Subject: Graphics Cards | October 24, 2014 - 03:44 PM | Ryan Shrout
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.
Looking on Amazon.com today we found several R9 290X and R9 290 cards at extremely low prices. For example:
- XFX Radeon R9 290X Double D - $299 (after MIR)
- Gigabyte R9 290X WindForce - $360
- MSI R9 290X Gaming - $366
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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).
Quick Performance Comparison
Earlier this week, we posted a brief story that looked at the performance of Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor on the latest GPUs from both NVIDIA and AMD. Last week also marked the release of the v1.11 patch for Sniper Elite 3 that introduced an integrated benchmark mode as well as support for AMD Mantle.
I decided that this was worth a quick look with the same line up of graphics cards that we used to test Shadow of Mordor. Let's see how the NVIDIA and AMD battle stacks up here.
For those unfamiliar with the Sniper Elite series, the focuses on the impact of an individual sniper on a particular conflict and Sniper Elite 3 doesn't change up that formula much. If you have ever seen video of a bullet slowly going through a body, allowing you to see the bones/muscle of the particular enemy being killed...you've probably been watching the Sniper Elite games.
Gore and such aside, the game is fun and combines sniper action with stealth and puzzles. It's worth a shot if you are the kind of gamer that likes to use the sniper rifles in other FPS titles.
But let's jump straight to performance. You'll notice that in this story we are not using our Frame Rating capture performance metrics. That is a direct result of wanting to compare Mantle to DX11 rendering paths - since we have no way to create an overlay for Mantle, we have resorted to using FRAPs and the integrated benchmark mode in Sniper Elite 3.
Our standard GPU test bed was used with a Core i7-3960X processor, an X79 motherboard, 16GB of DDR3 memory, and the latest drivers for both parties involved. That means we installed Catalyst 14.9 for AMD and 344.16 for NVIDIA. We'll be comparing the GeForce GTX 980 to the Radeon R9 290X, and the GTX 970 to the R9 290. We will also look at SLI/CrossFire scaling at the high end.
Subject: Graphics Cards | October 6, 2014 - 03:21 PM | Ryan Shrout
Tagged: radeon, R9 290X, r9 290, hawaii, GTX 980, GTX 970, geforce, amd
On Saturday while finishing up the writing on our Shadow of Mordor performance story, I noticed something quite interesting. The prices of AMD's flagship Radeon products had all come down quite a bit. In an obvious response to the release of NVIDIA's new GeForce GTX 980 and GTX 970, the Radeon R9 290X and the Radeon R9 290 have lowered prices in a very aggressive fashion.
UPDATE: A couple of individual cards appear to be showing up as $360 and $369 on Newegg!
Amazon.com is showing some R9 290X cards at $399
For now, Amazon.com is only listing the triple-fan Gigabyte R9 290X Windforce card at $399, though Newegg.com has a couple as well.
Amazon.com also has several R9 290 cards for $299
- Gigabyte R9 290 Windforce - $299
- Powercolor AX R9 290 - $299
- ASUS R9 290 DirectCU II - $329
- More R9 290 Card on Amazon.com
And again, Newegg.com has some other options for R9 290 cards at these lower prices.
Let's assume that these price drops are going to be permanent which seems likely based on the history of AMD and market adjustments. That shifts the high end GPU market considerably.
|GeForce GTX 980 4GB||$549|
|$399||Radeon R9 290X 4GB|
|GeForce GTX 970 4GB||$329|
|$299||Radeon R9 290 4GB|
The battle for that lower end spot between the GTX 970 and R9 290 is now quite a bit tighter though NVIDIA's Maxwell architecture still has a positive outlook against the slightly older Hawaii GPU. Our review of the GTX 970 shows that it is indeed faster than the R9 290 though it no longer has the significant cost advantage it did upon release. The GTX 980, however, is much tougher sell over the Radeon R9 290X for PC gamers that are concerned with price per dollar over all else. I would still consider the GTX 980 faster than the R9 290X...but is it $150 faster? That's a 35% price difference NVIDIA now has to contend with.
NVIDIA has proven that is it comfortable staying in this position against AMD as it maintained it during essentially the entire life of the GTX 680 and GTX 780 product lines. AMD is more willing to make price cuts to pull the Radeon lineup back into the spotlight. Though the market share between the competitors didn't change much over the previous 6 months, I'll be very curious to see how these two strategies continue to play out.
In what can most definitely be called the best surprise of the fall game release schedule, the open-world action game set in the Lord of the Rings world, Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor has been receiving impressive reviews from gamers and the media. (GiantBomb.com has a great look at it if you are new to the title.) What also might be a surprise to some is that the PC version of the game can be quite demanding on even the latest PC hardware, pulling in frame rates only in the low-60s at 2560x1440 with its top quality presets.
Late last week I spent a couple of days playing around with Shadow of Mordor as well as the integrated benchmark found inside the Options menu. I wanted to get an idea of the performance characteristics of the game to determine if we might include this in our full-time game testing suite update we are planning later in the fall. To get some sample information I decided to run through a couple of quality presets with the top two cards from NVIDIA and AMD and compare them.
Without a doubt, the visual style of Shadow of Mordor is stunning – with the game settings cranked up high the world, characters and fighting scenes look and feel amazing. To be clear, in the build up to this release we had really not heard anything from the developer or NVIDIA (there is an NVIDIA splash screen at the beginning) about the title which is out of the ordinary. If you are looking for a game that is both fun to play (I am 4+ hours in myself) and can provide a “wow” factor to show off your PC rig then this is definitely worth picking up.
Subject: Graphics Cards | September 29, 2014 - 05:33 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: whql, radeon, Catalyst 14.9, amd
The full release notes are available here or take a look at the highlights below.
The latest version of the AMD Catalyst Software Suite, AMD Catalyst 14.9 is designed to support the following Microsoft Windows platforms:
Highlights of AMD Catalyst 14.9 Windows Driver
- Support for the AMD Radeon R9 280
- Performance improvements (comparing AMD Catalyst 14.9 vs. AMD Catalyst 14.4)
- 3DMark Sky Diver improvements
- AMD A4 6300 – improves up to 4%
- Enables AMD Dual Graphics / AMD CrossFire support
- 3DMark Fire Strike
- AMD Radeon R9 290 Series - improves up to 5% in Performance Preset
- AMD Radeon R9 290 Series / R9 270 Series - improves up to 4% in Entry and Performance Preset
- BioShock Infinite
- AMD Radeon R9 290 Series – 1920x1080 - improves up to 5%
- Company of Heroes 2
- AMD Radeon R9 290 Series - improves up to 8%
- Crysis 3
- AMD Radeon R9 290 Series / R9 270 Series – improves up to 10%
- Grid Auto Sport
- AMD CrossFire profile
- Murdered Soul Suspect
- AMD Radeon R9 290X (2560x1440, 4x MSAA, 16x AF) – improves up to 50%
- AMD Radeon R9 290 Series / R9 270 Series – improves up to 6%
- CrossFire configurations improve scaling up to 75%
- Plants vs. Zombies (Direct3D performance improvements)
- AMD Radeon R9 290X - 1920x1080 Ultra – improves up to 11%
- AMD Radeon R9290X - 2560x1600 Ultra – improves up to 15%
- AMD Radeon R9290X CrossFire configuration (3840x2160 Ultra) - 92% scaling
- Batman Arkham Origins:
- AMD Radeon R9 290X (4x MSAA) – improves up to 20%
- CrossFire configurations see up to a 70% gain in scaling
- Power Xpress profile Performance improvements to improve smoothness of application
- Performance improves up to 30% on the AMD Radeon R9 and R7 Series of products for both single GPU and Multi-GPU configurations
- Tomb Raider
- AMD Radeon R9 290 Series – improves up to 5%
- Watch Dogs
- AMD Radeon R9 290 Series / R9 270 Series – improves up to 9%
- AMD CrossFire – Frame pacing improvement
- Improved CrossFire performance – up to 20%
- Assassin's Creed IV
- Improves CrossFire scaling (3840x2160 High Settings) up to 93% (CrossFire scaling improvement of 25% compared to AMD Catalyst 14.4)
- Improves performance for single GPU and Multi-GPU configurations
- Star Craft II
- AMD Radeon R9 290X (2560x1440, AA, 16x AF) – improves up to 20%
- 3DMark Sky Diver improvements
AMD Eyefinity enhancements
- Mixed Resolution Support
- A new architecture providing brand new capabilities
- Display groups can be created with monitors of different resolution (including difference sizes and shapes)
- Users have a choice of how surface is created over the display group
- Fill – legacy mode, best for identical monitors
- Fit – create the Eyefinity surface using best available rectangular area with attached displays
- Expand – create a virtual Eyefinity surface using desktops as viewports onto the surface
- Eyefinity Display Alignment
- Enables control over alignment between adjacent monitors
- One-Click Setup Driver detects layout of extended desktop
- Can create Eyefinity display group using this layout in one click!
- New user controls for video color and display settings
- Greater control over Video Color Management:
- Controls have been expanded from a single slider for controlling Boost and Hue to per color axis
- Color depth control for Digital Flat Panels (available on supported HDMI and DP displays)
- Allows users to select different color depths per resolution and display
AMD Mantle enhancements
- Mantle now supports AMD Mobile products with Enduro technology
- Battlefield 4: AMD Radeon HD 8970M (1366x768; high settings) – 21% gain
- Thief: AMD Radeon HD 8970M (1920x1080; high settings) – 14% gain
- Star Swarm: AMD Radeon HD 8970M (1920x1080; medium settings) – 274% gain
- Enables support for Multi-GPU configurations with Thief (requires the latest Thief update)
- AMD AM1 JPEG decoding acceleration
- JPEG decoding acceleration was first enabled on the A10 APU Series in AMD Catalyst 14.1 beta, and has now been extended to the AMD AM1 Platform
- Provides fast JPEG decompression Provides Power Efficiency for JPEG decompression
- 60Hz SST flickering has been identified as an issue with non-standard display timings exhibited by the AOC U2868PQU panel on certain AMD Radeon graphics cards. A software workaround has been implemented in the AMD Catalyst 14.9 driver to resolve the display timing issues with this display
- Users seeing flickering issues in 60Hz SST mode are further encouraged to obtain newer display firmware from their monitor vendor that will resolve flickering at its origin.
- Users are additionally advised to utilize DisplayPort-certified cables to ensure the integrity of the DisplayPort data connection.
- 4K panel flickering issues found on the AMD Radeon R9 290 Series and AMD Radeon HD 7800
- Series Screen tearing observed on AMD CrossFire systems with Eyefinity portrait display configurations
- Instability issues for Grid Autosport when running in 2x1 or 1x2 Eyefinity configurations
- Geometry corruption in State of Decay
Subject: General Tech | September 8, 2014 - 02:34 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: video, tonga, radeon, r9 285, gcn. gcn 1.1, freesync, factory overclocked, amd, 285
MSI's Radeon R9 285 GAMING OC does not yet show up for sale but with it's factory overclock may arrive at a slightly higher price than the MSRP of $250. The RAM remains at the default 5.5 GHz but the GPU has been bumped up 55MHz to 973MHz out of the box and could likely be pushed higher as MSI has included the usual suspects on this card, Twin Frozr IV Advanced and Military Class 4 components. In [H]ard|OCP's testing the card was well matched by the GTX 760, the HD 285 won more than it lost, but not always and not by much. Compared to the HD 280 not only did the new Tonga card usually provide better performance but the additional feature the GPU supports, of which FreeSync is only one, make the HD 285 the clear winner in that contest. Check their full review for benchmarks.
"AMD has launched the $249 AMD Radeon R9 285 video card. We dive into this somewhat confusing GPU. We compare it to the GeForce GTX 760 as well as an AMD Radeon R9 280. We'll discuss GCN differences in this new video card that may give it the edge with some feedback from AMD."
Here are some more Graphics Card articles from around the web:
- AMD's Radeon R9 285 @ The Tech Report
- PowerColor Radeon R9 285 TurboDuo 2GB @ Custom PC Review
- PowerColor R9 285 Turbo Duo Review @ OCC
- PowerColor R9 285 TurboDuo Review @ Neoseeker
- PowerColor Radeon R9 285 2GB Review @HiTech Legion
- Sapphire R9 285 Dual-X OC @ Kitguru
- AMD’s GTX 760 Killer? MSI Radeon R9 285 Twin Frozr IV Review @ Techgage
- Sapphire Dual-X AMD R9 285 @ eTeknix
- Asus R9 285 STRIX @ Kitguru
- Radeon R9-285 @ HardwareHeaven
- Sapphire R9 285 Dual-X OC 2 GB @ techPowerUp
- AMD Radeon R9 285 @ Legion Hardware
- MSI R9 280X Gaming 3G GPU Review @ Modders-Inc
- Sapphire R7 260X OC 1GB @ eTeknix
- AMD Radeon R9 290: Gallium3D vs. Catalyst Drivers @ Phoronix
- The Most Energy Efficient Radeon GPU For AMD Linux Gaming @ Phoronix
- 20-Way Radeon Comparison With Open-Source Graphics For Steam On Linux Gaming @ Phoronix
- AMD FirePro W9100 Professional Graphics Card @ X-bit Labs
- The Fastest NVIDIA GPUs For Open-Source Nouveau With Steam Linux Gaming @ Phoronix
- Examining Nvidia’s Driver Progress Since Launch Drivers: GTX 780 Ti & GTX 680 @ eTeknix
Tonga GPU Features
On December 22, 2011, AMD launched the first 28nm GPU based on an architecture called GCN on the code name Tahiti silicon. That was the release of the Radeon HD 7970 and it was the beginning of an incredibly long adventure for PC enthusiasts and gamers. We eventually saw the HD 7970 GHz Edition and the R9 280/280X releases, all based on essentially identical silicon, keeping a spot in the market for nearly 3 years. Today AMD is launching the Tonga GPU and Radeon R9 285, a new piece of silicon that shares many traits of Tahiti but adds support for some additional features.
Replacing the Radeon R9 280 in the current product stack, the R9 285 will step in at $249, essentially the same price. Buyers will be treated to an updated feature set though including options that were only previously available on the R9 290 and R9 290X (and R7 260X). These include TrueAudio, FreeSync, XDMA CrossFire and PowerTune.
Many people have been calling this architecture GCN 1.1 though AMD internally doesn't have a moniker for it. The move from Tahiti, to Hawaii and now to Tonga, reveals a new design philosophy from AMD, one of smaller and more gradual steps forward as opposed to sudden, massive improvements in specifications. Whether this change was self-imposed or a result of the slowing of process technology advancement is really a matter of opinion.
Subject: Graphics Cards | August 23, 2014 - 10:46 AM | Ryan Shrout
Tagged: radeon, r9 285, R9, amd, 285
Today during AMD's live stream event celebrating 30 years of graphics and gaming, the company spent a bit of time announcing and teasing a new graphics card, the Radeon R9 285X and R9 285. Likely based on the Tonga GPU die, the specifications haven't been confirmed but most believe that the chip will feature 2048 stream processors, 128 texture units, 32 ROPs and a 256-bit memory bus.
In a move to help donate to the Child's Play charity, AMD currently has an AMD Radeon R9 285 on Ebay. It lists an ASUS built Strix-style cooled retail card, with 2GB of memory being the only specification that is visible on the box.
The R9 285X and R9 285 will replace the R9 280X and R9 280 more than likely and we should see these shipping and available in very early September.
UPDATE: AMD showed specifications of the Radeon R9 285 during the live stream.
For those of you with eyes as bad as mine, here are the finer points:
- 1,792 Stream Processors
- 918 MHz GPU Clock
- 3.29 TFLOPS peak performance
- 112 Texture units
- 32 ROPs
- 2GB GDDR5
- 256-bit memory bus
- 5.5 GHz memory clock
- 2x 6-pin power connectors
- 190 watt TDP
- $249 MSRP
- Release date: September 2nd
These Tonga GPU specifications are VERY similar to that of the R9 280: 1792 stream units, 112 texture units, etc. However, the R9 280 had a wider memory bus (384-bit) but runs at 500 MHz lower effective frequency. Clock speeds on Tonga look like they are just slightly lower as well. Maybe most interesting is the frame buffer size drop from 3GB to 2GB.
That's all we have for now, but I expect we'll have our samples in very soon and expect a full review shortly!
UPDATE 2: Apparently AMD hasn't said anything about the Radeon R9 285X, so for the time being, that still falls under the "rumor" category. I'm sure we'll know more soon though.
Subject: General Tech | August 13, 2014 - 12:58 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: tonga, radeon, FirePro W7100, amd
A little secret popped out with the release of AMD's FirePro W7100, a new family of GPU that goes by the name of Tonga, which is very likely to replace the aging Tahiti chip that has been used since the HD 7900 series. The stats that The Tech Report saw show interesting changes from Tahiti including a reduction of the memory interface to 256-bit which is in line with NVIDIA's current offerings. The number of stream processors might be reduced to 1792 from 2048 but that is based on the W7100 and it the GPUs may be released with the full 32 GCN compute units. Many other features have seen increases, the number of Asynchronous Compute Engines goes from 2 to 8, the number of rasterized triangles per clock doubles to 4 and it adds support for the new TrueAudio DSP and CrossFire XDMA.
"The bottom line is that Tonga joins the Hawaii (Radeon R9 290X) and Bonaire (R7 260X) chips as the only members of AMD' s GCN 1.1 series of graphics processors. Tonga looks to be a mid-sized GPU and is expected to supplant the venerable Tahiti chip used in everything from the original Radeon HD 7970 to the current Radeon R9 280."
Here is some more Tech News from around the web:
- No more turning over a USB thing, then turning it over again to plug it in: Reversible socket ready for lift off @ The Register
- 12 Linux-Based Home Automation Systems for Under $300 @ Linux.com
- The IPv4 Internet Hiccups @ Slashdot
- Password manager LastPass goes titsup: Users LOCKED OUT @ The Register
- Seagate to splash MILLIONS on LAND, FACTORIES @ The Register
- Hardware Asylum Podcast - Computex 2014 Wrap Up and MSI MOA Americas Qualifier
- Netis Beacon N300 Wireless Gaming Router @ TechwareLabs
- Canadian ISP Shaw stumbles around internet with mystery 'routing' sickness @ The Register