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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  • Prosthetic Head - Friday, February 03, 2012 - link

    I purchased a second hand 4850 and put a nice custom cooler on it about 3.5 years ago. It runs near silent and performs more than adequately in all the games I play. I honestly don't see the excitement in GPU announcements unless they really are game changers (59XX, 9800XT --> 6800, X800 type leaps). I realise I'm not a bleeding edge gamer & some of you are and thats great - It means second hand high end GPUs available regularly for the same price as low end offerings less than a year later.

    The only thing that tempts me about the new architectures is the compute performance. I actually use this for some computational chemistry work and the upgrade looks well worth it if I do more of this type of work.

    The improving performance / power ratio is also of interest since I don't like loud fans, hot computers or excessive electricity consumption.
    Reply
  • Galidou - Saturday, February 04, 2012 - link

    Don't worry, chizow is a fanboy, there's nothing to do against greenies, they have a closed mind :P

    He never said anything wrong about nvidia but sure has a ton of things to say about AMD. He speaks of overclockability of GTX 580, get an answer about how overclockable the 7970 and then changes his mind and says he cares about OC but not much about stock cards OC(which the 7970 seems to do VERY well).

    Makes no sense when you say things and then right after what you say has no value for the other team.....
    Reply
  • chizow - Saturday, February 04, 2012 - link

    No, I said it makes no sense to compare one stock part to one that's overclocked. If you want to compare apples to apples, you overclock both, I have no problem with that and I think you'll find that both parts overclock similarly so the original difference in stock performance holds true.

    Only a fanboy would try to compare stock to OC results as you and others apparently tried to do.
    Reply
  • Galidou - Sunday, February 05, 2012 - link

    I never tried to compare any video card, I'm a proud owner of both camps video card, from geforce 2 gts all the way up to 6850 in crossfire and gtx 560 ti in other rig... thing is you never said anything wrong about Nvidia and I can say wrong things and good things about both camps being an owner of MULTIPLE of their cards...

    Someone with only one side of a story shouldn't be used as a reference for righteousness in judgement... Like taking a judge for an affair of murder while the judge himself is in the family of the murdered one.....

    Anyway just my two cents...
    Reply
  • chizow - Sunday, February 05, 2012 - link

    If you never tried to compare any video card, why are you defending someone who did then?

    As usual with these kinds of threads arguing with ignorant fanboys, I'm simply keeping things honest and correcting erroneous flaws in facts or logic.

    Does it make sense to you to make a comparison about one overclocked part compared to another stock part, then declare the OC'd part the winner based on those results?

    Of course not!

    As for your two cents, keep them, you will need to save every penny to make the jump from 6850 or GTX 560ti to 7950s at these prices.
    Reply
  • Galidou - Sunday, February 05, 2012 - link

    There was bad things about AMD and Nvidia in history and thing is you can only mention bad things from one side. I'd never listen to someone that already has a choosen side to speak about ANYTHING in my whole life, simply because you won't be able to hear the absolute truth from the defender of only one side... Reply
  • chizow - Saturday, February 04, 2012 - link

    No, but you were talking about me. So, please explain what you think determines pricing in this market since you insist I have no clue, or YOU shut up.

    Thanks!
    Reply
  • chizow - Saturday, February 04, 2012 - link

    Yes of course, because it would be negligent not to from any perspective.

    Anyone who buys something at any point needs to project the market, needs to weigh the potential for obsolescence. That's a large reason why companies do NOT disclose unannounced products as not to erode their own sales before a product goes EOL.

    Similarly, it would be negligent if AMD didn't project Nvidia's next-gen parts given they use the same fab and process. And right now, AMD is basically telling you with this price that they either 1) are ignoring Nvidia's 28nm partsor 2) think Nvidia's 28nm parts perform the same as their 40nm parts or 3) don't think their customers are smart enough to realize 1 or 2.

    Either way, they're going to look the fool once Nvidia does release their 40nm parts.
    Reply
  • chizow - Saturday, February 04, 2012 - link

    You mean the super-OC'd Classified 3GB versions that perform within a few % points of the 7970? Yeah of course there are. You'd be a moron not to realize the difference, or you're just being dishonest. With you it could be either.

    Most 580s are in the same price range as the 7950, $440-500, because once again, they deserved that price tag when they launched 14 months ago and the release of the 7950 has done nothing to make Nvidia drop the price on them.

    But as I said, this price and performance level will be retired soon, but obviously not as a result of the "next-gen" Tahiti parts. We'll most likely have to wait for the real "next-gen" parts with Kepler to shift this stagnant price:performance metric.
    Reply
  • chizow - Saturday, February 04, 2012 - link

    No, only a moron would blow $500 on another card a year later that performs the *SAME* as the card they paid $500 for a year earlier. And that's why the 7950's pricing sucks.

    There's light at the end of the tunnel, you may finally be getting it lol.
    Reply

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