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!

Author:
Manufacturer: Sapphire

The new Radeon R9 300-series

The new AMD Radeon R9 and R7 300-series of graphics cards are coming into the world with a rocky start. We have seen rumors and speculation about what GPUs are going to be included, what changes would be made and what prices these would be shipping at for what seems like months, and in truth it has been months. AMD's Radeon R9 290 and R9 290X based on the new Hawaii GPU launched nearly 2 years ago, while the rest of the 200-series lineup was mostly a transition of existing products in the HD 7000-family. The lone exception was the Radeon R9 285, a card based on a mysterious new GPU called Tonga that showed up late to the game to fill a gap in the performance and pricing window for AMD.

AMD's R9 300-series, and the R7 300-series in particular, follows a very similar path. The R9 390 and R9 390X are still based on the Hawaii architecture. Tahiti is finally retired and put to pasture, though Tonga lives on as the Radeon R9 380. Below that you have the Radeon R7 370 and 360, the former based on the aging GCN 1.0 Curacao GPU and the latter based on Bonaire. On the surface its easy to refer to these cards with the dreaded "R-word"...rebrands. And though that seems to be the case there are some interesting performance changes, at least at the high end of this stack, that warrant discussion.

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And of course, AMD partners like Sapphire are using this opportunity of familiarity with the GPU and its properties to release newer product stacks. In this case Sapphire is launching the new Nitro brand for a series of cards that it is aimed at what it considers the most common type of gamer: one that is cost conscious and craves performance over everything else.

The result is a stack of GPUs with prices ranging from about $110 up to ~$400 that target the "gamer" group of GPU buyers without the added price tag that some other lines include. Obviously it seems a little crazy to be talking about a line of graphics cards that is built for gamers (aren't they all??) but the emphasis is to build a fast card that is cool and quiet without the additional cost of overly glamorous coolers, LEDs or dip switches.

Today I am taking a look at the new Sapphire Nitro R9 390 8GB card, but before we dive head first into that card and its performance, let's first go over the changes to the R9-level of AMD's product stack.

Continue reading our review of the Sapphire Nitro R9 390 8GB Graphics Card!!

Live Blog: AMD E3 2015 Press Conference June 16th, 9am PT / 12pm ET

Subject: Graphics Cards | June 15, 2015 - 08:27 PM |
Tagged: r9 300, hbm, hawaii, Fiji, E3 2015, E3, amd

Join us tomorrow to learn all about AMD's plans for the next generation of GPUs! AMD is hosting a live stream of the event at 9am PT / 12pm ET and the PC Perspective team will be live blogging as well.

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AMD E3 2015 Press Conference and Live Blog

9am PT / 12pm ET - June 16th

PC Perspective Live! Page

Need a reminder? Join our live mailing list!

We expect to see official details of the R9 300-series of products of which there have been many leaks as well as the final details of the AMD Fury and Fury X products based on the new Fiji GPU. Join the team as we live blog the event and learn along with you!

Podcast #353 - Seiki Pro 4k Display, More News from Computex, and more!

Subject: General Tech | June 11, 2015 - 12:15 PM |
Tagged: Z97-Pro Gamer, video, valve, tonga, Steam Controller, Seiki Pro, seiki, r9 390x, podcast, MasterCase, hawaii, Fiji, coolermaster, computex, amd, 4k

PC Perspective Podcast #353 - 06/11/2015

Join us this week as we discuss the Seiki Pro 4k Display, More News from Computex, 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

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

Report: AMD Radeon 300-Series Pricing and GPU Details Leak

Subject: Graphics Cards | June 10, 2015 - 02:34 AM |
Tagged: rumor, Radeon 390X, radeon 390, radeon, leak, Hawaii XT, hawaii, amd

Here we go again...

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Image credit: WCCFtech

Even more information has allegedly leaked out ahead of AMD’s official announcement of new 300-series Radeon GPUs, this time from rumor site WCCFtech. This information is totally unverified at least from any public source, but it is very specific regarding both price and GPU.

Here is the list published by WCCFtech in their report:

Graphics Card GPU Price
R9 390X 8GB Enhanced Hawaii XT $389
R9 390 8GB   Enhanced Hawaii Pro  $329
R9 380X 3GB/6GB    Tonga XT (NOT CONFIRMED)  
R9 380 4GB   Tonga Pro  $235
R9 380 2GB Tonga Pro   $195
R7 370 4GB Pitcairn $175
R7 370 2GB Pitcairn $135
R7 360 2GB Bonaire $107

Credit: WCCFtech

As to whether this comes via leaked slides or is complete guesswork, we’ll likely have no answer until the official unveiling. Such an announcement is likely the purpose of the AMD gaming event at E3 which is now just days away. We can only hope that Fiji will in fact be making an appearance at the show as it does not appear on this list (again, if accurate).

Source: WCCFtech

AMD R9 390X Confirmed Hawaii Rebrand via Leaked Box Shot

Subject: Graphics Cards | June 7, 2015 - 07:51 PM |
Tagged: r9 390x, leak, hbm, hawaii, GDDR5, Fiji, amd

On the XFX R9 290X Double Dissipation product page something very curious appears when you scroll all the way down to the bottom…

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What’s this image over here on the right, I wonder…

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Well would you look at that. The box is clearly labeled for an AMD Radeon R9 390X with 8GB of GDDR5 memory, further indicating that the upcoming GPU will in fact be a Hawaii rebrand; and that the HBM-based flagship Fiji GPU we keep hearing about (and seeing pictures of) will have a new name. Whether that ends up being R9 490X or a name like “Fury” we will soon find out. As it is, it looks like we know at least part of what to expect from AMD’s gaming event at E3 on June 16.

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Hmm. What might this be about??

Of course we will have complete coverage when any official announcement is made, but for now enjoy the accidental product reveal!

Update: XFX has removed the R9 390X images from their R9 290X DD product page, but not before numerous sites took their own screenshots before posting the news as well. There has been some disagreement about what the leaked photos actually reveal, or if anything has genuinely been "confirmed", but it seems likely that the product named 390X will be a rebranded 290X with 8GB of GDDR5.

Source: XFX

Podcast #325 - Samsung 850 Pro Roundup, MSI's GTX 760 ITX, 8GB R9 290X and more!

Subject: General Tech | November 6, 2014 - 02:26 PM |
Tagged: video, Samsung, R9 290X, podcast, nvidia, mx cherry brown, msi titan, msi, hawaii, gtx 760 itx, assassin's creed, amd, 8gb, 850 PRO

PC Perspective Podcast #325 - 11/06/2014

Join us this week as we discuss our Samsung 850 Pro Roundup, MSI's GTX 760 ITX, 8GB R9 290X 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

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

AMD Gaming Evolved Goes Beyond Earth with Hawaii

Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards | November 6, 2014 - 12:00 AM |
Tagged: radeon, r9 295x2, R9 290X, r9 290, R9, hawaii, civilization, beyond earth, amd

Why settle for space, when you can go Beyond Earth too (but only if you go to Hawaii)!

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The Never Settle promotion launched itself into space a couple of months ago, but AMD isn't settling for that. If you purchase a Hawaii-based graphics card (R9 290, R9 290X, or R9 295X2) then you will get a free copy of Civilization: Beyond Earth on top of the choice of three games (or game packs) from the Never Settle Space Gold Reward tier. Beyond Earth makes a lot of sense of course, because it is a new game that is also one of the most comprehensive implementations of Mantle yet.

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To be eligible, the purchase would need to be made starting November 6th (which is today). Make sure that you check to make sure that what you're buying is a "qualifying purchase" from "participating retailers", because that is a lot of value to miss in a moment of carelessness.

AMD has not specified an end date for this promotion.

Source: AMD

AMD Radeon R9 290X Now Selling at $299

Subject: Graphics Cards | October 24, 2014 - 03:44 PM |
Tagged: radeon, R9 290X, leaderboard, hwlb, hawaii, amd, 290x

When NVIDIA launched the GTX 980 and GTX 970 last month, it shocked the discrete graphics world. The GTX 970 in particular was an amazing performer and undercut the price of the Radeon R9 290 at the time. That is something that NVIDIA rarely does and we were excited to see some competition in the market.

AMD responded with some price cuts on both the R9 290X and the R9 290 shortly thereafter (though they refuse to call them that) and it seems that AMD and its partners are at it again.

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Looking on Amazon.com today we found several R9 290X and R9 290 cards at extremely low prices. For example:

The R9 290X's primary competition in terms of raw performance is the GeForce GTX 980, currently selling for $549 and up. If you can find them in stock, that means NVIDIA has a hill of $250 to climb when going against the lowest priced R9 290X.

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The R9 290 looks interesting as well:

Several other R9 290 cards are selling for upwards of $300-320 making them bone-headed decisions if you can get the R9 290X for the same or lower price, but considering the GeForce GTX 970 is selling for at least $329 today (if you can find it) and you can see why consumers are paying close attention. 

Will NVIDIA make any adjustments of its own? It's hard to say right now since stock is so hard to come by of both the GTX 980 and GTX 970 but it's hard to imagine NVIDIA lowering prices as long as parts continue to sell out. NVIDIA believes that its branding and technologies like G-Sync make GeForce cards more valuable and until they being to see a shift in the market, I imagine that will stay the course.

For those of you that utilize our Hardware Leaderboard you'll find that Jeremy has taken these prices into account and update a couple of the system build configurations.

Source: Amazon.com
Author:
Manufacturer: Firaxis

A Civ for a New Generation

Turn-based strategy games have long been defined by the Civilization series. Civ 5 took up hours and hours of the PC Perspective team's non-working hours (and likely the working ones too) and it looks like the new Civilization: Beyond Earth has the chance to do the same. Early reviews of the game from Gamespot, IGN, and Polygon are quite positive, and that's great news for a PC-only release; they can sometimes get overlooked in the games' media.

For us, the game offers an interesting opportunity to discuss performance. Beyond Earth is definitely going to be more CPU-bound than the other games that we tend to use in our benchmark suite, but the fact that this game is new, shiny, and even has a Mantle implementation (AMD's custom API) makes interesting for at least a look at the current state of performance. Both NVIDIA and AMD sent have released drivers with specific optimization for Beyond Earth as well. This game is likely to be popular and it deserves the attention it gets.

Testing Process

Civilization: Beyond Earth, a turn-based strategy game that can take a very long time to complete, ships with an integrated benchmark mode to help users and the industry test performance under different settings and hardware configurations. To enable it, you simple add "-benchmark results.csv" to the Steam game launch options and then start up the game normally. Rather than taking you to the main menu, you'll be transported into a view of a map that represents a somewhat typical gaming state for a long term session. The game will use the last settings you ran the game at to measure your system's performance, without the modified launch options, so be sure to configure that before you prepare to benchmark.

The output of this is the "result.csv" file, saved to your Steam game install root folder. In there, you'll find a list of numbers, separated by commas, representing the frame times for each frame rendering during the run. You don't get averages, a minimum, or a maximum without doing a little work. Fire up Excel or Google Docs and remember the formula:

1000 / Average (All Frame Times) = Avg FPS

It's a crude measurement that doesn't take into account any errors, spikes, or other interesting statistical data, but at least you'll have something to compare with your friends.

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Our testing settings

Just as I have done in recent weeks with Shadow of Mordor and Sniper Elite 3, I ran some graphics cards through the testing process with Civilization: Beyond Earth. These include the GeForce GTX 980 and Radeon R9 290X only, along with SLI and CrossFire configurations. The R9 290X was run in both DX11 and Mantle.

  • Core i7-3960X
  • ASUS Rampage IV Extreme X79
  • 16GB DDR3-1600
  • GeForce GTX 980 Reference (344.48)
  • ASUS R9 290X DirectCU II (14.9.2 Beta)

Mantle Additions and Improvements

AMD is proud of this release as it introduces a few interesting things alongside the inclusion of the Mantle API.

  1. Enhanced-quality Anti-Aliasing (EQAA): Improves anti-aliasing quality by doubling the coverage samples (vs. MSAA) at each AA level. This is automatically enabled for AMD users when AA is enabled in the game.
     
  2. Multi-threaded command buffering: Utilizing Mantle allows a game developer to queue a much wider flow of information between the graphics card and the CPU. This communication channel is especially good for multi-core CPUs, which have historically gone underutilized in higher-level APIs. You’ll see in your testing that Mantle makes a notable difference in smoothness and performance high-draw-call late game testing.
     
  3. Split-frame rendering: Mantle empowers a game developer with total control of multi-GPU systems. That “total control” allows them to design an mGPU renderer that best matches the design of their game. In the case of Civilization: Beyond Earth, Firaxis has selected a split-frame rendering (SFR) subsystem. SFR eliminates the latency penalties typically encountered by AFR configurations.

EQAA is an interesting feature as it improves on the quality of MSAA (somewhat) by doubling the coverage sample count while maintaining the same color sample count as MSAA. So 4xEQAA will have 4 color samples and 8 coverage samples while 4xMSAA would have 4 of each. Interestingly, Firaxis has decided the EQAA will be enabled on Beyond Earth anytime a Radeon card is detected (running in Mantle or DX11) and AA is enabled at all. So even though in the menus you might see 4xMSAA enabled, you are actually running at 4xEQAA. For NVIDIA users, 4xMSAA means 4xMSAA. Performance differences should be negligible though, according to AMD (who would actually be "hurt" by this decision if it brought down FPS).

Continue reading our article on Civilization: Beyond Earth performance!!