Author:
Manufacturer: Various

A very early look at the future of Catalyst

Today is a very interesting day for AMD.  It marks both the release of the reference design of the Radeon HD 7990 graphics card, a dual-GPU Tahiti behemoth, and the first sample of a change to the CrossFire technology that will improve animation performance across the board.  Both stories are incredibly interesting and as it turns out both feed off of each other in a very important way: the HD 7990 depends on CrossFire and CrossFire depends on this driver. 

If you already read our review (or any review that is using the FCAT / frame capture system) of the Radeon HD 7990, you likely came away somewhat unimpressed.  The combination of a two AMD Tahiti GPUs on a single PCB with 6GB of frame buffer SHOULD have been an incredibly exciting release for us and would likely have become the single fastest graphics card on the planet.  That didn't happen though and our results clearly state why that is the case: AMD CrossFire technology has some serious issues with animation smoothness, runt frames and giving users what they are promised. 

Our first results using our Frame Rating performance analysis method were shown during the release of the NVIDIA GeForce GTX Titan card in February.  Since then we have been in constant talks with the folks at AMD to figure out what was wrong, how they could fix it, and what it would mean to gamers to implement frame metering technology.  We followed that story up with several more that showed the current state of performance on the GPU market using Frame Rating that painted CrossFire in a very negative light.  Even though we were accused by some outlets of being biased or that AMD wasn't doing anything incorrectly, we stuck by our results and as it turns out, so does AMD. 

Today's preview of a very early prototype driver shows that the company is serious about fixing the problems we discovered. 

If you are just catching up on the story, you really need some background information.  The best place to start is our article published in late March that goes into detail about how game engines work, how our completely new testing methods work and the problems with AMD CrossFire technology very specifically.  From that piece:

It will become painfully apparent as we dive through the benchmark results on the following pages, but I feel that addressing the issues that CrossFire and Eyefinity are creating up front will make the results easier to understand.  We showed you for the first time in Frame Rating Part 3, AMD CrossFire configurations have a tendency to produce a lot of runt frames, and in many cases nearly perfectly in an alternating pattern.  Not only does this mean that frame time variance will be high, but it also tells me that the value of performance gained by of adding a second GPU is completely useless in this case.  Obviously the story would become then, “In Battlefield 3, does it even make sense to use a CrossFire configuration?”  My answer based on the below graph would be no.

runt.jpg

An example of a runt frame in a CrossFire configuration

NVIDIA's solution for getting around this potential problem with SLI was to integrate frame metering, a technology that balances frame presentation to the user and to the game engine in a way that enabled smoother, more consistent frame times and thus smoother animations on the screen.  For GeForce cards, frame metering began as a software solution but was actually integrated as a hardware function on the Fermi design, taking some load off of the driver.

Continue reading our article on the new prototype driver from AMD to address frame pacing issues in CrossFire!!

SEIKI SE50UY04 50-in 4K 3840x2160 TV Unboxing and Preview

Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards, Displays | April 18, 2013 - 05:52 PM |
Tagged: video, seiki, se50UY04, hdtv, hdmi 1.4, displays, 4k, 3840x2160

This just in!  We have a 4K TV in the PC Perspective Offices!

seiki1.jpg

While we are still working on the ability to test graphics card performance at this resolution with our Frame Rating capture system, we decided to do a live stream earlier today as we unboxed, almost dropped and then eventually configured our new 4K TV. 

The TV in question?  A brand new SEIKI SE50UY04 50-in 3840x2160 ready display.  Haven't heard of it?  Neither have we.  I picked it up over the weekend from TigerDirect for $1299, though it actually a bit higher now at $1499.

seiki2.jpg

The TV itself is pretty unassuming and other than looking for the 4K label on the box you'd be hard pressed to discern it from other displays.  It DID come with a blue, braided UHD-ready HDMI cable, so there's that.

seiki3.jpg

One point worth noting is that the stand on the TV is pretty flimsy; there was definitely wobble after installation and setup.

seiki4.jpg

Connecting the TV to our test system was pretty easy - only a single HDMI cable was required and the GeForce GTX 680s in SLI we happened to have on our test bed recognized it as a 3840x2160 capable display.  Keep in mind that you are limited to a refresh rate of 30 Hz though due to current limitations of HDMI 1.4.  The desktop was clear and sharper and if you like screen real estate...this has it. 

The first thing we wanted to try was some 4K video playback and we tried YouTube videos, some downloaded clips we found scattered across the Internet and a couple of specific examples I had been saving.  Isn't that puppy cute?  It was by far the best picture I had seen on a TV that close up - no other way to say it.

We did have issues with video playback in some cases due to high bit rates.  In one case we had a YUV uncompressed file that was hitting our SSD so hard on read speeds that we saw choppiness.  H.265 save us!

seiki5.jpg

And of course we demoed some games as well - Battlefield 3, Crysis 3, Skyrim and Tomb Raider.  Each was able to run at 3840x2160 without any complaints or INI hacks.  They all looked BEAUTIFUL when in a still position but we did notice some flickering on the TV that might be the result of the 120 Hz interpolation and possibly the "dynamic luminance control" feature that SEIKI has. 

We'll definitely test some more on this in the coming days to see if we can find a solution as I know many PC gamers are going to be excited about the possibility of using this as a gaming display!  We are working on a collection of benchmarks on some of the higher end graphics solutions like the GeForce TITAN, GTX 680s, HD 7990 and HD 7970s!

If you want to check out the full experience of our unboxing and first testing, check out the full live stream archived below!!

Author:
Manufacturer: PC Perspective

Not a simple answer

After publishing the Frame Rating Part 3 story, I started to see quite a bit of feedback from readers and other enthusiasts with many requests for information about Vsync and how it might affect the results we are seeing here.  Vertical Sync is the fix for screen tearing, a common artifact seen in gaming (and other mediums) when the frame rendering rate doesn’t match the display’s refresh rate.  Enabling Vsync will force the rendering engine to only display and switch frames in the buffer to match the vertical refresh rate of the monitor or a divisor of it.  So a 60 Hz monitor could only display frames at 16ms (60 FPS), 33ms (30 FPS), 50ms (20 FPS), and so on.

Many early readers hypothesized that simply enabling Vsync would fix the stutter and runt issues that Frame Rating was bringing to light.  In fact, AMD was a proponent of this fix, as many conversations we have had with the GPU giant trailed into the direction of Vsync as answer to their multi-GPU issues. 

In our continuing research on graphics performance, part of our Frame Rating story line, I recently spent many hours playing games on different hardware configurations and different levels of Vertical Sync.  After this time testing, I am comfortable in saying that I do not think that simply enabling Vsync on platforms that exhibit a large number of runt frames fixes the issue.  It may prevent runts, but it does not actually produce a completely smooth animation. 

To be 100% clear - the issues with Vsync and animation smoothness are not limited to AMD graphics cards or even multi-GPU configurations.  The situations we are demonstrating here present themselves equally on AMD and NVIDIA platforms and with single or dual card configurations, as long as all other parameters are met.  Our goal today is only to compare a typical Vsync situation from either vendor to a reference result at 60 FPS and at 30 FPS; not to compare AMD against NVIDIA!!

Crysis3_1920x1080_PLOT_1.png

In our initial research with Frame Rating, I presented this graph on the page discussing Vsync.  At the time, I left this note with the image:

The single card and SLI configurations without Vsync disabled look just like they did on previous pages but the graph for GTX 680 SLI with Vsync on is very different.  Frame times are only switching back and forth between 16 ms and 33 ms, 60 and 30 instantaneous FPS due to the restrictions of Vsync.  What might not be obvious at first is that the constant shifting back and forth between these two rates (two refresh cycles with one frame, one refresh cycle with one frame) can actually cause more stuttering and animation inconsistencies than would otherwise appear.

Even though I had tested this out and could literally SEE that animation inconsistency I didn't yet have a way to try and demonstrate it to our readers, but today I think we do.

The plan for today's article is going to be simple.  I am going to present a set of three videos to you that show side by side runs from different configuration options and tell you what I think we are seeing in each result.  Then on another page, I'm going to show you three more videos and see if you can pinpoint the problems on your own.

Continue reading our article on the effects of Vsync on gaming animation smoothness!!

Author:
Subject: General Tech
Manufacturer: Nerdytec

Gaming on your Couch

Sometimes really unique products come across our door step and we just love to tell our readers about things that might normally fall outside the PC hardware field.  The COUCHMASTER, essentially a piece of furniture made for gaming, is one of those items.

couch1.png

The COUCHMASTER, produced by a German company called Nerdytec, is a device built to help gamers use a mouse and keyboard while sitting on a couch and gaming in large screen environments.  It has a pair of foam-stuffed side block that hold up a wood-constructed center panel that puts your mouse and keyboard at a comfortable angle. 

couch2.png

Cable routing is made simple with Velcro removable panels under the keyboard and mouse and some versions of COUCHMASTER include a 4-port USB hub for connecting input devices, audio headsets, etc.  The only that didn't work in our testing were external hard drives - just not enough power coming from the USB 3.0 connection through the include extension cable.

couch3.png

I played the entirety of Bioshock Infinite with the COUCHMASTER, and other than getting some odd looks from my wife, couldn't think of a more impressive and comfortable way to play PC games from a distance and without a standard desk setup.

couch4.png

I would love to see some changes like the addition of recessed drink holders on the sides, but otherwise, the only drawback to Nerdytec's COUCHMASTER is the price; it starts at $170 or so USD.

Check out the full video review posted below!!

UPDATE: The CouchMaster is now for sale in the US now!

Podcast #246 - ASUS P8Z77-I Deluxe Mini-ITX motherboard, more Frame Rating, DirectX 12 and more!

Subject: General Tech | April 11, 2013 - 10:26 AM |
Tagged: video, xeon, thunderbolt, roccat, quadro, premiere, podcast, opencl, nerdytec, Ivy Bridge-E, haswell, frame rating, firepro, falcon ridge, DirectX 12, couchmaster, ASUS P8Z77-I Deluxe, amd

PC Perspective Podcast #246- 04/11/2013

Join us this week as we discuss the ASUS P8Z77-I Deluxe Mini-ITX motherboard, more Frame Rating, DirectX 12 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: 1:01:46

  1. Winner last week? Mike McLaughlin!! Congrats!
  2. Week in Review:
  3. 0:24:00 NerdyTec COUCHMASTER
  4. News items of interest:
  5. 0:47:00 Hardware/Software Picks of the Week:
    1. Allyn: Ultra Brush dust remover
  6. 1-888-38-PCPER or podcast@pcper.com
  7. Closing/outro

 

Author:
Manufacturer: PC Perspective

What to look for and our Test Setup

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:

 

Today marks the conclusion of our first complete round up of Frame Rating results, the culmination of testing that was started 18 months ago.  Hopefully you have caught our other articles on the subject at hand, and you really will need to read up on the Frame Rating Dissected story above to truly understand the testing methods and results shown in this article.  Use the links above to find the previous articles!

To round out our Frame Rating testing in this interation, we are looking at more cards further down the product stack in two different sets.  The first comparison will look at the AMD Radeon HD 7870 GHz Edition and the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 660 graphics cards in both single and dual-card configurations.  Just like we saw with our HD 7970 vs GTX 680 and our HD 7950 vs GTX 660 Ti testing, evaluating how the GPUs compare in our new and improved testing methodology in single GPU configurations is just as important as testing in SLI and CrossFire.  The GTX 660 ($199 at Newegg.com) and the HD 7870 ($229 at Newegg.com) are the closest matches in terms of pricing though both card have some interesting game bundle options as well.

7870.jpg

AMD's Radeon HD 7870 GHz Edition

Our second set of results will only be looking at single GPU performance numbers for lower cost graphics cards like the AMD Radeon HD 7850 and Radeon HD 7790 and from NVIDIA the GeForce GTX 650 Ti and GTX 650 Ti BOOST.  We didn't include multi-GPU results on these cards simply due to time constraints internally and because we are eager to move onto further Frame Rating testing and input testing. 

gtx660.jpg

NVIDIA's GeForce GTX 660


If you are just joining this article series today, you have missed a lot!  If nothing else you should read our initial full release article that details everything about the Frame Rating methodology and why we are making this change to begin with.  In short, we are moving away from using FRAPS for average frame rates. We are using a secondary hardware capture system to record each frame of game play as the monitor would receive them. That recorded video is then analyzed to measure real world performance.

Because FRAPS measures frame times at a different point in the game pipeline (closer to the game engine) its results can vary dramatically from what is presented to the end user on their display.  Frame Rating solves that problem by recording video through a dual-link DVI capture card that emulates a monitor to the testing system and by simply applying a unique overlay color on each produced frame from the game, we can gather a new kind of information that tells a very unique story.

card1.jpg

The capture card that makes all of this work possible.

I don't want to spend too much time on this part of the story here as I already wrote a solid 16,000 words on the topic in our first article and I think you'll really find the results fascinating.  So, please check out my first article on the topic if you have any questions before diving into these results today!

Test System Setup
CPU Intel Core i7-3960X Sandy Bridge-E
Motherboard ASUS P9X79 Deluxe
Memory Corsair Dominator DDR3-1600 16GB
Hard Drive OCZ Agility 4 256GB SSD
Sound Card On-board
Graphics Card NVIDIA GeForce GTX 660 2GB
AMD Radeon HD 7870 2GB
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 650 Ti 1GB
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 650 Ti BOOST 2GB
AMD Radeon HD 7850 2GB
AMD Radeon HD 7790 1GB
Graphics Drivers AMD: 13.2 beta 7
NVIDIA: 314.07 beta
Power Supply Corsair AX1200i
Operating System Windows 8 Pro x64

On to the results! 

Continue reading our review of the GTX 660 and HD 7870 using Frame Rating!!

PCPer Live! Bioshock Infinite Game Stream - Win Games and Graphics Cards from AMD!

Subject: Graphics Cards | April 2, 2013 - 04:50 PM |
Tagged: video, tahiti, radeon, never settle reloaded, live, crysis, bioshock infinite, amd

UPDATE: If you missed the live stream...sorry, better luck next time!  However, you can still view the on-demand version below to see the Bioshock Infinite game play!

On April 2nd on the PC Perspective Live! page we will be streaming some game action of Bioshock Infinite.  Easily the most well received and reviewed game of the year, I am probably more excited to play this game than other we have stream to date!

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! 

bioshock1.jpg

Bioshock Infinite Game Stream

5pm PT / 8pm ET - April 2nd

PC Perspective Live! Page

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

nsr_matrix.jpg

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 Bioshock Infinite Game Stream:

  • 1 x Gigabyte Radeon HD 7870 OC 2GB card
  • 1 x MSI Radeon HD 7870 2GB card
  • 3 x Combo codes for both Tomb Raider AND Bioshock Infinite

gboc.png

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 April 2nd for some PC gaming fun!!

bioshock2.jpg

What to Look For, Test Setup

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:

We are back again with another edition of our continued reveal of data from the capture-based Frame Rating GPU performance methods.  In this third segment we are moving on down the product stack to the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 660 Ti and the AMD Radeon HD 7950 - both cards that fall into a similar price range.

gtx660ti.JPG

I have gotten many questions about why we are using the cards in each comparison and the answer is pretty straight forward: pricing.  In our first article we looked at the Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition and the GeForce GTX 680 while in the second we compared the Radeon HD 7990 (HD 7970s in CrossFire), the GeForce GTX 690 and the GeForce GTX Titan.  This time around we have the GeForce GTX 660 Ti ($289 on Newegg.com) and the Radeon HD 7950 ($299 on Newegg.com) but we did not include the GeForce GTX 670 because it sits much higher at $359 or so.  I know some of you are going to be disappointed that it isn't in here, but I promise we'll see it again in a future piece!


If you are just joining this article series today, you have missed a lot!  If nothing else you should read our initial full release article that details everything about the Frame Rating methodology and why we are making this change to begin with.  In short, we are moving away from using FRAPS for average frame rates or even frame times and instead are using a secondary hardware capture system to record all the frames of our game play as they would be displayed to the gamer, then doing post-process analyzation on that recorded file to measure real world performance.

Because FRAPS measures frame times at a different point in the game pipeline (closer to the game engine) its results can vary dramatically from what is presented to the end user on their display.  Frame Rating solves that problem by recording video through a dual-link DVI capture card that emulates a monitor to the testing system and by simply applying a unique overlay color on each produced frame from the game, we can gather a new kind of information that tells a very unique story.

card1.jpg

The capture card that makes all of this work possible.

I don't want to spend too much time on this part of the story here as I already wrote a solid 16,000 words on the topic in our first article and I think you'll really find the results fascinating.  So, please check out my first article on the topic if you have any questions before diving into these results today!

Test System Setup
CPU Intel Core i7-3960X Sandy Bridge-E
Motherboard ASUS P9X79 Deluxe
Memory Corsair Dominator DDR3-1600 16GB
Hard Drive OCZ Agility 4 256GB SSD
Sound Card On-board
Graphics Card NVIDIA GeForce GTX 660 Ti 2GB
AMD Radeon HD 7950 3GB
Graphics Drivers AMD: 13.2 beta 7
NVIDIA: 314.07 beta
Power Supply Corsair AX1200i
Operating System Windows 8 Pro x64

 

On to the results! 

Continue reading our review of the GTX 660 Ti and HD 7950 using Frame Rating!!

Summary Thus Far

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:

Welcome to the second in our intial series of articles focusing on Frame Rating, our new graphics and GPU performance technology that drastically changes how the community looks at single and multi-GPU performance.  In the article we are going to be focusing on a different set of graphics cards, the highest performing single card options on the market including the GeForce GTX 690 4GB dual-GK104 card, the GeForce GTX Titan 6GB GK110-based monster as well as the Radeon HD 7990, though in an emulated form.  The HD 7990 was only recently officially announced by AMD at this years Game Developers Conference but the specifications of that hardware are going to closely match what we have here on the testbed today - a pair of retail Radeon HD 7970s in CrossFire. 

titancard.JPG

Will the GTX Titan look as good in Frame Rating as it did upon its release?

If you are just joining this article series today, you have missed a lot!  If nothing else you should read our initial full release article that details everything about the Frame Rating methodology and why we are making this change to begin with.  In short, we are moving away from using FRAPS for average frame rates or even frame times and instead are using a secondary hardware capture system to record all the frames of our game play as they would be displayed to the gamer, then doing post-process analyzation on that recorded file to measure real world performance.

Because FRAPS measures frame times at a different point in the game pipeline (closer to the game engine) its results can vary dramatically from what is presented to the end user on their display.  Frame Rating solves that problem by recording video through a dual-link DVI capture card that emulates a monitor to the testing system and by simply applying a unique overlay color on each produced frame from the game, we can gather a new kind of information that tells a very unique story.

card1.jpg

The capture card that makes all of this work possible.

I don't want to spend too much time on this part of the story here as I already wrote a solid 16,000 words on the topic in our first article and I think you'll really find the results fascinating.  So, please check out my first article on the topic if you have any questions before diving into these results today!

 

Test System Setup
CPU Intel Core i7-3960X Sandy Bridge-E
Motherboard ASUS P9X79 Deluxe
Memory Corsair Dominator DDR3-1600 16GB
Hard Drive OCZ Agility 4 256GB SSD
Sound Card On-board
Graphics Card NVIDIA GeForce GTX TITAN 6GB
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 690 4GB
AMD Radeon HD 7970 CrossFire 3GB
Graphics Drivers AMD: 13.2 beta 7
NVIDIA: 314.07 beta (GTX 690)
NVIDIA: 314.09 beta (GTX TITAN)
Power Supply Corsair AX1200i
Operating System Windows 8 Pro x64

 

On to the results! 

Continue reading our review of the GTX Titan, GTX 690 and HD 7990 using Frame Rating!!

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. 

card4.jpg

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!!