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AMD A8-7600 Kaveri APU and R7 250 Dual Graphics Testing - Pacing is Fixed!

Author: Ryan Shrout
Manufacturer: AMD

Frame Rating Info

Testing Configuration

Here is the pricing breakdown of our entire system build.

  AMD Kaveri Dual Graphics Test Setup
Processor AMD A8-7600 Kaveri APU - $139
Heatsink Noctua NH-L9A - $44
Motherboard Asrock FM2A88X-ITX+ - $145
Memory AMD Memory 8GB DDR3-2400 - $121
Graphics Card MSI R7 250 OC Edition 2GB DDR3 - $94
Storage Samsung 840 EVO 250GB - $169
Total Price $712

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The A8-7600 isn't really recognized by GPU-Z quite yet...

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MSI Radeon R7 250 OC Edition

What you should be watching for

  1. A8-7600 vs R7 250 - How does the integrated graphics performance of the A8-7600 APU compare to the discrete performance of the R7 250?
     
  2. R7 250 vs A8-7600 + R7 250 - How much better is performance when we enable Dual Graphics with both the APU and discrete GPU at work?
     
  3. Frame Pacing enabled vs Frame Pacing disabled - How much has AMD really improved the frame pacing support with the Catalyst 13.35 beta driver?

 

Frame Rating: Our Testing Process

If you aren't familiar with it, you should probably do a little research into our testing methodology as it is quite different than others you may see online.  Rather than using FRAPS to measure frame rates or frame times, we are using an secondary PC to capture the output from the tested graphics card directly and then use post processing on the resulting video to determine frame rates, frame times, frame variance and much more. 

This amount of data can be pretty confusing if you attempting to read it without proper background, but I strongly believe that the results we present paint a much more thorough picture of performance than other options.  So please, read up on the full discussion about our Frame Rating methods before moving forward!!

While there are literally dozens of file created for each “run” of benchmarks, there are several resulting graphs that FCAT produces, as well as several more that we are generating with additional code of our own. 

If you don't need the example graphs and explanations below, you can jump straight to the benchmark results now!!

 

The PCPER FRAPS File

While the graphs above are produced by the default version of the scripts from NVIDIA, I have modified and added to them in a few ways to produce additional data for our readers.  The first file shows a sub-set of the data from the RUN file above, the average frame rate over time as defined by FRAPS, though we are combining all of the GPUs we are comparing into a single graph.  This will basically emulate the data we have been showing you for the past several years.

 

The PCPER Observed FPS File

This graph takes a different subset of data points and plots them similarly to the FRAPS file above, but this time we are look at the “observed” average frame rates, shown previously as the blue bars in the RUN file above.  This takes out the dropped and runts frames, giving you the performance metrics that actually matter – how many frames are being shown to the gamer to improve the animation sequences. 

As you’ll see in our full results on the coming pages, seeing a big difference between the FRAPS FPS graphic and the Observed FPS will indicate cases where it is likely the gamer is not getting the full benefit of the hardware investment in their PC.

 

The PLOT File

The primary file that is generated from the extracted data is a plot of calculated frame times including runts.  The numbers here represent the amount of time that frames appear on the screen for the user, a “thinner” line across the time span represents frame times that are consistent and thus should produce the smoothest animation to the gamer.  A “wider” line or one with a lot of peaks and valleys indicates a lot more variance and is likely caused by a lot of runts being displayed.

 

The RUN File

While the two graphs above show combined results for a set of cards being compared, the RUN file will show you the results from a single card on that particular result.  It is in this graph that you can see interesting data about runts, drops, average frame rate and the actual frame rate of your gaming experience. 

For tests that show no runts or drops, the data is pretty clean.  This is the standard frame rate per second over a span of time graph that has become the standard for performance evaluation on graphics cards.

A test that does have runts and drops will look much different.  The black bar labeled FRAPS indicates the average frame rate over time that traditional testing would show if you counted the drops and runts in the equation – as FRAPS FPS measurement does.  Any area in red is a dropped frame – the wider the amount of red you see, the more colored bars from our overlay were missing in the captured video file, indicating the gamer never saw those frames in any form.

The wide yellow area is the representation of runts, the thin bands of color in our captured video, that we have determined do not add to the animation of the image on the screen.  The larger the area of yellow the more often those runts are appearing.

Finally, the blue line is the measured FPS over each second after removing the runts and drops.  We are going to be calling this metric the “observed frame rate” as it measures the actual speed of the animation that the gamer experiences.

 

The PERcentile File

Scott introduced the idea of frame time percentiles months ago but now that we have some different data using direct capture as opposed to FRAPS, the results might be even more telling.  In this case, FCAT is showing percentiles not by frame time but instead by instantaneous FPS.  This will tell you the minimum frame rate that will appear on the screen at any given percent of time during our benchmark run.  The 50th percentile should be very close to the average total frame rate of the benchmark but as we creep closer to the 100% we see how the frame rate will be affected. 

The closer this line is to being perfectly flat the better as that would mean we are running at a constant frame rate the entire time.  A steep decline on the right hand side tells us that frame times are varying more and more frequently and might indicate potential stutter in the animation.

 

The PCPER Frame Time Variance File

Of all the data we are presenting, this is probably the one that needs the most discussion.  In an attempt to create a new metric for gaming and graphics performance, I wanted to try to find a way to define stutter based on the data sets we had collected.  As I mentioned earlier, we can define a single stutter as a variance level between t_game and t_display. This variance can be introduced in t_game, t_display, or on both levels.  Since we can currently only reliably test the t_display rate, how can we create a definition of stutter that makes sense and that can be applied across multiple games and platforms?

We define a single frame variance as the difference between the current frame time and the previous frame time – how consistent the two frames presented to the gamer.  However, as I found in my testing plotting the value of this frame variance is nearly a perfect match to the data presented by the minimum FPS (PER) file created by FCAT.  To be more specific, stutter is only perceived when there is a break from the previous animation frame rates. 

Our current running theory for a stutter evaluation is this: find the current frame time variance by comparing the current frame time to the running average of the frame times of the previous 20 frames.  Then, by sorting these frame times and plotting them in a percentile form we can get an interesting look at potential stutter.  Comparing the frame times to a running average rather than just to the previous frame should prevent potential problems from legitimate performance peaks or valleys found when moving from a highly compute intensive scene to a lower one.

While we are still trying to figure out if this is the best way to visualize stutter in a game, we have seen enough evidence in our game play testing and by comparing the above graphic to other data generated through our Frame rating system to be reasonably confident in our assertions.  So much in fact that I am going to going this data the PCPER ISU, which beer fans will appreciate the acronym of International Stutter Units.

To compare these results you want to see a line that is as close the 0ms mark as possible indicating very little frame rate variance when compared to a running average of previous frames.  There will be some inevitable incline as we reach the 90+ percentile but that is expected with any game play sequence that varies from scene to scene.  What we do not want to see is a sharper line up that would indicate higher frame variance (ISU) and could be an indication that the game sees microstuttering and hitching problems.

January 30, 2014 | 01:19 PM - Posted by BBMan (not verified)

I've really been interested in the progress of this tech and I really like the reviews here. I looked at the test methodology- which is good- but I've noticed that the test titles are mostly first-person. The trend seems to be away from RTS and titles like Rome Total War II where myriads of objects are rendered and, if I understand it correctly, really stress the GPU memory more. I may have missed it- but is that part of your methodology?

January 30, 2014 | 07:59 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

really good to see this solution finally working well,

I wonder if using a 250 GDDR5 would add more variance or simply % lower scaling but the same smoothness, since the performance differential between IGP and VGA is bigger.

January 31, 2014 | 09:28 AM - Posted by praack

nice podcast, i think though that the push with AMD to go APU means we need to look at the APU in 2 lights- the low cost build as above, and a better build a mainstream user would use.

in looking over the prices i wonder what a change in the video card to even the paltry gigabyte 2 gb rev2 R7 260x would do

because it really looks like the discreet core is dead for AMD, and unless we see something come out of the APU side- no one who is running AMD now will stay in that camp when they change out their computers next time

January 31, 2014 | 04:43 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Nice write up - could hardly tell that your an nVidia fanboy and AMD hater.

February 2, 2014 | 04:03 PM - Posted by Marc Bell (not verified)

Hey Ryan,

Great write up. Any chance of us getting an updated review with an a10 chip along with a comparison between gddr3 and gddr5?

February 3, 2014 | 11:32 AM - Posted by Jason (not verified)

Ryan, I second Marc's question. I just picked up an A10-7850k Black Edition and am curious to see what I can get away with using to maximize perfomance of this APU without overpaying for potential unused features (such as DDR5 vs DDR3).

February 6, 2014 | 09:00 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Dear Author
There is something wrong with your Math.

Battlefield 3 CF 45fps is 50% more to 30fps (solo), same goes to other titles

The gains are up to 50% not by 30% like you wrote.

February 6, 2014 | 09:00 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Dear Author
There is something wrong with your Math.

Battlefield 3 CF 45fps is 50% more to 30fps (solo), same goes to other titles

The gains are up to 50% not by 30% like you wrote.

February 12, 2014 | 07:29 AM - Posted by Milli (not verified)

Kaveri supports XDMA. Has anybody tried to CF a Kaveri cpu with a R7 260? Ryan, do you have any plans to try this?

February 12, 2014 | 03:48 PM - Posted by Climber (not verified)

HEllo,

I have problems to setup Dual Graphics, I have the last beta drivers installed CCC 14.1

Motherboard: Asrock FM2A88X-ITX+

APU: AMD A10-7700K

GPU: Shappire R7 250

How I can set up this, os is also something with BIOS?

Thanks in advanve.

February 26, 2014 | 02:17 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

its really a shame that people are two-faced when it comes to computer hardware. while a company is attempting to innovate the market, all the jackals say is 'intel is faster and uses less power' yet the ivy and haswell bridges are pretty much the same thing. but what do i know? its not like i watched 64-bit go through the useless stage when it first released.

it is funny to me how people are comparing a cost effective solution to a double cost build that runs better. get a life quiers, you know who you are.

September 28, 2014 | 08:48 AM - Posted by A10-7850K-R72502-GB-DDR3 (not verified)

A10-7850K + MSI R7 250 2GB DDR3 + 8GB 1066 PC3-10700 VENGEANCE + 240GB SSD Hyper-X + ASUS A58M-A MB + 550W Antec PSU

AMD Catalyst Beta 14.7 and 14.4 stable works good with dual graphics.

Make sure to enable dual monitor support and change PCI to primary video card in BIOS to enable Crossfire / Dual Graphics and to OC the Video card to 1200mhz.

BF3 on High is good. Medium is flawless. Auto runs great too.

October 20, 2014 | 07:15 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Thanks for letting us know the A8-7600 will run dual-graphics with an R7-240.

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