Getting the Most Out of GCN: Driver Improvements

With the launch of any new architecture there’s still a lot of room for improvement on the part of driver developers, and GCN is no exception. On January 20th AMD released the first driver update for the 7000 Series, which brought with it an interesting mix of bug fixes, new features, and performance improvements. On the feature side AMD enabled support for Analytical Anti-Aliasing and Super Sample Anti-Aliasing for DX10+ games, an overdue feature that we’re very happy to see finally make it to AMD cards. Meanwhile on the performance side the new drivers improved the performance of the 7000 series in several games. Game performance typically rises slowly over time, but as this is one of the first post-launch driver releases, the gains are larger than what we’re used to seeing farther down the line.

To get an idea of where performance has improved and by how much, we reran our entire benchmark suite on the 7970.

As to be expected, at this point in time AMD is mostly focusing on improving performance on a game-by-game basis to deal with games that didn’t immediately adapt to the GCN architecture well, while the fact that they seem to be targeting common benchmarks first is likely intentional. Crysis: Warhead is the biggest winner here as minimum framerates in particular are greatly improved; we’re seeing a 22% improvement at 1920, while at 2560 there’s still an 11% improvement. Metro:2033 and DiRT 3 also picked up 10% or more in performance versus the release drivers, while Battlefield 3 has seen a much smaller  2%-3% improvement. Everything else in our suite is virtually unchanged, as it looks like AMD has not targeted any of those games at this time.

As one would expect, a result of these improvements the performance lead of the 7970 versus the GTX 580 has widened. The average lead for the 7970 is now 19% at 1920 and 26% at 2560, with the lead approaching 40% in games like Metro that specifically benefited from this update. At this point the only game the 7970 still seems to have trouble pulling well ahead of the GTX 580 is Battlefield 3, where the lead is only 8%.

AMD's Radeon HD 7950 Meet the Sapphire HD 7950 Overclock Edition


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  • chizow - Thursday, February 02, 2012 - link

    Nonsense, we already covered this. GTX 280 was almost 2x faster than the 8800GTX and about the same performance as the 9800GX2. A true flagship card.

    ATI exceeded everyone's expectations with the RV770 but grossly underpriced their card, which is the only reason Nvidia was forced to drop their price.

    The difference this time around, is that the 7970 does NOT deserve the premium pricing relative to last-gen. The only way AMD will get off the hook is if Nvidia makes the same mistake and prices based on last-gen performance as well and prices their flagship at like $750 lol. It may happen, but I doubt it.
  • chizow - Thursday, February 02, 2012 - link

    Rofl, except I have mountains of historical evidence that back my points, while your nonsensical pricing schemes would have us deciding between new cars or new GPUs.

    Also back to that running a business part. Its obvious you have no clue what it takes to run a business.

    AMD is basically stealing from Peter to pay Paul, they're trading short-term gains for long-term profit by risking the relationship of their most loyal customers. In this business as in any other, customer satisfaction and brand loyalty is paramount.

    Unlike their fanboys, it would be criminally negligent of AMD not to consider the pricing of upcoming products from their main competitor: Nvidia. To that end, 28nm parts from Nvidia are imminent, ignoring this fact is just bad business.

    We'll see how this shakes out, but honestly I can't see AMD getting off unscathed here unless Nvidia prices Kepler outrageously.
  • Galidou - Sunday, February 05, 2012 - link

    LOL he's fun, while Nvidia made the worse pricing decision in the world like 9800gx2 priced 150$ less than a GTX 280 that performed LESS is so much funny, last gen part vs new gen part comparison here you come.... Reply
  • chizow - Sunday, February 05, 2012 - link

    What's fun is you can get 2x last-gen parts for cheaper than 1x next-gen parts anytime you want it.

    Would you buy 2xGTX 460 today instead of a GTX 580 or 7970? Most people would say no, but for those who want it, 2xold is cheaper and faster than 1xnew.
  • Galidou - Sunday, February 05, 2012 - link

    Well if you can do it anytime, what's new with 7970? Ahh it should of driven the prices down, unlike Nvidia's coming up with new gpus to drive the price up. Nvidia up the prices and ATI makes them go down here's your history of things... well things can change, we don'T live in a stable world. Reply
  • Galidou - Sunday, February 05, 2012 - link

    Lotsa people already answering to you saying that you make no sense. My philosophy teacher once tole me: If someone come up to you and tells you: ''Hey you are a horse'' you can doubt, a second one comes to you and says the same thing, well you gotta start thinking a little bit, and if a third one comes and tells you the same thing, you should start thinking about buying a saddle. Reply
  • chizow - Thursday, February 02, 2012 - link

    And to base buying decisions without acknowledging the 800lb gorilla in the room (Kepler) while simultaneously ignoring the 6 ton elephant in the room (history) would be a monumental mistake.

    Congrats at successfully trying to manage both!
  • chizow - Thursday, February 02, 2012 - link


    See here's the exact flaw in your argument.

    AMD doesn't know what Nvidia's performance will be with Kepler.

    But they've priced their new product with the assumption Kepler offers no gain, no increase in performance over Fermi.

    That's the only possible way they could justify basing their new next-gen, next-process part using old part prices.

    This is a massive error in calculation, because unless you're completely oblivious it should be clearly obvious Kepler could beat Tahiti if it were nothing more than a die-shrink of Fermi with higher clocks. 15-25% is NOTHING when looking at a new process node and new architecture, its more of what you would expect from a refresh.

    But its OK, despite your claims you have no idea how this industry works, if you did you'd immediately acknowledge the prices AMD is asking for simply aren't justified with all things considered.
  • chizow - Thursday, February 02, 2012 - link

    Because that is what people who are interested in these parts base their buying decisions on. There's not enough incentive otherwise, its not like GPUs expire every 2 years. Reply
  • chizow - Thursday, February 02, 2012 - link

    There wouldn't be a problem if the 7950 launched 14 months ago, today its might as well be an exhibit at Jurassic Park.

    And the 580 for $500? Anyone who has a 580 has put a lot of mileage on those treads and gotten their money's worth. It'll get retired soon enough though, right next to that 7950.

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