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

Author: Ryan Shrout
Manufacturer: Various

Video Demonstration and Closing Thoughts

If you were looking for more benchmark data on this, you are going to have to come back at a later time.  This story was really focused on describing the problems and demonstrating that it IS in fact a problem; and a different problem than AMD fixed with the Catalyst 13.8 driver for single screen users. 

As is often the case with these kinds of stories there are going to be readers that think we are full of crap.  To help alleviate the troll problem we created some videos that clearly show the CrossFire versus SLI scaling difference at 5760x1080 resolutions. 

We HIGHLY RECOMMEND you download this video in full rather than using YouTube to view it for the most accurate representation of performance.

Here in Crysis 3 this is one of the extreme cases where cutting the frame rate essentially in half results in a noticeably different experience than you would expected based on presented performance numbers in applications like FRAPS.  In the first half of the video there is basically no visible performance delta between the CrossFire and single GPU on-screen animation.  There is improvement with the GTX 770 and GTX 770 SLI side-by-side showing us that the issues on CrossFire + Eyefinity are affecting gaming experiences.

Even in games like Bioshock Infinite that see average frame rates in the mid-40s at 5760x1080 with a single Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition you would expect to see 70-80 FPS and as a result a much smoother animation – you just don’t get that with CrossFire + Eyefinity today.

 

Expectations Moving Forward

I think it’s fair to say that I have laid out the problems that rest before AMD and its driver team pretty directly and without much commentary.  These issues are real, tangible and are affecting gamers today that have hardware they purchased in good faith expecting a better solution than is being provided.  AMD has already shown a willingness to address these types of issues with the Catalyst 13.8 beta fixes, but these separate issues need to be a focus for the company moving forward. 

When I went to AMD with these problems (a few weeks ago) they assured me that they are working on a fix and that it CAN be fixed.  Based on my theory of how the interleaving and stepped frames are occurring internally I am very curious if this can even be fixed in software or if a hardware fix is going to be required to fully rectify the situation.  If it does require hardware, did AMD’s upcoming Hawaii product have enough time to integrate the solution?  A new architecture with the same problems with Eyefinity would be a big disappointment.

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Trust me, I still want this to be a thing.

AMD continues to tell me that its “4K story” will be revealed and known to us very soon and that all of our questions will be answered.  That very vague statement is meant to address the coming onslaught of stories about 4K gaming that requires the same Eyefinity technology we have been discussing here today in this article.  Currently 4K monitors like the ASUS PQ321Q are running two screen Eyefinity / Surround configurations with dual 1920x2160 heads internally.  As a result, everything we are seeing in our 5760x1080 testing today does carry over to 4K monitors and gaming

As I mentioned on a previous page, AMD, as they have previously stated, is committed to fixing these CrossFire + Eyefinity problems for the upcoming generation of products and the current Radeon HD 7000-series of cards.  Though much of the discussion is still going to be embargoed until further notice I have renewed confidence that the substantial Frame Rating issues with these configurations will be addressed, I just don’t know exactly when.  For gamers that have already invested in this ecosystem of multi-display, multi-GPU hardware that answer isn’t going to appease them but it does make this information presented today easier to accept. 

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What makes this situation even more unnerving for me is how disparate the situation is for AMD.  As a single card, single GPU solution the Radeon HD 7000-series cards continue to offer better performance per dollar than NVIDIA's GeForce cards.  They run a little hotter and may lack some sexiness that the GTX 700 cards have created but more often than not they are best of breed when it comes to buying a single card.  And the great bundle programs they have created don't hurt either!  But for gamers that consider multi-GPU a feature they want to have available at any time, CrossFire isn't standing up well to SLI.

My hope is that AMD will not only fix 4K and Eyefinity for Hawaii users later in the year but will also help gamers that have invested in the HD 7000-series of graphics cards and have already purchased their Eyefinity configurations on the promise of a great experience.  AMD was able to push forward with the Catalyst 13.8 beta builds on a mostly reasonable schedule and I am holding out hope that the company will do the same thing for CrossFire + Eyefinity.

The gamers deserve it.

UPDATE: We got an official statement from AMD on the subject of this article.  It states:

As AMD has already publicly stated when the frame pacing feature was first introduced with Catalyst 13.8 beta, it does not address resolutions above 2560x1600. At the same time, AMD has also committed to addressing these cases in a future update. Details of the rollout for this solution will become very evident, and made public in the very near future.

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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