We've been discussing AMD's Enduro 5.5 update for a few months now; when last we checked in, everything was almost in place...everything except fully optimized DX9 support. A little over a week ago, AMD posted one final (maybe?) beta release for Enduro laptops, and since we still have the AVADirect P170EM available we quickly ran it through our benchmarks one last time. Not a whole lot has changed, and some of the games even show minor drops—basically margin of error stuff—but let's just run the numbers.

Note: The Enduro 9.01 Beta is similar but not entirely the same as the Desktop/Mobile 12.11 Beta8 driver. We only tested a couple titles with the latter and saw lower performance, so we recommend the Enduro driver for Enduro enabled laptop users—which makes sense, given the driver name. I've referred to the Enduro 9.01 Beta below as 12.11 Beta8, as I believe they're the same core driver but with some extra Enduro tweaks present.

Mobile 7970M Enthusiast Gaming

For many of the games, we see only minor differences; in fact, of the fourteen tested games, only two show more than a 5% difference, but those two show major improvements. Civilization V finally fixes the inexcusably poor performance from the 7970M and boosts frame rates by 50% while DiRT: Showdown also gets a major kick in the pants and is up 65% compared to the previous Enduro beta.

Overall, those two results are enough to give an average performance increase of 5%, but really it's the difference between borderline playable and smooth performance in those specific games. The only game where we're still down a ways from the best result we've seen on 7970M is Portal 2; the DX9 Hotfix we tested still manages about 10% better performance than we're seeing with the 12.11 Beta8 Enduro driver

Looking at the big picture, the 7970M still can't max out details on every single title you're likely to play—Sleeping Dogs and The Witcher 2 in particular are brutal, with Battlefield 3 and Guild Wars 2 also hovering closer to 30FPS than we'd like. Still, you're not going to get much faster should you opt for the NVIDIA GTX 680M at this point. Here's the latest breakdown of how the two top mobile GPUs compare:

Mobile Enthusiast Gaming - HD 7970M vs. GTX 680M

NVIDIA still holds punishingly large leads in Batman: Arkham City, Borderlands 2, Diablo 3, and Portal 2 (35%, 57%, 113%, and 43% faster, respectively), which is what keeps the GTX in the overall lead by 17%. AMD on the other hand comes away with sizeable wins in DiRT: Showdown and Sniper Elite V2. The remaining games are all close to the 10% or less range, and if we discount the big wins we just listed, the eight other titles are basically a wash—NVIDIA wins by 1%. But that's painting perhaps too rosy a picture for AMD, considering the four vs. two major victories.

The fact is, NVIDIA is still ahead on the drivers and support side of the equation. The latest Enduro driver certainly closes the gap, but NVIDIA has been better about getting updated mobile drivers out with support for new releases for two years now. I suspect if I were to go out and test Black Ops 2 and Assassin's Creed 3, I'd be more likely to see additional large NVIDIA wins—especially since those titles carry NVIDIA branding. On the other hand, Hitman Absolution, Far Cry 3, and Medal of Honor: Warfighter are all AMD branded games that have released recently (or in the case of FC3, it releases in the next week), so they ought to have a lead in those games. If I get a chance, I'll try to confirm performance on those titles, since all are likely to be popular.

We're still back to the same old refrain: where AMD really needs to work is on their drivers and updates. The 7970M is their halo mobile GPU, so it's getting good support (now). In fact, most of the 7000M products are receiving decent support, but earlier Enduro/Dynamic Switchable Graphics laptops are still a bit finicky about getting drivers installed. My overall feeling is that NVIDIA has also had more high profile games in the past couple years; AMD looks like they have a good list of titles for this holiday season, and hopefully they can continue that.

Personally, I loved Deus Ex: Human Revolution, and the DiRT series has been pretty popular as well. Sleeping Dogs looks pretty cool, but I haven't had a chance to play it much so I can't really comment there. Sniper Elite V2 on the other hand has not received particularly high marks, and neither has Nexuiz. NVIDIA also has a lot of multi-platform (re: console) games on their list, but those are still some of the better sellers. Basically, NVIDIA historically ends up with co-branding on more major releases than AMD, and with the latest talks about AMD sell offs and buy outs circulating, it's a scary time for computer enthusiasts looking at AMD—though their GPU division is definitely a brighter spot on the list.

It's taken roughly a year for Enduro to reach where we wanted it to start, and anyone who bought in early is probably more than a little irked. I'm still looking for improved support of HD 6000M/"5000M" laptops with Dynamic Switchable Graphics, but in another year even that won't really matter as it will be time for an upgrade. If you've already got an AMD-equipped laptop, the latest drivers are definitely worth a download. If you're on the fence, we're to the point where waiting for the next mobile GPUs (e.g. "8000M" and "700M") might be the way to go.

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  • extide - Tuesday, November 27, 2012 - link

    I dont think we will ever see that part in a laptop, only the Mac. It draws too much power/gives off too much heat.
  • Arbie - Tuesday, November 27, 2012 - link

    Do you know if either the NVidia or AMD laptops will run (i.e. playable) any of the Crysis games, at any settings?

  • Wolfpup - Tuesday, November 27, 2012 - link

    It can depend on what settings, resolution, etc. that you're willing to deal with, but any mid range or high end GPU should handle any of the Crysis games fine.

    My old Geforce 9650m GT with only 32 cores seemed to handle Crysis 1 fine, although it's possible later in the game it wouldn't have. But it ran Crysis 1 at around 720p with effects on medium to high at fine frame rates, so probably any mid range GPU out today ought to handle it fine.

    One 'trick' you may want to consider for games-disable anti-aliasing. I personally don't think anti-aliasing helps all that much-I mean we're at a point where kind of *MINIMUM* resolutions we play at are in the 720p range, and at that let alone 1080p, aliasing just isn't a big deal IMO. But AA uses a TON of power, like it can easily drop frame rates by half, depending.

    I'd MUCH rather use higher resolutions and higher effects settings then turn on AA, and disabling it goes a long way towards letting your system run games better.
  • Wolfpup - Tuesday, November 27, 2012 - link

    Surprised to see the comment about waiting for the next gen GPUs...are they actually coming any time soon? My assumption is that they won't amount to much...kind of like Nvidia's 8000 9000 100 series GPUs that were all basically the same thing, or the 200/300 chips. Tweaks, better clocks and the like, but nothing earth shattering.

    This year both companies:
    -Introduced great new architectures
    -Migrated from 40nm (?) to 28nm
    -Managed to release notebook parts that were shockingly close to their desktop parts...something they didn't really pull off very well in previous generations. (Of course that may be because the desktop parts could be even better than they are, but sensibly they're trying to salvage more profits out of them...but still.)

    With all that, I'd be shocked if we got anything big in 2013...personally I'm still quite pleased with what we have now! :)
  • Iketh - Tuesday, November 27, 2012 - link

    I might sound like a fanboy here, but I'm speaking from a mathematician's point of view. You can't have that "Average of 14 games" figure when you have 1 or more pointless results (diablo and portal)... the FPS in those games for the 680 are useless even on a 120Hz screen... need to normalize to 100 FPS, then average
  • silverblue - Tuesday, November 27, 2012 - link

    Perhaps, however they highlight areas where the Kepler architecture significantly outperforms Tahiti at this time. It is worth asking why this is the case, and I don't believe we should limit the testing to 100fps in, say, Portal 2 - the 680 is 43% quicker here, so why is this?
  • CeriseCogburn - Monday, December 3, 2012 - link

    Not like it matters - amd enduro has been crap, is crap, and will be crap - and really really stretching it, on the newest laptops, one might be able to say, it's almost up to optimus snuff.
    As for ALL the older enduro ou7tlays by loser incarnate amd, it's still over.
    So, not like it matters.
    amd sucks
  • jtd871 - Tuesday, November 27, 2012 - link

    Well, I couldn't wait for AMD to get their Enduro stuff together. Based on Jarred's recent recommendation that the Optimus drivers and updates were more mature, I sprung for the CZ-17 w/ 675m. Maybe in another 5 years from now I'll go red instead of green. If that option exists.
  • prdola0 - Wednesday, November 28, 2012 - link

    Jarred, why do you keep testing the Sniper Elite V2 and DiRT Showdown? Please check their metascores or reviews/user forums. Those games are viewed by the general public as rubbish. Sniper Elite is only at 65, which is extremely low if compared to other titles you test. Showdown is higher than SEv2, but still a lot lower than DiRT 3 was.

    And if you're not going to remove these games, at least in the Showdown turn of the AMD-built global illumination, which has almost no visual benefit, yet cripples the framerate significantly. It probably uses double-precision in the compute shader pass just to take advantage against the GK104 chip. Just try the test without the illumination and check how much the GeForce drops with it enabled. It's way past reasonable.
  • JarredWalton - Wednesday, November 28, 2012 - link

    Because I already ran those tests with a previous driver, and yes you're right about the scores, global lighting, etc. I do not intend to keep either game as a long-term benchmark. However, since I had "before and after" results, it was easy enough to run them again and report the improvements/changes in performance.

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