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: Graphics Cards | October 9, 2013 - 04:32 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: R9 280X DirectCU II, R9 270X DirectCU II, R7 260X DirectCU II, R7 250, R7 240, Matrix R9 280X, asus
Editor's Note: Be sure to check out our full review of the new AMD Radeon R9 280X, R9 270X and R7 260X that includes the ASUS overclocked 280X!
Fremont, CA (October 8, 2013) - ASUS today announces the launch of its R9 200 and R7 200 Series graphics cards, powered by the latest AMD Radeon R9 and R7 series graphics-processing units (GPUs). As dedicated gamers have come to expect from Republic of Gamers (ROG), the new Matrix R9 280X graphics card feature exclusive technologies, overclocked core speeds and performance enhancing options.
The new R9 280X, R9 270X and R7 260X DirectCU II models are overclocked to perform faster than reference designs while also featuring DIGI+ voltage-regulator modules (VRMs) for a smooth and stable power supply and GPU Tweak software for tuning the graphics card. The new R7 250 and R7 240 cards benefit from many exclusive ASUS technologies and tools including Super Alloy Power components for superior stability, dust-proof fans for improved card lifespan and GPU Tweak.
Matrix — Push the limits
The Matrix R9 280X graphics cards benefit from a copper-based thermal design that conducts heat away from the GPU with greater efficiency. Compared to reference Radeon R9 280X designs, ROG Matrix R9 280X cards operate up to 20% cooler and three times (3X) quieter. Coupled with dual 100mm cooling fans, gamers can enjoy ultra-cool and stable game play with minimal noise. The Matrix R9 280X Platinum Edition’s core runs at a blistering 1100MHz — 100MHz higher than reference.
The Matrix R9 280X graphics card allows for overclocking on a purely hardware level with VGA Hotwire connections and TweakIt for voltage control, Turbo Fan button to crank up the fan to 100% and a Safe Mode button to instantly default the GPU back to factory BIOs. It also includes DIGI+ voltage-regulator modules (VRMs) for smooth and stable power, and GPU Tweak tuning software that allows users to squeeze the last drop of performance out of their graphics card.
DirectCU II — Faster, quieter and cooler, even in the heat of battle
ASUS DirectCU II cooling technology places highly conductive copper cooling pipes in direct contact with a card’s GPU so heat dissipates quickly and with greater efficiency. Compared with reference Radeon R9 and R7 designs, ASUS R9 280X, R9 270X and R7 260X with DirectCU II allow the latest AMD Radeon GPUs to run up to 20% cooler, three times (3X) quieter– so gamers can enjoy ultra-stable play with minimal noise.
ASUS R9 280X, R9 270X and R7 260X are all equipped with exclusive ASUS DIGI+ VRM with Super Alloy Power technology. Paired with Super Alloy Power solid-state capacitors, concrete-core chokes and hardened MOSFETs, DIGI+ VRM delivers multi-phase power and digital voltage regulation for increased graphics card stability and cleaner power, even during the most intense GPU activities.
The fans of ASUS R9 280X, R9 270X, and R7 260X DirectCU II are all dust-proof, reducing debris accumulation and retaining peak performance over a longer lifespan. In addition, ASUS R9 280X DirectCU II features exclusive CoolTech fan. This innovative fan’s hybrid blade and bearing design, with inner radial blower and outer flower-shaped blades, delivers multi-directional airflow to accelerate heat removal and maintain cooler and quieter operation.
R7 250 and R7 240 — Super Alloy Power components and dust-proof fans for superior stability and longevity
The ASUS R7 250 and R7 240 graphics cards both include exclusive Super Alloy Power technology. Super Alloy Power’s solid-state capacitors and hardened MOSFETs all withstand much greater stress and heat due to the application of specially-formulated materials — increasing reliability and overall card lifespan. Compared with reference designs, ASUS R7 250 and R7 240’s Super Alloy Power components deliver 35%-cooler operation and a lifespan that’s up to two-and-a-half times (2.5X) longer.
Additionally, the fans on the ASUS R7 250 and R7 240 are extremely resilient and dust-proof. The Dust-Proof fans ensures that even the smallest airborne particles are barred, reducing debris accumulation and retaining peak performance over a longer lifespan — typically improving lifespan by up to 25% compared to reference fans.
GPU Tweak- Easy overclocking and online streaming
The included ASUS GPU Tweak utility enables R9 280X, R9 270X, R7 260X, R7 250, and R7 240 users intuitive control over GPU and video-memory clock speeds and voltages, cooling-fan speeds and power-consumption thresholds – so they can overclock easily with confidence. Users can create multiple performance profiles for on-demand switching of custom settings for different games.
GPU Tweak now includes Live Streaming, an online-streaming tool that lets users share on-screen action over the internet in real time – so others can watch live gaming sessions. It is even possible to add scrolling text, pictures and webcam images to the streaming window.