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Frame Rating Dissected: Full Details on Capture-based Graphics Performance Testing

Visualizing Runts and Lower Frame Rates – Video Examples

I know that with the publication of this article finalizing our testing methods for Frame Rating, we are going to get lots of comments from gamers about how they have these configurations and that they don’t see the issues that we are discussing and penalizing AMD for.  Whether or not they are telling the truth or there is a bit self-preservation / fan-boyism at work, we wanted to do our best and try to provide example of these phenomenon and we made a handful of videos to share with our readers.

Keep in mind that these videos are using content captures through our Frame Rating system from Radeon HD 7950s in CrossFire and GeForce GTX 660 Ti cards in SLI – but the effect on visuals is identical to what we see with the HD 7970s and GTX 680s.  We used records from our 1920x1080 testing.  Also, because we are doing manual run throughs of all of these games now, no two runs are exactly alike; there will be differences in the overall gameplay sequences but we have done our best to make sure they are as close as possible.

If you would prefer to download this video file, you can do so here.

This is the longest our example videos that shows 50% speed and 30% speed.  Keep an eye on the smoothness of the animations on the screen including while walking straight ahead as well as while turn and rotating.  Because we have Vsync disabled on these systems you will see some horizontal tear on the screen on BOTH configurations and that is fully expected.  In order to show the examples as exactly as possible we had to leave that feature turned off but you should try to ignore those large “tears” and focus on the “micro” stutter on the grass on the ground, etc.

Did you see it?  We debating making this video a blind A/B test but instead decided it was better to just be up front with the results. 

If you would prefer to download this video file, you can do so here.

This video captured from Sleeping Dogs shows the same kind of animation smoothness advantage that NVIDIA SLI has over the Radeon HD 7950s in CrossFire.  This animation difference is not due strictly to stutter but that the fact that AMD configuration is seeing every other frame a runt, thereby cutting the number of frames in each time period in half compared to the 660 Tis in SLI. 

If you would prefer to download this video file, you can do so here.

Our next video is of Far Cry 3 and while I admit that neither experience is a smooth as we would like, the HD 7950s in CrossFire are showing a lot more stuttering than the 660 Ti cards.

If you would prefer to download this video file, you can do so here.

The visual animation issues are bit harder to see in our Battlefield 3 video due to some darker than normal scenes, but if you keep an eye on the sprint section down the alley way closely you will clearly see the slower animation fresh rate of the AMD CrossFire system.

If you would prefer to download this video file, you can do so here.

Our capture of Crysis 3 is another case where neither configuration is running as smooth as we should expect but it is very apparent that the AMD HD 7950s are running at a much lower observed frame rate than the 660 Ti SLI solution. 

If you would prefer to download this video file, you can do so here.

DiRT 3 is a bit different - this compares single card performance and smoothness on SINGLE cards, showing you that without taking multi-GPU issues into account, both vendors can provide high quality real-world experiences.  Both sides of the video look equally smooth and look to be providing a solid game play experience, which more or less backs up the results we found in our 1920x1080 data in today’s article.   

 

Even though we are showing videos slowed down to 50% and even 30% of their full frame rate, these animation differences are very apparent to me in real time, while playing the games.  Without a doubt there will be some variability in what kind of annoyance thresholds for each gamer but even if you can’t see the difference when looking at ONLY your video, you should be able to see the differences when looking at the two options side by side. 

One of the advantages of our capture system is that we keep literally every video we record, though obviously in a compressed format.  (Keeping 25GB, 60 second benchmark runs would hilarious.)  This allows us to verify our data analysis results through the extractor and Perl scripts with the original recorded video to see if the animation stutters, variances, runts, etc are all there. 

I realize we need some more videos and demonstrations of these animation issues and we are working on producing some more that run at various percent speeds including 100%.  If you have any more ideas for how to use standard video edit tools to create comparison that would help our readers understand the experience we are having with our hardware, please email me or let us know in the comments below!

March 27, 2013 | 06:16 AM - Posted by grommet

Hey Ryan, is the variable "t_ready" that the text refers to "t_present" in the diagram two paragraphs above?

March 27, 2013 | 06:22 AM - Posted by Ryan Shrout

Yes, fixed, thanks.

March 27, 2013 | 07:20 AM - Posted by Prodeous (not verified)

I was just wondering.. since the capture and analysis system relies on the left bar only, why doesn't it trunckate the rendered frame it self and keep only 1-3 pixels from the left side of the frame?

For some tests if you want to show off the specific "runts" "stutters" then you can keep it the entire frame captured.

But for most tests, you can record only the left colour bar and do analysis on that bar only, therefore you will not have to save the 600GB per second of uncompressed frames.

Just a thought.

March 27, 2013 | 07:40 AM - Posted by Ryan Shrout

We have that option (notice the crop capture option in our software) but we often like to reference recorded video down the road.

March 28, 2013 | 05:53 AM - Posted by Luciano (not verified)

If you write a piece of software with that "colored" portion only in mind you dont need any of the additional hardware and any user could use it just like Fraps.

March 28, 2013 | 04:02 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

LOL - AMD you are soooo freaking BUSTED !

Runt frames and zero time ghost frames is an AMD specialty.

AMD is 33% slower than nVidia, so amd pumped in ghosts and runts !!

Their crossfire BF3 is a HUGE CHEAT.

ROFL - man there are going to be some really pissed off amd owners whose $1,000 dual gpu frame rate purchases have here been exposed as LIES.

Shame on you amd, runts and ghosts, and all those fanboys screaming bang for the buck ... little did they know it was all a big fat lie.

March 28, 2013 | 11:42 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

true words of a fan boy.

May 26, 2013 | 05:23 PM - Posted by Johan (not verified)

Even i have Nvidia, but his comment, was really a fan-boy comment.

March 27, 2013 | 06:43 AM - Posted by Anon (not verified)

Run the benchmarks like any sane gamer would do so!

Running v-sync disabled benches with 60+ fps is dumb!

Running v-sync enabled benches with 60- fps is way more dumb!

YOU'RE DOING IT WRONG!

March 27, 2013 | 07:00 AM - Posted by John Doe (not verified)

Don't forget that V-sync also sometimes fucks shit up.

The best solution is to limit the frames on the game end, or using a 3rd party frame limiter.

March 27, 2013 | 07:51 AM - Posted by Anon (not verified)

And sometimes disabling it fucks physics like in Skyrim.

Your point?

March 27, 2013 | 07:18 AM - Posted by grommet

Read the whole article before commenting- there is an entire page that focuses on your argument (surprise- you're not the first to suggest this!!)

March 27, 2013 | 07:32 AM - Posted by John Doe (not verified)

And if you have actually watched one of his streams, you'd have seen that he INDEED IS doing it "wrong".

When he was testing Tomb Raider, the card was artifacting and flickering and shimmering. It was complete and totally obvious that he didn't know what he's doing.

March 27, 2013 | 07:31 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

To the guy who says "you're doing it wrong".

Not true. He's doing it right. Many hardcore gamers run v-sync disabled over 60 fps, and only a few of the scenarios tested are consistently over 60fps.

And read the story to see the OBSERVED FPS is much less in many cases, not just the FRAPs FPS (which does not give proper info at the end of the pipeline (at the display) what users actually see).

March 27, 2013 | 07:38 AM - Posted by John Doe (not verified)

There's absolutely nothing "hardcore" about running an old ass game at 1000 FPS with a modern card.

All it does is to waste resources and make the card work at it's hardest for no reason. It's no different than swapping a gear at a say, maximum, 6500 RPM on a car that revs 7000 per gear. You should keep it lower so that the hardware doesn't get excessively get stressed.

If the card is obviously way beyond the generation of the game you're playing, then you're best off, if possible, LIMITING frames/putting a frame lock on your end.

March 27, 2013 | 07:42 AM - Posted by Ryan Shrout

Vsync does cause a ton of other issues including input latency.

March 27, 2013 | 07:44 AM - Posted by Anon (not verified)

You've said this already in both the article and comments but you only talked about input latency.

What are those other issues?

March 27, 2013 | 07:52 AM - Posted by John Doe (not verified)

It makes the entire game laggy an unplayable depending on condition.

You can read up over that TweakGuides guy's site on Vsync.

March 27, 2013 | 08:09 AM - Posted by Josh Walrath

Some pretty fascinating implications about the entire game/rendering pipeline.  There are so many problems throughout, and the tradeoffs tend to impact each other in varyingly negative ways.  Seems like frames are essentially our biggest issue, but how do you get around that?  I had previously theorized that per pixel change in an asynchronous manner would solve a lot of these issues, but the performance needed for such a procedure is insane.  Essentially it becomes a massive particle model with a robust physics engine being the base of changes (movement, creation, destruction, etc.).

March 27, 2013 | 11:18 AM - Posted by Jason (not verified)

research voxels... the technology exists but is pretty far off.

March 27, 2013 | 02:44 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Regarding per-pixel-updates: Check this out: https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=pXZ33YoKu9w

It's obvious the result must be delivered in frames (no way around it with current monitor technology), but the engine in the vid clearly works differently from the usual by just putting the newly calculated pixels into the framebuffer that are ready by the time.

March 27, 2013 | 11:07 AM - Posted by bystander (not verified)

Due to many frames being forced to wait for the next vertical retrace mode, while others do not, it will result in some time metering issues. This can result in a form of stuttering.

March 28, 2013 | 11:49 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

hardcore gamer here play BF3 v-sync ON!

because:

1. My monitor (as 90% of us) is 60hz!
don't need the extra stress/heat/electric juice on card/system.

2. Fed up with frame tearing every time i turn around.

March 27, 2013 | 07:27 AM - Posted by Prodeous (not verified)

With regards to the Nvidia settings of v-sync, it seems that Addaptive (half refresh rate) was selected capping it at 30fps vs Addaptive which would cap at 60fps.

Was that on purpose?

March 27, 2013 | 07:31 AM - Posted by Noah Taylor (not verified)

I'm still interested to see what type of results you come up with when using amd crossfire with a program like afterburner's riva tuner to limit the fps to 60, which would seems to be everyone's preference for this situation.

March 27, 2013 | 07:42 AM - Posted by Ryan Shrout

I think you'll find the same problems that crop up with Vsync enabled.

March 27, 2013 | 08:14 AM - Posted by Noah Taylor (not verified)

I have to admit observed FPS graphs are DAMNING to AMD, and I own 2 7970s and 7950s so I'm not remotely biased against them in any way. One thing i did notice is that dropped frames don't effect every game so hopefully this is something AMD may be able to potentially mitigate through driver tweaks.

I have to admit, crysis 3 can be a sloppy affair in AMD crossfire and now I can see exactly what I'm experiencing without trying to make guesswork out of it.

Regardless, the bottom line EVERYONE should take away from this, is that crossfire DOES NOT function as intended whatsoever, and we can now actually say AMD is deceptive in their marketing as well, this is taken directly from AMD's website advertising crossfire:

"Tired of dropping frames instead of opponents? Find a CrossFire™-certified graphics configuration that’s right for you."

They have built their business on a faulty product and every crossfire owner should speak up so that AMD makes the changes they have control over to FIX a BROKEN system.

March 27, 2013 | 08:17 AM - Posted by Josh Walrath

Just think how bad a X1900 CrossFire Edition setup would do here...  I think Ryan should dig up those cards and test them!

March 27, 2013 | 08:49 AM - Posted by SB48 (not verified)

I wonder if that one of the reasons why AMD never really released the 7990,
also if this was already a obvious problem with the 3870 X2...
or the previous gens card, like HD5000, 6000.

anyway, is there any input lag difference from NV to AMD (SLI-CF) without vsync?

also I would be curious to see some CPU comparison.

March 27, 2013 | 10:31 AM - Posted by John Doe (not verified)

I had both a dual 3870 and a dual 2900 setup, both were more or less the same thing.

Both has driven a CRT at 160HZ for Cube and both were silk smooth.

This is a recent issue. It has nothing to do with cards of that age. The major problem with those old cards was the lack of CrossFire application profiles. Before the beginning of 2010, you had absolutely no application profiles like you have with nVidia. So CF either worked or you had to change the game ".exe" names, which either worked or, made the game mess up or just kick you out of Steam servers due to VAC.

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