC games on the market today had integrated a proprietary AMD API.
When I did my first performance preview of BF4 with Mantle on February 1st, the results were mixed but we had other issues to deal with. First and foremost, our primary graphics testing methodology, called Frame Rating, wasn't able to be integrated due to the change of API. Instead we were forced to use an in-game frame rate counter built by DICE which worked fine, but didn't give us the fine grain data we really wanted to put the platform to the test. It worked, but we wanted more. Today we are happy to announce we have full support for our Frame Rating and FCAT testing with BF4 running under Mantle.
A History of Frame Rating
In late 2012 and throughout 2013, testing graphics cards became a much more complicated beast. Terms like frame pacing, stutter, jitter and runts were not in the vocabulary of most enthusiasts but became an important part of the story just about one year ago. Though complicated to fully explain, the basics are pretty simple.
Rather than using software on the machine being tested to measure performance, our Frame Rating system uses a combination of local software and external capture hardware. On the local system with the hardware being evaluated we run a small piece of software called an overlay that draws small colored bars on the left hand side of the game screen that change successively with each frame rendered by the game. Using a secondary system, we capture the output from the graphics card directly, intercepting it from the display output, in real-time in an uncompressed form. With that video file captured, we then analyze it frame by frame, measuring the length of each of those colored bars, how long they are on the screen, how consistently they are displayed. This allows us to find the average frame rate but also to find how smoothly the frames are presented, if there are dropped frames and if there are jitter or stutter issues.
Subject: General Tech | March 5, 2014 - 03:08 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: gaming, BF4, Mantle, amd
The new Mantle API has arrived for BF4, with quite a few other games waiting in the wings which will also take advantage of this DirectX competitor. The results that [H]ard|OCP saw were not as impressive as what the marketing would have had you believe but it still offers an improvement over DirectX in some cases. With high end hardware running at EyeFinity resolutions [H] did not see much improvement, the GTX 780 Ti took the performance crown. However on a single monitor with a R9 290 or 280X they saw very significant performance increases which left both the GTX 780 and 770 lagging behind in performance. Mantle will not yet allow mid range GPUs to act like high end cards but there is promise in this new API.
"AMD's Mantle API has been with us for just over a month now, and we have strapped a variety of video cards to the test bench to see what real world differences are being delivered to gamers within Battlefield 4. We will compare D3D11, Mantle, on various GPUs, looking at highest playable settings, frame times, and discuss our experiences."
Here is some more Tech News from around the web:
- Hands On - Wolfenstein: The New Order @ Rock, Paper, SHOTGUN
- Battling with Blizzard's new WoW expansion and Diablo revamp @ The Register
- Wot I Think: Strider @ Rock, Paper, SHOTGUN
- Beta tasting: The Elder Scrolls Online preview @ The Register
- Thief Video Card Performance Preview @ [H]ard|OCP
- Wot I Think: Thief @ Rock, Paper, SHOTGUN
- OnLive Lives Again: New Feature Syncs With Steam Games @ Rock, Paper, SHOTGUN
- Gabe Newell Dishes On Source 2, HL3 VR, More In AMA @ Rock, Paper, SHOTGUN
- Ni No Kuni: Wrath Of The White Witch PlayStation 3 @ eTeknix
Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards | February 1, 2014 - 11:29 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: Mantle, BF4, amd
AMD has released the Catalyst 14.1 Beta driver (even for Linux) but you should, first, read Ryan's review. This is a little less than what he expects in a Beta from AMD. We are talking about crashes to desktop and freezes while loading a map on a single-GPU configuration - and Crossfire is a complete wash in his experience (although AMD acknowledges the latter in their release notes). According to AMD, there is even the possibility that the Mantle version of Battlefield 4 will render with your APU and ignore your dedicated graphics.
If you are determined to try Catalyst 14.1, however, it does make a first step into the promise of Mantle. Some situations show slightly lower performance than DirectX 11, albeit with a higher minimum framerate, while other results impress with double-digit percentage gains.
Multiplayer in BF4, where the CPU is more heavily utilized, seems to benefit the most (thankfully).
If you understand the risk (in terms of annoyance and frustration), and still want to give it a try, pick up the driver from AMD's support website. If not? Give it a little more time for AMD to whack-a-bug. At some point, there should be truly free performance waiting for you.
A quick look at performance results
Late last week, EA and Dice released the long awaited patch for Battlefield 4 that enables support for the Mantle renderer. This new API technology was introduced by AMD back in September. Unfortunately, AMD wasn't quite ready for its release with their Catalyst 14.1 beta driver. I wrote a short article that previewed the new driver's features, its expected performance with the Mantle version of BF4, and commentary about the current state of Mantle. You should definite read that as a primer before continuing if you haven't yet.
Today, after really just a few short hours with a useable driver, I have only limited results. Still, I know that you, our readers, clamor for ANY information on the topic. I thought I would share what we have thus far.
As I mentioned in the previous story, the Mantle version of Battlefield 4 has the biggest potential to show advantages in times where the game is more CPU limited. AMD calls this the "low hanging fruit" for this early release of Mantle and claim that further optimizations will come, especially for GPU-bound scenarios. Because of that dependency on CPU limitations, that puts some non-standard requirements on our ability to showcase Mantle's performance capabilities.
For example, the level of the game and even the section of that level, in the BF4 single player campaign, can show drastic swings in Mantle's capabilities. Multiplayer matches will also show more consistent CPU utilization (and thus could be improved by Mantle) though testing those levels in a repeatable, semi-scientific method is much more difficult. And, as you'll see in our early results, I even found a couple instances in which the Mantle API version of BF4 ran a smidge slower than the DX11 instance.
For our testing, we compiled two systems that differed in CPU performance in order to simulate the range of processors installed within consumers' PCs. Our standard GPU test bed includes a Core i7-3960X Sandy Bridge-E processor specifically to remove the CPU as a bottleneck and that has been included here today. We added in a system based on the AMD A10-7850K Kaveri APU which presents a more processor-limited (especially per-thread) system, overall, and should help showcase Mantle benefits more easily.
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: 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: Graphics Cards | December 30, 2013 - 02:32 PM | Ryan Shrout
Tagged: amd, Mantle, hawaii, BF4, battlefield 4
If you have been following the mess than has been Battlefield 4 since its release, what with the crashing on both PCs and consoles, you know that EA and DICE have decided that fixing the broken game is the number 1 priority. Gee, thanks.
While they work on that though, there is another casualty of development other than the pending DLC packs: AMD's Mantle version of the game. If you remember way back in September of 2013, along with the announcement of AMD's Hawaii GPUs, AMD and DICE promised a version of the BF4 game running on Mantle as a free update in December. If you are counting, that is just 1 more day away from being late.
Today we got this official statement from AMD:
After much consideration, the decision was made to delay the Mantle patch for Battlefield 4. AMD continues to support DICE on the public introduction of Mantle, and we are tremendously excited about the coming release for Battlefield 4! We are now targeting a January release and will have more information to share in the New Year.
Well, it's not a surprise but it sure is a bummer. One of the killer new features for AMD's GPUs was supposed to be the ability to use this new low-level API to enhance performance for PC games. As Josh stated in our initial article on the subject, "It bypasses DirectX (and possibly the hardware abstraction layer) and developers can program very close to the metal with very little overhead from software. This lowers memory and CPU usage, it decreases latency, and because there are fewer “moving parts” AMD claims that they can do 9x the draw calls with Mantle as compared to DirectX. This is a significant boost in overall efficiency."
It seems that buyers of the AMD R9 series of graphics need to wait at least another month to really see what the promise of Mantle is really all about. Will the wait be worth it?
Subject: General Tech | December 5, 2013 - 01:59 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: dice, BF4
DICE has announced that they are working on Battlefield 4, its expansions, Mirror's Edge, and Star Wars: Battlefront 3. Or at least, they have been working on them. For now, Battlefield 4 will be the only product in active development. DICE and EA have acknowledged issues with the game in terms of stability and connectivity. Until that becomes satisfactory, they will pause development on all other titles and expansion packs.
PC Gamer received a statement from an EA spokesperson about these claims. Apparently the China Rising DLC was basically completed before this decision was made; everything else will wait. Really, you just cannot keep bombers and motorbikes sitting on the shelf.
I mean, it is interesting that they say this. Still, I cannot see what this actually means. EA will not pull environment artists and sound engineers to fix these issues. It is a good "commitment to our customers" statement and I applaud them for admitting problems with the game (oddly, I found this version much less error prone than Battlefield 3) but, despite sounding clear, I wonder how much extra resources will result from this. Sure, it was a petty example, but it questions where the line actually is.
Battlefield 4 is available now from multiple retailers (just not Steam).
Subject: General Tech | November 27, 2013 - 01:39 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: win8, gaming, BF4
[H]ard|OCP found something that Win8.1 can do better than Win7, especially now that the mouse issue is not nearly as pervasive. As it turns out the current non-Mantle version of Battlefield 4 performs between 3-6% faster when run on a Win8 machine. While that finding does not imply a huge performance difference they also reported that the video was much smoother when run under Win8 with none of the choppiness that was present under Win7. Think of the frame pacing examples Ryan has provided as a good demonstration of what they are referring to, though the cause may not be the same. It will be interesting to see how the Mantle version will perform under both operating systems.
"Is in-game real world Battlefield 4 gaming performance better on the Windows 8.1 operating system or on Windows 7? We look at video card performance between Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 in this game and find out if upgrading to Windows 8.1 is worth it or not for the much rumored performance advantage."
Here is some more Tech News from around the web:
- Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag Review @ OCC
- Horrible Hunger of the Ravenous Wattle Gobbler released today @ HEXUS
- Let Slip The Increasingly Hairy Dogs Of Modern Warfare @ Rock, Paper, SHOTGUN
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