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:

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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.

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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 - 11:22 AM |
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

 

So you want a second opinion on Frame Pacing, eh?

Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards | August 2, 2013 - 09:44 AM |
Tagged: video, stutter, radeon, nvidia, hd 7990, frame rating, frame pacing, amd

Scott Wasson from The Tech Report and Ryan have been discussing the microstuttering present in Crossfire and while Ryan got his hands on the hardware to capture the raw output first, The Tech Report have been investigating this issue as in depth as Ryan and Ken have been.  Their look at the new Catalyst and the effects of Frame Pacing show the same results as you saw yesterday in Ryan's article; for essentially no cost in performance you can get a much smoother experience when using a CrossFire system on a single display.  In their article they have done a great job of splicing together videos of runthroughs of several games with the Frame Pacing disabled on one side and enabled on the other, allowing you to see with your own eyes the difference in game play, without having to have your own Crossfire system.

7990-card-close.jpg

"Can a driver fix what ails the Radeon HD 7990? Will the new Catalysts magically transform this baby into the fastest graphics card on the planet? We go inside the second to find out."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Author:
Manufacturer: AMD

Frame Pacing for CrossFire

When the Radeon HD 7990 launched in April of this year, we had some not-so-great things to say about it.  The HD 7990 depends on CrossFire technology to function and we had found quite a few problems with AMD's CrossFire technology over the last months of testing with our Frame Rating technology, the HD 7990 "had a hard time justifying its $1000 price tag."  Right at launch, AMD gave us a taste of a new driver that they were hoping would fix the frame pacing and frame time variance issues seen in CrossFire, and it looked positive.  The problem was that the driver wouldn't be available until summer.

As I said then: "But until that driver is perfected, is bug free and is presented to buyers as a made-for-primetime solution, I just cannot recommend an investment this large on the Radeon HD 7990."

Today could be a very big day for AMD - the release of the promised driver update that enables frame pacing on AMD 7000-series CrossFire configurations including the Radeon HD 7990 graphics cards with a pair of Tahiti GPUs. 

It's not perfect yet and there are some things to keep an eye on.  For example, this fix will not address Eyefinity configurations which includes multi-panel solutions and the new 4K 60 Hz displays that require a tiled display configuration.  Also, we found some issues with more than two GPU CrossFire that we'll address in a later page too.

 

New Driver Details

Starting with 13.8 and moving forward, AMD plans to have the frame pacing fix integrated into all future drivers.  The software team has implemented a software based frame pacing algorithm that simply monitors the time it takes for each GPU to render a frame, how long a frame is displayed on the screen and inserts delays into the present calls when necessary to prevent very tightly timed frame renders.  This balances or "paces" the frame output to the screen without lowering the overall frame rate.  The driver monitors this constantly in real-time and minor changes are made on a regular basis to keep the GPUs in check. 

7990card.JPG

As you would expect, this algorithm is completely game engine independent and the games should be completely oblivious to all that is going on (other than the feedback from present calls, etc). 

This fix is generic meaning it is not tied to any specific game and doesn't require profiles like CrossFire can from time to time.  The current implementation will work with DX10 and DX11 based titles only with DX9 support being added later with another release.  AMD claims this was simply a development time issue and since most modern GPU-bound titles are DX10/11 based they focused on that area first.  In phase 2 of the frame pacing implementation AMD will add in DX9 and OpenGL support.  AMD wouldn't give me a timeline for implementation though so we'll have to see how much pressure AMD continues with internally to get the job done.

Continue reading our story of the new AMD Catalyst 13.8 beta driver with frame pacing support!!

Podcast #262 - Live from QuakeCon 2013!

Subject: General Tech | August 1, 2013 - 10:35 AM |
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

Podcast #259 - MSI Z87 MPower Motherboard, Mobile Frame Rating, Intel Bay Trail and more!

Subject: General Tech | July 11, 2013 - 11:06 AM |
Tagged: podcast, video, frame rating, z87, mpower, msi, Bay Trail, celeron, atom, pentium

PC Perspective Podcast #259 - 07/11/2013

Join us this week as we discuss the MSI Z87 MPower Motherboard, Mobile Frame Rating, Intel Bay Trail 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, Josh Walrath, Jeremy Hellstrom and Allyn Malventano

Program length: 1:14:34

  1. Week in Review:
  2. News items of interest:
  3. Hardware/Software Picks of the Week:
  4. 1-888-38-PCPER or podcast@pcper.com
  5. Closing/outro

Author:
Manufacturer: NVIDIA

Another Wrench – GeForce GTX 760M Results

Just recently, I evaluated some of the current processor-integrated graphics options from our new Frame Rating performance metric. The results were very interesting, proving Intel has done some great work with its new HD 5000 graphics option for Ultrabooks. You might have noticed that the MSI GE40 didn’t just come with the integrated HD 4600 graphics but also included a discrete NVIDIA GeForce GTX 760M, on-board.  While that previous article was to focus on the integrated graphics of Haswell, Trinity, and Richland, I did find some noteworthy results with the GTX 760M that I wanted to investigate and present.

IMG_0141.JPG

The MSI GE40 is a new Haswell-based notebook that includes the Core i7-4702MQ quad-core processor and Intel HD 4600 graphics.  Along with it MSI has included the Kepler architecture GeForce GTX 760M discrete GPU.

760mspecs.png

This GPU offers 768 CUDA cores running at a 657 MHz base clock but can stretch higher with GPU Boost technology.  It is configured with 2GB of GDDR5 memory running at 2.0 GHz

If you didn’t read the previous integrated graphics article, linked above, you’re going to have some of the data presented there spoiled and so you might want to get a baseline of information by getting through that first.  Also, remember that we are using our Frame Rating performance evaluation system for this testing – a key differentiator from most other mobile GPU testing.  And in fact it is that difference that allowed us to spot an interesting issue with the configuration we are showing you today. 

If you are not familiar with the Frame Rating methodology, and how we had to change some things for mobile GPU testing, I would really encourage you to read this page of the previous mobility Frame Rating article for the scoop.  The data presented below depends on that background knowledge!

Okay, you’ve been warned – on to the results.

Continue reading our story about GeForce GTX 760M Frame Rating results and Haswell Optimus issues!!

Author:
Manufacturer: Various

Battle of the IGPs

Our long journey with Frame Rating, a new capture-based analysis tool to measure graphics performance of PCs and GPUs, began almost two years ago as a way to properly evaluate the real-world experiences for gamers.  What started as a project attempting to learn about multi-GPU complications has really become a new standard in graphics evaluation and I truly believe it will play a crucial role going forward in GPU and game testing. 

Today we use these Frame Rating methods and tools, which are elaborately detailed in our Frame Rating Dissected article, and apply them to a completely new market: notebooks.  Even though Frame Rating was meant for high performance discrete desktop GPUs, the theory and science behind the entire process is completely applicable to notebook graphics and even on the integrated graphics solutions on Haswell processors and Richland APUs.  It also is able to measure performance of discrete/integrated graphics combos from NVIDIA and AMD in a unique way that has already found some interesting results.

 

Battle of the IGPs

Even though neither side wants us to call it this, we are testing integrated graphics today.  With the release of Intel’s Haswell processor (the Core i7/i5/i3 4000) the company has upgraded the graphics noticeably on several of their mobile and desktop products.  In my first review of the Core i7-4770K, a desktop LGA1150 part, the integrated graphics now known as the HD 4600 were only slightly faster than the graphics of the previous generation Ivy Bridge and Sandy Bridge.  Even though we had all the technical details of the HD 5000 and Iris / Iris Pro graphics options, no desktop parts actually utilize them so we had to wait for some more hardware to show up. 

 

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When Apple held a press conference and announced new MacBook Air machines that used Intel’s Haswell architecture, I knew I could count on Ken to go and pick one up for himself.  Of course, before I let him start using it for his own purposes, I made him sit through a few agonizing days of benchmarking and testing in both Windows and Mac OS X environments.  Ken has already posted a review of the MacBook Air 11-in model ‘from a Windows perspective’ and in that we teased that we had done quite a bit more evaluation of the graphics performance to be shown later.  Now is later.

So the first combatant in our integrated graphics showdown with Frame Rating is the 11-in MacBook Air.  A small, but powerful Ultrabook that sports more than 11 hours of battery life (in OS X at least) but also includes the new HD 5000 integrated graphics options.  Along with that battery life though is the GT3 variation of the new Intel processor graphics that doubles the number of compute units as compared to the GT2.  The GT2 is the architecture behind the HD 4600 graphics that sits with nearly all of the desktop processors, and many of the notebook versions, so I am very curious how this comparison is going to stand. 

Continue reading our story on Frame Rating with Haswell, Trinity and Richland!!

AMD may discontinue Radeon HD 7990

Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards | July 4, 2013 - 03:02 PM |
Tagged: radeon hd 7990, frame rating, amd, 7990

Editor's Update (Ryan): After the long holiday I finally got around to asking AMD for an official response to this rumor.  AMD says simply:

"Plain and simple: AMD has not EOL'd the world's fastest graphics card, the AMD Radeon HD 7990."

Obviously the company is steadfast that the report from WCCFTech is incorrect so I eagerly await the new driver due by July 31st for improved frame pacing and multi-GPU performance!

END UPDATE

WCCFTech caught wind, via Overclockers.Ru, of a Radeon HD 7990 cancellation rumor. The flagship card, codenamed after the Mediterranean island, "Malta", contains two Graphics Core Next (GCN) GPUs in Crossfire. Before the canonical AMD design, certain third-party add-in-board (AIB) partners created their own designs with the 7990 moniker with a pair of 7970 GPUs as its foundation. The first official 7990s launched in April 2013.

But, it did not have the best reception.

amd7990.jpg

Never Settle, get it before it settles.

The two main issues regarding 7990 adoption are, according to WCCFTech, micro-stuttering with Crossfire setups and the better dollar value of paired 7970s. The 7990 comes in at the thousand dollar ($1000 USD) price point despite being, for all intents and purposes, nearly identical to a pair of separate 7970 cards. While the 7990 has access to a superior "Never Settle" bundle when compared to twin 7970s, with the addition of a Deux Ex: Human Revolution license, it would be difficult to consider that as an excuse for the $200-$300 USD price gap.

Cost aside, this would be a really odd time to cancel the 7990. The product was launched just a few months ago, despite similar price concerns, only to be allegedly killed right before the driver that makes it worth its weight? If true, either AMD decided to annul their "mistake", or we will get some interesting news when the frame pacing driver finally gets released.

While pure speculation, my immediate reflex would be that AMD had some problem during the development of their frame pacing driver. The initial results presented by Ryan showed a great improvement, but what about a pair of 7990 cards? The way in which they, allegedly, are killing off the 7990 would suggest something abrupt came up.

Hopefully, for AMD, that was not the case.

Source: WCCFTech

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

Subject: Graphics Cards | June 20, 2013 - 01:05 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