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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  • MattM_Super - Tuesday, January 31, 2012 - link

    Yes I would enjoy more performance (esp at a lower power draw). I like to get ~60fps minimum @1080p. In games with fancy lighting effects, 4xAA, high res textures, like Witcher 2, metro 2033, crysis 2 dx11 current cards cant deliver that. Its a luxury sure, but one I am willing to pay for.
    I also think there is still plenty of room for improvement in graphics.
    Reply
  • sleepeeg3 - Wednesday, February 15, 2012 - link

    Bingo. The fanboys are too focused on bickering to realize these GPUs are blowing past 100fps on popular games. Who cares? Game companies stopped pushing the limits years ago. Reply
  • chizow - Tuesday, January 31, 2012 - link

    Its funny because next-gen single-GPU performance *USED* to be measured against previous gen x2 GPU card or CF/SLI where we would expect 50+% increase over last-gen single-GPU.

    But yes its easy to ignore the fact the 580 also overclocks quite well. I don't know what would be worst though for a new 7950 or 7970 owner. Kepler launching and make these prices look like tragic comedy, or AMD releasing the HD89xx not too long after to make them feel even worst about their purchase.

    Either way, you make a compelling argument against buying one of these cards today.
    Reply
  • Master_shake_ - Tuesday, January 31, 2012 - link

    you are obviously a fanboy,

    obviously you missed the part where the 7970 can oc to 1125 on the cvore and max out the vram clock with STOCK voltiage, and when you do so it beats BEATS the gtx 590 a current gen dual gpu card.
    Reply
  • chizow - Tuesday, January 31, 2012 - link

    While I value OC'ability, I don't consider OC to stock comparisons relevant because frankly, it makes no sense.

    Every card can OC to some degree so an apples-to-apples comparison should be the primary comparison with overclockability secondary.
    Reply
  • Tchamber - Wednesday, February 01, 2012 - link

    Rather than call you a fanboy, I would ask for an example of a high end card going against the previous gen x2 card...and bear in mind that ONCE does NOT consitute a trend. I think evolution of performance is always incremental, at least is has been since gtx200 and radeon 4000 series. Reply
  • chizow - Wednesday, February 01, 2012 - link

    -GTX 280 was very close to as fast as 9800GX2
    Filter prevented a link for this, but google computerbase GTX 280 review and look at performance rating summary.

    -GTX 480/580 was faster than GTX 295
    Same deal, google 480 review for that site.

    -GTX 680 should be very close to GTX 590 performance

    What makes this easier on the next-gen GPU flagship is the last-gen X2 parts generally have to make sacrifices in either bandwidth, functional units, or clockspeeds to stay within TDP envelopes along with imperfect multi-GPU scaling, so you generally see only 50-75% scaling over the top single-GPU of that generation.

    So you can look at it two ways, either next-gen should be ~50% faster than the top last-gen GPU, or it is very close to the last-gen X2 GPU card.

    I'm trying not to take any shots at AMD fans, but their reactions to these Tahiti parts in light of historical price and performance leads me to believe they either have very low standards/expectations or they just haven't been paying attention to the industry.
    Reply
  • Galidou - Saturday, February 04, 2012 - link

    ''they just haven't been paying attention to the industry''

    Wait, if I buy a GPU now, and I want the top single gpu for multiple screens, whatever the people in the world think about what I WANT, I realize that I have more power for my money by buying a 7970 and I go with it, it turns out that because I have done that, I'm an AMD fanboy because I haven'T been paying attention to the industry?

    OMG I'm such a tard, I forgot I haven'T paid attention to the industry so I should of paid more for a less performing card..... darn that's how stupid I am.....
    Reply
  • chizow - Saturday, February 04, 2012 - link

    If you absolutely had to have a new card today, sure you'd have some reason to buy a 7970, but still not at these prices imo.

    If you wanted to maximize your return on the dollar however, you'd be much better off waiting for Kepler because even if the 7970 still suits your needs better at that point, Kepler will almost assuredly force downward pressure on all Tahiti AND Fermi parts and force AMD and Nvidia to adjust prices accordingly. In the past AMD has done this when they launched a next-gen part first (See: 5850/5870 launch), but not this time.

    This actually reminds me a lot of the X1950XTX launch. Great performance when it launched and price perfectly justified compared to Nvidia's last-gen G70/G71 designs like 7900GTX and 7950GT. But as soon as G80/8800GTX launched a few months later, it made that buy decision look horrible in retrospect.

    So yes, while a X1950XTX today, er I mean 7970 today looks perfectly justified, it would be a mistake to ignore what the future holds and what the past has told us when making a buying decision.
    Reply
  • Galidou - Sunday, February 05, 2012 - link

    What about the pricing of gtx 280 at launch vs the price of 8800gt were selling? There's always an example about Ati making bad pricing decisions, but nvidia... not out of your mouth?

    I'm no ATI fanboy, I'm just waiting for you to show us you see the other side of the medal...

    Those GTX 280 650$ at launch while the 8800gt was about 55-65% of the performance of that card but HEY it was three times cheaper... No you haven't heard of? Oh I forgot, Nvidia makes no mistakes, it's ATI that did with the 4870 pricing it so low, but Nvidia... they make no mistake.

    But hey the price of the 7970 accordingly to it'S performance is SO BAD compared to the triple price of that GTX 280 for not even double the performance over that nice 8800gt...
    Reply

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