AMD Catalyst 14.1 Beta Driver Brings Mantle Support, Frame Pacing Phase 2, HSA

Manufacturer: AMD

A troubled launch to be sure

AMD has released some important new drivers with drastic feature additions over the past year.  Remember back in August of 2013 when Frame Pacing was first revealed?  Today’s Catalyst 14.1 beta release will actually complete the goals that AMD set forth upon itself in early 2013 in regards to introducing (nearly) complete Frame Pacing technology integration for non-XDMA GPUs while also adding support for Mantle and HSA capability.

Frame Pacing Phase 2 and HSA Support

When AMD released the first frame pacing capable beta driver in August of 2013, it added support to existing GCN designs (HD 7000-series and a few older generations) at resolutions of 2560x1600 and below.  While that definitely addressed a lot of the market, the fact was that CrossFire users were also amongst the most likely to have Eyefinity (3+ monitors spanned for gaming) or even 4K displays (quickly dropping in price).  Neither of those advanced display options were supported with any Catalyst frame pacing technology.

That changes today as Phase 2 of the AMD Frame Pacing feature has finally been implemented for products that do not feature the XDMA technology (found in Hawaii GPUs for example).  That includes HD 7000-series GPUs, the R9 280X and 270X cards, as well as older generation products and Dual Graphics hardware combinations such as the new Kaveri APU and R7 250.  I have already tested Kaveri and the R7 250 in fact, and you can read about its scaling and experience improvements right here.  That means that users of the HD 7970, R9 280X, etc., as well as those of you with HD 7990 dual-GPU cards, will finally be able to utilize the power of both GPUs in your system with 4K displays and Eyefinity configurations!

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This is finally fixed!!

As of this writing I haven’t had time to do more testing (other than the Dual Graphics article linked above) to demonstrate the potential benefits of this Phase 2 update, but we’ll be targeting it later in the week.  For now, it appears that you’ll be able to get essentially the same performance and pacing capabilities on the Tahiti-based GPUs as you can with Hawaii (R9 290X and R9 290). 

Catalyst 14.1 beta is also the first public driver to add support for HSA technology, allowing owners of the new Kaveri APU to take advantage of the appropriately enabled applications like LibreOffice and the handful of Adobe apps.  AMD has since let us know that this feature DID NOT make it into the public release of Catalyst 14.1.

The First Mantle Ready Driver (sort of) 

A technology that has been in development for more than two years according to AMD, the newly released Catalyst 14.1 beta driver is the first to enable support for the revolutionary new Mantle API for PC gaming.  Essentially, Mantle is AMD’s attempt at creating a custom API that will replace DirectX and OpenGL in order to more directly target the GPU hardware in your PC, specifically the AMD-based designs of GCN (Graphics Core Next). 

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Mantle runs at a lower level than DX or OGL does, able to more directly access the hardware resources of the graphics chips, and with that ability is able to better utilize the hardware in your system, both CPU and GPU.  In fact, the primary benefit of Mantle is going to be seen in the form of less API overhead and bottlenecks such as real-time shader compiling and code translation. 

If you are interested in the meat of what makes Mantle tick and why it was so interesting to us when it was first announced in September of 2013, you should check out our first deep-dive article written by Josh.  In it you’ll get our opinion on why Mantle matters and why it has the potential for drastically changing the way the PC is thought of in the gaming ecosystem.

Continue reading our coverage of the launch of AMD's Catalyst 14.1 driver and Battlefield 4 Mantle patch!!

Initially targeted for a December release, Mantle was pushed back into January when EA/DICE decided to focus all of its attention on fixing up the Battlefield 4 title and its existing issues.  BF4 was, and still is, the flagship Mantle demonstration point.  The patch to enable Mantle support is finally being released on January 30th via Origin.  I don’t have BF4 benchmarks ready for you yet (due to compressed scheduling), but we plan on having some on Thursday or Friday to share. 

AMD did provide some interesting numbers that are worth discussing though.  Please keep in mind that these benchmarks were all run by AMD and as such should only be used as a placeholder until media and consumers can verify them.  Tests were run with a combination of two graphics cards and two processors to represent the scale of potential scalability.  The percentage improvements displayed below are in the average frame rate of a pre-set test run in BF4.

  • Core i7-4960X CPU + R9 290X GPU
    • 1080p, Ultra Preset, 4xAA: 9.2% improvement with Mantle
    • 1600p, Ultra Preset, 4xAA: 10% improvement with Mantle
  • Core i7-4960X CPU + R7 260X GPU
    • 1080p, Ultra Preset, 4xAA: 2.7% improvement
    • 1600p, Ultra Preset, 4xAA: 1.4% improvement
  • A10-7700K CPU + R9 290X GPU
    • 1080p, Ultra Preset, 4xAA: 40.9% improvement
    • 1600p, Ultra Preset, 4xAA: 17.3% improvement
  • A10-7700K CPU + R7 260X GPU
    • 1080p, Ultra Preset, 4xAA: 8.3% improvement
    • 1600p, Low Preset: 16.8% improvement

So what can we make of these results until we can run our own?  Clearly the advantage of Mantle shows itself most dramatically when you are in a heavily CPU limited environment.  Take a look at the results when using the Kaveri A10-7700K APU as the primary processor; with the R9 290X you are seeing more than 40% average frame rate increase at 1920x1080 and 17.3% at 2560x1600 resolutions!  However, pairing that same R9 290X graphics card with the Core i7-4960X Ivy Bridge-E processor, probably the highest performing consumer CPU, and that drops to 9.2% and 10% at each resolution.  Those results are much more modest but are still pretty compelling if they turn out to be true.

With the lower cost graphics card, the R7 260X, scaling takes another twist.  Coupling it with the high performance Core i7-4960X results in just a 2.7% and 1.4% increase in average frame rate.  Nothing worth raving about there for sure.  With the A10-7700K though the R7 260X is able jump up performance levels by 8.3% at 1080p and by as much as 16.8% at 2560x1600 (though at lower quality settings).

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Based on those benchmarks alone, what is our initial takeaway?  The scaling you see with the A10-7700K and the R9 290X is beyond impressive!  Users of this hardware combination, or similar ones, are able to get 40%+ additional performance in the Mantle version of Battlefield 4 for free and without sacrificing features.  My problem with this scenario is more about the feasibility of this hardware being used by a consumer.  How many PC gamers are going to combine the power of the R9 290 or R9 290X graphics cards, currently selling at over $500, with the $150 A10 Kaveri APU?  I don’t think many, but a quick look at the BuildaPC Subreddit clearly shows a prominence of users that are willing to sacrifice CPU performance for the almighty GPU.

If you have a high end processor like Sandy Bridge-E or Ivy Bridge-E it appears that effects of Mantle are going to be much more subtle.  Even with the beast that is the R9 290X you only see a 9.2% or 10% performance boost compared to the DX11 version of BF4.  That’s nothing close to the advantage of 40% with the lower end CPU, but could be noticeable and improve the gaming experience for high end enthusiasts.  I think we are all more interested in the results from a more reasonable processor and GPU combination, perhaps a Core i5-4670K and the R9 280X?  That’s something we’ll be investigating as we get more hands on time with the BF4 Mantle patch and Catalyst 14.1 driver.

AMD Mantle – Still in beta…

It might not come as a surprise to you that AMD is declaring this first release of the Mantle API and the libraries associated with it as a “very early beta” for public consumption.  Here is what AMD’s official stance is on the matter:

We want to convey that this is only the initial release of Mantle. Mantle will continue to grow, evolve and improve in the months ahead. As an initial release, however, there is a list of known issues we are tracking. Everyone in the Mantle ecosystem is working to identify the root cause of these problems, and to resolve them as quickly as possible. As they are resolved, we and our partners will be issuing new drivers and patches as necessary!

We felt it best to get users working with and providing feedback on Mantle as soon as possible, rather than hold the entire launch for select scenarios that aren’t performing up to our expectations. The known issues will be posted for all to see at, and attached you will find the complete list.

AMD was basically faced with an internal decision with no great options.  It could have delayed Mantle indefinitely until they were comfortable taking it out of beta or it could release the API as-is to “expand the pool of feedback” coming in.  PR is trying to be very open about the beta status and have promised to publish the known issues and limitations of Mantle as it exists today for the public to access until the platform is 100% ready for prime time.

A few of these known issues are worth mentioning here.  For starters, AMD specifically points out that performance improvements for Mantle on the HD 7000 series, R9 280X and R9 270X “will be optimized for BF4 in future AMD Catalyst releases” leaving me to believe that only the R9 290 and R9 290X (as well as the 260X) are really being supported at launch.  Only those parts based on the new Hawaii architecture with support for XDMA and TrueAudio seem to be the target.  Also, multi-GPU support is patchy at best with Mantle today as AMD told me that there were some “show stopper” bugs with CrossFire that were causing crashes in BF4.  Stuttering is also being reported with CrossFire…man do we not need more of that.

UPDATE (1/30/14): After talking with AMD they wanted me to assure readers that the R9 280X/270X and HD 7000-series of cards based on GCN are supported by Mantle.  However, AMD PR made it clear: "All desktop AMD Radeon™ graphics cards based on the GCN Architecture are supported by Mantle and have received driver and application-level optimization in the initial release. However, as Mantle is a new and evolving API, EA and AMD have additional optimization work planned for the AMD Radeon™ HD 7000, 8000, R9 280X and R9 270X GPUs in Battlefield 4™."  

Thus, my point remains.  The main work from AMD/DICE has been to get the 290X, 290 and 260X performing best with the other GPU/architecture coming down the road.


A Mantle deep dive from the APU13 event in November

Notebooks based on AMD Enduro or PowerXpress are not supported.  Portrait mode display configurations are out.  There are some other limitations surrounding the StarSwarm tech demonstration due out today as well I’ll touch in a later story.

Initial Thoughts

Double rainbow…what does it mean? This launch of AMD Mantle drivers and the first game to support it are unfortunately hindered by an erratic and heavily constrained campaign.  I literally got the driver for Mantle….AFTER the original NDA for the driver to be posted publicly.  (It now looks like the Battlefield 4 patch for Mantle will be available before any drivers.)  Now when the BF4 Mantle patch goes live there will be thousands of gamers with Mantle supported hardware and no software to enable it.  It just all seems so…bolted together.

The potential for Mantle is still there and some of the impressive numbers that AMD is quoting with 40% performance improvements will at least keep me interested until the company can get the project wrapped up with bow on it for consumers.  I WANT to believe in what AMD is showing us and I WANT it to succeed because I think PC gaming deserves a chance to showcase its capability and advantages over consoles.  It is pretty obvious as this point that AMD should likely have waited a bit longer and worked a bit more with DICE to get Mantle ready.

We will update this story when links to the Catalyst 14.1 driver become available!!

January 30, 2014 | 01:02 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

"I WANT to believe in what AMD is showing us and I WANT it to succeed because I think PC gaming deserves a chance to showcase its capability and advantages over consoles."

I agree with this ^^. I don't care about Nvidia vs AMD blah blah blah. I think PC gaming should deserve more attention over consoles. I hope AMD does succeed in providing better PC gaming experiences and take an even greater edge over console gaming.

February 1, 2014 | 04:32 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Will i have to download the driver to get mantle

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January 30, 2014 | 01:14 AM - Posted by Gregster

No surprises that this was messed up on launch. I expected a few bugs but only support for 290/X/260 is a poor show and the time they have had with this is inexcusable. I can see the potential for good things though but those who were expecting to get 45% gains with a 290/X and a 4770K with a decent clock for instance will be disappointed.

Still, a free 10% improvement is better than nothing and AMD are trying.... I just wish they would try a little quicker. Freesync in 2016 perhaps?

January 30, 2014 | 01:50 AM - Posted by Havor (not verified)

I think the big question will be what dose this do for CF setups, as they have bigger problems with driver overload.

I also think AMD jumped the gun a bit,at least they should keep calling Mantle Beta and only call it final when all the work is really done.

And maybe they should even indicate that for APUs its RC or final and for dedicated cards Beta and if still a lot of work needs to be done for CF call the driver Alpha.

As for now its good that it came but AMD really needs to be more clear what what is, and if some parts still need and can be improved and what they expect from it.

As holding out carrot all the time of the 45% makes people skeptical and if they just got a brand new 290X card dissepointed if they only see a 1~2% improvement

January 30, 2014 | 03:34 AM - Posted by Nilbog

You clearly didn't read a single sentence.

You just read the title and went straight for the comments didn't you?

January 30, 2014 | 07:06 PM - Posted by Goofus Maximus (not verified)

I can hardly throw stones, since I've been known to skim a few paragraphs before going to comments, and expounding upon my ignorance with faith in my unfounded convictions. :D

January 30, 2014 | 01:52 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Guy above me cant read

January 30, 2014 | 01:57 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Are you reading the same thing i am because it seems to me your have your statements the wrong way around.
Its the 290/x that will benefit and crossfire.
And your all saying the opposite.

January 30, 2014 | 02:36 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

The way I see it:-

1... could be most useful in things like BF4 multiplayer when cpu load is often limiting on full servers.

2...when refined could be more useful on multigpu/crossfire systems when cpu load is more likely to become limiting.

3...will lengthen the upgrade period of your cpu platform. still new, there may well be many more gpu optimizations possible using this api that WILL enable better GPU performance in addition to less cpu loading.

Early days but much to look forward to.

January 30, 2014 | 11:46 AM - Posted by HikingMike (not verified)

"3...will lengthen the upgrade period of your cpu platform."
Wow, to me this is huge. I have upgraded GPUs on computers in the past many times and run into the CPU limited issue in games. I don't want to buy a new CPU because I'd be buying an old CPU at that point to fit into the old socket. The GPU will carry over to a completely new build no problem, but not any CPU I put in that socket so that's wasted money. In one instance of this, I actually did buy a new CPU, used on ebay, upgrading from a Core 2 Duo E7300 to E8500. It's still quite CPU restricted in new games with the GTX 760. Having this ability to improve performance in CPU limiting scenarios would be extremely useful.

January 30, 2014 | 02:41 AM - Posted by Dyno (not verified)


I kinda was expecting that. Basically what happens here is that they eliminated the overhead and improved some multi-threaded calls. What can you expect more?

Basically for a low end card it appears that the overhead and everything related to it can be "translated" to almost 30-40% of the card's performance and in the case of high end cards this is in the low percentage, which is to be expected.

And btw, 40% of 30fps is great, but 10% of 290fps actually is ... the same feeling.
So I don't get why those guys with really really high end systems expected this patch. They didn't need it!!!

January 30, 2014 | 03:30 AM - Posted by JohnGR (not verified)

It seems that I will keep my 1055T in my gaming PC for many years to come. No reason to jump to a high end Intel cpu. The money that I will save from not changing my platform can be invested on a hi end AMD GPU.

I think that's what Mantle is, a chance for consumers who already have a PC, to spend all their money on hi end AMD GPUs instead of spending half the amount buying a mid range GPU from AMD OR NVidia and the other half moving to a faster, more likely, Intel processor.
A four core 750K with a FM2+ mid range full ATX motherboard costs less than the cheapest I5 cpu alone. The money someone saves can be invested in an already cheap(NOT IN US) for what it offers 290/290X. And even if someone wants an Intel platform he/she can choose a little Ie or a I5 instead of investing on a I7.

January 30, 2014 | 10:06 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

I don't see why you'd get an i7 over an i5 for gaming anyway, there's not much of a difference.
I see what you mean though.

January 31, 2014 | 04:55 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Because a lot of people do other stuff like rendering videos for youtube aswell as gaming?
The lack of imagination out there is mind blowing.

January 30, 2014 | 03:54 AM - Posted by Nilbog

I really really hope actual performance comes close to those claims. We may have an actual alternative to DirectX. Though i am really curious to compare things like system load, along with performance. For instance on the APUs, is there enough headrom to record gameplay? Or is the CPU already pegged by playing the game? Same with Intel. GPU load is another question.

Seriously how do they have such poor multi-GPU support?
It's starting to feel like they just don't want you to buy more than one card.

I hate to be cynical already. But am i the only person looking at those AMD CPU+GPU claims, wondering if created Mantle to make their CPUs relevant to enthusiast gamers?

February 1, 2014 | 03:41 PM - Posted by arbiter

Most the performance boosts are 10% which most dev's probably shrug this off cause its not significant boost as AMD kinda hyped it (that is nothing new for amd to hype something as gonna be a massive game changer then turns out to marginal improvement at best).

February 3, 2014 | 02:15 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

I think that that 10% even if its a small increase is relevant [not to mention its free].. Its like buying a more higher end CPU for 3-5 fps difference, like the very old 8350 vs 3770k comparison..

January 30, 2014 | 06:21 AM - Posted by SKLDRBLDS (not verified)

Google Battlelog Mantle live

Shows some different setups and improvements.
The article is NEWER than this one.

January 30, 2014 | 07:07 AM - Posted by General lee (not verified)

I think they should've kept Mantle under wraps for a longer time before starting to hype it. Obviously when you add a new pre-beta API to a buggy game like BF4 things aren't perfect by any measure.

There's plenty of promise though, and I'm more excited about Thief than BF4. I just wish they'd hurry up with the support for 280X/7970.

January 30, 2014 | 07:29 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Pretty much this. DICE were the ones helping out AMD with the tech, so its obvious that their game must be the one to advertise the tech. But AMD needed to wait abit longer or at the very least release new drivers to support all promised hardware and not just 3 cards.

I have 7870 and i7-2600k, i wonder what the gains could be, not much i guess but atleast ~15% hopefully.

Big problem with HSA is that its avaliable only for weak CPUs. AMD should do what Intel does, pushing iGPU on every mainstream CPU only then HSA will be quickly adopted by sowtware devs.

January 30, 2014 | 07:08 AM - Posted by Spacebob (not verified)

Perhaps AMD is trying to limit the number of people using Mantle as a beta test by only supporting R9 290X, R9 290, R7 260X and Kaveri APU? I'm sure that pool of people of people is WAY smaller that the amount of people owning a HD7000 series card (including myself). AMD has been touting HD7000 support pretty much from the beginning and I find it hard to believe that support isn't ready yet.

January 30, 2014 | 08:24 AM - Posted by puppetworx (not verified)

DICE are showing even better numbers in different test scenarios.

14% - A10-7850K, 720p, singleplayer
25% - FX-8350 + 7970, 1080p, 64 multiplayer
58% - 3970X + 2 x 290x, 1080p, 64 multiplayer

February 1, 2014 | 03:45 PM - Posted by arbiter

i still don't believe numbers rls by makers like this. give me 3rd party reviewer.

January 30, 2014 | 09:25 AM - Posted by JohnGR (not verified)

Nvidia fanboys that where laughing every time they where putting Physics at high settings, are now crying all over the internet.

January 30, 2014 | 12:50 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)


9%-10% isn't a big deal. Plus, NVIDIA can use Mantle, AMD themselves have stated this.

Don't see a reason to be sad.

February 9, 2014 | 04:29 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

yes? i don't see any nvidia bf4 runing right now..... so i think it's a NO sr.

Mantle is focused on AMD cards, and for now ONLY amd cards. Also it gets any random cheap amd CPU work like and i7.

I think this is a card against developers laziness not useing OGL, full procesor cores and good gameengines. They all stick to UE3, 2 cores and directx..... well with the new consoles and mantle this things will change.... in amd favor.

January 30, 2014 | 10:12 AM - Posted by Fishbait

Great read.

Although it still seems to be an API that will take much more time to grow into itself, I believe that this will be an interesting force to provide competition in the GPU industry.

I myself will take they current trade-off for Nvidia as ATI is just too expensive and their fixes aren't really in place.

Regardless of the current state of things, I'm happy that both companies are moving forward and not stagnating.

January 30, 2014 | 11:13 AM - Posted by BBMan (not verified)

Had it remained ATI I might have been more excited, but after multiple incidents with AMD, I've learned to recognize product hype that has disappointed in the past. Performance jump of the 40% level may be for some corner-case function that most developers hardly use.

My suggestion when you are looking for AMD products: Sell the rumor and only buy the news. If it is worth it.

January 30, 2014 | 12:02 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

AMD needs to keep momentum and start partnering with good game titles with mantle support immediately or this is going to die fast and leave a bad taste in gamers' mouths.

I hope this works cuz Direct X has it's drawbacks.

January 30, 2014 | 12:23 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

So how come EA has a test which uses a 7970 ?


Test case 2: Standard 64-player multiplayer
CPU: AMD FX-8350, 8 cores @ 4 GHz
GPU: AMD Radeon 7970 3 GB
Settings: 1080p ULTRA 1x MSAA
OS: Windows 8 64-bit
Level: Siege of Shanghai

January 30, 2014 | 01:00 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

amd released a note today that the Mantle drivers are going to support all GCN cards, 7970, 280x, 290x, 290 etc. not just the cards stated here.

Dice/EA also has put up results of Mantle performance

Facts contained here both contravene the nonsense again posted on pcper. who has some info on when pcper will discontinue being an nvidia shill site ?

January 30, 2014 | 02:08 PM - Posted by joshontech

Some form of mantle needed to be implemented a long time ago. I always knew that these cards had more potential than they were giving out. I mean anything that is using software to intemperate something that the hardware is doing has overhead unfortunately. I mean really I predict that at minimum we will get 10 fps better with mantle just because its dealing directly with the GPU. Once they perfect it I can see a 20 or more fps boost but that's if it catches on and is continued to be improved.

I just want this to catch on fast because I have a GTX 780 and maybe game devs will start to incorporate it into more games.

January 30, 2014 | 07:55 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

it can be really good for someone with an old CPU, like Phenom II X4, Core 2 Quad or Core i3 buying a new R9 270 (it's not at all absurd buying a new $200 card and keeping your ancient CPU),

someone should test this with some old school CPUs, time to take the dust of that sweet LGA 775 setup Ryan!

January 31, 2014 | 12:30 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

I have a couple rigs running old cpus. I was worried that I would have to upgrade the entire platform but with this I should be able to avoid that and just buy a High end GPU. Those with the P2 x6 should be happy the old low clockspeed six core may actually hold its own. Those with old i7 920 should be happy as well.

January 31, 2014 | 03:36 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

and so you'll only play mantle enabled games right ?
well, there's one now (sort of). a couple more planned. good luck in the future.

January 31, 2014 | 02:42 PM - Posted by EndTimeKeeper

So basically if you have a High end CPU Like an I7 4770k paired with a High end GPU like 290x mantle dose nothing for you, but if you got a low end CPU like a A10 7850 you will see a massive boost if performance. Darn so I will see no benefit from mantle with my R9 290x because I have a higher end CPU 4670k bummer.

January 31, 2014 | 07:26 PM - Posted by snook

You should still benefit, just ~10%. Mantle does more than just that surely.

January 31, 2014 | 07:22 PM - Posted by snook

AMD tweeted that it is for all GCN based cards, not the limited cards that DICE mentioned. Hope this true.

February 2, 2014 | 10:58 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Crazy - Kitted myself out with 2 x R9-270x in Xfire to play BF4 using Mantle when its released...Really happy with the cards and perf,
Mantle gets released, my cards aren't supported and cant enable in BF4 yet, maybe in a future release AMD says...
Stupid, have a friend with older 7850's, and they're supported and work fine, and he can enable it, and gets a boost lol...
Current series of cards.... Only the WTF @ AMD...

February 4, 2014 | 09:36 AM - Posted by Defcoms (not verified)

I am running trifire 7970's on a eyefinty 6040x1080 eyefinity resolution, via Club3d MST Displayport hub, rampage iv 3960x @ 4.5ghz. The new frame pacing has made a world of difference for me. Prior to these drivers vsync would not function correctly in eyefinity with crossifre enabled, it would produce terrible stuttering. These drivers vsync works correctly and and gameplay is butter smooth with vsynch on or off.

Do you plan on doing any frame time testing on trifire systems?

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