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 - 04:00 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: General Tech | January 15, 2014 - 12:50 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: Star Swarm, Oxide Games, Nitrous, Mantle, gaming, amd
Without having seen Frostbite run in Mantle there is still some supposition as to the true effect of the new technology; will it increase the performance of high end PCs and allow lower end ones to do things they cannot under DirectX? Engadget has a video of a different Mantle based engine called Nitrous, displaying a demo called Star Swarm which can display thousands of objects simultaneously on screen. In the video they switch to DirectX to show you how much the demo slows down and what effects need to be disabled to be able to make it perform as it does under Mantle. If this translates to real game performance Mantle could totally change RTS and most other types of games by a huge margin. Let's hope it arrives soon now that Kaveri is out!
"Some RTS games set the limit at 50-70 units, while others can cope with as many as 500, but a new game engine called Nitrous takes things up a level: It uses AMD's Mantle programming tool to speed up communication between the CPU and GPU, allowing up to 5,000 AI- or physics-driven objects (i.e., not mindless clones or animations) to be displayed onscreen at one time."
Here is some more Tech News from around the web:
- Wot I Think: Long Live The Queen @ Rock, Paper, SHOTGUN
- Importance of AMD TrueAudio in Thief explained by Eidos Montreal @ HEXUS
- White Heat: White Night Is Beautifully Unnerving @ Rock, Paper, SHOTGUN
- OpenMW Brings Morrowind To Cross-Platform Engine @ Rock, Paper, SHOTGUN
Subject: General Tech | January 2, 2014 - 03:51 PM | Ken Addison
Tagged: video, tegra note 7, podcast, nvidia, Mantle, hardware picks of the year, Hardron Air, evga, amd, 290x tri-x
PC Perspective Podcast #282 - 01/02/2014
Join us this week as we discuss our Hardware Picks of the Year, the Sapphire 290X Tri-X, and the EVGA Hadron Air!
The URL for the podcast is: http://pcper.com/podcast - Share with your friends!
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Hosts: Ryan Shrout, Josh Walrath, Allyn Malventano and Scott Michaud
Thanks to Don Komarechka for the Sky Crystals book
Week in Review:
News items of interest:
0:27:00 Steam Holiday Sales on Amazon
PC Perspective Hardware Picks of the Year
Best Graphics Card of 2013
Best CPU of 2013
Best Storage of 2013
Best Case of 2013
Best Motherboard of 2013
Best Price Drop of 2013
Best Mobile Device of 2013
Best Trend of 2013
Worst Trend of 2013
Subject: Graphics Cards | December 30, 2013 - 11:32 AM | 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 | November 26, 2013 - 09:46 AM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: amd, Mantle, apu13
The Tech Report learned quite a bit about Mantle at APU 13, focusing much more deeply on what Mantle is and how it will work. To think of it as a replacement for DirectX is a good start as it is an API but it also changes how your system interacts with your GPU. The briefing delves into to the technical side, describing the context-based execution model which Mantle uses to give you proper access to assign tasks to multiple processors or other resources as the memory interface is also completely revamped. There are four pages describing Mantle for your reading pleasure here and with the strong early adoption it would be worth your time to learn more about it.
"At its APU13 developer conference in San Jose, California, AMD invited journalists and developers to listen to hours worth of keynotes and sessions by Mantle's creators and early adopters. We sat through all of it—and talked to some of those experts one on one—in order to get a sense of what Mantle does, how it will impact performance, and what its future may hold."
Here is some more Tech News from around the web:
- Revealed: How Microsoft DNS went titsup globally on Xbox One launch day @ The Register
- Understanding M.2 NGFF SSD Standardization (Or The Lack Of) @ SSD Review
- The TR Podcast 146: Cyril gets cranked on cold medicine and talks AMD
- Top 10 Linux-Based Gifts for 2013 Under $400 @ Linux.com
- Have 100GB Free? Host Your Own Copy of Wikipedia, With Images @ Slashdot
- Nokia Lumia 2520 price, release date and where to buy @ The Inquirer
- Xbox One @ The Inquirer
- Avermedia Game Capture HD 2 @ Rbmods
- Meet the BlackBerry wizardry that created its 'better Android than Android' @ The Register
- SiSoftware Sandra Lite 2014 Release @ NGOHQ
Subject: Graphics Cards | November 13, 2013 - 06:54 PM | Ryan Shrout
Tagged: video, Mantle, apu13, amd
While attending the AMD APU13 event, an annual developer conference the company uses to promote heterogeneous computing, I got to sit in during a deep dive on the AMD Mantle, a new hardware level API first announced in September. Rather than attempt to re-explain what was explained quite well, I decided to record the session on video and then intermix the slides presented in a produced video for our readers.
The result is likely the best (and seemingly first) explanation of how Mantle actually works and what it does differently than existing APIs like DirectX and OpenGL.
Also, because we had some requests, I am embedding the live blog we ran during Johan Andersson's keynote from APU13. Enjoy!
Subject: Graphics Cards | October 18, 2013 - 04:55 PM | Ryan Shrout
Tagged: video, tim sweeney, nvidia, Mantle, john carmack, johan andersson, g-sync, amd
If you weren't on our live stream from the NVIDIA "The Way It's Meant to be Played" tech day this afternoon, you missed a hell of an event. After the announcement of NVIDIA G-Sync variable refresh rate monitor technology, NVIDIA's Tony Tomasi brough one of the most intriguing panels of developers on stage to talk.
John Carmack, Tim Sweeney and Johan Andersson talk for over an hour, taking questions from the audience and even getting into debates amongst themselves in some instances. Topics included NVIDIA G-Sync of course, AMD's Mantle low-level API, the hurdles facing PC gaming and what direction each luminary is currently on for future development.
If you are a PC enthusiast or gamer you are definitely going to want to listen and watch the video below!
Subject: Graphics Cards | October 14, 2013 - 05:52 PM | Ryan Shrout
Tagged: xbox one, microsot, Mantle, dx11, amd
Microsoft posted a new blog on its Windows site that discusses some of the new features of the latest DirectX on Windows 8.1 and the upcoming Xbox One. Of particular interest was a line that confirms what I have said all along about the much-hyped AMD Mantle low-level API: it is not compatible with Xbox One.
We are very excited that with the launch of Xbox One, we can now bring the latest generation of Direct3D 11 to console. The Xbox One graphics API is “Direct3D 11.x” and the Xbox One hardware provides a superset of Direct3D 11.2 functionality. Other graphics APIs such as OpenGL and AMD’s Mantle are not available on Xbox One.
What does this mean for AMD? Nothing really changes except some of the common online discussion about how easy it would now be for developers to convert games built for the console to the AMD-specific Mantle API. AMD claims that Mantle offers a significant performance advantage over DirectX and OpenGL by giving developers that choose to implement support for it closer access to the hardware without much of the software overhead found in other APIs.
This is what Mantle does. 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. Before everyone gets too excited, we will not see a 9x improvement in overall performance with every application. A single HD 7790 running in Mantle is not going to power 3 x 1080P monitors in Eyefinity faster than a HD 7970 or GTX 780 (in Surround) running in DirectX. Mantle shifts the bottleneck elsewhere.
I still believe that AMD Mantle could bring interesting benefits to the AMD Radeon graphics cards on the PC but I think this official statement from Microsoft will dampen some of the over excitement.
Also worth noting is this comment about the DX11 implementation on the Xbox One:
With Xbox One we have also made significant enhancements to the implementation of Direct3D 11, especially in the area of runtime overhead. The result is a very streamlined, “close to metal” level of runtime performance. In conjunction with the third generation PIX performance tool for Xbox One, developers can use Direct3D 11 to unlock the full performance potential of the console.
So while Windows and the upcoming Xbox One will share an API there will still be performance advantages for games on the console thanks to the nature of a static hardware configuration.
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