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: 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: Processors | January 7, 2014 - 04:52 AM | Josh Walrath
Tagged: amd, CES, 2014, Kaveri, A10 7850K, A10 7700K, APU, firepro, hsa
This year’s AMD CES was actually more interesting than I was expecting. The details of the event were well known, as most Kaveri details have been revealed over the past few months. I was unsure what Lisa Su and the gang would go over, but it was actually more interesting than I was expecting.
This past year has been a big one for AMD. They seem to be doing a lot better than others expected them to, especially with all of the delayed product launches on the CPU side for quite a few years. This year saw the APU take a pretty prominent place in the industry with the launch of the latest generation consoles from Sony and Microsoft. AMD made inroads with mobile form factors with a variety of APUs. The HSA Foundation members have grown and HSA members ship two out of every three connected, smart devices. Apple also includes Firepro graphics cards with all of their new Mac Pros.
Kaveri is of course the big news here. AMD feels that this is the best APU yet. The combination of Steamroller CPU cores, GCN graphics compute cores, HSA, hUMA, HQ, TrueAudio, Mantle support, PCI-E 3.0 support, and a configurable TDP makes for a pretty compelling product. AMD has shuffled some nomenclature about by saying that Kaveri, at the top end, is comprised of 12 compute cores. These include 4 Steamroller cores and 8 GCN compute clusters. Each compute cluster matches the historical definition of a core, but of course it looks quite a bit different than a traditional x86 core.
We have gone over Kaveri pretty extensively in the past. The CPU is clocked at 3.7 GHz with a 4 GHz boost. The graphics portion clocks in at 720 MHz. It can support up to DDR-3 2400 MHz memory, which is really needed to extract as much performance out of this new APU. Benchmarks provided by AMD show this product to be a big jump from the previous Richland, and in these particular benchmarks are quite a bit faster than the competing i5 4670K.
Gaming performance is also improved. This APU can run most current applications at 1080P resolutions with low to medium quality settings. Older titles can be run at 1080P with Medium to High/Extreme settings. While this processor is rated at around 867 GFLOPS, which is around 110 GFLOPS greater than the previous top end Richland, it is more efficient at delivering that theoretical performance. It looks to be a significant improvement all around.
Software support is improving with applications from companies like Adobe, The Document Foundation, and Nuance. These cover HSA applications and in Nuance’s case, using the TrueAudio portion to clean up and accelerate voice recognition. TrueAudio is also being supported in five upcoming games. This is not a huge amount, but it is a decent start for this new technology.
Mantle is gaining a lot more momentum with support from 3 engines, 5 developers, and 20+ games in development. They showed off Battlefied 4 running Mantle on a Kaveri APU for the first time publicly. They mentioned that it ran 45% faster than Direct3D at the same quality levels on the same hardware. The display showed frame rates up in the low 50 fps area.
AMD is continuing to move forward on their low power offerings based on Beema and Mullins. Lisa claims that these parts are outperforming the Intel Baytrail offerings in both CPU performance and graphics. Unfortunately, she mentioned noting about the power consumption associated with these results. They showed off the Discovery tablet as well as a fully functional PC that was the size of a large cellphone.
They closed up the even by talking about the Surround House 2. This demo looks significantly better than the previous iteration we saw last year. This features something like a 34.2 speaker setup in a projected dome. It is much more complex than the House from last year, but the hardware running it all is rather common. A single high end Firepro card running on a single A10 7850K. The demo is also one of the first shows of a 360 degree gesture recognition setup.
AMD has come a long way since hitting rock bottom a few years back. They continue to claw their way back to relevance, and they hope that Kaveri will help them regain a foothold in the computing market. They are certainly doing well in the graphics market, but the introduction of Kaveri should help them gain more momentum in the CPU/APU market. We have yet to test Kaveri on our own, but initial results look promising. It is a better APU, but we just don’t know how much better so far.
Follow all of our coverage of the show at http://pcper.com/ces!
Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards, Processors | December 3, 2013 - 04:12 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: Kaveri, APU, amd
The launch and subsequent availability of Kaveri is scheduled for the CES time frame. The APU unites Steamroller x86 cores with several Graphics Core Next (GCN) cores. The high-end offering, the A10-7850K, is capable of 856 GFLOPs of compute power (most of which is of course from the GPU).
Image/Leak Credit: Prohardver.hu
We now know about two SKUs: the A10-7850K and the A10-7700K. Both parts are quite similar except that the higher model is given a 200 MHz CPU bump, 3.8 GHz to 4.0 Ghz, and 33% more GPU units, 6 to 8.
But how does this compare? The original source (prohardver.hu) claims that Kaveri will achieve an average 28 FPS in Crysis 3 on low at 1680x1050; this is a 12% increase over Richland. It also achieved an average 53 FPS with Sleeping Dogs on Medium which is 26% more than Richland.
These are healthy increases over the previous generation but do not even account for HSA advantages. I am really curious what will happen if integrated graphics become accessible enough that game developers decide to target it for general compute applications. The reduction in latency (semi-wasted time bouncing memory between compute devices) might open this architecture to where it can really shine.
We will do our best to keep you up to date on this part especially when it launches at CES.
Subject: General Tech, Systems | November 22, 2013 - 08:02 PM | Ryan Shrout
Tagged: video, teardown, xbox one, APU, amd, xbox, xb1
Last week we brought a teardown of the new Sony PlayStation 4 (PS4) console and this week we do the same for Microsoft's new Xbox One console.
In this video, which is a recording of our live stream that started last night at 12:30am EST, you'll see us unbox the Xbox One, turn it on, play with the new Kinect, take it apart and put it back together. And this time we didn't even break anything - though removing the plastic clips on the Xbox One are particularly more annoying and time consuming than the screws on the PS4.
Though they are out of stock, Amazon.com appears to be getting additional Xbox One consoles in stock pretty regularly, so keep an eye out.
The 7 Year Console Refresh
The consoles are coming! The consoles are coming! Ok, that is not necessarily true. One is already here and the second essentially is too. This of course brings up the great debate between PCs and consoles. The past has been interesting when it comes to console gaming, as often the consoles would be around a year ahead of PCs in terms of gaming power and prowess. This is no longer the case with this generation of consoles. Cutting edge is now considered mainstream when it comes to processing and graphics. The real incentive to buy this generation of consoles is a lot harder to pin down as compared to years past.
The PS4 retails for $399 US and the upcoming Xbox One is $499. The PS4’s price includes a single controller, while the Xbox’s package includes not just a controller, but also the next generation Kinect device. These prices would be comparable to some low end PCs which include keyboard, mouse, and a monitor that could be purchased from large brick and mortar stores like Walmart and Best Buy. Happily for most of us, we can build our machines to our own specifications and budgets.
As a directive from on high (the boss), we were given the task of building our own low-end gaming and productivity machines at a price as close to that of the consoles and explaining which solution would be superior at the price points given. The goal was to get as close to $500 as possible and still have a machine that would be able to play most recent games at reasonable resolutions and quality levels.
Subject: General Tech, Systems | November 15, 2013 - 02:42 PM | Ryan Shrout
Tagged: video, teardown, ps4, playstation 4, APU, amd
Last night Ken and I headed over the local Best Buy to pick up my preorder of the new Playstation 4. What would any hardware geek immediately do with this hardware? Obviously we take a screwdriver to it and take it apart.
In this video, which is a recording of our live stream that started last night at 12:30am EST, you'll see us unbox the PS4, turn it on, take it apart and put it back together. And I only had to fix one piece with gaffers tape, so there's that.
(We'll have a collection of high-resolution photos later today as well.)
Though they are out of stock, Amazon.com appears to be getting more PS4s in stock pretty regularly, so keep an eye out if you are interested in picking one up still.
Subject: Processors | November 13, 2013 - 05:35 PM | Josh Walrath
Tagged: Puma, Mullins, mobile, Jaguar, GCN, beema, apu13, APU, amd, 2014
AMD’s APU13 is all about APUs and their programming, but the hardware we have seen so far has been dominated by the upcoming Kaveri products for FM2+. It seems that AMD has more up their sleeves for release this next year, and it has somewhat caught me off guard. The Beema and Mullins based products are being announced today, but we do not have exact details on these products. The codenames have been around for some time now, but interest has been minimal since they are evolutionary products based on Kabini and Temash APUs that have been available this year. Little did I know that things would be far more interesting than that.
The basis for Beema and Mullins is the Puma core. This is a highly optimized revision of Jaguar, and in some ways can be considered a new design. All of the basics in terms of execution units, caches, and memory controllers are the same. What AMD has done is go through the design with a fine toothed comb and make it far more efficient per clock than what we have seen previously. This is still a 28 nm part, but the extra attention and love lavished upon it by AMD has resulted in a much more efficient system architecture for the CPU and GPU portions.
The parts will be offered in two and four core configurations. Beema will span from 10W to 25W configurations. Mullins will go all the way down to “2W SDP”. SDP essentially means that while the chip can be theoretically rated higher, it will rarely go above that 2W envelope in the vast majority of situations. These chips are expected to be around 2X more efficient per clock than the previous Jaguar based products. This means that at similar clock speeds, Beema and Mullins will pull far less power than that previous gen. It should also allow some higher clockspeeds at the top end 25W area.
These will be some of the first fanless quad cores that AMD will introduce for the tablet market. Previously we have seen tablets utilize the cut down versions of Temash to hit power targets, but with this redesign it is entirely possible to utilize the fully enabled quad core Mullins. AMD has not given us specific speeds for these products, but we can guess that they will be around what we see currently, but the chip will just have a lower TDP rating.
AMD is introducing their new security platform based on the ARM Trustzone. Essentially a small ARM Cortex A5 is integrated in the design and handles the security aspects of this feature. We were not briefed on how this achieves security, but the slide below gives some of the bullet points of the technology.
Since the pure-play foundries will not have a workable 20 nm process for AMD to jump to in a timely manner, AMD had no other choice but to really optimize the Jaguar core to make it more competitive with products from Intel and the ARM partners. At 28 nm the ARM ecosystem has a power advantage over AMD, while at 22 nm Intel offers similar performance to AMD but with greater power efficiency.
This is a necessary update for AMD as the competition has certainly not slowed down. AMD is more constrained obviously by the lack of a next-generation process node available for 1H 2014, so a redesign of this magnitude was needed. The performance per watt metric is very important here, as it promises longer battery life without giving up the performance people received from the previous Kabini/Temash family of APUs. This design work could be carried over to the next generation of APUs using 20 nm and below, which hopefully will keep AMD competitive with the rest of the market. Beema and Mullins are interesting looking products that will be shown off at CES 2014.
Subject: Graphics Cards, Processors | November 12, 2013 - 06:10 PM | Ryan Shrout
Tagged: amd, Kaveri, APU, video, hsa
Yesterday at the AMD APU13 developer conference, the company showed off the upcoming Kaveri APU running Battlefield 4 completely on the integrated graphics. I was able to push the AMD guys along and get a little more personal demo to share with our readers. The Kaveri APU had some of its details revealed this week:
- Quad-core Steamroller x86
- 512 Stream Processor GPU
- 856 GFLOPS of theoretical performance
- 3.7 GHz CPU clock speed, 720 MHz GPU clock speed
AMD wanted to be sure we pointed out in this video that the estimate clock speeds for FLOP performance may not be what the demo system was run at (likely a bit lower). Also, the version of Battlefield 4 here is the standard retail version and with further improvements from the driver team as the upcoming Mantle API implementation will likely introduce even more performance for the APU.
The game was running at 1920x1080 with MOSTLY medium quality settings (lighting set to low) but the results still looked damn impressive and the frame rates were silky and smooth. Considering this is running on a desktop with integrated processor graphics, the game play experience is simply unmatched.
Memory in the system was running at 2133 MHz.
The second demo looks at the image decoding acceleration that AMD is going to enable with Kaveri APUs upon release with a driver. Essentially, as the demonstration shows in the video, AMD is overwriting the integrated Windows JPG decompression algorithm with a new one that utilizes HSA to accelerate on both the x86 and SIMD (GPU) portions of the silicon. For the most strenuous demo that used 22 MP images saw a 100% increase in performance compared to the Kaveri CPU cores alone.