Hybrid CrossFire that actually works
The road to redemption for AMD and its driver team has been a tough one. Since we first started to reveal the significant issues with AMD's CrossFire technology back in January of 2013 the Catalyst driver team has been hard at work on a fix, though I will freely admit it took longer to convince them that the issue was real than I would have liked. We saw the first steps of the fix released in August of 2013 with the release of the Catalyst 13.8 beta driver. It supported DX11 and DX10 games and resolutions of 2560x1600 and under (no Eyefinity support) but was obviously still less than perfect.
In October with the release of AMD's latest Hawaii GPU the company took another step by reorganizing the internal architecture of CrossFire on the chip level with XDMA. The result was frame pacing that worked on the R9 290X and R9 290 in all resolutions, including Eyefinity, though still left out older DX9 titles.
One thing that had not been addressed, at least not until today, was the issues that surrounded AMD's Hybrid CrossFire technology, now known as Dual Graphics. This is the ability for an AMD APU with integrated Radeon graphics to pair with a low cost discrete GPU to improve graphics performance and gaming experiences. Recently over at Tom's Hardware they discovered that Dual Graphics suffered from the exact same scaling issues as standard CrossFire; frame rates in FRAPS looked good but the actually perceived frame rate was much lower.
A little while ago a new driver made its way into my hands under the name of Catalyst 13.35 Beta X, a driver that promised to enable Dual Graphics frame pacing with Kaveri and R7 graphics cards. As you'll see in the coming pages, the fix definitely is working. And, as I learned after doing some more probing, the 13.35 driver is actually a much more important release than it at first seemed. Not only is Kaveri-based Dual Graphics frame pacing enabled, but Richland and Trinity are included as well. And even better, this driver will apparently fix resolutions higher than 2560x1600 in desktop graphics as well - something you can be sure we are checking on this week!
Just as we saw with the first implementation of Frame Pacing in the Catalyst Control Center, with the 13.35 Beta we are using today you'll find a new set of options in the Gaming section to enable or disable Frame Pacing. The default setting is On; which makes me smile inside every time I see it.
The hardware we are using is the same basic setup we used in my initial review of the AMD Kaveri A8-7600 APU review. That includes the A8-7600 APU, an Asrock A88X mini-ITX motherboard, 16GB of DDR3 2133 MHz memory and a Samsung 840 Pro SSD. Of course for our testing this time we needed a discrete card to enable Dual Graphics and we chose the MSI R7 250 OC Edition with 2GB of DDR3 memory. This card will run you an additional $89 or so on Amazon.com. You could use either the DDR3 or GDDR5 versions of the R7 250 as well as the R7 240, but in our talks with AMD they seemed to think the R7 250 DDR3 was the sweet spot for the CrossFire implementation.
Both the R7 250 and the A8-7600 actually share the same number of SIMD units at 384, otherwise known as 384 shader processors or 6 Compute Units based on the new nomenclature that AMD is creating. However, the MSI card is clocked at 1100 MHz while the GPU portions of the A8-7600 APU are running at only 720 MHz.
So the question is, has AMD truly fixed the issues with frame pacing with Dual Graphics configurations, once again making the budget gamer feature something worth recommending? Let's find out!
Subject: General Tech, Processors | January 27, 2014 - 03:24 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: overclocking, Kaveri, amd
HCW does quite a few overclocking reviews for both Intel and AMD processors. This time, Carl Nelson got a hold of the high-end AMD A10-7850K and gave it a pretty healthy boost in frequencies. By the time he was done with it, the CPU was operating a whole gigahertz above stock simultaneous with a 300 MHz boost to its integrated graphics.
Image Credit: HCW
3DMark 2013 Fire Strike scores gained 27%.
One again, they break down tests along a suite of different games of varying engines and add some OpenCL tests to round things out. In real-world applications, the increase was not quite as dramatic as the one seen in 3DMark but still significant. This overclock allowed certain games to jump from 720p to playable at 1080p. Apparently this silicon is a decent little overclocker.
Subject: General Tech, Processors | January 26, 2014 - 09:28 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: AM1, Kabini, amd
Chinese VR-Zone published claims that AMD will have up to four processors planned for AM1. This is the brand of socket designed for the upcoming Kabini APUs that we have discussed since the CES time frame. Three of the upcoming processors will be quad-core with one dual-core for variety. Regardless of core count, all four processors are listed at 25 watts (TDP).
Kabini pairs Jaguar cores, for x86-based serial processing, with a GCN-based graphics processor supporting DirectX 11.1. Users planning to purchase Kabini for use with Windows 8.1 should expect to miss out on some or all of the benefits associated with DirectX 11.2 (along with everyone on Windows 8 and earlier). Little of value would be lost, however.
These products are expected to be positioned against Bay Trail-D which powers Intel's Pentium and Celeron lines. The currently available products from Intel are classified at 10W TDP and around 2 GHz.
Kaveri and socketed Kabini at CES 2014
AMD is pushing lesser-clocked (and higher TDP) products based on Jaguar against Intel's Silvermont. I am not sure sure how the two architectures compare although I would expect the latter to win out clock-for-clock and watt-for-watt. Then again, cost and graphics performance could be significantly superior with AMD. Ultimately, it will be up to the overall benchmarks (and pricing) to see how they will actually stack up.
Subject: Processors | January 22, 2014 - 11:12 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: server, piledriver, opteron 6300, amd, 32nm
AMD has updated its Opteron 6300 series lineup with two new processors with lower TDPs. Previously code-named "Warsaw," the Opteron 6370P and Opteron 6338P boast 99W TDPs and 12 and 16 Piledriver cores respectively.
The chips are similar to the existing Opteron 6300-series chips including the 32nm manufacturing process, dual die design, and the use of AMD's older Piledriver CPU cores instead of the latest Steamroller cores found in AMD's new Kaveri APUs. According to Supermicro, the lower 99W TDP parts offer up to 27% higher performance/watt compared to the existing "Abu-Dhabi" 6300 CPUs.
The Opteron 6338P is a twelve core processor clocked at 2.3 GHz base and 2.8 GHz turbo. The Opteron 6370P is a sixteen core part clocked at 2.0 GHz base and 2.5 GHz turbo. As such, the chips are two six and two eight-core silicon dies in one package respectively. The chips have 16MB of L3 cache and support the same instruction sets as the existing 6300 lineup including FMA3, BMI, and F16c. The new chips use AMD's Socket G34 which supports up to 4 sockets (dual die processors) per motherboard.
The new 99W 12-core 6338P and 16-core 6370P are available now for $377 and $598 respectively. The chips will be used in servers from Supermicro and Sugon, and purchasable directly from system integrators including Avnet and Penguin. AMD is aiming these chips at large data centers and cloud computing tasks. While the drop to 99W from the top-end series' 140W TDP does not seem like much, it makes a dramatic difference in the data center world where the electricity costs for racks of servers adds up rapidly.
Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards, Processors | January 22, 2014 - 09:41 PM | Scott Michaud
AMD had a decent quarter and close to a profitable year as a whole. For the quarter ending on December 28th, the company managed $89 million dollars in profits. This accounts for interest payments on loans and everything else. The whole year averaged to a $103 million dollar gain in operating income although that still works out to a loss of $74 million (for the year) all things considered. That said, a quarterly gain of $89 million versus an annual loss of $74 million. One more quarter would forgive the whole year.
This is a hefty turn-around from their billion dollar operating loss of last year.
This gain was led by Graphics and Visual Solutions. While Computing Solutions revenue has declined, the graphics team has steadily increased in both revenue and profits. Graphics and Visual Solutions are in charge of graphics processors as well as revenue from the game console manufacturers. Even then, their processor division is floating just below profitability.
Probably the best news for AMD is that they plan the next four quarters to each be profitable. Hopefully this means that there are no foreseen hurdles in the middle of their marathon.
Subject: General Tech, Processors, Mobile | January 21, 2014 - 04:14 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: x86, Intel, Android, 64-bit
Given how long it took Intel to release a good 64-bit architecture, dragged ear-first by AMD, it does seem a little odd for them to lead the tablet charge. ARM developers are still focusing on 32-bit architectures and current Windows 8.1 tablets tend to stick with 32-bit because of Connected Standby bugs. Both of these should be cleared up soon.
Also, 64-bit Android tablets should be available this spring based on Bay Trail.
According to Peter Bright of Ars Technica, Android will be first to 64-bit on its x86 build while the ARM variant hovers at 32-bit for a little while longer. It would not surprise me if Intel's software engineers contributed heavily to this development (which is a good thing). I expect NVIDIA to do the same, if necessary, to ensure that Project Denver will launch successfully later this year.
The most interesting part about this is how the PC industry, a symbol of corporate survival of the fittest, typically stomps on siloed competitors but is now facing the ARM industry built on a similar Darwin-based logic. Both embrace openness apart from a few patented instruction sets. Who will win? Well, probably Web Standards, but that is neither here nor there.
Subject: Editorial, General Tech, Graphics Cards, Processors, Memory, Systems | January 20, 2014 - 02:40 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: corsair, overclocking
I rarely overclock anything and this is for three main reasons. The first is that I have had an unreasonably bad time with computer parts failing on their own. I did not want to tempt fate. The second was that I focused on optimizing the operating system and its running services. This was mostly important during the Windows 98, Windows XP, and Windows Vista eras. The third is that I did not find overclocking valuable enough for the performance you regained.
A game that is too hefty to run is probably not an overclock away from working.
Thankfully this never took off...
Today, overclocking is easier and safer than ever with parts that basically do it automatically and back off, on their own, if thermals are too aggressive. Several components are also much less locked down than they have been. (Has anyone, to this day, hacked the locked Barton cores?) It should not be too hard to find a SKU which encourages the enthusiast to tweak some knobs.
But how much of an increase will you see? Corsair has been blogging about using their components (along with an Intel processor, Gigabyte motherboard, and eVGA graphics card because they obviously do not make those) to overclock. The cool part is they break down performance gains in terms of raising the frequencies for just the CPU, just the GPU, just the RAM, or all of the above together. This breakdown shows how each of the three categories contribute to the whole. While none of the overclocks are dramatic, Corsair is probably proud of the 5% jump in Cinebench OpenGL performance just by overclocking the RAM from 1600 MHz to 1866 MHz without touching the CPU or GPU.
It is definitely worth a look.
Subject: Processors | January 14, 2014 - 02:52 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: a10-6700, a8-6500, a8-7600, amd, APU, hsa, i3-4330, Kaveri
Not only are the first Kaveri reviews arriving today, the A10-7850K is up for sale on both NewEgg and Amazon and the A10-7700K is available on NewEgg. This new part, at 45W competes favourably with the previous 100W Trinity APU in most tests and when Ryan boosted it to 65W it gained a little more. The Steamroller cores have been updated but not in a way that has a huge effect on CPU performance, on the other hand the 384 SIMD units composing the GPU portion of this chip are quite impressive, 1080p gaming of current generation titles is possible on this chip and we haven't seen it's big brother with 512 SIMD units yet. In the Tech Report's review you can see that BF4 is playable on this chip and this is not the Mantle version optimized for AMD's new architecture. It is also a pity that Thief was unavailable to see just what TrueAudio is capable of. Unfortunately this chip will not find its home in gamers dream machines, that is simply not where AMD is targeting its CPUs. However, for SFF systems that need to be energy efficient and where a discrete GPU is to big to fit Kaveri will usher in a new level of performance.
"AMD's next-generation APU packs in a ton of innovation, including updated "Steamroller" CPU cores, GCN graphics, and advanced HSA features. But is it enough to restore AMD's competitiveness in desktop processors?"
Here are some more Processor articles from around the web:
- AMD A10-7850K Kaveri: Windows 8.1 vs. Ubuntu Linux @ Phoronix
- AMD A10-7850K Kaveri: The Linux Introduction @ Phoronix
- AMD Kaveri APU Architecture Overview @ Benchmark Reviews
- AMD Kaveri A10 7850K & A8 7600 Review @ Hardware Canucks
The AMD Kaveri Architecture
Kaveri: AMD’s New Flagship Processor
How big is Kaveri? We already know the die size of it, but what kind of impact will it have on the marketplace? Has AMD chosen the right path by focusing on power consumption and HSA? Starting out an article with three questions in a row is a questionable tactic for any writer, but these are the things that first come to mind when considering a product the likes of Kaveri. I am hoping we can answer a few of these questions by the end of this article, but alas it seems as though the market will have the final say as to how successful this new architecture is.
AMD has been pursuing the “Future is Fusion” line for several years, but it can be argued that Kaveri is truly the first “Fusion” product that completes the overall vision for where AMD wants to go. The previous several generations of APUs were initially not all that integrated in a functional sense, but the complexity and completeness of that integration has been improved upon with each iteration. Kaveri takes this integration to the next step, and one which fulfills the promise of a truly heterogeneous computing solution. While AMD has the hardware available, we have yet to see if the software companies are willing to leverage the compute power afforded by a robust and programmable graphics unit powered by AMD’s GCN architecture.
(Editor's Note: The following two pages were written by our own Josh Walrath, dicsussing the technology and architecture of AMD Kaveri. Testing and performance analysis by Ryan Shrout starts on page 3.)
The first step in understanding Kaveri is taking a look at the process technology that AMD is using for this particular product. Since AMD divested itself of their manufacturing arm, they have had to rely on GLOBALFOUNDRIES to produce nearly all of their current CPUs and APUs. Bulldozer, Piledriver, Llano, Trinity, and Richland based parts were all produced on GF’s 32 nm PD-SOI process. The lower power APUs such as Brazos and Kabini have been produced by TSMC on their 40 nm and 28 nm processes respectively.
Kaveri will take a slightly different approach here. It will be produced by GLOBALFOUNDRIES, but it will forego the SOI and utilize a bulk silicon process. 28 nm HKMG is very common around the industry, but few pure play foundries were willing to tailor their process to the direct needs of AMD and the Kaveri product. GF was able to do such a thing. APUs are a different kind of animal when it comes to fabrication, primarily because the two disparate units require different characteristics to perform at the highest efficiency. As such, compromises had to be made.
Subject: General Tech, Processors, Shows and Expos | January 10, 2014 - 03:32 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: Transformer Book Duet, Intel, CES 2014, CES, asus
Monday, the opening day of CES, was full of keynotes and announcements from Audi to Valve (Yahoo! was the day after). Okay, so that is probably not the complete alphabetical range, but keep reading regardless. The Intel speech had a few surprises including Gabe Newell re-announcing Steam Machines just a couple of hours after his own keynote.
Possibly the most surprising to me was the "Dual OS platforms" announcement. Frankly, I am fine with using BlueStacks for whatever little Android use that my desktop experiences. I did see a demo of the ASUS Transformer Book Duet, however, which was able to switch between Android and Windows 8.1 with the touch of a button and about 3 seconds of black screen. It seems to be more than emulation and it is pretty clearly not rebooting.
To be clear, the following is speculation (and not even confident at that). I am hypothesizing... not reporting. Unfortunately, Intel (and ASUS) have been very silent on the actual implementation as far as I can tell. Since this is clearly branded as "Android and Windows can be friends", it would not surprise me if this was a baked solution for the two platforms and maybe even special hardware.
One possibility is that hardware or software loads both operating systems into memory or hibernation state. In this way, when the user signals their desire for a change, the former operating system is slept (or hibernated) and the processor is then pointed to the others memory space.
Video credit: PCMag
If the above is the case then I hope popular Linux distributions can get their hands on it. Rebooting is far too annoying for me to try out alternative operating systems and virtualization is also too problematic (at least for now). If I can just suspend and switch, especially with native performance on either end, then I will definitely be willing to play around. Honestly, how expensive are RAM and storage these days?
But, if it is user-accessible, then it would be a major consideration for a future upgrade.
The other cute little announcement is Edison, a dual core PC in an SD card form factor. The hope is that this device will power wearable computing and make other devices smarter. It is based on 22nm silicon and even includes WiFi. One use case they presented was a bottle warmer which warms the milk before you even get your child.
Despite the late coverage, it was a very interesting keynote. Ars Technica still has their live blog published if you would like to skim through a play-by-play.
Follow all of our coverage of the show at http://pcper.com/ces!