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Frame Rating: Catalyst 13.8 Brings Frame Pacing to AMD Radeon

Author: Ryan Shrout
Manufacturer: AMD

3-Way CrossFire, Eyefinity and 4K Issues

Based on the previous 8 pages of this article it would appear that AMD has gotten quite a bit right with the new 13.8 driver with frame pacing integration.  Testing at 1920x1080 and 2560x1440 has shown has that frame time variance is way down and the frame rates are much more consistent without the runt frames that we saw with CrossFire configurations for the last half-year. 

But not all is right in the kingdom quite yet.  There are a couple of other hurdles AMD needs to address to perfect the solution.

First, I already mentioned the DX9 limitation and that the current frame pacing implementation won't work with it.  AMD claims that is next on this list and it should be addressed soon.

Second, it would appear that even though AMD claims that 3 GPU configurations should be supported with the frame pacing implementation in today's driver.  But our results showed some complications with that.  The below graphs compare a 2-Way CrossFire Radeon HD 7970 configuration to a 3-Way CrossFire HD 7970 setup.

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Notice that there is once again a difference between the FRAPS and observed frame rates with the 3-Way configuration that indicates dropped or partially missing frames.  The frame times plot clearly shows some problems - the frame time graph of the 3-Way setup (orange) is less consistent than the 2-Way config and shows some dropped frames and runt frames along the way too.  While still better than the result we saw pre-frame pacing driver, there is a lot of work AMD can do to improve the experience for users tripling their investment.

Finally, the biggest issue that still faces AMD is the lack of improved support for frame pacing with Eyefinity configurations.  Testing with three panel Eyefinity at 5760x1080 results in no improvements to runts or dropped frames.  While I realize that the number of people that are using Eyefinity is pretty small relative to the whole market, these are still the customers investing the most in the PC gaming medium and hopefully AMD will find a solution to the CrossFire + Eyefinity dilemma.

When I asked AMD for more details on WHY Eyefinity wasn't fixed with this release and why it technically was presenting more of a problem, they didn't want to get into it.  My theory still revolves around the compositing engine that AMD is using for CrossFire and the amount of bandwidth it can handle.  Moving a fame of 2560x1600 pixels 60 times a second is taxing but 5760x1080 uses about 50% more pixels is where things seem to break down for AMD.  I will be curious if its even possible for AMD to fix the frame pacing issues with CrossFire and Eyefinity this generation.

Even worse though is that with all the excitement over 4K displays and in particular the ASUS PQ321Q 4K 60 Hz monitor I recently reviewed, the Eyefinity limitation will pop up again in this niche case too. 

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Remember that that PQ321Q 4K display is a tiled monitor, meaning that is supports DisplayPort 1.2 multi-stream transport technology and thus it shows up at two different monitors to the graphics system.  NVIDIA uses a type of Surround technology and AMD uses Eyefinity to enable it - thus the same issue with frame times and frame pacing exists.

August 1, 2013 | 02:19 PM - Posted by mAxius

Good work Ryan you nerd keep the pressure on them :D

August 1, 2013 | 02:33 PM - Posted by Particle (not verified)

Does the new frame pacing setting apply to just the Radeon 7000 series parts or will owners of 6000 series (or perhaps older) cards also benefit? I ask as an interested dual 6970 user, and I haven't really seen anyone talking about anything but 7000 series parts.

August 3, 2013 | 02:59 AM - Posted by Automaticman (not verified)

Frame Pacing will work on 5000, 6000, and 7000 parts. I'm personally using it on my 2 CF 6950s with good results.

August 1, 2013 | 02:38 PM - Posted by Mac (not verified)

No before and after videos? No side by side comparisons with the competing solutions? :( The data makes my head hurt

August 1, 2013 | 06:28 PM - Posted by Chris B (not verified)

It can be pretty confusing, but here's my understanding of it!

Doing a before and after video would be incredibly difficult because video files are recorded at a set FPS. In a nutshell, think of a metronome ticking.

TICK-one-two-TICK-one-two-TICK-one-two-TICK-one-two-TICK-one-two.

That's the ideal framerate, a frame at every tick of the metronome.

What was happening was:

TICK-TICK-one-two-three-four-five-TICK-TICK-TICK-one-two-TICK-one-TICK-one-two-three-four-TICK.

Ideally the graphs would show a flat line with no peaks in it, the further they deviate from that flat line, the further they are from that perfect tempo.

August 1, 2013 | 10:21 PM - Posted by Allyn Malventano

The best 'before' would be to check out ryans first piece on the subject. 

August 2, 2013 | 12:25 AM - Posted by nabokovfan87

yes...

There are some good videos there. Check out the far cry 3 one.

November 11, 2013 | 04:34 PM - Posted by Rob (not verified)

> The data makes my head hurt.

It is no different than any form of exercise.

* Practice lifting (reading) smaller weight (difficulty) first.
* Do some workouts (skim the Article, and read the suggested backlinks that offer more info) to build up your strength.
* Go back and do more exercise, both when tired and not.
* Practice and take breaks.

That WILL make your Brain hurt, just like exercise makes your Muscles ache; same reason, the same benefit.

Your Brain will hurt less and less as the years pass, and you will be as fast as Bruce Lee (but not at Kung Fu unless you practice that in between reading Technical Materials).

Rob - http://www.youtube.com/user/LowLightVideos

August 1, 2013 | 02:42 PM - Posted by Fishbait

Great work! Now when I get a 2560 x 1440 panel I can think about getting a second 7950 :D

August 1, 2013 | 02:55 PM - Posted by brisa117

So just to be clear, when you say multi-monitor isn't fixed, is that only eyefinity? I have two monitors, but only game on one at a time.

August 1, 2013 | 10:24 PM - Posted by Allyn Malventano

So long as eyefinity is disabled, you're good. 

April 21, 2014 | 05:15 PM - Posted by Sebastian (not verified)

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August 1, 2013 | 03:08 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

You exaggerate a little with the last Sleeping Dogs graphs. The important question is: can a gamer perceive a 5ms variance at below 25ms?? I think the answer is NO.
Sleeping Dogs feels just as smooth on the 7990 as on the 690.

August 1, 2013 | 03:18 PM - Posted by Terminashunator (not verified)

Sounds good Dr. Anon

July 30, 2014 | 07:59 PM - Posted by Clayton (not verified)

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August 1, 2013 | 10:25 PM - Posted by Allyn Malventano

Depends largely on the gamer.

August 2, 2013 | 12:26 AM - Posted by nabokovfan87

And it's also not just lag, screen tearing, latency on input, all kinds of things are affected.

August 1, 2013 | 03:10 PM - Posted by Patatas X (not verified)

I just the the way the review reveals pretty much everything that AMD is still hiding on the new driver. Don't get me wrong, I'm an APU user; I'm greatly affected by this issue myself... albeit in a small scale.

Great job as always Ryan! Make em bleed!

August 1, 2013 | 03:18 PM - Posted by Metwinge (not verified)

Hopefully not to long for 3 way and multi monitor support as that was what I was hoping for in the first place.

Good job either way Ryan!

August 1, 2013 | 03:50 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Good job once again Ryan. Very good news for Radeon users. Now to test 3- and 4-GPU configs to see if the benefits apply there as well...

August 1, 2013 | 04:05 PM - Posted by André Coelho (not verified)

Congratulations in proving you had solid data on the issue and in making AMD see this was something they needed to address. Also, congratulations on this amazing in-depth analysis of the new driver. It's really well laid-out and very thorough. Excellent work. This is the kind of stuff that keeps me coming back to see the content you produce.

August 1, 2013 | 04:39 PM - Posted by tbone8ty (not verified)

now that we have a proper crossfire driver from AMD.

curious how well this works on AMD's mobile side...

Specifically I have a laptop with an A10-4600m APU + 7670m discrete gpu (7660g+7670m)...

will this help my setup?

thanks

August 1, 2013 | 05:09 PM - Posted by Johnny Rook (not verified)

I have said it before and I say it again: This frame-pacing, frame-pacing, FCAT or whatever you want to call the methodology, was the biggest step in gaming and GPU industry since DirectX 9 came along. And Ryan deserves a lot of credit for picking up from what Tech Report's has done and giving it an all new dimension, to the point AMD couldn't ignore it anymore. THIS IS A MAJOR WIN FOR US, THE GAMING COMMUNITY.
I'm glad this is out but, I only wish this were here sooner, when I had my HD4870X2 back in 2008 or my 2x HD4890 in 2009 or my HD5970 in 2010. After 5 years, I was burnt out and move on to a single-GPU card and got the best one I could afford, a GTX780. We can't have it all, I suppose.

August 1, 2013 | 05:51 PM - Posted by JC (not verified)

This option does not show up for the 7950 for some reason. I did a clean install of the driver and I don't see this option at all for my Radeon 7950.

August 1, 2013 | 06:00 PM - Posted by grommet

Do you have two 7950s in Crossfire? - It is only a fix for crossfire configurations so I imagine it doesn't show up in single card setups.

August 1, 2013 | 06:27 PM - Posted by JC (not verified)

The 7950 is two GPU's on one board though. If it works for a single 7990 and 7970, then it should also work for the 7950 as it is also a dual GPU card.

August 1, 2013 | 07:08 PM - Posted by biohazard (not verified)

The 7950 and 7970 are NOT dual GPU cards the 7990 is basically two 7970s on the same PCB and is the only dual gpu card AMD sells.

August 1, 2013 | 07:21 PM - Posted by JC (not verified)

Thanks! Totally my mistake. The name/numbering schemes for these cards confuse me.

August 1, 2013 | 06:43 PM - Posted by Nilbog

I would really like some clarification on if this works with the 6900 series.

I have this installed, i see the "Frame Pacing" enabled in CCC.
Is this doing anything?

August 1, 2013 | 07:35 PM - Posted by Jeremy Hellstrom

I guess the biggest question is ... does Crossfire look smoother to you now when you game?

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