Author:
Manufacturer: AMD

More of the same for a lot less cash

The week before Halloween, AMD unleashed a trick on the GPU world under the guise of the Radeon R9 290X and it was the fastest single GPU graphics card we had tested to date.  With a surprising price point of $549, it was able to outperform the GeForce GTX 780 (and GTX TITAN in most cases) while under cutting the competitions price by $100.  Not too bad! 

amd1.jpg

Today's release might be more surprising (and somewhat confusing).  The AMD Radeon R9 290 4GB card is based on the same Hawaii GPU with a few less compute units enabled (CUs) and an even more aggressive price and performance placement.  Seriously, has AMD lost its mind?

Can a card with a $399 price tag cut into the same performance levels as the JUST DROPPED price of $499 for the GeForce GTX 780??  And, if so, what sacrifices are being made by users that adopt it?  Why do so many of our introduction sentences end in question marks?

The R9 290 GPU - Hawaii loses a small island

If you are new to the Hawaii GPU and you missed our first review of the Radeon R9 290X from last month, you should probably start back there.  The architecture is very similar to that of the HD 7000-series Tahiti GPUs with some modest changes to improve efficiency with the biggest jump in raw primitives per second to 4/clock over 2/clock.

diagram1.jpg

The R9 290 is based on Hawaii though it has four fewer compute units (CUs) than the R9 290X.  When I asked AMD if that meant there was one fewer CU per Shader Engine or if they were all removed from a single Engine, they refused to really answer.  Instead, several "I'm not allowed to comment on the specific configuration" lines were given.  This seems pretty odd as NVIDIA has been upfront about the dual options for its derivative GPU models.  Oh well.

Continue reading our review of the AMD Radeon R9 290 4GB Graphics Card Review!!!

Author:
Manufacturer: AMD

A bit of a surprise

Okay, let's cut to the chase here: it's late, we are rushing to get our articles out, and I think you all would rather see our testing results NOW rather than LATER.  The first thing you should do is read my review of the AMD Radeon R9 290X 4GB Hawaii graphics card which goes over the new architecture, new feature set, and performance in single card configurations. 

Then, you should continue reading below to find out how the new XDMA, bridge-less CrossFire implementation actually works in both single panel and 4K (tiled) configurations.

IMG_1802.JPG

 

A New CrossFire For a New Generation

CrossFire has caused a lot of problems for AMD in recent months (and a lot of problems for me as well).  But, AMD continues to make strides in correcting the frame pacing issues associated with CrossFire configurations and the new R9 290X moves the bar forward.

Without the CrossFire bridge connector on the 290X, all of the CrossFire communication and data transfer occurs over the PCI Express bus that connects the cards to the entire system.  AMD claims that this new XDMA interface was designed for Eyefinity and UltraHD resolutions (which were the subject of our most recent article on the subject).  By accessing the memory of the GPU through PCIe AMD claims that it can alleviate the bandwidth and sync issues that were causing problems with Eyefinity and tiled 4K displays.

Even better, this updated version of CrossFire is said to compatible with the frame pacing updates to the Catalyst driver to improve multi-GPU performance experiences for end users.

IMG_1800.JPG

When an extra R9 290X accidentally fell into my lap, I decided to take it for a spin.  And if you have followed my graphics testing methodology in the past year then you'll understand the important of these tests.

Continue reading our article Frame Rating: AMD Radeon R9 290X CrossFire and 4K Preview Testing!!

Author:
Manufacturer: Various

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:

01.png

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.

02.png

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.

Continue reading our investigation into AMD Eyefinity and NVIDIA Surround with multi-GPU solutions!!

Podcast #263 - AMDs Crossfire Fix, Carmack Leaving id, Left 4 Dead 3 rumors and more!

Subject: General Tech | August 8, 2013 - 02:22 PM |
Tagged: podcast, video, amd, nvidia, crossfire, sli, frame rating, 7990, john carmack, Oculus

PC Perspective Podcast #263 - 08/08/2013

Join us this week as we discuss AMDs Crossfire Fix, Carmack Leaving id, Left 4 Dead 3 rumors 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!

  • iTunes - Subscribe to the podcast directly through the iTunes Store
  • RSS - Subscribe through your regular RSS reader
  • MP3 - Direct download link to the MP3 file

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

Program length: 1:13:47

 

Podcast #262 - Live from QuakeCon 2013!

Subject: General Tech | August 1, 2013 - 01:35 PM |
Tagged: video, shield, Samsung, quakecon, podcast, nvidia, frame rating, crossfire, amd, 840 evo, 7990

PC Perspective Podcast #262 - 08/01/2013

Join us this week as we discuss NVIDIA SHIELD, the Samsung 840 EVO, Viewer Q&A, and much more LIVE from QuakeCon 2013!

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!

  • iTunes - Subscribe to the podcast directly through the iTunes Store
  • RSS - Subscribe through your regular RSS reader
  • MP3 - Direct download link to the MP3 file

Hosts: Ryan Shrout, Josh Walrath, and Allyn Malventano

Program length: 1:19:01

Extreme Windows, Extreme Eyefinity, 11,520 x 2160 Gaming

Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards, Displays | July 25, 2013 - 07:32 PM |
Tagged: eyefinity, crossfire, 4k

Sharp recently sampled a few of their 32" 4K monitors to Microsoft's Extreme Windows. The blog, known for editorializing what enthusiasts can do with Microsoft products, combined three 3840 x 2160 monitors into a 3x1 Eyefinity configuration at 60 Hz; the screen, itself, measures about 7 feet diagonally. This configuration, unlike the already-supported three-display 30 Hz and single-display 60Hz 4K modes, required AMD to develop a customized driver before Sharp's repo-team reclaimed their $15,000 worth of monitors.

They had a day until their door was to be knocked.

4k-eyefinity-01.jpg

The system, three Radeon HD 7970s in Crossfire, successfully drove... they were playing Dirt 3, by the way... the three monitors at 60 Hz with between 62 and 70, of software recorded, FPS. 11,520 x 2160, at 60 Hz, requires 1.5 billion colors to be calculated within a second of animation; that is 1.5 gigapixels. Ignore, for a moment, stutter caused by including Crossfire with an Eyefinity setup. Every calculation, whether properly drawn to the monitor or not is, and must be, performed; 1.5 gigapixels is impressive and an accomplishment for Radeon hardware.

4k-eyefinity-02.jpg

Lastly, I need to call out drama as I see it: power supplies. It is not hard to find a PSU which can support a three-GPU system and no reason for it to be hanging outside the case. It might give off the bleeding-edge appearance, but this is not arc welding. If they really were concerned, they could have picked up a higher capacity device from the shelf of a local component reseller.

Frame Rating: AMD plans driver release to address frame pacing for July 31st

Subject: Graphics Cards | June 20, 2013 - 04:05 PM |
Tagged: radeon, nvidia, geforce, frame rating, fcat, crossfire, amd

Well, the date has been set.  AMD publicly stated on its @AMDRadeon Twitter account that a new version the prototype driver we originally previewed with the release of the Radeon HD 7990 in April will be released to the public on July 31st.  For a problem that many in the industry didn't think existed.  

 

 

Since that April release AMD has been very quiet about its driver changes and actually has refused to send me updated prototypes over the spring.  Either they have it figured out or they are worried they haven't - but it looks like we'll find out at the end of next month and I feel pretty confident that the team will be able to address the issues we brought to light.

For those of you that might have missed the discussion, our series of Frame Rating stories will tell you all about the issues with frame pacing and stutter in regards to AMD's CrossFire multi-GPU technology. 

AMD gave the media a prototype driver in April to test with the Radeon HD 7990, a card that depends on CrossFire to work correctly, and the improvements were pretty drastic.

BF3_2560x1440_PLOT_0.png

So what can we expect on July 31st?  A driver that will give users the option to disable or enable the frame pacing technology they are developing - though I am still of the mindset that disabling is never advantageous.  More to come in the next 30 days!

Source: Twitter

Podcast #248 - AMD HD 7990, CrossFire Frame Rating improvements, 4K TVs and more!

Subject: General Tech | April 25, 2013 - 02:13 PM |
Tagged: video, Xe, seiki, raidr, podcast, nvidia, Never Serttle, hd 7990, GA-Z77N-WiFi, frame rating, crossfire, amd, 4k

PC Perspective Podcast #248 - 04/25/2013

Join us this week as we discuss AMD HD 7990, CrossFire Frame Rating improvements, 4K TVs 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!

  • iTunes - Subscribe to the podcast directly through the iTunes Store
  • RSS - Subscribe through your regular RSS reader
  • MP3 - Direct download link to the MP3 file

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

Program length: 1:16:34

  1. 0:01:20 Update on Indiegogo: You guys rock!
  2. Week in Review:
  3. News items of interest:
    1. Ryan: Seiki 4K TV - more support from enthusiasts! and wet puppies
    2. Jeremy: This is not news people, NFC is a feature but if you are paranoid you can check with this app
    3. Allyn: Put your bits on an ioSafe. Put your 'papers' here.
    4. Tim: BT Sync, it's in public alpha now so go grab it!
  4. 1-888-38-PCPER or podcast@pcper.com
  5. Closing/outro

 

PowerColor Launches HD 7990 V2 Based On Official AMD Malta GPU

Subject: Graphics Cards | April 24, 2013 - 07:09 PM |
Tagged: amd, powercolor, hd 7990, malta, dual gpu, crossfire

PowerColor (a TUL corporation brand) launched its dual-GPU Radeon HD 7990 V2 graphics card, and this time the card is based on the (recently reviewed) official dual-GPU AMD “Malta” GPU announced at the Games Developers Conference (GDC). The new HD 7990 V2 graphics card features two AMD HD 7970 cards in a Crossfire configuration. That means that the Malta-based card features a total of 4096 stream processors, and a rated 8.2 TFLOPS of peak performance.

PowerColor HD 7990 V2 Malta.jpg

The PowerColor HD 7990 V2 joins the company’s existing Devil 13 and HD 7990 graphics cards. The new card sports a triple-fan shrouded heatsink that is somewhat tamer-looking that the custom Devil 13. Other hardware includes 3GB of GDDR5 RAM per GPU clocked at 1500MHz and running on a 384-bit bus (again, per GPU) for a total of 6GB. Both GPUs have clock speeds of 950MHz base and up to 1GHz boost.

PowerColor HD 7990 V2 Malta GPU.jpg

The new GPU has a single DL-DVI and four mini-DisplayPort video outputs. PowerColor is touting the card’s Eyefinity prowess as well as its ZeroCore support for reducing power usage when idle. The board has a TDP of 750W and is powered by two PCI-E power connections. In all, the HD 7990 V2 graphics card measures 305 x 110 x 38mm. While PowerColor has not released pricing or availability, expect the card to be available soon and around the same price (or a bit lower than) as its existing (custom) HD 7990.

The full press release can be found here.

Source: PowerColor
Author:
Manufacturer: Various

A very early look at the future of Catalyst

Today is a very interesting day for AMD.  It marks both the release of the reference design of the Radeon HD 7990 graphics card, a dual-GPU Tahiti behemoth, and the first sample of a change to the CrossFire technology that will improve animation performance across the board.  Both stories are incredibly interesting and as it turns out both feed off of each other in a very important way: the HD 7990 depends on CrossFire and CrossFire depends on this driver. 

If you already read our review (or any review that is using the FCAT / frame capture system) of the Radeon HD 7990, you likely came away somewhat unimpressed.  The combination of a two AMD Tahiti GPUs on a single PCB with 6GB of frame buffer SHOULD have been an incredibly exciting release for us and would likely have become the single fastest graphics card on the planet.  That didn't happen though and our results clearly state why that is the case: AMD CrossFire technology has some serious issues with animation smoothness, runt frames and giving users what they are promised. 

Our first results using our Frame Rating performance analysis method were shown during the release of the NVIDIA GeForce GTX Titan card in February.  Since then we have been in constant talks with the folks at AMD to figure out what was wrong, how they could fix it, and what it would mean to gamers to implement frame metering technology.  We followed that story up with several more that showed the current state of performance on the GPU market using Frame Rating that painted CrossFire in a very negative light.  Even though we were accused by some outlets of being biased or that AMD wasn't doing anything incorrectly, we stuck by our results and as it turns out, so does AMD. 

Today's preview of a very early prototype driver shows that the company is serious about fixing the problems we discovered. 

If you are just catching up on the story, you really need some background information.  The best place to start is our article published in late March that goes into detail about how game engines work, how our completely new testing methods work and the problems with AMD CrossFire technology very specifically.  From that piece:

It will become painfully apparent as we dive through the benchmark results on the following pages, but I feel that addressing the issues that CrossFire and Eyefinity are creating up front will make the results easier to understand.  We showed you for the first time in Frame Rating Part 3, AMD CrossFire configurations have a tendency to produce a lot of runt frames, and in many cases nearly perfectly in an alternating pattern.  Not only does this mean that frame time variance will be high, but it also tells me that the value of performance gained by of adding a second GPU is completely useless in this case.  Obviously the story would become then, “In Battlefield 3, does it even make sense to use a CrossFire configuration?”  My answer based on the below graph would be no.

runt.jpg

An example of a runt frame in a CrossFire configuration

NVIDIA's solution for getting around this potential problem with SLI was to integrate frame metering, a technology that balances frame presentation to the user and to the game engine in a way that enabled smoother, more consistent frame times and thus smoother animations on the screen.  For GeForce cards, frame metering began as a software solution but was actually integrated as a hardware function on the Fermi design, taking some load off of the driver.

Continue reading our article on the new prototype driver from AMD to address frame pacing issues in CrossFire!!