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Catalyst 13.8 Results in Summary

For this article we’ve decided to do things a bit differently and lead in with a summary of our results, rather than starting with detailed results and then going to a summary. Based on past feedback most of you want to quickly know whether this works at all and how well it works, which is something we can quickly cover first before diving into individual games.

We’ll start with the graph that is of the most importance: delta percentages on a 7990, comparing Catalyst 13.6b2 to Catalyst 13.8b1 with frame pacing enabled.

AMD Radeon HD 7990 Delta Percentages: Cat 13.6 vs. Cat 13.8

The results, quite frankly, speak for themselves. In roughly half of our 6 games AMD had absolutely absurd frame pacing on Catalyst 13.6. Total War, Sleeping Dogs, and Battlefield 3 all had massive pacing issues that were the result of second frames coming far too soon after first frames, leading to a high instance of “runt” frames – that is frames that are only shown for an incredibly short period of time before being replaced with a newer frame. These are the games where micro-stuttering and/or the feeling of lower frame rates would be the most apparent.

Earlier we decided that our cutoff would be 15%-20% for an “acceptable” range for delta percentages on a multi-GPU setup, and with the exception of Total War: Shogun 2 (the only non-action game in this collection), AMD has just managed to hit that. How smooth this is going to be perceived is going to vary on a person-by-person basis, but this is right where we’d say micro-stuttering and other issues become generally unnoticeable.

For the more visually inclined, we’ve also quickly cooked up frame time graphs in FCAT showing the two 7990s. The full series is below, but we’ll print in full the Total War: Shogun 2 graph in full since it was one of the bigger problem cases for AMD’s cards without frame pacing. Shogun doesn’t have any scene transitions, but it does have some snap camera movements that leads to a clear separation between scenes. In each scene we can clearly see the much lower variability with Catalyst 13.8 with frame pacing turned on, as opposed to 13.6 with frame pacing turned off.

Similarly, turning off frame pacing results results in Catalyst 13.6-like behavior, with much higher variability compared to having frame pacing turned on.

Moving on, the next question on most readers’ minds will probably be performance. What’s the performance sacrifice for using this new frame pacing mechanism? AMD said that the performance hit should be non-existent, and strictly speaking within Catalyst 13.8 that’s true, as we get identical frame rates with it on or off. However compared to Catalyst 13.6 we are seeing a performance regression.

AMD Radeon HD 7990 Framerates: Cat 13.5, Cat 13.6, & Cat 13.8

With the exception of Hitman: Absolution, performance is down across the board on 13.8 versus 13.6. The specific performance losses vary on the game, but we’re looking at 5-10%. However compared to the 13.5 launch drivers and again with the exception of Hitman AMD’s performance has held constant or increased. So at the very least when it comes to frame rates AMD is no worse off than they were at the launch of the 7990.

Our next summary graph is plotting the 7970GE against a pair of 7970GEs in Crossfire, to take a fresh look at AFR (Crossfire) versus a single GPU. Our editorial position has been and remains that we favor a single larger GPU over a pair of smaller GPUs when this approach is practical, and this chart demonstrates exactly why.

AMD Radeon HD 7970GE Delta Percentages: One vs. Two GPUs

The delta percentages on the single 7970GE are all under 2%, versus 12%+ for the Crossfire setup. AFR simply cannot match the consistency of a single GPU at this time, which is why a high AFR is best left to being pursued after single-GPU performance has been exhausted.

The Test Catalyst 13.8 Results in Summary, Cont
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  • Feellia - Friday, August 02, 2013 - link

    Not aimed at anyone, but flat out in any competitive game play the kind that has tourneys and pays out cash, Mostly fps such as quake..etc everyone has vsync off it flat out adds input lag...all the pros turn it off no matter what monitor is used, but no one is running a SLI/CrossfFire set up during these events.

    The pros typically lower settings quite damn low so they can push a steady 125fps and screen tearing is absolutely no concern. And if i have vsync on my aim % takes a nearly 25% dip

    Anyway this is review is about duel+ cards, and kudos to AMD even though they still need a bit of work before going on a official non beta release = )
    Reply
  • piwo - Friday, August 02, 2013 - link

    can you check a10- 5750m with hd6670? Reply
  • dew111 - Friday, August 02, 2013 - link

    I just got a second HD 7950, and this driver makes a HUGE difference! They should have done this earlier, but their timing was great for my first CrossFire setup :P Reply
  • JamesWoods - Sunday, August 04, 2013 - link

    It's a crying shame they won't jump back to HD 4000 series or even HD 3000 series and fix these problems. I'm sure there is still quite a large loyal fanbase using these cards. I happen to own several systems with HD 4850's in them, and they can still set pace on a lot of modern games. Crossfire is another story. They never really felt optimized running in X fire. Reply
  • medi02 - Tuesday, August 06, 2013 - link

    Is it me, or does nVidia have much lower min fps on a number of charts? =) Reply
  • transphasic - Tuesday, August 06, 2013 - link

    Well done, AMD! You didn't bother to do anything about creating fixes for the single GPU setup, and basically ignored those w/o CF setups.
    You had 2 1/2 months without any new driver fixes, and THIS is the BEST you can do?
    Major fail once again.
    Thanks for nothing....
    Reply
  • medi02 - Wednesday, August 07, 2013 - link

    Exactly which single GPU setup is giving you micro stuttering problem? Reply
  • usrevenge - Wednesday, August 07, 2013 - link

    Basically, AMD did a lot to fix the problems, but still leaves a lot of work to be done. I call these drivers a success. Reply
  • Nearox - Monday, August 26, 2013 - link

    Does this technology also apply to the HD6000 series (and in particular the HD6950)? Could anyone say if this will also work for Skyrim? Thinking about getting a 2nd hand hd6950 to go xfire with this, seeing the good results from this AnandTech test. Reply
  • lopper - Wednesday, August 28, 2013 - link

    A question: Does this driver fix stuttering on dual graphics configurations like A10 +6670? Reply

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