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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 2, 2013 | 07:03 AM - Posted by M00s3 (not verified)

This does make a big difference on my dual 6950s. One easy quick way to notice the difference is to use MSI Kombuster DK11 and turn frame pacing on and off. So that's good, but really except for a few very recent games this fix isn't all that great for me. I don't really think crossfire or sli is a big deal for single screen resolutions. I'm glad AMD is addressing the issue, but it's a very obvious problem, and it's irritating some other review sites didn't mention how obviously bad Eyefinity and Crossifre work with each other. Gaming across 3 monitors is really an awesome experience, and I imagine so is 4k.

August 2, 2013 | 05:34 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

I installed this and battlefield 3 seems to be running much smoother for me. There was always the feeling that something was off playing that game but now the whole experience just feels much smoother.

My settup is a i7 3820 currently at stock, with dual 6950 2gb's.

Hopefully other's with 6XXX setups can comment more on this though.

August 1, 2013 | 08:15 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Does it help A series APUs like the A10 when running dual graphics? (i.e. 8650G+6670)

August 2, 2013 | 12:28 AM - Posted by nabokovfan87

You may need dual 7xxx or better, but yes. dual anything is what this applies to.

August 1, 2013 | 08:23 PM - Posted by Ron Jacob (not verified)

Hey Ryan, good read.
I would just like to point out that since you cannot play on tiled 4K monitors with any Nvidia GeForce card ( they do not support dual monitor surround) means that the 7990 is in fact the fastest solution for 60hz 4K, because The Titan, 780, 690 and any GeForce card for that matter cannot be used in dual monitor surround.

August 1, 2013 | 10:30 PM - Posted by Allyn Malventano

I believe that's nothing more than a driver update from Nvidia...

August 2, 2013 | 10:55 AM - Posted by Photonboy (not verified)

I believe he said 4K 30Hz was supported, but 60Hz was NOT.

August 2, 2013 | 11:30 AM - Posted by Ryan Shrout

This is not true. Nvidia has a driver that supports tiled displays as of a couple weeks ago.

August 1, 2013 | 08:38 PM - Posted by Carlos Rex (not verified)

The fact that you cannot play at all on ANY Nvidia card using 60hz 4K monitors, means that the 7990 is in fact the fastest graphics card in 4K as well !
http://youtu.be/jLmzs_KLECA?t=11m13s

August 2, 2013 | 11:30 AM - Posted by Ryan Shrout

this is wrong. Please see my comment above.

August 1, 2013 | 09:03 PM - Posted by MONKEYpatch (not verified)

Any word on if this supporting the last generation of amd cards? ie 6970/6990? Is it coming?

August 2, 2013 | 12:42 AM - Posted by nabokovfan87

The driver was JUST released. Breathe man... breathe.

August 2, 2013 | 07:02 AM - Posted by M00s3 (not verified)

This does make a big difference on my dual 6950s. One easy quick way to notice the difference is to use MSI Kombuster DK11 and turn frame pacing on and off. So that's good, but really except for a few very recent games this fix isn't all that great for me. I don't really think crossfire or sli is a big deal for single screen resolutions. I'm glad AMD is addressing the issue, but it's a very obvious problem, and it's irritating some other review sites didn't mention how obviously bad Eyefinity and Crossifre work with each other. Gaming across 3 monitors is really an awesome experience, and I imagine so is 4k.

August 2, 2013 | 07:02 AM - Posted by M00s3 (not verified)

This does make a big difference on my dual 6950s. One easy quick way to notice the difference is to use MSI Kombuster DK11 and turn frame pacing on and off. So that's good, but really except for a few very recent games this fix isn't all that great for me. I don't really think crossfire or sli is a big deal for single screen resolutions. I'm glad AMD is addressing the issue, but it's a very obvious problem, and it's irritating some other review sites didn't mention how obviously bad Eyefinity and Crossifre work with each other. Gaming across 3 monitors is really an awesome experience, and I imagine so is 4k.

August 2, 2013 | 07:05 AM - Posted by Mac (not verified)

This driver is good for everything from the 5000 series up or so I'm led to believe

August 2, 2013 | 12:52 AM - Posted by mk6g (not verified)

Nice article! Only it lacks Bioshock Infinite wich i can say is much smoother now(with two 7950s here), but still not perfect or very acceptable and frame tearing is also there. Also i wonder if microstuttering and tearing on hight solid framerates are connected

August 3, 2013 | 03:07 AM - Posted by Automaticman (not verified)

Just bear in mind that Bioshock Infinite's engine has a stuttering problem all by itself regardless of what GPU you are using.

Tearing is a completely different and well understood issue that happens most commonly at above 60 FPS (or whatever the refresh rate of your monitor is). V-Sync is the fix for tearing, but it can add some input lag depending on how it is implemented.

August 3, 2013 | 03:07 AM - Posted by Automaticman (not verified)

Just bear in mind that Bioshock Infinite's engine has a stuttering problem all by itself regardless of what GPU you are using.

Tearing is a completely different and well understood issue that happens most commonly at above 60 FPS (or whatever the refresh rate of your monitor is). V-Sync is the fix for tearing, but it can add some input lag depending on how it is implemented.

August 2, 2013 | 06:18 AM - Posted by Paul Keeble (not verified)

Any chance that you can publish the raw scan line data?

The reason I ask is because it looks from the graphs that AMD might be using a threshold based algorithm that only kicks in when a certain amount of adjustment is required. This would result in the stepping you are seeing and I am fairly certain that with a bit of signal analysis and some custom software that I can determine what the likely threshold is if there is one.

August 2, 2013 | 11:31 AM - Posted by Ryan Shrout

I would love to! Send me an email!

August 2, 2013 | 01:11 PM - Posted by Dennis (not verified)

AMD should have added you to their payroll for exposing this. It is >>tragic<< for a manufacturer not to have tested the true display performance of their cards and having a reviewer showing them how it' s done. Unacceptable.-

On the other hands, Kudos!

August 2, 2013 | 01:46 PM - Posted by irdmoose

I'm glad to see that AMD was willing to acknowledge and fix the issue, even if they did it kicking and screaming the whole way.

August 3, 2013 | 02:39 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Dear amd, I thank you that the "secreted" anal hammering you have been delivering for years and swore you weren't doing has been reduced, even though it took many beatings and incarcerations before you owned up to your problem.
We don't know if you are stupid or blind or both, or just a liar.
Since you likely have 4 or 5 other major secrets right now just like the runts you anal hammered on everyone for years while in public denial, this is not a real thank you, it is just a reminder about who and what you really are.

August 3, 2013 | 07:10 PM - Posted by Big Boom (not verified)

I've got a 6990 with an arctic cooling cooler on it.
I've also got shit eyes and can't seem to notice any difference yet. Farcry 3 still plays like crap and my golf gti exhaust is still blowing balls, but hey.
I'm very happy AMD are listening and gradually sorting this problem out, I just wish they would be more pro active instead of sorting shit out when people call them out.

August 4, 2013 | 05:17 PM - Posted by Mac (not verified)

It's impressive how well the 7870 xfire works with this driver, those frametime plots are as good as any you'll see with the geforces if not better

August 4, 2013 | 05:53 PM - Posted by praack

well i'll be diggydee dogged!

i did not think they could do it without a hardware fix- well here is pie in my face!

nice to see the first results did so well, it will be nice to see how the software matures over time

nice writeup

August 13, 2013 | 03:12 AM - Posted by Obi-Wan Kenobi (not verified)

Ahhh this is great news for my ATI Dept. AMD Radeon HD 6990 too then, I plan to beta test for AMD with such things, this really seems worth beta testing I do find :)

August 25, 2013 | 02:23 PM - Posted by Nerdel (not verified)

Great work! And great review! I hope AMD will take a look at Dual Graphics issue. Because this release doesn't affect Dual Graphics. And It's really annoying, coz It's great deal for notebooks, there is just no contest for AMD A10-4600M(7660G+7690M) combo for that money and productivity. So please aks AMD about Dual Graphics issue. I believe in you.

August 31, 2013 | 09:52 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Hi,

I have a 7970 crossfire setup. The rest of my computer is listed below: I7 4770k factory speed, gigabyte GA-Z87X-UD3H motherboard, 16gb ram, 650w 80+ gold psu, windows 7 x64. When i try running BF3 with the 13.8 beta driver, I get black thick bands flashing horizontally across my screen, sometimes immediately and sometimes after 5-10 minutes. My game would then crash and I would then get static artifacts of squares with little squares in them with the error titled: Directx Function Get Device Removed Reason. Any help would be much appreciated.

Thank you,
Wayne

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