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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  • Galidou - Tuesday, January 31, 2012 - link

    Well then everything you said is nothing new, and is quite useless, that's what I meant. What's the point mentioning that it always has been like that and say it like if it's totally shocking like if it's new.

    ''In other words, if you wanted this level of performance, you could've gotten it a year ago with the GTX 580 for almost the same price....over a year ago....

    And that's why AMD's pricing of these parts fails.''

    Than marketting the way is done nowadays is a big FAIL but everyone knows it, ALWAYS has been like that... Car manufacturer makes new cars every year and sometimes it's worse than last year's, and higher priced....

    Ever heard of programmed obsolescence??
  • chizow - Tuesday, January 31, 2012 - link

    But this ISN'T how it usually goes, its unprecedented which is why many observers are pointing out the inconsistency. Look at history and even your own examples to show how this is out of the norm.

    I will leave you with one final question and you try to answer it with a straight face.

    If Nvidia launched their new "next-gen" architecture on a new process node like 15nm in 12-13 months and it was only 15-25% faster than the 7970 but cost 10% more, would you be happy with it and consider it some great victory???

    I don't know, I mean every way you possibly look at this, it just isn't right.
  • xeridea - Tuesday, January 31, 2012 - link

    I would poo my pants because Nvidia actually did a process shrink ahead of schedule. BY THE WAY 14nm is 2 shrinks from now, and will be about 5 years down the road.

    Following your conversation, you clearly don't know the reason behind pricing scheme. There is 0 competition with the 7900 series right now, and it is still better price/performace at its high price. Price will go down in time, but cards are always more expensive on release.... welcome to the real world.

    You could get the 580 last year for $50 more than the 7950, while using 30-80W more power (idle-game), running 10-25C hotter under load, making more noise, and slightly less performance (even with fairly new drivers for 7950).
  • chizow - Tuesday, January 31, 2012 - link

    Uh, no I understand perfectly why they're pricing it this way.

    They're trying to make money and capitalize on the brief period of time they can actually charge a premium for holding the performance crown.

    But that's not going to stop keen observers like myself for calling them on it, especially when they're pricing last-gen performance at next-gen prices. They might swindle a few of their unwitting fans this time around but this will only hurt them in the long run. And by long, I mean as soon as Kepler launches.
  • mdlam - Tuesday, January 31, 2012 - link

    Too bad your "keen" observations prevented you from noticing that Nvidia is also pricing their 14 month old technology at premium prices? Wait maybe it is because you are a Nvidia fanboy! I won't ever get swindled by AMD, I will only be swindled by Nvidia, says the retard. Reply
  • SlyNine - Tuesday, January 31, 2012 - link

    Then go back and look at other launches. Get the facts and stop using Adhominem attacks and showing your ignorance. Reply
  • chizow - Tuesday, January 31, 2012 - link

    No, Nvidia priced their last-gen performance based on last-gen premiums, you would expect the next-gen to shift these parts to obsolescence but obviously AMD doesn't feel their users possess the acumen to understand this paradigm.

    As for retards being swindled by Nvidia, lmao, the difference is, they would've been reveling in their ignorant bliss with this level of performance, 14 months ago. For the same price.

    Its truly amazing though, because you're falling into the exact trap AMD expects you to fall for with the pricing of this card. Honestly how can anyone defend the price and performance metric of this card 14 months later?
  • mdlam - Tuesday, January 31, 2012 - link

    AMD doesn't give a shit whether you fall for anything, neither does Nvidia. If enough people buy their cards at X price to support their billion dollar companies, then the price stays. If not, the price goes down. If more people than not refuse to buy the product, then price goes....up.... Whether its this metric or that metric or not fair or super clever AMD trap its all bullshit people make up who hold little educational knowledge in economics or business. Reply
  • mdlam - Tuesday, January 31, 2012 - link

    People like you btw. Reply
  • chizow - Wednesday, February 01, 2012 - link

    Sounds like someone missed their nap.

    AMD should care actually, because the only people who would even entertain buying one of these cards are their biggest fans, the ones who are going to feel the burn the worst when the floor drops on the pricing of these products.

    Again, there is precedent for this, AMD did it to Nvidia in 2008 and Nvidia was cutting rebate checks. Do you think AMD is willing to do the same?

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