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

Sleeping Dogs – HD 7970 versus GTX 680

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Our Sleeping Dogs testing shows that the game is quite a bit more GPU intensive (at least at our quality settings) than I had originally thought.  The initial test results have the HD 7970 a solid margin faster than the GTX 680 and HD 7970s in CrossFire an even bigger advantage ahead of GTX 680s in SLI.

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But, just as we witnessed with BF3 and Crysis 3, there is definitely a problem brewing for AMD.  At 1920x1080 the frame times are very consistent for the single cards and NVIDIA’s SLI solution but for the AMD cards in CrossFire, the experience is a mess, filled with runt frames.

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The result is an observed frame rate average well below what would be reported by FRAPS and essentially no faster than a single HD 7970 graphics card.  Interestingly, the spikes of higher observed frame rate match up perfectly with the very few “tight” areas of our frame time map.

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The good news for AMD is that the HD 7970 is consistently faster than the GTX 680 in a single card test scenario and the results are very even.  The very bad news of course is that two Radeon HD 7970s in CrossFire are only as fast as a single card when looking at your perceived frame rates.  That gives the GTX 680s in SLI the win almost by default.

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Our ISU based stutter graphic shows a very similar story with the CrossFire frame times easily pull away from the rest of the group by the 80th percentile.

 

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At 2560x1440 the story starts once again with the HD 7970 outpacing the GTX 680 and CrossFire running much faster than the GTX 680s in SLI.

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The plot of frame times tells the whole story though and the inconsistent frame times and runts that are plaguing the CrossFire technology. 

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Thus, the observed FPS we see here is much much lower than what FRAPS sees and in fact is just barely faster than the performance of a single card!

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The minimum FPS percentile graph shows another angle of the same problem for AMD – the frame rates are identical for single and dual GPU combinations.  Despite the fact that NVIDIA’s GTX 680 is slower than the HD 7970, with SLI working correctly and efficiently it is able to scale Sleeping Dogs from 24 FPS average through the entire run to about 46 FPS.

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Our graph of ISU actually shows us that when we take out the runts the frame time variance from the CrossFire cards is actually kind of minimal up until the 90th percentile after which it skyrockets.

 

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We couldn’t get appropriate results with the 5760x1080 testing on Sleeping Dogs and the HD 7970 CrossFire setup so instead we are looking at just another 3 card set of graphs.  At this setting we have turned down the AA from the Extreme setting to High, which explains the capability for these GPUs to run at all in this resolution.  The GTX 680 is once again slower than the HD 7970 though the 680s scale correctly and quite well taking performance from 30 FPS on average to 51 FPS or so.

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There is a bit more frame time variance than I would like to see with the GTX 680s in SLI with a few dozen hitches obviously seen in our image above.  Single card results continue to be level and reliable for both AMD and NVIDIA.

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The observed frame rate remains the same from the FRAPS metrics.

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The Min FPS percentile graph shows us the value of consistent frame times on the GTX 680 – it is nearly a straight line across the screen, starting at 30 FPS at the 50% mark and only dropping to 27 FPS at the 99% level. 

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The frame time variance graph (our ISU) shows a very flat pattern with the GTX 680 and HD 7970 cards all the way through the test runs though the SLI configuration does see more potential for stutter with a rising line as we hit the 99th percentile.

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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