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Catalyst 13.8 Results in Summary, Cont

Up next, let’s take a quick look at how the 7990 with frame pacing compares to NVIDIA’s GTX 690. NVIDIA’s frame pacing has been the gold standard thus far, so let’s see how close AMD has come to NVIDIA on their first shot.

Delta Percentages: AMD Radeon HD 7990 vs. GeForce GTX 690

Frankly the results aren’t flattering for AMD here, although keeping things in perspective they’re not terrible. In every last game GTX 690 has much lower frame time variability than 7990. NVIDIA has been working on this problem a lot longer than AMD has and it shows. Ultimately while it’s true this is an absolute metric when it comes to comparing results – AMD experiences more than two times the frame time variation in 5 of the 6 games – keep in mind we’re looking at the variance in frame times, rather than the frame times themselves, a first order derivative. What it means is that AMD clearly still has room for improvement, but AMD’s approximately 20% results are not a poor showing in this metric; for every individual there exists a point below which the frame time variations cease to be perceptible.

While we’re on the matter of this comparison, it’s very much worth pointing out that while AMD can’t match NVIDIA’s delta percentages at this time the same cannot be said for runt and dropped frames. Throughout our tests on Catalyst 13.8 AMD delivered 0 runt frames and dropped 0 frames. This is a massive improvement over Catalyst 13.6, which would regularly deliver runt frames and drop frames at times too. In fact even NVIDIA can’t do this well; the GTX 690 doesn’t drop any frames but does deliver a small number of runt frames (particularly towards the start of certain benchmarks). So in their very first shot AMD is already beating NVIDIA on runt frames, a concept pioneered by NVIDIA in the first place.

We’ve also posted the FCAT graphs for the 7990 versus the GTX 690 below. We can clearly see the higher variation of the 7990, while we see a few more instances of late frames on GTX 690 than we do 7990.

Moving on, we wanted to quickly compare D3D9 to D3D11 performance on the 7990. As a reminder AMD’s frame pacing mechanism isn’t enabled for D3D9, so this gives us a quick chance to look at the difference. The only title in our collection that is D3D9 capable is Total War: Shogun 2, so we’ll use that.

And there you go. Frame pacing is not available on D3D9, leading to much more variable results for the 7990 when using the D3D9 path, even though it’s otherwise faster due to the simpler effects. AMD will ultimately address D3D9 in a further phase, but in the meantime this reinforces the need for a switch to turn off Crossfire on dual-GPU cards like the 7990. NVIDIA allows this, and AMD lets you do it on multi-card setups, but with the 6990 and 7990 you are unfortunately locked into Crossfire mode at all times.

Finally, while it’s not something we can properly measure, we did want to touch upon the matter of input lag. AMD’s earlier position that frame pacing and input lag are inversely related was not wrong. At some level adding frame pacing is going to increase the input lag due to frames being held back. The question is, to what extent and is it acceptable?

The short answer is that while we can’t really give the issue the full attention it deserves without a high speed camera (something we don’t have), subjective testing is quite good. If there is a difference in input lag from enabling frame pacing, it’s not something we’re able to perceive. Despite AMD’s concerns about input lag from what usage testing we’ve done we have no problem saying that enabling frame pacing by default was the right move. In our experience there’s simply no reason not to enable it.

Catalyst 13.8 Results in Summary Total War: Shogun 2
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  • boot318 - Thursday, August 01, 2013 - link

    I've read a couple people got "black screened" when they did this update on one GPU. I'm not saying that will happen, but you better prepare for it if you do. Reply
  • Bob Todd - Thursday, August 01, 2013 - link

    I may have missed this when I skimmed through the results, but have you heard anything about rough estimates from AMD about a frame pacing release supporting Eyefinity (e.g. Q4, H1 2014, etc.)? I know it's still a tiny percentage of users, but there are relatively cheap 1080p IPS panels now so building a nice looking 5760x1080 setup is pretty affordable these days. After playing games this way, it's something I wish I had done earlier, and I'm eager to see a frame pacing driver supporting this setup. Reply
  • Ryan Smith - Thursday, August 01, 2013 - link

    Sorry, AMD didn't give us an ETA on that one. Let me see if I can still get one out of them. Reply
  • DanNeely - Thursday, August 01, 2013 - link

    HardOCP says DX9 and Eyefinity support should be available in a driver update later this month.

    http://www.hardocp.com/article/2013/08/01/amd_cata...
    Reply
  • DeviousOrange - Thursday, August 01, 2013 - link

    I am hoping this will also improve Dual Graphics, will give it a test over the weekend. Reply
  • Homeles - Thursday, August 01, 2013 - link

    Well I'll be damned. They did it. Not quite as good as Nvidia, but at this point, the difference isn't really one worth mentioning. Reply
  • xdrol - Thursday, August 01, 2013 - link

    The link is bad for the driver, please remove "-auth" from the URL. Reply
  • chizow - Thursday, August 01, 2013 - link

    Like watching a baby crawl. Good first step for AMD, but still a long way to go.

    AMD and their fans can thank the press (mainly TechReport and HardOCP, sorry Derek, you guys were way late to the party and still not fully onboard with FCAT measurements) and Nvidia fans for making such a big stink of this. Lord knows AMD and their fans were too busy looking the other way to address it, anyways.

    Hopefully AMD and their fans take something away from this: if you want to improve your product, don't try to sweep it under the rug, address it, own it, and demand a fix for it.
    Reply
  • chizow - Thursday, August 01, 2013 - link

    Sorry my above post should reference the author Ryan, not Derek (was thinking of your predecessor), when referring to AT not being at the forefront of this runtframe/microstutter issue.

    Also, I feel the accolades given to TechReport, while not completely undeserving, should also be given to PCPer's Ryan Shrout and some of the German publications like PCGamesHardware. While TechReport did start the ball rolling with some new ways to measure frame latency/microstutter, Ryan Shrout really harped on the runtframe issue until Nvidia worked with him in unveiling FCAT. Also, the German sites have been hammering AMD for years about their much worst microstuttering in CF, largely ignored by the NA press/blogs. And finally Kyle at HardOCP has said for years SLI felt smoother than CF with some Pepsi challenge type user testing, but not so much hard evidence as presented here as well as other sites.

    Finally Ryan, are these new metrics you've done an excellent job of formulating going to make it into future benchmarks? Or are you going to just assume the issue has been fixed going forward? I would love to take AMD's word on it but as we've seen from both vendors in the past, driver regression is commonplace unless constantly revisited by users, reviewers, and the vendors alike.
    Reply
  • Ryan Smith - Friday, August 02, 2013 - link

    "Finally Ryan, are these new metrics you've done an excellent job of formulating going to make it into future benchmarks?"

    They'll be in future articles in a limited form, similar to how we handled the GTX 780 launch. It takes a lot of additional work to put this data together, which isn't always time we have available. Especially if it becomes doing hours of extra work to collect data just to say "yep, still no stuttering."
    Reply

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