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:
- 3/27: Frame Rating Dissected: Full Details on Capture-based Graphics Performance Testing
- 3/27: Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition vs GeForce GTX 680 (Single and Dual GPU)
- 3/30: AMD Radeon HD 7990 vs GeForce GTX 690 vs GeForce GTX Titan
- 4/2: Radeon HD 7950 vs GeForce GTX 660 Ti (Single and Dual GPU)
- 4/5: Radeon HD 7870 GHz Edition vs GeForce GTX 660 (Single and Dual GPU)
- 4/16: Frame Rating: Visual Effects of Vsync on Gaming Animation
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.
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!
Subject: General Tech | February 28, 2013 - 03:45 PM | Ken Addison
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!
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, Jeremy Hellstrom, Josh Walrath and Allyn Malventano
Program length: 1:24:28
Podcast topics of discussion:
- 0:01:18 PCPer Podcast BINGO!
- Week in Reviews:
- 0:40:30 This Podcast is brought to you by MSI!
News items of interest:
- 0:41:45 New Offices coming for NVIDIA
- 0:45:00 Chromebook Pixel brings high-res to high-price
- 0:48:00 GPU graphics market updates from JPR
- 0:55:45 Tegra 4 graphics details from Mobile World Congress
- 1:01:00 Unreal Engine 4 on PS4 has reduced quality
- 1:04:10 Micron SAS SSDs
- 1:08:25 AMD FirePro R5000 PCoIP Card
1:13:35 Hardware / Software Pick of the Week
- Ryan: NOT this 3 port HDMI switch
- Jeremy: Taxidermy + PICAXE, why didn't we think of this before?
- Josh: Still among my favorite headphones
- Allyn: Cyto
- 1:13:35 Hardware / Software Pick of the Week
- 1-888-38-PCPER or email@example.com
- http://twitter.com/ryanshrout and http://twitter.com/pcper
Subject: Displays | February 26, 2013 - 06:26 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
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.
"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:
- LG IPS237L-BN review: entry-level IPS7 series @ Hardware.info
- LG 84LM960V / LG 84LM9600 UHD TV @ Hardware.info
- Vizio E500i-A1 Review @ TechReviewSource
- Samsung PNE7000FF Review @ TechReviewSource
Subject: Graphics Cards | January 22, 2013 - 03:47 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
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.
"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:
- Nvidia Quadro K5000 Professional @ X-bit Labs
- Five-Way NVIDIA GeForce Comparison On Nouveau @ Phoronix
- Desktop Graphics Card Comparison @ TechARP
- Sapphire TRIXX Video Card Tweak Utility Overview @ Tweaktown
- IS Radeon HD 7970 3GB IceQ X2 Overclocked @ Tweaktown
- VTX3D HD 7870 Black Edition 2 GB @ techPowerUp
- HIS HD 7970 IceQ X² & HD 7950 IceQ X² Review @ Hardware Canucks
- Sapphire HD7870 W/ Boost @ Kitguru
- PowerColor Radeon HD 7950 3GB PCS Overclocked @ Tweaktown
Subject: General Tech | June 6, 2012 - 03:20 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
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.
"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:
- Steam For Linux Will Launch In 2012 @ Slashdot
- Max Payne 3 Hi-Resolution Screenshot Gallery @ NGOHQ
- Max Payne 3 Review @ Techgage
- Max Payne 3 Performance Tested, Benchmarked @ Techspot
Subject: Graphics Cards | May 11, 2012 - 04:57 PM | Ryan Shrout
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.
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."
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!
Subject: Graphics Cards | April 25, 2012 - 05:20 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
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.
"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:
- ASUS GeForce GTX 680 Direct CU II 2 GB @ techPowerUp
- ASUS GeForce GTX 680 DirectCU II TOP @ Guru of 3D
- MSI GeForce GTX 680 TwinFrozr III OC @ Guru of 3D
- Palit JetStream GeForce GTX 680 4GB Video Cards in SLI @ Tweaktown
- Palit JetStream GeForce GTX 680 4GB @ Tweaktown
- NVIDIA GeForce GTX 680 "Kepler" On Linux @ Phoronix
- NVIDIA Adaptive VSync Technology @ [H]ard|OCP
- Workstation Graphics Card Comparison Guide @ TechARP
- AMD Versus Intel Integrated Graphics w/ Ivy Bridge @ Legit Reviews
- HIS HD7770 iCooler 1GB @ Overclockers Online
- AMD Fusion On Gallium3D Leaves A Lot To Be Desired @ Phoronix
- PowerColor Radeon HD 7850 2GB Review @ circuitREMIX
- HIS Radeon HD7870 IceQ @ XSReviews
- Gigabyte HD 7950 WindForce 3X & MSI HD 7950 Twin Frozr III Review @ Hardware Canucks
- MSI Radeon HD 7770 Power Edition 1GB @ Tweaktown
- MSI Radeon HD 7870 2GB TwinFrozr @ Tweaktown
- Sapphire Radeon HD 7870 2GB OC Edition @ Tweaktown
- AMD Radeon HD 7770 GHz Edition and Radeon HD 7750 @ X-bit Labs
- MSI Radeon HD 7970 Lightning 3 GB @ techPowerUp
- PowerColor PCS+ Radeon HD 7970 3GB VORTEX II @ Tweaktown
Subject: Graphics Cards | March 29, 2012 - 06:18 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
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)
"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:
- Palit GeForce GTX 680 JetStream Edition Graphics Card Review @ HardwareHeaven
- Palit JetStream GeForce GTX 680 @ Tweaktown
- GeForce GTX 680 3-way SLI @ Tweaktown
- Surround on a Stick! Single Card Nvidia Surround Tested @ Bjorn3D
- Nvidia GeForce GTX 680 - The Nitty Gritty @ eTeknix
- ASUS GeForce GTX 680 MaxOC vs R7970 MaxOC vs GTX 580 OC @ HardwareHeaven
- NVIDIA GPU Boost Technology Report @ TechARP
- Desktop Graphics Card Comparison Guide @ TechARP
- HIS Radeon HD 7770 iCooler GHz Edition 1GB @ Tweaktown
- Sapphire Radeon HD 7850 OC 2GB Graphics Card Review @ eTeknix
- HIS Radeon HD 7870 IceQ Turbo Overclocked @ Tweaktown
- XFX R7850 Black Edition Double Dissipation Graphics Card and AMD Anti-Aliasing Analysis Review @ HardwareHeaven
- XFX HD7850 Black Edition @ Kitguru
- Sapphire HD 7850 OC Radeon Review @ TechwareLabs
- MSI Radeon HD 7970 Lightning 3GB Video Card Overclocked @ Tweaktown
- XFX's Radeon HD 7850 and 7870 Black Edition @ The Tech Report
Subject: Graphics Cards | March 23, 2012 - 01:45 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
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.
"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:
- Nvidia shows off first 'Kepler' GPUs @ The Register
- ASUS GeForce GTX 680 SLI @ techPowerUp
- Arctic Accelero S1 PLUS - GPU cooler @ Funky Kit
- NVIDIA GeForce GTX 680 Technology Report @ TechARP
- AMD Radeon HD 7750 Video Card Review @ Madshrimps
- GeForce GTX 680 SLI @ Guru 3D
- ZOTAC GeForce GTX 680 Graphics Card SLI Performance Review @ HardwareHeaven
- Nvidia GeForce GTX 680 Launch Review @ Neoseeker
Subject: Graphics Cards | December 16, 2011 - 04:39 PM | Ryan Shrout
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.
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...