AMD Radeon HD 7870 GHz Edition & Radeon HD 7850 Review: Rounding Out Southern Islandsby Ryan Smith on March 5, 2012 12:01 AM EST
Moving on from our look at gaming performance, we have our customary look at compute performance. With GCN AMD significantly overhauled their architecture in order to improve compute performance, as their long-run initiatives rely on GPU compute performance becoming far more important than it is today.
Our first compute benchmark comes from Civilization V, which uses DirectCompute to decompress textures on the fly. Civ V includes a sub-benchmark that exclusively tests the speed of their texture decompression algorithm by repeatedly decompressing the textures required for one of the game’s leader scenes. Note that this is a DX11 DirectCompute benchmark.
The Civ V compute shader benchmark once again shows off just how much the compute shader performance of the 7800 series has improved relative to the 6900 series, with both 7800 cards coming in well, well ahead of any previous generation AMD cards. Compared to NVIDIA’s lineup the 7800 series does fairly well for itself too, although not quite as well as the commanding lead the 7900 series took.
Our next benchmark is SmallLuxGPU, the GPU ray tracing branch of the open source LuxRender renderer. We’re now using a development build from the version 2.0 branch, and we’ve moved on to a more complex scene that hopefully will provide a greater challenge to our GPUs.
SmallLuxGPU continues to showcase the 7800 series’ improvements over past AMD architectures, and while it’s not the same kind of massive leap we saw with CivV, it’s still enough to bring the 7850 up to near the performance of the 6970, and pushing the 7870 well beyond that. The only real competition here for AMD is AMD.
For our next benchmark we’re looking at AESEncryptDecrypt, an OpenCL AES encryption routine that AES encrypts/decrypts an 8K x 8K pixel square image file. The results of this benchmark are the average time to encrypt the image over a number of iterations of the AES cypher.
On the one hand, the 7870 gets quite close to the 7950 here in our AESEncryptDecrypt benchmark, in spite of the latter’s higher number of shaders. On the other hand, it’s still not enough to dethrone the GTX 570; the only NVIDIA cards the 7800 series can beat start at the GTX 560 Ti.
Finally, our last benchmark is once again looking at compute shader performance, this time through the Fluid simulation sample in the DirectX SDK. This program simulates the motion and interactions of a 16k particle fluid using a compute shader, with a choice of several different algorithms. In this case we’re using an (O)n^2 nearest neighbor method that is optimized by using shared memory to cache data.
In our final compute test the 7800 series once again makes a run at the top, with both cards rising past the GTX 570, although they can’t quite match the GTX 580. In an interesting turn of events the 7870 ends up being some 6% faster than the 7950, in spite of the fact that in a compute benchmark the 7950 should have a solid lead. This just goes to show that core clockspeeds do matter, and that adding more shaders alone can’t conquer all benchmarks.