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A Note On Crossfire, 4K Compatibility, Power, & The Test

Before we dive into our formal testing, there are a few brief testing notes that bear mentioning.

First and foremost, on top of our normal testing we did some additional Crossfire compatibility testing to see if AMD’s new XDMA Crossfire implementation ran into any artifacting or other issues that we didn’t experience elsewhere.  The good news there is that outside of the typical scenarios where games simply don’t scale with AFR – something that affects SLI and CF equally – we didn’t see any artifacts in the games themselves. The closest we came to a problem was with the intro videos for Total War: Rome 2, which have black horizontal lines due to the cards trying to AFR render said video at a higher framerate than it played at. Once in-game Rome was relatively fine; relatively because it’s one of the games we have that doesn’t see any performance benefit from AFR.

Unfortunately AMD’s drivers for 290X are a bit raw when it comes to Crossfire. Of note, when running at a 4K resolution, we had a few instances of loading a game triggering an immediate system reboot. Now we’ve had crashes before, but nothing quite like this. After reporting it to AMD, AMD tells us that they’ve been able to reproduce the issue and have fixed it for the 290X launch drivers, which will be newer than the press drivers we used. Once those drivers are released we’ll be checking to confirm, but we have no reason to doubt AMD at this time.

Speaking of 4K, due to the two controller nature of the PQ321 monitor we use there are some teething issues related to using 4K right now. Most games are fine at 4K, however we have found games that both NVIDIA and AMD have trouble with at one point or another. On the NVIDIA side Metro will occasionally lock up after switching resolutions, and on the AMD side GRID 2 will immediately crash if using the two controller (4K@60Hz) setup. In the case of the latter dropping down to a single controller (4K@30Hz) satisfies GRID while allowing us to test at 4K resolutions, and with V-sync off it doesn’t have a performance impact versus 60Hz, but it is something AMD and Codemasters will need to fix.

Furthermore we also wanted to offer a quick update on the state of Crossfire on AMD’s existing bridge based (non-XDMA) cards. The launch drivers for the 290X do not contain any further Crossfire improvements for bridge based cards, which means Eyefinity Crossfire frame pacing is still broken for all APIs. Of particular note for our testing, the 280X Crossfire setup ends up in a particularly nasty failure mode, simply dropping every other frame. It’s being rendered, as evidenced by the consumption of the Present call, however as our FCAT testing shows it’s apparently not making it to the master card. This has the humorous outcome of making the frame times rather smooth, but it makes Crossfire all but worthless as the additional frames are never displayed. Hopefully AMD can put a fork in the matter once and for all next month.

A Note On Testing Methodologies & Sustained Performance

Moving on to the matter of our testing methodology, we want to make note of some changes since our 280X review earlier this month. After having initially settled on Metro: Last Light for our gaming power/temp/noise benchmark, in a spot of poor planning on our part we have discovered that Metro scales poorly on SLI/CF setups, and as a result doesn't push those setups very hard. As such we have switched from Metro to Crysis 3 for our power/temp/noise benchmarking, as Crysis 3 was our second choice and has a similar degree of consistency to it as Metro while scaling very nicely across both AMD and NVIDIA multi-GPU setups. For single-GPU cards the impact on noise is measurably minor, as the workloads are similar, however power consumption will be a bit different due to the difference in CPU workloads between the benchmarks.

We also want to make quick note of our testing methodologies and how they are or are not impacted by temperature based throttling. For years we have done all of our GPU benchmarking by looping gaming benchmarks multiple times, both to combat the inherent run-to-run variation that we see in benchmarking, and more recently to serve as a warm-up activity for cards with temperature based throttling. While these methods have proved sufficient for the Radeon 7000 series, the GeForce 600 series, and even the GeForce 700 series, due to the laws of physics AMD's 95C throttle point takes longer to get to than NVIDIA's 80C throttle point. As a result it's harder to bring the 290X up to its sustained temperatures before the end of our benchmark runs. It will inevitably hit 95C in quiet mode, but not every benchmark runs long enough to reach that before the 3rd or 4th loop.

For the sake of consistency with past results we have not altered our benchmark methodology. However we wanted to be sure to point out this fact before getting to benchmarking, so that there’s no confusion over how we’re handling the matter. Consequently we believe our looping benchmarks run long enough to generally reach sustained performance numbers, but in all likelihood some of our numbers on the shortest benchmarks will skew low. For the next iteration of our benchmark suite we’re most likely going to need to institute a pre-heating phase for all cards to counter AMD’s 95C throttle point.

The Drivers

The press drivers for the 290X are Catalyst 13.11 Beta v5 (The “v” is AMD’s nomenclature), which identify themselves as being from the driver branch 13.250. These are technically still in the 200 branch of AMD’s drivers, but this is the first appearance of 250, as Catalyst 13.11 Beta v1 was still 13.200. AMD doesn’t offer release notes on these beta drivers, but we found that they offered distinct improvements in GRID 2 and to a lesser extent Battlefield 3, and have updated our earlier results accordingly.

Meanwhile for NVIDIA we’re using the recently released “game ready” 331.58 WHQL drivers.

CPU: Intel Core i7-4960X @ 4.2GHz
Motherboard: ASRock Fatal1ty X79 Professional
Power Supply: Corsair AX1200i
Hard Disk: Samsung SSD 840 EVO (750GB)
Memory: G.Skill RipjawZ DDR3-1866 4 x 8GB (9-10-9-26)
Case: NZXT Phantom 630 Windowed Edition
Monitor: Asus PQ321
Video Cards: AMD Radeon R9 290X
XFX Radeon R9 280X Double Dissipation
AMD Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition
AMD Radeon HD 7970
AMD Radeon HD 6970
AMD Radeon HD 5870
NVIDIA GeForce GTX Titan
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 770
Video Drivers: NVIDIA Release 331.58
AMD Catalyst 13.11 Beta v1
AMD Catalyst 13.11 Beta v5
OS: Windows 8.1 Pro

 

Meet The Radeon R9 290X Metro: Last Light
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  • ninjaquick - Thursday, October 24, 2013 - link

    so 4-5% faster than Titan? Reply
  • Drumsticks - Thursday, October 24, 2013 - link

    If the 780Ti is $599, then that means the 780 should see at least a $150 (nearly 25%!) price drop, which is good with me. Reply
  • DMCalloway - Thursday, October 24, 2013 - link

    So, what you are telling me is Nvidia is going to stop laughing- all- the- way- to-the-bank and price the 780ti for less than current 780 prices? Current 780 owners are going to get HOT and flood the market with used 780's. Reply
  • dragonsqrrl - Thursday, October 24, 2013 - link

    Why is it that this is only ever the case when Nvidia performs a massive price drop? Nvidia price drop = early adopters getting screwed (even though 780 has been out for ~6 months now). AMD price drop = great value for enthusiasts, go AMD! ... lolz. Reply
  • Minion4Hire - Thursday, October 24, 2013 - link

    Titan is a COMPUTE card. A poor man's (relatively speaking) proper compute solution. The fact that it is also a great gaming card is almost incidental. No one needs a 6GB frame buffer for gaming right now. The Titan comparisons are nearly meaningless.

    The "nearly" part is the unknown 780 TI. Nvidia could enable the remaining CUs on 780 to at least give the TI comparable performance to Titan. But who cares that Titan is $1000? It isn't really relevant.
    Reply
  • ddriver - Thursday, October 24, 2013 - link

    Even much cheaper radeons compeltely destroy the titan as well as every other nvidia gpu in compute, do not be fooled by a single, poorly implemented test, the nvidia architecture plainly sucks in double precision performance. Reply
  • ShieTar - Thursday, October 24, 2013 - link

    Since "much cheaper" Radeons tend to deliver 1/16th DP performance, you seem to not really know what you are talking about. Go read up on a relevant benchmark suite on professional and compute cards, e.g. http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/best-workstati... The only tasks where AMD cards shine are those implemented in OpenCL. Reply
  • ddriver - Thursday, October 24, 2013 - link

    "Much cheaper" relative to the price of the titan, not entry level radeons... You clutched onto a straw and drowned...

    OpenCL is THE open and portable industry standard for parallel computing, did you expect radeons to shine at .. CUDA workloads LOL, I'd say OpenCL performance is all I really need, it has been a while since I played or cared about games.
    Reply
  • Pontius - Tuesday, October 29, 2013 - link

    I'm in the same boat as you ddriver, all I care about is OpenCL in these articles. I go straight to that section usually =) Reply
  • TheJian - Friday, October 25, 2013 - link

    You're neglecting the fact that everything you can do professionally in openCL you can already do faster in cuda. Cuda is taught in 600+ universities for a reason. It is in over 200 pro apps and has been funded for 7+yrs unlike opencl which is funded by a broke company hoping people will catch on one day :) Anandtech refuses to show cuda (gee they do have an AMD portal after all...LOL) but it exists and is ultra fast. You really can't name a pro app that doesn't have direct support or support via plugin for Cuda. And if you're buying NV and running opencl instead of cuda (like anand shows calling it compute crap) you're an idiot. Why don't they run Premiere instead of Sony crap for video editing? Because Cuda works great for years in it. Same with Photoshop etc...

    You didn't look at folding@home DP benchmark here in this review either I guess. 2.5x faster than 290x. As you can see it depends on what you do and the app you use. I consider F@H stupid use of electricity but that's just me...LOL. Find anything where OpenCL (or any AMD stuff, directx, opengl) beats CUDA. Compute doesn't just mean OpenCL, it means CUDA too! Dumb sites just push openCL because its OPEN...LOL. People making money use CUDA and generally buy quadro or tesla (they own 90% of the market for a reason, or people would just buy radeons right?).
    http://www.anandtech.com/show/7457/the-radeon-r9-2...
    DP in F@H here. Titan sort of wins right? 2.5x or so over 290x :) It's comic both here and toms uses a bunch of junk synthetic crap (bitmining, Asics do that now, basemark junk, F@H, etc) to show how good AMD is, but forget you can do real work with Cuda (heck even bitmining can be done with cuda)

    When you say compute, I think CUDA, not opencl on NV. As soon as you toss in Cuda the compute story changes completely. Unfortunately even Toms refuses to pit OpenCL vs. Cuda just like here at anandtech (but that's because both love OpenCL and hate proprietary stuff). But at least they show you in ShieTar's link (which craps out, remove the . at the end of the link) that Titan kills even the top quadro cards (it's a Tesla remember for $1500 off). It's 2x+ faster than quadro's in almost everything they tested. So yeah, Titan is very worth it for people who do PRO stuff AND game.
    http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/best-workstati...
    For the lazy, fixed ShieTar's link.

    All these sites need to do is fire up 3dsmax, cinema4d, Blender, adobe (pick your app, After Effect, Premiere, Photoshop) and pit Cuda vs. OpenCL. Just pick an opencl plugin for AMD (luxrender) and Octane/furryball etc for NV then run the tests. Does AMD pay all these sites to NOT do this? I comment and ask on every workstation/vid card article etc at toms, they never respond...LOL. They run pure cuda, then pure opencl, but act like they never meet. They run crap like basemark for photo/video editing opencl junk (you can't make money on that), instead of running adobe and choosing opencl(or directx/opengl) for AMD and Cuda for NV. Anandtech runs Sony Vegas which a quick google shows has tons of problems with NV. Heck pit Sony/AMD vs. Adobe/NV. You can run the same tests in both on video, though it would be better to just use adobe for both but they won't do that until AMD gets done optimizing for the next rev...ROFL. Can't show AMD in a bad light here...LOL. OpenCL sucks compared to Cuda (proprietary or not...just the truth).
    Reply

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