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Frame Rating: Eyefinity vs Surround in Single and Multi-GPU Configurations

Author: Ryan Shrout
Manufacturer: Various

AMD Eyefinity and NVIDIA Surround plus 4K

As I mentioned on the previous page, Eyefinity and Surround are technologies that have been around for a long time but are picking up steam as the price of high quality 1080p monitors drops.  AMD was the progenitor of multi-display gaming with Eyefinity and it has been a part of their promotion and marking for Radeon graphics cards for years, both high-end and mid-range cards. 

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These configurations put a lot of pressure on GPUs.  A 2560x1440 screen results in a pixel count of 3.68 million while a 5760x1080 (triple 1080p screen) setup results in 6.22 million pixels.  So, to maintain a steady frame rate of 60 FPS the gamer’s PC must be able to handle 69% more pixel per second.  Single GPU configurations (with the exception of maybe NVIDIA’s GeForce GTX TITAN) are unable to really meet this demand while setting games to higher quality settings and thus many users that invest in multiple panels for Eyefinity/Surround are also investing in multiple GPUs for CrossFire or SLI.

And thus our problem is stated.  AMD has said that the 13.8 Catalyst beta driver (and the fix found in it) was only good for 2560x1600 resolutions and below.  There was some confusion if this meant Eyefinity was included or not as some people speculated that because each screen was only 1920x1080, it would work.  As it turns out, that isn’t the case.

Another problem AMD may have coming up is the move to 4K.  Current 60 Hz 4K gaming panels like the ASUS PQ321Q use a dual-head configuration.  That means that although only a single cable connects to the monitor via DisplayPort, multiple streams are being sent back and forth, reporting to the PC as a multi-monitor connection.  Essentially, gaming at 4K 60Hz on current screens is a result of setting up a two screen Eyefinity or Surround configuration with each “head” running at 1920x2160.  The combined resolution is 3840x2160 for a total pixel count of 8.29 million pixels, or 2.25x the pixels of 2560x1440. 

Obviously multi-GPU setups are going to be demanded for 4K. 

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The ASUS PQ321Q

In order to test AMD Eyefinity and NVIDIA Surround with our Frame Rating configuration, we had to be a bit more creative.  Previous testing was done simply by using a dual-link DVI splitter sitting between the panel and the graphics card, with the secondary output going into our external system and capture card.  That card records the raw data and then scripts analyze the video (with overlay) to get performance data.

With Eyefinity and Surround there are three screens so which one do we capture?  The answer turns out to be any of them.  Thanks to an updated overlay that can present as many sets of overlay bars on the screen as we request, we can capture the left, center or right hand screen to see performance data.  We are simply intercepting ONE of the screens rather than the ONLY screen. 

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Our Datapath DVI-DL Capture Card

As it turns out, performance measurements are the same regardless of which screen you capture from, as you would expect.  For my testing then we decided to capture the center monitor which allows to create some side-by-side animation comparison videos as well.

 

Test System Setup
CPU Intel Core i7-3960X Sandy Bridge-E
Motherboard ASUS P9X79 Deluxe
Memory Corsair Dominator DDR3-1600 16GB
Hard Drive OCZ Agility 4 256GB SSD
Sound Card On-board
Graphics Card AMD Radeon HD 7970 3GB CrossFire
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 770 2GB SLI
Graphics Drivers AMD: 13.8 (beta)
NVIDIA: 326.41
Power Supply Corsair AX1200i
Operating System Windows 8 Pro x64

 

For my testing I wanted to use the highest end graphics offerings while maintaining price parity.  The Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition has come down in price steeply and currently sells for as low as $370 with a 3GB frame buffer.  So while NVIDIA does have faster single GPU offerings, the best comparison for our purposes is the GeForce GTX 770 2GB cards that sell for about $390.  I do realize that the GTX 780 and GTX TITAN would offer better single GPU and SLI results for NVIDIA but keeping the prices within range is key for any PC component discussion.

September 17, 2013 | 04:22 PM - Posted by Alien0227

PcPer.com, I am one of those "that are invested in the HD 7000-series of graphics cards and have already purchased their Eyefinity configurations on the promise of a great experience".

I thank you for your hard work PcPer! I am truly grateful!

Because of it so far, I have seen a dramatic improvement in single screen Xfire game play with my 2 HD 7870s.

I did however invest in triple 1920 x 1080p screens, 2 HD 7870s and I wish I could be rewarded with the performance expectations I paid for. The experience would be awesome.

I only hope AMD will strive to keep me as a loyal customer by listening to your findings and offer a solution shortly to this Eyefinity-CrossFire problem.

You and AMD will have my undying loyalty and gratitude for it.

If AMD does, it will surely make them the king of the hill in value, for dollar per dollar performance...

Are you listening AMD? Is this make or break time for your company? My next GPU purchase depends on how you react. I wish AMD great success!

p.s. Ryan and PcPer.com Team. Please be confident that you are doing a great service to AMD in the long run and their customers.

Marc Senecal
Fort Myers, FL

September 17, 2013 | 06:42 PM - Posted by Ryan Shrout

Marc, thank you very much for your comments and feedback.  We greatly appreciate the support!

September 18, 2013 | 01:10 AM - Posted by j (not verified)

I'm sorry but I have to correct you: gaming equipment is not an INVESTMENT. Unless you're a pro gamer is a consumer spending.

Anyway, I wish you all the best fun with your new hardware :)

September 18, 2013 | 07:21 AM - Posted by Aranyszin (not verified)

This is no place for a grammar Nazi, and you aren't even correct in the first place.

Yes, the word "investment" is often associated with money spent expecting a monetary return. However, that is not the only usage of the word.

The poster clearly is "invested" considering the amount of money he spent, which he spent anticipating a return - in this case, a return in performance.

Honestly, contribute something useful to the topic or stay quiet. This thread is about obtaining a correction to a product flaw, not "How to parse nomenclature".

September 18, 2013 | 07:03 PM - Posted by Roy Taylor (not verified)

Dear Marc, yes we are definitely listening. Drop me a line direct.

best regards
Roy

January 28, 2014 | 05:20 AM - Posted by Roy Taylor (not verified)

hi Marc, I can assure you that myself and several other senior executives and engineers at AMD are deeply committed to making sure you get the experience you deserve.

We believe that Ryan treats this subject fairly, reports accurately and he works closely with us. We are grateful of his recognition of our leadership where we have it, even if I dont personally agree about our competitors 'sexyness'!

We will back with more on this shortly,
thanks

September 17, 2013 | 06:33 PM - Posted by Jonny (not verified)

hello
there is 13.10 beta did u test it?

September 17, 2013 | 06:42 PM - Posted by Ryan Shrout

Nope, we were using 13.8 beta.  But 13.10 did not add any changes for Eyefinity / Frame Pacing.

September 18, 2013 | 10:43 AM - Posted by Jonny (not verified)

i got 7950 X2
I had a chance to buy another one at $ 100

Now I'm all out of it and save the next generation of NVIDIA ...
I'm very disappointed that AMD are selling a defective product ..

Thanks for the information.

September 18, 2013 | 01:44 PM - Posted by NvidiaPWNS (not verified)

AMD is always all about selling defective and inferior products. They did it before with their "Tri core" CPUs. Those were just Quad cores that had a 4th core that they couldn't get to work. AMD GPUs and drivers are shit. You get what you pay for.

September 19, 2013 | 03:05 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

You do realize that binning is a key part in the silicon-industry? By your logic, the Titan is crap because it only has 14 of the GK110's 15 SMX units activated.
When a produc-line is announced, there are actually few different dies being produced. 3820, 3930, 60 and 70 are all 8-core "xeons" with cores disabled due yield issues.
EVERYONE do this.

And please, stop spreading the false claim that the drivers are bad. Maybe they were back in good ol' '04, but that is long gone. AMD has actually had better drivers than Nvidia this generation...

September 21, 2013 | 08:13 AM - Posted by NvidiaPWNS (not verified)

In your dreams retard! NVIDIA PWNS YOUR AMD, NUB!

September 18, 2013 | 02:22 PM - Posted by mAxius

Are you sure http://support.amd.com/us/kbarticles/Pages/AMDCatalyst13-10WINBetaDriver...

I'm still wondering about this little gem... "PCI-E bus speed is no longer set to x1 on the secondary GPU when running in CrossFire configurations"

September 18, 2013 | 09:24 PM - Posted by JJ (not verified)

"But 13.10 did not add any changes for Eyefinity / Frame Pacing." - I am curious about this too, as the press release clearly states that it updated something regarding Eyefinity.

September 18, 2013 | 09:50 PM - Posted by JJ (not verified)

I'm fairly technical, but I am getting a little outside my level of knowledge here

1. http://www.bit-tech.net/hardware/2010/11/27/pci-express-3-0-explained/
Each lane of PCIe 3.0 only has 1 GB/sec

2. http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/pci-express-scaling-analysis,1572-8....
This is a very old article, but THG did testing graphics cards by limiting the PCIe lanes available to graphics cards, and you can see a very large performance degradation.

3. Back to the "PCI-E bus speed is no longer set to x1 on the secondary GPU when running in CrossFire configurations" Note in the press release.

Would one of the cards in the setup being starved for bandwidth be able to account for these anomalies?

September 18, 2013 | 10:35 PM - Posted by Ryan Shrout

By AMD's admission, no. This problem listed in the Catalyst 13.10 notes only affects Crossfire configurations that do not use a bridge adapter across the graphics cards. This coming from AMD's own Andrew Dodd.

If this were a fix for our problems AMD would surely be crowing about it.

September 17, 2013 | 07:53 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

You guys rock pcper. Been here for years. Love amd, but they need to get their act together. Emphasis on the good faith part ya know. Don't become the crappy option. Amd has so much great iP if they could only get their software side together they would be SIGNIFCANTLY more competitive.

September 17, 2013 | 08:05 PM - Posted by Nacelle

I hope this fix AMD says they are working on will help with my 6970's too. I know they aren't worth that now, but I paid $700 for the pair, a couple years ago, to power my 3 screens. I'm about to sell them on craigslist and get an nvidia card, if it doesn't.

September 18, 2013 | 09:10 AM - Posted by Ryan Shrout

I honestly don't know if they will fix it, but the 13.8 beta did fix single screen for 6000-series parts so you might get lucky here too.

September 17, 2013 | 08:10 PM - Posted by Paul Keeble (not verified)

Keep hitting them until they fix this. I bought 2x 7970's in January 2012 and I noticed immediately the problem. Its not like AMD has only known about this since the beginning of this year, thousands of users were reporting this problem a year before that. It really put me off dual cards until I got a pair of 680's and found that the grass was much greener on the Nvidia side with SLI.

We need this fixed so we have some competition in the high end of GPUs.

September 18, 2013 | 05:40 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Ryan...let us see your Tiger-Bus !

September 18, 2013 | 09:13 AM - Posted by Ryan Shrout

How about this?  http://screencast.com/t/uTeQAykAYhJF

:D

September 18, 2013 | 06:51 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

with any luck a fix will be out from AMD a few after the release of the 9000 series, they are so slow with driver updates that I'd see it taking that long ... if they dont just give up ...

September 18, 2013 | 06:52 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

a few *months* after

September 18, 2013 | 07:23 AM - Posted by NLPsajeeth

So you can't run 3 PQ321's on AMD in a 6x1 eyefinity configuration?

I'm glad to see AMD is putting focus on 4K and hope they have a 4K eyefinity solution soon.

The only way NVIDIA will ever support anything other than 3x1 surround is if AMD turns up the heat. NVIDIA if you are listening, you need 2x1 and 2x2 surround support at any resolution to stay competitive on the consumer side. No one is dropping thousands of dollars on Quadro's just to get that one feature.

September 18, 2013 | 09:15 AM - Posted by Ryan Shrout

I think technically YES you can support 3 4K monitors like the ASUS PQ321Q with AMD today...but the main issue is going to be PERFORMANCE.  Even without frame pacing and interleaving problems how much horsepower would you need for that?

More than they have available today.

September 18, 2013 | 11:50 AM - Posted by NLPsajeeth

Just wanted to make sure it was a performance issue not a driver issue. I agree you wouldn't be able to run anything more than simple 3D demos in such a setup.

Agreed, I really hope we will see large GPU performance increases with the next round of silicon so that multi 4K gaming becomes a reality.

Keep up the good work, you guys are really pushing the boundaries of what is possible with 4K!

September 18, 2013 | 07:30 AM - Posted by gamerk2 (not verified)

I can't help but wonder, if the issues seen really are due to lack of proper synchronization, then would there be a FPS impact when AMD makes their changes?

Or in other words: Is AMD cheating on performance (knowingly or not)?

September 18, 2013 | 09:16 AM - Posted by Ryan Shrout

I don't think they were doing it knowingly, no.  That doesn't excuse them though; they should have been able to see these problems before and been trying to fix them before this all started to happen this year.

September 18, 2013 | 09:05 AM - Posted by fhmuffman (not verified)

Hi Ryan, I hope 4K connectivity is scheduled to be included in all future reviews of hardware, like laptop reviews. Back in June I needed to buy something quick when my system crashed and it would have been great to know if any low to mid range laptops could at least drive a 4K display. I am not expecting benchmarks of a Chromebook running Metro Last Light at 4K but it would be nice to know if I could display Sheets on a Seiki display with an A10 based laptop.

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