How Games Work

 

Because of the complexity and sheer amount of data we have gathered using our Frame Rating performance methodology, we are breaking it up into several articles that each feature different GPU comparisons.  Here is the schedule:

 

Introduction

The process of testing games and graphics has been evolving even longer than I have been a part of the industry: 14+ years at this point. That transformation in benchmarking has been accelerating for the last 12 months. Typical benchmarks test some hardware against some software and look at the average frame rate which can be achieved. While access to frame time has been around for nearly the full life of FRAPS, it took an article from Scott Wasson at the Tech Report to really get the ball moving and investigate how each frame contributes to the actual user experience. I immediately began research into testing actual performance perceived by the user, including the "microstutter" reported by many in PC gaming, and pondered how we might be able to test for this criteria even more accurately.

The result of that research is being fully unveiled today in what we are calling Frame Rating – a completely new way of measuring and validating gaming performance.

The release of this story for me is like the final stop on a journey that has lasted nearly a complete calendar year.  I began to release bits and pieces of this methodology starting on January 3rd with a video and short article that described our capture hardware and the benefits that directly capturing the output from a graphics card would bring to GPU evaluation.  After returning from CES later in January, I posted another short video and article that showcased some of the captured video and stepping through a recorded file frame by frame to show readers how capture could help us detect and measure stutter and frame time variance. 

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Finally, during the launch of the NVIDIA GeForce GTX Titan graphics card, I released the first results from our Frame Rating system and discussed how certain card combinations, in this case CrossFire against SLI, could drastically differ in perceived frame rates and performance while giving very similar average frame rates.  This article got a lot more attention than the previous entries and that was expected – this method doesn’t attempt to dismiss other testing options but it is going to be pretty disruptive.  I think the remainder of this article will prove that. 

Today we are finally giving you all the details on Frame Rating; how we do it, what we learned and how you should interpret the results that we are providing.  I warn you up front though that this is not an easy discussion and while I am doing my best to explain things completely, there are going to be more questions going forward and I want to see them all!  There is still much to do regarding graphics performance testing, even after Frame Rating becomes more common. We feel that the continued dialogue with readers, game developers and hardware designers is necessary to get it right.

Below is our full video that features the Frame Rating process, some example results and some discussion on what it all means going forward.  I encourage everyone to watch it but you will definitely need the written portion here to fully understand this transition in testing methods.  Subscribe to your YouTube channel if you haven't already!

Continue reading our analysis of the new Frame Rating performance testing methodology!!

Podcast #240 - GTX TITAN Benchmarks, Frame Rating, Tegra 4 Details and more!

Subject: General Tech | February 28, 2013 - 03:45 PM |
Tagged: video, titan, sli, R5000, podcast, nvidia, H90, H110, gtx titan, frame rating, firepro, crossfire, amd

PC Perspective Podcast #240 - 02/28/2013

Join us this week as we discuss GTX TITAN Benchmarks, Frame Rating, Tegra 4 Details 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

This Podcast is brought to you by MSI!

Program length: 1:24:28

Podcast topics of discussion:

  1. 0:01:18 PCPer Podcast BINGO!
  2. Week in Reviews:
    1. 0:03:00 GeForce GTX TITAN Performance Review
    2. 0:21:55 Frame Rating Part 3: First Results from the New GPU Performance Tools
    3. 0:38:00 Corsair Hydro Series H90 and H110 140mm Liquid Cooler Review
  3. 0:40:30 This Podcast is brought to you by MSI!
  4. News items of interest:
    1. 0:41:45 New Offices coming for NVIDIA
    2. 0:45:00 Chromebook Pixel brings high-res to high-price
    3. 0:48:00 GPU graphics market updates from JPR
    4. 0:55:45 Tegra 4 graphics details from Mobile World Congress
    5. 1:01:00 Unreal Engine 4 on PS4 has reduced quality
    6. 1:04:10 Micron SAS SSDs
    7. 1:08:25 AMD FirePro R5000 PCoIP Card
  5. Closing:
    1. 1:13:35 Hardware / Software Pick of the Week
      1. Ryan: NOT this 3 port HDMI switch
      2. Jeremy: Taxidermy + PICAXE, why didn't we think of this before?
      3. Josh: Still among my favorite headphones
      4. Allyn: Cyto
  1. 1-888-38-PCPER or podcast@pcper.com
  2. http://pcper.com/podcast
  3. http://twitter.com/ryanshrout and http://twitter.com/pcper
  4. Closing/outro

Be sure to subscribe to the PC Perspective YouTube channel!!

 

3 displays, 1 GPU

Subject: Displays | February 26, 2013 - 06:26 PM |
Tagged: eyefinity, nvidia surround, crossfire, sli

If you are going to set up a multimonitor display at 5760x1200 or 5040x1050, but only have a single GPU or a pair of low powered ones, just what kind of performance can you expect?  That is the question Techgage wanted to answer and to that purpose they tested frame rates at those resolutions with NVIDIA's GTX680 and two different 660 Ti's in SLI as well as an HD7970 and two different 7850s in Crossfire.  As you might expect the game tested makes a lot of difference in the results, with many seeing the SLI'd 660 Ti's in the lead while other memory hungry games preferred the large cache of the Radeons.  Check out the individual results of your favourite games in the full article.

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"Considering next-gen cards are still months away, we didn't expect to bring any more GPU reviews until the second quarter of 2013. However, we realized there was a gap in our current-gen coverage: triple-monitor gaming. In fact, it's been almost two years since we last stress tested games at resolutions of up to 7680x1600.

We're going to mix things up a little this time. Instead of using each camp's ultra-pricey dual-GPU card (or the new $999 Titan), we're going to see how more affordable Crossfire and SLI setups handle triple-monitor gaming compared to today's single-GPU flagships."

Here are some more Display articles from around the web:

Displays

Source: TechSpot

As promised, 8GB of GTX 670 SLI performance

Subject: Graphics Cards | January 22, 2013 - 03:47 PM |
Tagged: nvidia, asus, GTX 670 DirectCU II 4GB, sli

When they first tried ASUS' new GTX 670 Direct CU II with 4GB of memory on its own, [H]ard|OCP had difficulty recommending it over a 7970 but they planned to try two cards in SLI to see if that would improve the comparative performance.  The competitors are a pair of 2GB 670s, a pair of 3GB HD7970's, a pair of 2GB 680s and of course two 4GB 670s, all powering a system at 5760x1200.  Unfortunately the quote from the conclusions spells out the results "It's like putting beefy off-road tires on a Yugo", so while it will give you the ability to use some higher graphics settings, overall you are still better of with HD7970s or GTX680s.

H_SLI_ASUS670s.jpg

"We review two ASUS GeForce GTX 670 DirectCU II 4GB video cards in SLI under NV Surround resolutions. We'll answer the question as to the value and validity of 4GB of RAM on a GeForce GTX 670 GPU video card in SLI. Far Cry 3, Hitman Absolution, and all our other games will be taken to the extreme to get to the bottom of 4GB GTX 670 cards."

Here are some more Graphics Card articles from around the web:

Graphics Cards

Source: [H]ard|OCP

Max Payne 3 at Max resolution

Subject: General Tech | June 6, 2012 - 03:20 PM |
Tagged: max payne 3, crossfire, sli, gtx680, HD 7970, gaming

For the tests they ran, [H]ard|OCP used the latest Catalyst beta, 12.6 and ForceWare 301.42 WHQL as both drivers proved able to provide proper multi-GPU performance on Max Payne 3.  In AMD's case it provided improvements to single card gaming as well.  The games graphics options provide a nice tool which displays how much VRAM your configuration will require so that you can get an idea if your card will be able to handle the settings before you even play the game.  SLI did scale better than Crossfire but even still, both multi GPU rigs could handle the max settings at 2560x1600 and when used singly could still sit around the 60fps mark.  Check out the full review here.

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"HardOCP is on top of Max Payne 3 to find out what graphics options it supports and how a GTX 680 and a Radeon HD 7970 perform. We also wanted to know if SLI and CrossFireX worked, and how performance scales. In this preview of performance and image quality we take a look at all of this in the first chapter of this game."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Gaming

 

Source: [H]ard|OCP

The GTX 670 and the Case of the Missing (and Returning) 4-Way SLI Support

Subject: Graphics Cards | May 11, 2012 - 04:57 PM |
Tagged: sli, nvidia, kepler, gtx 670, GK104, geforce

In our launch review of the GeForce GTX 670 2GB graphics card this week, we had initially mentioned that these $399 graphics cards would support SLI, 3-Way SLI and even 4-Way SLI configurations thanks to the pair of SLI connections on the PCB.  We received an update from NVIDIA later on that day that in fact it would NOT support 4-Way SLI.

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The message from NVIDIA was pretty clear cut:

"As I’m sure you can imagine, we have to QA every feature that we claim support for and this takes a tremendous amount of time/resources. For the GTX 680 and GTX 690, we do support Quad SLI and take the time to QA it, as it makes sense for the extreme OC’ers and ultra-enthusiasts who are shooting to break world records."

My reply:

But with the similarities between the GTX 680 and the GTX 670, is there really any QA addition required to enable quad for 670? Seems like a cop-out to me man...

I saw it mostly as a reason to differentiate the GTX 670 and the GTX 680 with a feature since the performance between the cards was very similar; maybe too similar for NVIDIA's tastes with the $100 price difference.  

Well this afternoon we received some good news from our contact at NVIDIA:

"Change in plans.....we will be offering 4-Way SLI support for GTX 670 in a future driver."

So while the 301.34 driver will not support 4-Way configurations with the GTX 670, 4-Way SLI will in fact be enabled after all in a future version.  We'll be sure to keep you in the loop when that happens and the super-extreme enthusiasts can rejoice.  

This does go to show that the fundamental differences between AMD's license-free and seemingly more "open" CrossFire technology and NVIDIA's for-fee SLI technology.  With enough feedback and prodding in the right direction, NVIDIA can and does do the right thing, just look at the success we had convincing them to support SLI on AMD CPU platforms last year.  

Feet to the fire everyone!

Three way graphical insanity

Subject: Graphics Cards | April 25, 2012 - 05:20 PM |
Tagged: asus, P8P67 WS Revolution, sli, crossfilre, triple sli, tri-fire

[H]ard|OCP has assembled a review of the two best GPUs on the planet, in triplicate.  It got off to a rough start as there is a serious issue with the last several Catalyst drivers, preventing you from using EyeFinity on Tri-Fire systems so they needed to revert to the release candidate that appeared back in January.  The NVIDIA machine was easier to configure, once they realized that for triple surround they had to stay to one monitor per card.  The PCIe lanes were provided by the ASUS P8P67 WS Revolution, which allowed these cards to really show off their stuff.  Make sure you check out the power consumption page, you may be very surprised at how little power the GTX680s needed to run.

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"What do you get when you install three GeForce GTX 680 cards for 3-Way SLI and then three Radeon HD 7970 cards for Tri-Fire? You get insanely fast gaming performance and a gameplay experience that begs to be compared delivered by both. We find out which multi-display configuration is better for gaming in Eyefinity and NV Surround."

Here are some more Graphics Card articles from around the web:

Graphics Cards

 

Source: [H]ard|OCP

The only thing better than an in stock GTX 680 would be two of them

Subject: Graphics Cards | March 29, 2012 - 06:18 PM |
Tagged: sli, nvidia, gtx 680

The name of the game in [H]ard|OCP's latest review is scaling at 5760 x 1200, specifically the scaling of two GTX 680s in SLI as well as a pair of HD 7970s in Crossfire.  Some games like Mass Effect 3 will not benefit much as the difference between 150fps and 170fps will be hard to do but others such as Battlefield 3 and Arkham City stress these cards somewhat at this resolution, but even 50fps is rather impressive when pushing about 7 million pixels.  Read on and be prepared to feel a little jealous, maybe jealous enough to snatch up a Galaxy model which is back in stock. (didn't last 2 minutes)

HgotSLI.jpg

"We've got two GeForce GTX 680 video cards to test SLI performance against Radeon HD 7970 CrossFireX. Will these less expensive GTX 680 video cards offer a better gameplay experience or choke at high resolutions due to a smaller VRAM footprint? We will prove to you which solution offers better efficiency and performance."

Here are some more Graphics Card articles from around the web:

Graphics Cards

 

Source: [H]ard|OCP

GTX 680 insanity! SLI, Triple SLI, and Quad SLI

Subject: Graphics Cards | March 23, 2012 - 01:45 PM |
Tagged: sli, quad sli, gtx 680

With an Intel Core i7 3960X, 16GB of DDR3, an ASUS Rampage IV Formula motherboard and an Enermax Platimax 1500W PSU, Hardware.Info took four GTX 680s and started benchmarking.  Of course, that means more than one monitor so these benchmarks are at 5760x1080 and due to the new architecture some games were not quite sure what to do with the extra graphics cards.  Some games like Metro 2033 were not able to provide significant scaling at high resolutions but then again Crysis 2 had no idea what to do with three HD 7970s which makes it hard to determine a clear winner between three HD 7970s and four GTX 680s.  The benchmark results offer results we've never seen, with over 80fps from the NVIDIA cards on Crysis 2 and 130fps on Skyrim.  The end result is that apart from games which seem to need updating, the scaling of the GTX 680 is impressive and it pulls less power than the HD 7970s.

Hinf_680insanity.png

"We just published a comprehensive GeForce GTX 680 4-way SLI review on Hardware.Info. Since we are the first to extensively test a Quad-SLI configuration of nVidia's brand new GeForce GTX 680, we wanted to make these exciting results available to a wider audience and created an English version of the article."

Here are some more Graphics Card articles from around the web:

Graphics Cards

 

NVIDIA SLI Breaks EVGA GTX 560 Ti 2Win and X79 Combinations

Subject: Graphics Cards | December 16, 2011 - 04:39 PM |
Tagged: x79, sli, evga, GTX 560 Ti, 2win

Sometimes, the best intentions fumble out of the gates.  When we reviewed the EVGA GeForce GTX 560 Ti 2Win graphics card in November, I gave it a glowing review as a product that offered better performance than the GTX 580 while selling at a very similar price (currently just $20 more).  My test configuration at the time included an X58 motherboard based on the Nehalem architecture that has been tried and tested over the years.

For the forthcoming review of the Radeon HD 7970 graphics card, we decided to move our GPU test bed to the new X79-based Sandy Bridge-E platform since it was the new hotness and because it continued to be the best option for multi-GPU configurations going forward.  Or so we thought.

While preparing for our review, I was configuring our NVIDIA cards due for re-testing on this platform and brought the GTX 560 Ti 2Win out from the back room.  However, no matter which driver I used, I was unable to enable SLI on it and running a quick performance test confirmed we were running in a single GPU configuration.  We used driver versions from the 285.xx stack as well as the 290.xx stack - all with the same results.

x79sli2.jpg

Both GPUs were enabled and would show up in the Windows Device Manager AND inside the NVIDIA control panel.  However, the standard SLI configuration switch was nowhere to be found.  We only had the ability to select enabling PhysX on different the GPUs...

After a quick talk with both NVIDIA and EVGA we confirmed this to be a bug with the EVGA GTX 560 Ti 2Win and the X79 platform as a whole.  Why?  Apparanetly a driver fix is in the works - it is all simply a software issue.  A new version is "coming soon" though no specific dates were given.  If you have one of these cards and upgraded to an X79 motherboard, we apologize for you only being able to utilize half of your investment.

Which brings me back to my consistent stance - NVIDIA's SLI Technology would be better served as an openly available multi-GPU solution without the restrictions of licensing and software hacks.  Why?  The money that NVIDIA makes on the licensing is pretty minimal and the only goal is to uphold the "value" of the SLI brand.  Instead, everytime a hiccup like this occurs, more gamers decide that the benefits aren't worth the potential hassle owning multiple graphics cards may cause.  

CrossFireX doesn't have nearly the marketing push behind it that SLI does yet it continues to have legs without the rather outdated partner licensing restrictions.  Every multiple PCIe slot motherboard (essentially) will support CrossFireX - users that might want SLI configurations need to look for that damn logo on the box...