Podcast #280 - NVIDIA GRID Beta, R9 290X Custom Coolers, 2TB SSDs and more!

Subject: General Tech | December 12, 2013 - 01:35 AM |
Tagged: z87, xfire, video, shield, R9 290X, podcast, pcper, nvidia, litecoin, grid, frame rating, eyefinity, crossfire, amd

PC Perspective Podcast #280 - 12/12/2013

Join us this week as we discuss the NVIDIA GRID Beta, R9 290X Custom Coolers, 2TB SSDs and more!

You can subscribe to us through iTunes and you can still access it directly through the RSS page HERE.

The URL for the podcast is: http://pcper.com/podcast - Share with your friends!

  • iTunes - Subscribe to the podcast directly through the iTunes Store
  • RSS - Subscribe through your regular RSS reader
  • MP3 - Direct download link to the MP3 file

Hosts: Ryan Shrout, Josh Walrath, Allyn Malventano and Scott Michaud

Program length: 1:09:46
  1. Week in Review:
  2. News items of interest:
  3. Hardware/Software Picks of the Week:
    1. Allyn: Windows 8.1 tweaks at WinAero.com
  4. Closing/outro


AMD Expects Beta Eyefinity Fix in January

Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards | December 11, 2013 - 05:58 PM |
Tagged: frame pacing, frame rating, amd, southern islands, 4k, eyefinity, crossfire, microstutter

The frame pacing issue has been covered at our website for almost a year now. It stems from the original "microstutter" problem which dates back over a year before we could quantify it. We like to use the term "Frame Rating" to denote the testing methodology we now use for our GPU tests.


AMD fared worse at these tests than NVIDIA (although even they had some problems in certain configurations). They have dedicated a lot of man-hours to the problem resulting in a driver updates for certain scenarios. Crossfire while utilizing Eyefinity or 4K MST was one area they did not focus on. The issue has been addressed in Hawaii and AMD asserted that previous cards will get a software fix soon.

The good news is that we have just received word from AMD that they plan on releasing a beta driver for Southern Islands and earlier GPUs (AMD believes it should work for anything that's not "legacy"). As usual, until it ships anything could change, but it looks good for now.

The beta "frame pacing" driver addressing Crossfire with 4K and Eyefinity, for supported HD-series and Southern Islands-based Rx cards, is expected to be public sometime in January.

Source: AMD
Manufacturer: AMD

A bit of a surprise

Okay, let's cut to the chase here: it's late, we are rushing to get our articles out, and I think you all would rather see our testing results NOW rather than LATER.  The first thing you should do is read my review of the AMD Radeon R9 290X 4GB Hawaii graphics card which goes over the new architecture, new feature set, and performance in single card configurations. 

Then, you should continue reading below to find out how the new XDMA, bridge-less CrossFire implementation actually works in both single panel and 4K (tiled) configurations.



A New CrossFire For a New Generation

CrossFire has caused a lot of problems for AMD in recent months (and a lot of problems for me as well).  But, AMD continues to make strides in correcting the frame pacing issues associated with CrossFire configurations and the new R9 290X moves the bar forward.

Without the CrossFire bridge connector on the 290X, all of the CrossFire communication and data transfer occurs over the PCI Express bus that connects the cards to the entire system.  AMD claims that this new XDMA interface was designed for Eyefinity and UltraHD resolutions (which were the subject of our most recent article on the subject).  By accessing the memory of the GPU through PCIe AMD claims that it can alleviate the bandwidth and sync issues that were causing problems with Eyefinity and tiled 4K displays.

Even better, this updated version of CrossFire is said to compatible with the frame pacing updates to the Catalyst driver to improve multi-GPU performance experiences for end users.


When an extra R9 290X accidentally fell into my lap, I decided to take it for a spin.  And if you have followed my graphics testing methodology in the past year then you'll understand the important of these tests.

Continue reading our article Frame Rating: AMD Radeon R9 290X CrossFire and 4K Preview Testing!!

Manufacturer: AMD

A slightly new architecture

Note: We also tested the new AMD Radeon R9 290X in CrossFire and at 4K resolutions; check out that full Frame Rating story right here!!

Last month AMD brought media, analysts, and customers out to Hawaii to talk about a new graphics chip coming out this year.  As you might have guessed based on the location: the code name for this GPU was in fact, Hawaii. It was targeted at the high end of the discrete graphics market to take on the likes of the GTX 780 and GTX TITAN from NVIDIA. 

Earlier this month we reviewed the AMD Radeon R9 280X, R9 270X, and the R7 260X. None of these were based on that new GPU.  Instead, these cards were all rebrands and repositionings of existing hardware in the market (albeit at reduced prices).  Those lower prices made the R9 280X one of our favorite GPUs of the moment as it offers performance per price points currently unmatched by NVIDIA.

But today is a little different, today we are talking about a much more expensive product that has to live up to some pretty lofty goals and ambitions set forward by the AMD PR and marketing machine.  At $549 MSRP, the new AMD Radeon R9 290X will become the flagship of the Radeon brand.  The question is: to where does that ship sail?


The AMD Hawaii Architecture

To be quite upfront about it, the Hawaii design is very similar to that of the Tahiti GPU from the Radeon HD 7970 and R9 280X cards.  Based on the same GCN (Graphics Core Next) architecture AMD assured us would be its long term vision, Hawaii ups the ante in a few key areas while maintaining the same core.


Hawaii is built around Shader Engines, of which the R9 290X has four.  Each of these includes 11 CU (compute units) which hold 4 SIMD arrays each.  Doing the quick math brings us to a total stream processor count of 2,816 on the R9 290X. 

Continue reading our review of the AMD Radeon R9 290X 4GB Graphics Card!!

TechReport: AMD Plans Frame Pacing Driver for CrossFire, Eyefinity, and 4K... This Autumn

Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards | September 26, 2013 - 03:35 AM |
Tagged: frame rating, frame pacing, amd

Scott Wasson of The Tech Report just received an interview with Raja Koduri, head of Graphics Hardware and Software Development at AMD, a few hours ago. Part of the interview discussed frame the frame pacing issues we, as well as The Tech Report, published over the last year. In short, the news seems good for owners of Radeon graphics cards, future and even current.


The "Hawaii" powered Radeon R9 290 and R9 290X graphics cards are expected to handle CrossFire pacing acceptably at launch. Clearly, if there is ever a time to fix the problem, it would be in new hardware. Still, this is good news for interested customers; if all goes to plan, you are likely going to have a good experience out of the box.

Current owners of GCN-based video cards, along with potential buyers of the R9 280X and lower upcoming cards, will apparently need to wait for AMD to release a driver to fix these issues. However, this driver is not far off: Koduri, unclear whether on or off the record, intends for an autumn release. This driver is expected to cover frame pacing issues for CrossFire, Eyefinity, and 4K.

Koduri does believe the CrossFire issues were unfortunate and expresses a desire to fix the issue for his customers.

Keep checking PC Perspective for more information as it comes out!

Editor's Note: I just spoke with Raja Koduri as well and he basically reiterated everything that Scott noted in his story on The Tech Report as well.  The upcoming 290X will have frame pacing at Eyefinity and 4K resolution at launch while the cards below that in the R9 series, and users of Radeon HD 7000 cards (and likely beyond) will need some more time before the driver is ready.  I'll be able to talk quite a bit more about the changes to BOTH architectures very shortly so stay tuned for that.

Source: Tech Report

Podcast #269 - Frame Rating on Eyefinity, News from IDF, and rumors about new AMD GPUs

Subject: General Tech | September 19, 2013 - 02:26 PM |
Tagged: video, surround, podcast, nvidia, Intel, idf, haswell, frame rating, eyefinity, baytrail, amd, 4250U

PC Perspective Podcast #269 - 09/19/2013

Join us this week as we discuss Frame Rating on Eyefinity, News from IDF, and rumors about new AMD GPUs

You can subscribe to us through iTunes and you can still access it directly through the RSS page HERE.

The URL for the podcast is: http://pcper.com/podcast - Share with your friends!

  • iTunes - Subscribe to the podcast directly through the iTunes Store
  • RSS - Subscribe through your regular RSS reader
  • MP3 - Direct download link to the MP3 file

Hosts: Jeremy Hellstrom, Josh Walrath, Allyn Malventano, and Morry Teitelman

Program length: 1:35:35
  1. Week in Review:
  2. News items of interest:
  3. Hardware/Software Picks of the Week:
    1. Jeremy: Um, sure why not - ADATA DashDrive Durable
    2. Allyn: Connected Data Transporter 2.0 (yes it exists)
  4. 1-888-38-PCPER or podcast@pcper.com
  5. Closing/outro


Manufacturer: Various

Summary of Events

In January of 2013 I revealed a new testing methodology for graphics cards that I dubbed Frame Rating.  At the time I was only able to talk about the process, using capture hardware to record the output directly from the DVI connections on graphics cards, but over the course of a few months started to release data and information using this technology.  I followed up the story in January with a collection of videos that displayed some of the capture video and what kind of performance issues and anomalies we were able to easily find. 

My first full test results were published in February to quite a bit of stir and then finally in late March released Frame Rating Dissected: Full Details on Capture-based Graphics Performance Testing which dramatically changed the way graphics cards and gaming performance was discussed and evaluated forever. 

Our testing proved that AMD CrossFire was not improving gaming experiences in the same way that NVIDIA SLI was.  Also, we showed that other testing tools like FRAPS were inadequate in showcasing this problem.  If you are at all unfamiliar with this testing process or the results it showed, please check out the Frame Rating Dissected story above.

At the time, we tested 5760x1080 resolution using AMD Eyefinity and NVIDIA Surround but found there were too many issues and problems with our scripts and the results they were presenting to give reasonably assured performance metrics.  Running AMD + Eyefinity was obviously causing some problems but I wasn’t quite able to pinpoint what they were and how severe it might have been.  Instead I posted graphs like this:


We were able to show NVIDIA GTX 680 performance and scaling in SLI at 5760x1080 but we only were giving results for the Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition in a single GPU configuration.


Since those stories were released, AMD has been very active.  At first they were hesitant to believe our results and called into question our processes and the ability for gamers to really see the frame rate issues we were describing.  However, after months of work and pressure from quite a few press outlets, AMD released a 13.8 beta driver that offered a Frame Pacing option in the 3D controls that enables the ability to evenly space out frames in multi-GPU configurations producing a smoother gaming experience.


The results were great!  The new AMD driver produced very consistent frame times and put CrossFire on a similar playing field to NVIDIA’s SLI technology.  There were limitation though: the driver only fixed DX10/11 games and only addressed resolutions of 2560x1440 and below.

But the story won’t end there.  CrossFire and Eyefinity are still very important in a lot of gamers minds and with the constant price drops in 1920x1080 panels, more and more gamers are taking (or thinking of taking) the plunge to the world of Eyefinity and Surround.  As it turns out though, there are some more problems and complications with Eyefinity and high-resolution gaming (multi-head 4K) that are cropping up and deserve discussion.

Continue reading our investigation into AMD Eyefinity and NVIDIA Surround with multi-GPU solutions!!

Podcast #263 - AMDs Crossfire Fix, Carmack Leaving id, Left 4 Dead 3 rumors and more!

Subject: General Tech | August 8, 2013 - 02:22 PM |
Tagged: podcast, video, amd, nvidia, crossfire, sli, frame rating, 7990, john carmack, Oculus

PC Perspective Podcast #263 - 08/08/2013

Join us this week as we discuss AMDs Crossfire Fix, Carmack Leaving id, Left 4 Dead 3 rumors and more!

You can subscribe to us through iTunes and you can still access it directly through the RSS page HERE.

The URL for the podcast is: http://pcper.com/podcast - Share with your friends!

  • iTunes - Subscribe to the podcast directly through the iTunes Store
  • RSS - Subscribe through your regular RSS reader
  • MP3 - Direct download link to the MP3 file

Hosts: Ryan Shrout, Jeremy Hellstrom, Josh Walrath, and Allyn Malventano

Program length: 1:13:47


So you want a second opinion on Frame Pacing, eh?

Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards | August 2, 2013 - 12:44 PM |
Tagged: video, stutter, radeon, nvidia, hd 7990, frame rating, frame pacing, amd

Scott Wasson from The Tech Report and Ryan have been discussing the microstuttering present in Crossfire and while Ryan got his hands on the hardware to capture the raw output first, The Tech Report have been investigating this issue as in depth as Ryan and Ken have been.  Their look at the new Catalyst and the effects of Frame Pacing show the same results as you saw yesterday in Ryan's article; for essentially no cost in performance you can get a much smoother experience when using a CrossFire system on a single display.  In their article they have done a great job of splicing together videos of runthroughs of several games with the Frame Pacing disabled on one side and enabled on the other, allowing you to see with your own eyes the difference in game play, without having to have your own Crossfire system.


"Can a driver fix what ails the Radeon HD 7990? Will the new Catalysts magically transform this baby into the fastest graphics card on the planet? We go inside the second to find out."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Manufacturer: AMD

Frame Pacing for CrossFire

When the Radeon HD 7990 launched in April of this year, we had some not-so-great things to say about it.  The HD 7990 depends on CrossFire technology to function and we had found quite a few problems with AMD's CrossFire technology over the last months of testing with our Frame Rating technology, the HD 7990 "had a hard time justifying its $1000 price tag."  Right at launch, AMD gave us a taste of a new driver that they were hoping would fix the frame pacing and frame time variance issues seen in CrossFire, and it looked positive.  The problem was that the driver wouldn't be available until summer.

As I said then: "But until that driver is perfected, is bug free and is presented to buyers as a made-for-primetime solution, I just cannot recommend an investment this large on the Radeon HD 7990."

Today could be a very big day for AMD - the release of the promised driver update that enables frame pacing on AMD 7000-series CrossFire configurations including the Radeon HD 7990 graphics cards with a pair of Tahiti GPUs. 

It's not perfect yet and there are some things to keep an eye on.  For example, this fix will not address Eyefinity configurations which includes multi-panel solutions and the new 4K 60 Hz displays that require a tiled display configuration.  Also, we found some issues with more than two GPU CrossFire that we'll address in a later page too.


New Driver Details

Starting with 13.8 and moving forward, AMD plans to have the frame pacing fix integrated into all future drivers.  The software team has implemented a software based frame pacing algorithm that simply monitors the time it takes for each GPU to render a frame, how long a frame is displayed on the screen and inserts delays into the present calls when necessary to prevent very tightly timed frame renders.  This balances or "paces" the frame output to the screen without lowering the overall frame rate.  The driver monitors this constantly in real-time and minor changes are made on a regular basis to keep the GPUs in check. 


As you would expect, this algorithm is completely game engine independent and the games should be completely oblivious to all that is going on (other than the feedback from present calls, etc). 

This fix is generic meaning it is not tied to any specific game and doesn't require profiles like CrossFire can from time to time.  The current implementation will work with DX10 and DX11 based titles only with DX9 support being added later with another release.  AMD claims this was simply a development time issue and since most modern GPU-bound titles are DX10/11 based they focused on that area first.  In phase 2 of the frame pacing implementation AMD will add in DX9 and OpenGL support.  AMD wouldn't give me a timeline for implementation though so we'll have to see how much pressure AMD continues with internally to get the job done.

Continue reading our story of the new AMD Catalyst 13.8 beta driver with frame pacing support!!