Podcast #357 - Samsung 850 Series 2TB, AMD Fury, Catalyst 15.7 and more!

Subject: General Tech | July 9, 2015 - 03:02 PM |
Tagged: podcast, video, Samsung, 850, 2TB, amd, Fury, catalyst, 15.7, logitech, G230, G35, Intel, Braswell

PC Perspective Podcast #357 - 07/09/2015

Join us this week as we discuss the Samsung 850 Series 2TB, AMD Fury, Catalyst 15.7 and more!

You can subscribe to us through iTunes and you can still access it directly through the RSS page HERE.

The URL for the podcast is: http://pcper.com/podcast - Share with your friends!

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  • MP3 - Direct download link to the MP3 file

Hosts: Ryan Shrout, Jeremy Hellstrom, Josh Walrath, and Allyn Malventano

Subscribe to the PC Perspective YouTube Channel for more videos, reviews and podcasts!!

AMD Releases New WHQL Catalyst 15.7 Drivers

Subject: Graphics Cards | July 8, 2015 - 05:52 PM |
Tagged: Win 10, whql, drivers, catalyst, amd, 15.7, 15.20

Sadly, it is not every month that we see a new AMD WHQL driver release.  Several years back AMD made the promise that they would release WHQL drivers on a monthly basis, and for quite a while they kept to that promise.  Engineering cuts, new architectures, and more challenges than ever with new technologies have essentially ended the monthly model.  AMD does their best by putting out beta drivers when major titles are released, but it has been quite some time since we last saw a full WHQL.

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Today we finally see the release of the very latest branch of the Catalyst drivers.  Last month we saw the 15.15 drivers that were released with the AMD FuryX.  We also had a fair share of beta drivers to keep users updated on the latest game profiles.  The version that has been released today is based on the 15.20 code path and is officially known as Catalyst 15.7.

There are a lot of new features and support in this driver, which makes it a pretty big deal.  I am guessing that it seems like such a big deal because major updates have been few and far between.  This is AMD's first driver to support the Windows 10 Technical Preview.

The next set of features is very exciting for anyone who has any GCN based card, no matter the age.  Virtual Super Resolution is enabled for all GCN 1.0 cards and above.  The same goes for Frame Rate Target Control.  AMD has included new CrossFire Profile Enhancements for many of the latest games and top sellers.  The only new feature that does not support all GCN cards is that of AMD FreeSync with CrossFire support.  As readers may remember, FreeSync did not previously work in a CrossFire solution.  FreeSync itself is relegated to the newer members of the GCN family.  The only other potential disappointment (and not new news at all) is still the lack of CrossFire support (much less FreeSync with CrossFire support) in DX9 titles.

AMD promises performance improvements as compared to the previous Omega drivers released last year.  This is fairly typical, but people are already reporting some better performance and CPU usage in WinX previews based on the latest build.  It is great to see AMD releasing a new set of drivers, but just like any addict... we can't wait for our next hit and what new features and performance they may bring.

You can find the drivers here.

Source: AMD

AMD Catalyst 15.5 to 15.15 Performance Check - Validating AMD R9 390 Testing

Subject: Graphics Cards | June 19, 2015 - 06:25 PM |
Tagged: radeon, r9 390, hawaii, catalyst, amd, 15.15

During the course of our review of the new Sapphire Nitro R9 390 8GB card earlier this week, a question came up on driver support. For testing the R9 300-series as well as the Fury X cards, AMD provided a new Catalyst 15.15 beta driver. The problem is that these drivers would not install on the Radeon R9 200-series cards. That's not totally uncommon on new GPU releases but it does seem a bit odd considering the similarities between the R9 390 and the R9 290, for example.

That meant that in our review we had to use the Catalyst 15.5 beta for the Radeon R9 290X and the Radeon R9 290 GPU while using the newer Catalyst 15.15 beta for the Sapphire Nitro R9 390. Eyebrows were raised as you would expect as any performance differences between the new cards and the old cards would have to take into account the driver changes as well. But since we couldn't install the new driver on the old hardware, we were stuck, and published what we had.

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Since then, a driver with some INI modifications that allows Catalyst 15.15 to be installed on Radeon R9 290X/290 hardware was built and uploaded from the Guru3D Forums. Today I installed that on our XFX Radeon R9 290 4GB card used in our R9 390 review to re-run a few game tests to see what changes we saw, if any. This would help us address any concerns over the updated driver causing performance changes rather than the hardware changes.

(Note: I realize that using an INI hacked driver isn't exactly going to pass QA with AMD, but I think we are seeing results that are close enough.)

First up, let's look at Grand Theft Auto V.

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In GTA V we see that the average frame rate at 2560x1440 goes from 39.5 FPS to 40.5 FPS, an increase of about 2-3%. That's minimal but it is interesting to see how the frame rate consistency changes as we move down the sliding scale; pay attention to the orange and pink lines in the FPS by Percentile graph to see what I am referencing. As you move into the slower frame times in our testing, the gap between the 15.5 and 15.15 driver begins to widen slightly, indicating a little more frame time consistency in 15.15 release.

But what about BF4 or Metro: Last Light?

Continue reading our performance check on Catalyst 15.5 and Catalyst 15.15 drivers!

AMD Catalyst 15.5 Beta Driver Improves Project Cars and Witcher 3 Performance

Subject: Graphics Cards | May 29, 2015 - 11:26 AM |
Tagged: catalyst, amd, 15.5 beta

Last night AMD released a new Catalyst driver, 15.5 Beta, that targets performance improvements in both Project Cars and The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt. You can pick up the new driver for both 32-bit and 64-bit versions of Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 right here. The full display driver version is 14.502.1014.1001.

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The specific changes?

Highlights of AMD Catalyst™ 15.5 Beta Windows Driver

Crossfire Profile Update for:

  • The Witcher 3 - Wild Hunt

Performance Improvements for the following :

  • The Witcher 3 - Wild Hunt :  Up to 10% performance increase on single GPU Radeon R9  and R7 Series graphics products
     
  • Project Cars - Up to 17% performance increase on single GPU Radeon R9 and R7 Series graphics products

Users of the Radeon R9 295X2 will be glad to see support for their hardware added for The Witcher 3 and just about everyone will be glad to see some dramatic performance improvements in Project Cars and Witcher 3. We know from testing internally as well as widely reported issues that AMD Radeon graphics cards had issues with Project Cars, resulting in performance well behind comparable NVIDIA GeForce hardware. With as much as 17% improvement for Radeon R9 and R7 hardware though, hopefully that frame rate increases quite a bit.

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We'll be doing some testing with this new driver here today, and if anything jumps out at us, we'll be sure to let you know!

Source: AMD

AMD Omega is no longer in Alpha

Subject: Graphics Cards | December 9, 2014 - 03:08 PM |
Tagged: amd, catalyst, driver, omega

With AMD's new leader and restructuring comes a new type of driver update.  The Omega driver is intended to provide a large number of new features as well as performance updates once a year.  It does not replace the current cycle of Beta and WHQL driver updates and the next driver update will incorporate all of the changes from the Omega driver plus the new bug fixes or updates that the driver was released to address.

Many sites including The Tech Report have had at least a small amount of time to test the new driver and have not seen much in the way of installation issues, or unfortunately performance improvements on systems not using an AMD APU.  As more time for testing elapses and more reviews come out we may see improvements on low end systems but for now the higher end machines show little to no improvement on raw FPS rates.  Keep your eyes peeled for an update once we have had time to test the change on frame pacing results, which are far more important than just increasing your FPS. 

The main reason to be excited about this release, it is the long list of new features, from a DSR-like feature called Virtual Super Resolution which allows you to increase the resolution of your monitor although for now 4K super resolution is limited to the R285 as it is the only AMD Tonga card on the market at the moment.  Along with the release of the Omega driver comes news about Freesync displays, another feature enabled in the new driver and their availability; we have a release date of January or February with a 4K model arriving in March.

Check out the links to The Tech Report and below to read the full list of new features that this driver brings and don't forget to click on Ryan's article as well.

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"AMD has introduced what may be its biggest graphics driver release ever, with more than 20 new features, 400 bug fixes, and some miscellaneous performance improvements."

Here are some more Graphics Card articles from around the web:

Graphics Cards

Author:
Manufacturer: AMD

New Features

There are smart people that work at AMD. A quick look at the company's products, including the APU lineup as well as the discrete GPU fields, clearly indicates a lineup of talent in engineering, design, marketing and business. It's not perfect of course, and very few companies can claim to be, but the strengths of AMD are there and easily discernible to those of us on the outside looking in with the correct vision.

Because AMD has smart people working hard to improve the company, they are also aware of its shortcomings. For many years now, the thorn of GPU software has been sticking in AMD's side, tarnishing the name of Radeon and the products it releases. Even though the Catalyst graphics driver has improved substantially year after year, the truth is that NVIDIA's driver team has been keeping ahead of AMD consistently in basically all regards: features, driver installation, driver stability, performance improvements over time.

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If knowing is half the battle, acting on that knowledge is at least another 49%. AMD is hoping to address driver concerns now and into the future with the release of the Catalyst Omega driver. This driver sets itself apart from previous releases in several different ways, starting with a host of new features, some incremental performance improvements and a drastically amped up testing and validation process.

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AMD considers this a "special edition" driver and is something that they plan to repeat on a yearly basis. That note in itself is an interesting point - is that often enough to really change the experience and perception of the Catalyst driver program going forward? Though AMD does include some specific numbers of tested cases for its validation of the Omega driver (441,000+ automated test runs, 11,000+ manual test runs) we don't have side by side data from NVIDIA to compare it to. If AMD is only doing a roundup of testing like this once a year, but NVIDIA does it more often, then AMD might soon find itself back in the same position it has been.

UPDATE: There has been some confusion based on this story that I want to correct. AMD informed us that it is still planning on releasing other drivers throughout the year that will address performance updates for specific games and bug fixes for applications and titles released between today and the pending update for the next "special edition." AMD is NOT saying that they will only have a driver drop once a year.

But before we worry about what's going to happen in the future, let's look into what AMD has changed and added to the new Catalyst Omega driver released today.

Continue reading our overview of the new AMD Catalyst Omega driver!!

AMD Catalyst 14.9.2 Beta for Civilization: Beyond Earth

Subject: Graphics Cards | October 26, 2014 - 02:44 AM |
Tagged: amd, driver, catalyst

So Ryan has been playing many games lately, as a comparison between the latest GPUs from AMD and NVIDIA. While Civilization: Beyond Earth is not the most demanding game in existence on GPUs, it is not trivial either. While not the most complex, from a video card's perspective, it is a contender for most demanding game on your main processor (CPU). It also has some of the most thought-out Mantle support of any title using the API, when using the AMD Catalyst 14.9.2 Beta driver.

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And now you can!

The Catalyst 14.9.2 Beta drivers support just about anything using the GCN architecture, from APUs (starting with Kaveri) to discrete GPUs (starting with the HD 7000 and HD 7000M series). Beyond enabling Mantle support in Civilization, it also fixes some issues with Metro, Shadow of Mordor, Total War: Rome 2, Watch_Dogs, and other games.

Also, both AMD and Firaxis are aware of a bug in Civilization: Beyond Earth where the mouse cursor does not click exactly where it is supposed to, if the user enables font scaling in Windows. They are working on it, but suggest setting it to the default (100%) if users experience this issue. This could be problematic for customers with high-DPI screens, but could keep you playing until an official patch is released.

You can get 14.9.2 Beta for Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 at AMD's website.

Source: AMD

AMD Catalyst 14.4 Release Candidate is now available

Subject: Graphics Cards | April 22, 2014 - 01:06 PM |
Tagged: catalyst 14.4, catalyst, amd

The latest available AMD Catalyst Windows and Linux drivers can be found here:
AMD Catalyst Windows: http://support.amd.com/en-us/kb-articles/Pages/latest-catalyst-windows-beta.aspx
AMD Catalyst Linux: http://support.amd.com/en-us/kb-articles/Pages/latest-linux-beta-driver.aspx

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Highlights of AMD Catalyst™ 14.4 Windows Driver

  • Support for the AMD Radeon R9 295X

CrossFire fixes enhancements:

  • Crysis 3 – frame pacing improvements
  • Far Cry 3 – 3 and 4 GPU performance improvements at high quality settings, high resolution settings
  • Anno 2070 – Improved CrossFire scaling up to 34%
  • Titanfall – Resolved in game flickering with CrossFire enabled
  • Metro Last Light – Improved Crossfire scaling up to 10%
  • Eyefinity 3x1 (with three 4K panels) no longer cuts off portions of the application
  • Stuttering has been improved in certain applications when selecting mid-Eyefinity resolutions with V-sync Enabled

Full support for OpenGL 4.4
Mantle beta driver improvements:

  • BattleField 4: Performance slowdown is no longer seen when performing a task switch/Alt-tab
  • BattleField 4: Fuzzy images when playing in rotated SLS resolution with an A10 Kaveri system

Highlights of AMD Catalyst™ 14.1 Linux Driver

  • Support for the AMD Radeon R9 295X
  • Ubuntu 12.04.4 support
  • Full support for OpenGL 4.4

Resolved Issue highlights:

  • Corruption and system hang observed while running Sanctuary BM with Tear Free Desktop enabled
  • Memory leak about hardware context EGL create context error for glesx
  • GPU hand in CrossFire Mode [Piglit]
  • Test "spec/arb_vertex_array_object" failed [Piglit]
  • Test "glx/GLX_EXT_import_context/free context" failed [Piglit]
  • Test "spec/ARB_seamless_cube_map" failed Piglit]
  • Test "texture swizzle with border color" failed
  • Glxtest failures observed in log file Blank screen observed while running steam games with Big picture
  • 4ms delay observed in the glxSwapBuffers when vsync is enabled
  • RBDoom3BFG the game auto quit when use the security camera terminal
  • ETQW segmentation fault

Source: AMD

Just a reminder of the state of Hawaii

Subject: General Tech | January 10, 2014 - 12:45 PM |
Tagged: radeon, R9 290X, r9 290, hawaii, catalyst, amd

Confirming the results that Ryan and other sites have seen are the results of [H]ard|OCP's testing of two different retail R9 290X GPUs against a pair of press sample cards.  Much as with Ryan's findings even using the newer Catalyst 13.11 Beta 5 driver, Quiet mode performance varies far more than Uber mode does but even Uber mode displays some differences between models.  However they draw a slightly different conclusion based on their experiences, determining that the variance is not just a matter of press samples versus retail cards but a variance between any and all 290X GPUs.  The complexity of this huge chip is such that the differences in manufacturing process and tolerances are to blame and some cards will simply be better than others.  They also are disappointed by AMD's marketing team, citing that the key is 'With NVIDIA GTX 600 and 700 series the video cards are "running faster than advertised" and with AMD R9 290X the video card is running "slower than advertised."'

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"The AMD Radeon R9 290X arrived recently with a high level of performance, and a high level of controversy. There have been reports of performance variance between Radeon R9 290X video cards. We have two purchased retail cards today with stock cooling that we will test and see if performance variances exist."

Here are some more Graphics Card articles from around the web:

Graphics Cards

Source: [H]ard|OCP
Author:
Manufacturer: AMD

An issue of variance

AMD just sent along an email to the press with a new driver to use for Radeon R9 290X and Radeon R9 290 testing going forward.  Here is the note:

We’ve identified that there’s variability in fan speeds across AMD R9 290 series boards. This variability in fan speed translates into variability of the cooling capacity of the fan-sink.

The flexibility of AMD PowerTune technology enables us to correct this variability in a driver update. This update will normalize the fan RPMs to the correct values.

The correct target RPM values are 2200RPM for the AMD Radeon R9 290X ‘Quiet mode’, and 2650RPM for the R9 290. You can verify these in GPU-Z.

If you’re working on stories relating to R9 290 series products, please use this driver as it will reduce any variability in fan speeds. This driver will be posted publicly tonight.

Great!  This is good news!  Except it also creates some questions. 

When we first tested the R9 290X and the R9 290, we discussed the latest iteration of AMD's PowerTune technology. That feature attempts to keep clocks as high as possible under the constraints of temperature and power.  I took issue with the high variability of clock speeds on our R9 290X sample, citing this graph:

clock-avg.png

I then did some digging into the variance and the claims that AMD was building a "configurable" GPU.  In that article we found that there were significant performance deltas between "hot" and "cold" GPUs; we noticed that doing simple, quick benchmarks would produce certain results that were definitely not real-world in nature.  At the default 40% fan speed, Crysis 3 showed 10% variance with the 290X at 2560x1440:

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Continue reading our coverage of the most recent driver changes and how they affect the R9 290X and R9 290!!