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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  • mwildtech - Friday, August 02, 2013 - link

    Are you still signed into AOL...? ;) I also haven't had many issues with either, at least from a single GPU perspective. Reply
  • kyuu - Friday, August 02, 2013 - link

    What a surprise, the AMD-bashing trolls are out in force with long rants that nobody will read.

    Give it a rest guys.

    Anyways, great write-up Ryan. Good to see AMD is getting the issue taken care of.
    Reply
  • chizow - Saturday, August 03, 2013 - link

    Except in this case, "AMD bashing trolls" helped fix your CF drivers. A simple "thank you" would have sufficed. Reply
  • TheJian - Tuesday, August 06, 2013 - link

    ROFL...I sincerely thank you for the laugh ;)

    I liked many products over the years but have been saved by vocal complainers pointing out things to make me run, or at least wait until fixes come. I waited for RROD to get fixed with Jasper. Years of complainers finally got a fix (it took so long I started doubting I'd ever own one). My friend who jumped on x360 early shipped his back multiple times in the first year. I believe it spent more time at MS than in his house...LOL. He was a vocal complainer in their forums etc but I never called him a MS bashing troll for it. I laughed and thanked him for being one of the people who saved me years of that frustration :) He only thought that was funny after some beers...LOL

    Thankfully he has a great sense of humor. He's ready with forum accounts everywhere he thinks the complainers will be for xbox1 this time (complainers have value people). But he expects to be a reader this time rather than the complainer ;) I think he'll go PS4 in the end despite the MS love he has vs. Sony. His wallet has no trouble voting against his fanboy thoughts.

    I'm torn over the consoles though. I'd love to see AMD start making some cash, but at the same time I'm pretty unhappy they blew a wad of R&D money on something I want completely dead instead of cpus/gpus/arm socs. Had that R&D went to PC's I don't think I'd be making these statements dissing AMD. At the least they could have kept the layoffs from happening (losing 30% of your smartest people will shaft us on PC's for a few years at least and longer if consoles don't take off by the millions), and had good drivers all last year. That also might have given them a better reputation thus not needing to give out free games that are clearly wiping out profits (Q report shows this). AMD has a great gpu. It's a pity they didn't have enough funding for R&D to pair it with a great driver from day1 and funding to avoid the Fcat disaster. Even if it affects a small group it causes a lot of people to paint your other products with that image.
    Reply
  • Steveymoo - Friday, August 02, 2013 - link

    Interestingly enough, I seem to remember my GTX 460s having microstutter and performance issues in SLI. To the point where your experience in twitch games would be better if you just disabled on of the GPUs. However, over the years, and many driver updates, I don't seem to notice it any more. Nvidia really must have quite a talented software team, who communicate well with the hardware division. I would say there might be some kind of company structure issues for an issue such as this to go unnoticed, and un-fixed for such a long time. Reply
  • anubis44 - Friday, August 02, 2013 - link

    Ssshhhhh! TheJian will be all over you like a duck on a june bug! Remember, Nvidia's drivers are always perfect! They never make any mistakes...

    ...well, except for the chronic problem I had with the GTX670 card I bought for my 3 monitor setup - kept requiring about 20 steps to get all three screens to display due to bad default refresh rate/synch issue in the Nvidia driver. Got so frustrated having to go through 20 steps every time I updated to a newer driver that I sold the card for close to what I paid (~$400) and bought a Gigabyte 7950 for about ~$100 less and flashed the bios to 1050MHz. 3 monitors in eyefinity set up in about 5 minutes in the Catalyst control panel and not a problem since.
    Reply
  • DanNeely - Friday, August 02, 2013 - link

    Are you using display port monitors or an active DP-DVI adapter for your third monitor? If the latter, has it finally gotten plug and play vs the problems when it first came out? I was never able to get an adapter to work with my 5870; and since my setup wasn't EF compatable anyway (2x 1200x1600 1x 2560x1600) ended up cutting my losses with a 5450 for the 3rd monitor and went nVidia for my next GPU in response. Reply
  • krutou - Friday, August 02, 2013 - link

    Nvidia is known to suck at multi-monitor support because AMD was the first to develop the technology. One of AMD's few strengths is Eyefinity support. Reply
  • TheJian - Tuesday, August 06, 2013 - link

    From the article (and this is repeated at every site reviewing the drivers):
    "So what’s being addressed in phase 1? Phase 1 is being dedicated to Direct3D 10+ games running on a single display. What’s not being addressed in the first driver are the Direct3D 9 and OpenGL rendering paths, along with Eyefinity in any scenario."

    So Eyefinity has issues and isn't even touched with phase1. At the very least AMD is the opposite of strength with eyefinity for now. Phase2 maybe? ;)
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Graham%27s_Hier...
    You've stated a point without backing it (4th, green).

    Refutation:
    I found your mistake and explained why it is one and backed it with a direct quote (from this article no less...ROFL) thus proving my point ;) That's the purple one :) But I'm pretty sure I made it into the grey anyway. Your central point is debunked. But I can live with purple if it makes you feel better.

    Being first has no bearing on who is better later. Horses got us from point A to B first, long before cars right? But that didn't stop a car from blowing them away later. I could say the same about the first car engine vs. say a Lamborghini engine today. First doesn't mean best.
    Reply
  • TheJian - Tuesday, August 06, 2013 - link

    Why, he's pointing out reality and what most sites point out. All multi cards had issues for a while and still do. NV just spent a lot more to come up with the tools/software to fix it as best as possible (and I'd still go single potent vs. even NV multi given a reasonable choice). You're mistaking an accurate product complaint for fanboyism. That is not what my complaints are. There is no reason to attack his comment as I already know it's at least partially true for all CF/SLI and the fix is proven (so is AMD's lack of it up to now, and still having issues with 3 cards).

    Would you feel better if I ranted on Bumpgate for a few paragraphs? When a company sucks I point it out. I don't care who it is. Caminogate anyone? I ranted then too. Win8, don't get me started, Vista...(fista? Nuff said). I have equal hate for all crappy releases no matter how much love or hate I have for a company (I hate apple's tactics & pricing, but they do generally have a good polished product). If AMD releases a great 20nm product and NV sucks I will RAVE for AMD and shout at the top of my lungs how NV's product sucks. Based on R&D I doubt NV will suck but AMD can still get out a good product, I just need proof at this point due to lack of funds/engineers pointing to a possible problem launch again.

    Comically you miss the entire point of any of my posts (which are backed by data from other sites etc), then rant yourself on NV. Congrats though, at least you made it to the 4th rung here (well sort of):
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ad_hominem
    But not without making the 2nd worst type of argument first...ROFL. You're not outing me here, you're outing yourself.
    Reply

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