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Frame Rating: Catalyst 13.8 Brings Frame Pacing to AMD Radeon

Author: Ryan Shrout
Manufacturer: AMD

Closing Thoughts

Without question the improvement that AMD has brought with the 13.8 driver is exceptional and AMD has changed a lot of my opinions on the Radeon HD 7990 and the CrossFire technology across the board.

Is the Radeon HD 7990 the fast graphics card now?

Kind of a loaded question, but the answer is "maybe" now.  Before this driver release it was evident to me that the AMD Radeon HD 7990 and its dual-GPU architecture wasn't worth the money AMD was asking because of the frame time variance issues we saw with our Frame Rating performance system.  With the latest update from AMD found in the 13.8 drivers, the addition of frame pacing makes the Radeon HD 7990 the fastest graphics card for single monitor, non-4K gaming users.

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Putting modifiers on the statement "fastest" is always painful but I feel those are very necessary.  If you are using multi-display configurations or plan to then you should consider the problem unsolved for now.  The same can be said for 4K 60 Hz tiled displays.  If you are comfortable with your single monitor at resolutions of 2560x1600 then the Radeon HD 7990 has overtaken the GeForce GTX 690 as the fastest option for sale.

 

Room for Improvement

Even though AMD has done a great job on the single monitor CrossFire frame pacing issues, there is still room for improvement.  A closer look at many of those frame time graphs will show you that while the 13.8 driver is a HUGE improvement over the older drivers, it still isn't as good as what we see with the GeForce GTX 690 and SLI. 

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The black line representing the HD 7990 with the 13.8 driver is much better, and likely "good enough" for most users now but as with all performance metrics, percentages will matter in the long run and as we perfect our testing methodology those variance gaps of 5+ ms will be a differentiating factor.

Another interesting phenomenon that is likely a result of the frame pacing algorithm and methodology that AMD has implement shows up in the form of very fixed, stepped graphs with the 13.8 driver. 

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In the black line, notice how the bottom of the bar seems to take "steps" up and down, rather than smoothly progressing up and down like the blue bar of the GTX 690.  The AMD driver is clearly doing a "balancing act" between the frame time of GPU1 and GPU2 and the changes and delays it inserts to "pace" the animation have very specific variances.  While I don't think this is adversely affecting your gaming experience exactly, I find it interesting and it might help us in further testing down the road.

 

Closing Thoughts

AMD deserves a lot of credit for stepping up and addressing these frame pacing issues with the 13.8 beta driver.  It took a brand new testing methodology to really prove that there was an issue with CrossFire and even internally at AMD it seemed there was a debate if the results we published were "real."  Not only does this driver validate everything we have worked on for the last two years but the fact that AMD has decided to enable the frame pacing fix by default emphasizes that fact even more.  Evenly paced frames results in a smoother animation and does not mean that your input latency increases in any way. 

Users of AMD CrossFire systems in the HD 7000 family should install this new driver and see if they can see or feel the difference.  I am confident that users will!  In fact, I would love to get some feedback from readers and gamers in the comments section below about their experiences with the 13.8 drivers.  Was it better?  The same?  Worse?? 

I'll continue to pester AMD to get the rest of the issues fixed: DX9 games, Eyefinity, 4K, etc.  But today AMD gets to hold its head up high for improving CrossFire dramatically for a majority of its users. 

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. 

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

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?

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

7xxx only is what I have heard.

Easy way to test it to go to a benchmark and run it with it off. Pay attention to screen tearing on the background more so then fps and numbers. If you notice the jitter go away when you turn it on and run the same thing, then it works. If not... well... not.

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.

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