In case you missed it...
In one of the last pages of our recent NVIDIA GeForce GTX TITAN graphics card review we included an update to our Frame Rating graphics performance metric that details the testing method in more detail and showed results for the first time. Because it was buried so far into the article, I thought it was worth posting this information here as a separate article to solict feedback from readers and help guide the discussion forward without getting lost in the TITAN shuffle. If you already read that page of our TITAN review, nothing new is included below.
I am still planning a full article based on these results sooner rather than later; for now, please leave me your thoughts, comments, ideas and criticisms in the comments below!
Why are you not testing CrossFire??
If you haven't been following our sequence of stories that investigates a completely new testing methodology we are calling "frame rating", then you are really missing out. (Part 1 is here, part 2 is here.) The basic premise of Frame Rating is that the performance metrics that the industry is gathering using FRAPS are inaccurate in many cases and do not properly reflect the real-world gaming experience the user has.
Because of that, we are working on another method that uses high-end dual-link DVI capture equipment to directly record the raw output from the graphics card with an overlay technology that allows us to measure frame rates as they are presented on the screen, not as they are presented to the FRAPS software sub-system. With these tools we can measure average frame rates, frame times and stutter, all in a way that reflects exactly what the viewer sees from the game.
We aren't ready to show our full sets of results yet (soon!) but the problems lie in that AMD's CrossFire technology shows severe performance degradations when viewed under the Frame Rating microscope that do not show up nearly as dramatically under FRAPS. As such, I decided that it was simply irresponsible of me to present data to readers that I would then immediately refute on the final pages of this review (Editor: referencing the GTX TITAN article linked above.) - it would be a waste of time for the reader and people that skip only to the performance graphs wouldn't know our theory on why the results displayed were invalid.
Many other sites will use FRAPS, will use CrossFire, and there is nothing wrong with that at all. They are simply presenting data that they believe to be true based on the tools at their disposal. More data is always better.
Here are these results and our discussion. I decided to use the most popular game out today, Battlefield 3 and please keep in mind this is NOT the worst case scenario for AMD CrossFire in any way. I tested the Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition in single and CrossFire configurations as well as the GeForce GTX 680 and SLI. To gather results I used two processes:
- Run FRAPS while running through a repeatable section and record frame rates and frame times for 60 seconds
- Run our Frame Rating capture system with a special overlay that allows us to measure frame rates and frame times with post processing.
Here is an example of what the overlay looks like in Battlefield 3.
Frame Rating capture on GeForce GTX 680s in SLI - Click to Enlarge
The column on the left is actually the visuals of an overlay that is applied to each and every frame of the game early in the rendering process. A solid color is added to the PRESENT call (more details to come later) for each individual frame. As you know, when you are playing a game, multiple frames will make it on any single 60 Hz cycle of your monitor and because of that you get a succession of colors on the left hand side.
By measuring the pixel height of those colored columns, and knowing the order in which they should appear beforehand, we can gather the same data that FRAPS does but our results are seen AFTER any driver optimizations and DX changes the game might make.
Frame Rating capture on Radeon HD 7970 CrossFire - Click to Enlarge
Here you see a very similar screenshot running on CrossFire. Notice the thin silver band between the maroon and purple? That is a complete frame according to FRAPS and most reviews. Not to us - we think that frame rendered is almost useless.
Subject: Graphics Cards | February 19, 2013 - 08:00 PM | Ryan Shrout
Tagged: video, tahiti, radeon, never settle reloaded, live, Crysis 3, crysis, amd
UPDATE: If you missed the live stream you can still catch the YouTube replay right here!!
On February 19th on the PC Perspective Live! page we will be streaming some single player game action of the new Crysis 3. If there has ever been a game that defined the world of PC gaming graphics and technology, it is the Crysis series.
"Sure, but can it play Crysis?"
There is probably no more famous line of dialogue that pigeon hole's new hardware releases.
With the release of the latest version of Crysis 3 on February 19th, we will be teaming up with AMD once again to provide a fun and exciting PCPer Game Stream that includes game demonstrations and of course, prizes and game keys for those that watch the event LIVE!
Crysis 3 Game Stream
5pm PT / 8pm ET - February 19th
Warning: this one will DEFINITELY have mature language and content!!
The stream will be sponsored by AMD and its Never Settle Reloaded game bundles which we previously told you about. Depending on the AMD Radeon HD 7000 series GPU that you buy, you could get some amazing free games including:
Radeon HD 7900 Series
- FREE Crysis 3
- FREE Bioshock Infinite
Radeon HD 7800 Series
- FREE Bioshock Infinite
- FREE Tomb Raider
Radeon HD 7900 CrossFire Set
- FREE Crysis 3
- FREE Bioshock Infinite
- FREE Tomb Raider
- FREE Far Cry 3
- FREE Hitman: Absolution
- FREE Sleeping Dogs
AMD's Robert Hallock (@Thracks on twitter) will be joining us via Skype to talk about the game's technology, performance considerations as well as helping me with some co-op gaming!
Of course, just to sweeten the deal a bit we have some prizes lined up for those of you that participate in our Crysis 3 Game Stream:
- 2 x Radeon HD 7970 3GB graphics cards
- 4 x Combo codes for both Crysis 3 AND Bioshock Infinite
Pretty nice, huh? All you have to do to win is be present on the PC Perspective Live! Page during the event as we will announce both the content/sweepstakes method AND the winners!
Stop in on February 19th for some PC gaming fun!!
Subject: Graphics Cards | February 15, 2013 - 01:50 PM | Ryan Shrout
Tagged: southern islands, Solar System, Sea Islands, radeon, oland, mars, holycrapiamtotallyconfused, amd
Remember that story we posted last week and then discussed on the podcast about AMD not releasing any new GPUs in 2013? Today we had a call with AMD that attempted to answer some questions, clear up some confusion and give us some insight to the company's direction. I say 'attempted' because after a 53 minute discussion, we have some answers, but we also have some interesting questions that remain.
First, some definitions. If you have heard about code names like "Solar System" and "Sea Islands" you might not know what they refer to. Sea Islands is a new line that will fall into the 8000-series of products and will be a refresh, slightly different architecture based heavily on the Southern Islands parts you've come to love in the Radeon HD 7000 parts. Solar System is the name AMD has given to the sub-category of Sea Islands directly related to mobile products, the 8000M.
The slide that started this confusion - and our questions.
What might make things even more confusing is that there are some 8000-series parts that are already shipping in OEM desktops and notebooks that use verbatim HD 7000 GPU specs. So what you have is a combination series with Radeon HD 8000 that is made up of some rebrands and at least a couple of "new" chips thus far. Those two new GPUs, Mars and Oland (Radeon HD 8650 and HD 8670) depending on the mobile or desktop target, are already out and you can find them if you look hard. They are NOT available in the channel or for DIY PC users.
Our readers might be disappointed to learn that Sea Islands is heavily focused on the notebook and mobile markets though AMD did indicate that there some good things coming for the channel users in the future in 2013.
We also learned that the HD 7900-series will remain the company's high end parts through the end of 2013 but AMD said that there are new SKUs set to be released in this series sometime this year as well. Will that be the elusive HD 7990 dual-GPU product or maybe just something in the mainstream 7800 segments? They wouldn't tell us but we are definitely hoping for higher performance parts. You might also expect to see these new 7000-series parts to use Sea Islands silicon...
The Radeon HD 7970 looks like it will stay a focus for AMD throughout 2013.
Many readers might be wondering why AMD is breaking its standard cadence of near-yearly GPU releases. The answer came from AMD's Roy Taylor, VP of Channel Sales, who said that "7000 series parts are continuing to ramp UP, sales are increasing" so it is premature for AMD, as a company intending to make money, to introduce a new series or architecture.
In fact Roy was very emphatic about relieving us of potential ambiguity.
We have products, we have a road map. We are not announcing them now because we want to reposition the ones we have now. We are not sitting still, we do not lack resources, we do not lack imagination.
So what can you expect for the future? Sea Islands chips will continue to be released and eventually in the desktop, channel market and some of them will be branded as 7000-series parts and some of them will be branded as 8000-series parts. They wouldn't give us information on whether or not you'll see BIGGER chips (which we would assume would be faster) than the current HD 7900 cards or if they would all be in the mainstream segment.
AMD thinks its partnerships with key games like Crysis 3 will help keep momentum in 2013.
The residual message from this call was that AMD wants everyone to know that they have the best products on the market today and to maintain that momentum, AMD will enhance drivers, establish big partnerships with gaming companies and developers and release SOME new GPUs.
AMD was cagey again when asked about the possibility of a new architecture by the end of 2013 but based on the reactions of AMD reps I tend to believe we will see it, though probably very very close to the end of that time. (Update: AMD did in fact say that an entire new product stack would be releaed by the end of 2013.)
That all clear now?
Subject: Graphics Cards | February 8, 2013 - 10:03 PM | Ryan Shrout
Tagged: amd, radeon
In a report first spotted by Rage3D from source website 4gamer.net, news is filtering out that AMD may in fact have no new discrete graphics card releases for the remainder of 2013! While talking with the APAC media about the fantastic Never Settle Reloaded game bundle, they showed THIS slide.
That seems to indicate that at the very least through the 3rd quarter of 2013, AMD has no plans to update or add to its discrete graphics card roadmap. We had heard whispers of this fact while at CES in January but this pretty much puts a cap on it. And with the wording of "throughout 2013" it could indicate we won't see new product until 2014.
Also shown, this product comparison between AMD and NVIDIA, put together by AMD, is a bit lopsided and less than 100% accurate in my eyes. With the release of the new 3DMark Fire Strike benchmark AMD has a distinct advantage and it seems the slide here is based completely on that....blech.
Regardless, what does it mean if AMD actually has no new discrete, enthusiast class cards for 2013? We know the rumors are swirling about the NVIDIA GeForce Titan based on the GK110 and sporting 2688 CUDA cores and it will likely take the place as the fastest single GPU card on the market. AMD has been depending on its partners to build multi-GPU options based on Southern Islands like the ASUS ARES II and Powercolor Devil 13 but they have been pretty low volume. Our original review of the HD 7970 launched in December 2011....this could be quite a drought.
Subject: General Tech | February 5, 2013 - 02:16 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: Sea Islands, radeon, GCN, amd, 8970, oland, hd 8000, RadeonSI, gallium, mesa
Phoronix has good news for Linux users about the "RadeonSI" Gallium3D driver which AMD has slowly been developing for the HD 7000 series, MESA has announced the driver is being developed for the HD 8000 series. The project commit is a candidate for MESA 9.1 and the Linux 3.9 kernel which could lead to some issues as most Linux flavours are using 3.8 or earlier but should bode well for the future. This hopefully signals a greater commitment to OpenCL and other projects AMD has started but not managed to fully develop. We also have quite a few PCI IDs from the commit statement, 0x6600, 0x6601, 0x6602, 0x6603, 0x6606, 0x6607, 0x6610, 0x6611, 0x6613, 0x6620, 0x6621, 0x6623, and 0x6631 are all listed.
"While AMD has yet to officially introduce their Radeon HD 8000 series, published today was the initial open-source Linux graphics driver support for handling the Radeon HD 8800 "Oland" graphics cards."
Here is some more Tech News from around the web:
- Dell agrees to $24.4bn buyout @ The Inquirer
- 3DMark for Windows Launches; We Test It with Various Laptops @ AnandTech
- New 3DMark Benchmark Highlights and First GPU Results @ Legit Reviews
- The next-gen 3DMark is here, we take it for a quick spin around the block @ Tweaktown
- BlackBerry 10: Good news, there's still time to fix this disaster @ The Register
- Blackberry Steelseries Free Bluetooth gamepad video demo @ The Inquirer
- BANG and the server's gone: Man gets 8 months for destroying work computers @ The Register
In our previous article and video, I introduced you to our upcoming testing methodology for evaluating graphics cards based not only frame rates but on frame smoothness and the efficiency of those frame rates. I showed off some of the new hardware we are using for this process and detailed how direct capture of graphics card output allows us to find interesting frame and animation anomalies using some Photoshop still frames.
Today we are taking that a step further and looking at a couple of captured videos that demonstrate a "stutter" and walking you through, frame by frame, how we can detect, visualize and even start to measure them.
This video takes a couple of examples of stutter in games, DiRT 3 and Dishonored to be exact, and shows what they look like in real time, at 25% speed and then finally in a much more detailed frame-by-frame analysis.
Obviously this is just a couple instances of what a stutter is and there are often times less apparent in-game stutters that are even harder to see in video playback. Not to worry - this capture method is capable of seeing those issues as well and we plan on diving into the "micro" level as well shortly.
We aren't going to start talking about whose card and what driver is being used yet and I know that there are still a lot of questions to be answered on this topic. You will be hearing more quite soon from us and I thank you all for your comments, critiques and support.
Let me know below what you thought of this video and any questions that you might have.
A change is coming in 2013
If the new year will bring us anything, it looks like it might be the end of using "FPS" as the primary measuring tool for graphics performance on PCs. A long, long time ago we started with simple "time demos" that recorded rendered frames in a game like Quake and then played them back as quickly as possible on a test system. The lone result was given as time, in seconds, and was then converted to an average frame rate having known the total number of frames recorded to start with.
More recently we saw a transition to frame rates over time and the advent frame time graphs like the ones we have been using in our graphics reviews on PC Perspective. This expanded the amount of data required to get an accurate picture of graphics and gaming performance but it was indeed more accurate, giving us a more clear image of how GPUs (and CPUs and systems for that matter) performed in games.
And even though the idea of frame times have been around just a long, not many people were interested in getting into that detail level until this past year. A frame time is the amount of time each frame takes to render, usually listed in milliseconds, and could range from 5ms to 50ms depending on performance. For a reference, 120 FPS equates to an average of 8.3ms, 60 FPS is 16.6ms and 30 FPS is 33.3ms. But rather than average those out by each second of time, what if you looked at each frame individually?
Scott over at Tech Report started doing that this past year and found some interesting results. I encourage all of our readers to follow up on what he has been doing as I think you'll find it incredibly educational and interesting.
Through emails and tweets many PC Perspective readers have been asking for our take on it, why we weren't testing graphics cards in the same fashion yet, etc. I've stayed quiet about it simply because we were working on quite a few different angles on our side and I wasn't ready to share results. I am still not ready to share the glut of our information yet but I am ready to start the discussion and I hope our community find its compelling and offers some feedback.
At the heart of our unique GPU testing method is this card, a high-end dual-link DVI capture card capable of handling 2560x1600 resolutions at 60 Hz. Essentially this card will act as a monitor to our GPU test bed and allow us to capture the actual display output that reaches the gamer's eyes. This method is the best possible way to measure frame rates, frame times, stutter, runts, smoothness, and any other graphics-related metrics.
Using that recorded footage, sometimes reaching 400 MB/s of consistent writes at high resolutions, we can then analyze the frames one by one, though with the help of some additional software. There are a lot of details that I am glossing over including the need for perfectly synced frame rates, having absolutely zero dropped frames in the recording, analyzing, etc, but trust me when I say we have been spending a lot of time on this.
Subject: General Tech | December 20, 2012 - 03:16 PM | Ken Addison
Tagged: video, virtu, VIA, tegra 4, Samsung, radeon, podcast, nvidia, nvelo, nuc, lucid, Intel, hackintosh, gigabyte, Dataplex, arm, amd, 8000m
PC Perspective Podcast #231 - 12/20/2012
Join us this week as we talk about the Intel NUC, AMD 8000M GPUs, Building a Hackintosh and more!
The URL for the podcast is: http://pcper.com/podcast - Share with your friends!
- iTunes - Subscribe to the podcast directly through the Store
- RSS - Subscribe through your regular RSS reader
- MP3 - Direct download link to the MP3 file
Hosts: Ryan Shrout, Josh Walrath, Allyn Malventano and Chris Barbere
Program length: 1:13:41
Podcast topics of discussion:
- 0:01:50 We are going to try Planetside 2 after the podcast!
- Week in Reviews:
- 0:32:35 This Podcast is brought to you by MSI!
News items of interest:
- 0:33:30 Cutting the Cord Complete!
- 0:36:10 VIA ARM-based SoCs in upcoming ASUS tablet
- 0:42:00 Lucid MVP 2.0 will be sold direct
- 0:44:50 Samsung acquires NVELO SSD Caching Software
- 0:49:00 AMD announces mobility 8000M series of GPUs
- 0:54:15 Some NVIDIA Tegra 4 Details
- 0:58:55 NEC Unveils Super Thin Ultrabook
- 1:00:30 Win a Sapphire HD 7870 GHz Edition FleX!!
- 1-888-38-PCPER or email@example.com
- http://twitter.com/ryanshrout and http://twitter.com/pcper
Subject: Graphics Cards, Mobile | December 17, 2012 - 03:08 PM | Ryan Shrout
Tagged: radeon, mobility, amd, 8800m, 8700m, 8600m, 8500m, 8000m
AMD appears to be jumping the gun a bit here but has decided to announce the Radeon 8000M-series of mobile GPUs prior to CES. Before you get all riled up about the next generation of graphics technology, you should know that the new parts we are showing here are still built on the same 28nm Graphics Core Now (GCN) architecture that you'll find in the Radeon HD 7000 series of desktop graphics cards and even some already-existing Radeon mobility parts like the HD 7970M. We were told there are "some changes" but details were minimal.
Radeon HD 8500M and 8600M GPUs will both feature 384 stream processors with the variance related to the maximum clock speed. The 8600M will hit 775 MHz core clock while the 8500M will cap out at 650 MHz. Memory speeds are identical. Keep in mind that the desktop Radeon HD 7750 card has 512 stream processors and it runs at up to 900 MHz so you that can put the performance of these mainstream GPUs in perspective.
The 8700M uses the same 384 stream processor GPU though it gets a bit higher clock speed at 850 MHz. The 8800M is the only GPU announced today to increase the core count to 640 stream processors and a clock speed of 700 MHz for a total compute capability of 992 GFLOPs. Though the specifications are nearly equivalent to the build of the desktop Radeon HD 7770 part it is worth mentioning that the theoretical peak performance of that GPU is 1.28 TFLOPs; nearly 30% higher than the 8800M.
AMD was coy but hinted that this mainstream product announcement will be added to later in Q1 with higher end enthusiast-level SKUs. No 8900s yet guys, check back later.
When asked about the changes in this mobility GPU release compared to the 7000M series already available today, we only know that this is built on the same 28nm process but that the "architecture is slightly different and more efficient" than the 7000 chips. These are NEW chips and are NOT rebrands of currently available products. We don't have die sizes, transistor counts or TDPs until further notice.
AMD did provide a couple of quick graphs comparing the performance of the Radeon HD 8870M against the GeForce 650M G5 and The 8770M against its own previously releaesd 7670M part. Take all of this with a grain of salt until we can do our own testing, as per usual.
For now, I would say our readers should be very timid about the idea of a new series of GPUs from AMD without more information on the actual changes in performance will be compared to Souther Islands. Based on what we are hearing the changes are very minor.
Subject: Storage | December 12, 2012 - 02:50 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: radeon, cache, radeon ramdisk
We've heard mentions of AMD's downloadable RAMDisk software which will portion off a part of your system RAM to act as a cache drive to give you all the benefits of an SSD cache drive without the costs. There are three levels, two free levels which will give you 4GB if you do not have Radeon branded memory and 6GB if you do. For $18.99 you can get the Xtreme version which will allow you up to 64GB on any type of RAM and will get rid of the upgrade now pop up which you will see on the free versions. This software should work with any modern CPU from AMD or Intel which is a great move on AMDs part to help make this software popular. Hardware Canucks checked the boot time with a Super Anti-Spyware scan that is launched during boot which slowed the RAMDisk down a bit however the launch time of CS5 was significantly faster than even an SSD. Check it out here, or just download it from here.
"With memory prices on the decline and Intel's RST caching offering a great solution for budget conscious buyers, AMD is reviving the idea of memory-based application acceleration. Called Radeon RAMDisk, it promises to reduce load times to mere seconds on even the most basic of systems."
Here are some more Storage reviews from around the web:
- Samsung 840 Pro @ [H]ard|OCP
- Samsung 840 Pro SSD @ Guru3D
- OCZ Vector 128GB SSD @ Tweaktown
- OCZ Agility 4 - 256GB SSD @ Funky Kit
- Intel DC S3700 Data Center SSD @ SSD Review
- Crucial M4 256GB SATA III SSD Review @ PCSTATS
- Mushkin Atlas 480GB mSATA SSD @ Tweaktown
- Exploring the Relationship Between Spare Area and Performance Consistency in Modern SSDs @ AnandTech
- Kingston SSDNow V300 SSD @ SSD Review
- Plextor Updates The Firmware on M5 Pro @ AnandTech
- Sandisk Extreme SSD 120GB/240GB review: too little too late? @ Hardware.info
- WD Red 3TB NAS Hard Drive Review @ Legit Reviews
- Western Digital RE (WD4000FYYZ) 4 TB Hard Disk @ TechARP
- 25 3.5-inch hard disk round-up: battle of the terabytes @ Hardware.info
- Western Digital Black 4TB Hard Drive Review @ Hardware Canucks
- Silverstone FP37 SDXC USB 3.0 Card Reader @ Benchmark Reviews
- Synology DS713+ NAS and DX213 Expansion Unit @ Kitguru
- ioSafe Solo G3 Fireproof and Waterproof External Hard Drive @ Tweaktown
- Silicon Power Diamond Series D03 USB 3.0 Portable HDD Review @ Madshrimps
- Silicon Power Armor A80 1TB USB 3.0 Portable Hard Drive Review @ NikKTech
- Hitachi Touro Desk Pro 4TB USB 3.0 External HDD Review @ Madshrimps
- ADATA DashDrive Elite HE720 2.5" 500GB External Hard Drive @ eTeknix
- Synology DS-413 review: versatile 4-bay NAS @ Hardware.info
- Patriot Gauntlet Node Portable Wireless 2.5″ HDD Enclosure @ Kitguru
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