In an off year that hasn’t seen too many new product releases thus far, this has been anything but a dull time. For the better part of a year now the technology journalist community – spearheaded by The Tech Report’s Scott Wasson – has been investigating the matter of frame pacing and frame timing on GPUs. In applying new techniques and new levels of rigor, Scott found that frames were not being rendered as consistently as we had always assumed they were, and that cards that were equal in performance as measured by frame rates were not necessarily equal in in performance as measured by frame intervals. It was AMD in particular who was battered by all of this work, with the discovery that both their single-GPU and multi-GPU products were experiencing poor frame pacing at times. AMD could meet (and beat) NVIDIA on frame rates, only to lose out on smoothness as a result of poor frame pacing.

Since then we have seen both some progress and some new revelations on these matters. AMD was very quick to start working on resolving their single-GPU issues, and by March when they were willing and able to fully engage the tech community, they had already solved the bulk of those single-GPU issues. With those issues behind them, they also laid out a plan to tackle the more complex issue of multi-GPU frame pacing, which would involve spending a few months to write a new frame pacing mechanism for their cards.

At the same time NVIDIA also dropped a small bombshell with the public release of FCAT, their long in development frame interval benchmarking tool. FCAT could do what FRAPS alone could not, capturing and analyzing the very output of video cards to determine frame rates, frame times, and frame intervals. Though FRAPS was generally sufficient to find and diagnose single-GPU issues, FCAT shed new light onto AMD’s multi-GPU issues, painting a far more accurate – and unfortunately for AMD more dire picture of Crossfire frame pacing.

Perhaps as proof that there’s no such thing as coincidence, since then we have seen the release of AMD’s latest multi-GPU monster, the Radeon HD 7990. Packing a pair of high clocked Tahiti GPUs, the 7990 was AMD’s traditional entry into the realm of $1000 multi-GPU super cards. A capable card on paper, the 7990 has been at the mercy of AMD’s drivers and lack of a frame pacing mechanism, with the previous revelations and FCAT results causing the 7990 to suffer what can only be described as a rough launch.

Ultimately when AMD engaged the community back in March they had a clear plan for addressing their multi-GPU frame pacing issues, developing a new frame pacing mechanism for their cards. AMD stated outright that this work would take a few months, something of an arduous wait for existing Crossfire users, setting a goal that the new frame pacing mechanism would “come in or around a July driver drop.” July has since come and gone by a day, but at long last AMD has completed their initial work on their new frame pacing mechanism and is releasing the first public driver today at 2pm ET as Catalyst 13.8 Beta 1.

As part of today’s launch activities, AMD seeded the beta driver to the press a week in advance to give us a chance to put it through the necessary paces, give AMD feedback, and write up about our experiences with the new driver. Over the next several pages we’ll be going over what changes AMD has made to their drivers, how they impact the 6 games we do frame interval testing with, and ultimately whether AMD has made sufficient progress in resolving their frame pacing issues. Make no mistake: AMD wants to get past these frame pacing issues as quickly as possible and remove the cloud of doubt that has surrounded the 7990 since its launch, making this driver launch an extremely important event for the company.

In Summary: The Frame Pacing Problem
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  • Feellia - Friday, August 2, 2013 - link

    Not aimed at anyone, but flat out in any competitive game play the kind that has tourneys and pays out cash, Mostly fps such as quake..etc everyone has vsync off it flat out adds input lag...all the pros turn it off no matter what monitor is used, but no one is running a SLI/CrossfFire set up during these events.

    The pros typically lower settings quite damn low so they can push a steady 125fps and screen tearing is absolutely no concern. And if i have vsync on my aim % takes a nearly 25% dip

    Anyway this is review is about duel+ cards, and kudos to AMD even though they still need a bit of work before going on a official non beta release = )
    Reply
  • piwo - Friday, August 2, 2013 - link

    can you check a10- 5750m with hd6670? Reply
  • dew111 - Friday, August 2, 2013 - link

    I just got a second HD 7950, and this driver makes a HUGE difference! They should have done this earlier, but their timing was great for my first CrossFire setup :P Reply
  • JamesWoods - Sunday, August 4, 2013 - link

    It's a crying shame they won't jump back to HD 4000 series or even HD 3000 series and fix these problems. I'm sure there is still quite a large loyal fanbase using these cards. I happen to own several systems with HD 4850's in them, and they can still set pace on a lot of modern games. Crossfire is another story. They never really felt optimized running in X fire. Reply
  • medi02 - Tuesday, August 6, 2013 - link

    Is it me, or does nVidia have much lower min fps on a number of charts? =) Reply
  • transphasic - Tuesday, August 6, 2013 - link

    Well done, AMD! You didn't bother to do anything about creating fixes for the single GPU setup, and basically ignored those w/o CF setups.
    You had 2 1/2 months without any new driver fixes, and THIS is the BEST you can do?
    Major fail once again.
    Thanks for nothing....
    Reply
  • medi02 - Wednesday, August 7, 2013 - link

    Exactly which single GPU setup is giving you micro stuttering problem? Reply
  • usrevenge - Wednesday, August 7, 2013 - link

    Basically, AMD did a lot to fix the problems, but still leaves a lot of work to be done. I call these drivers a success. Reply
  • Nearox - Monday, August 26, 2013 - link

    Does this technology also apply to the HD6000 series (and in particular the HD6950)? Could anyone say if this will also work for Skyrim? Thinking about getting a 2nd hand hd6950 to go xfire with this, seeing the good results from this AnandTech test. Reply
  • lopper - Wednesday, August 28, 2013 - link

    A question: Does this driver fix stuttering on dual graphics configurations like A10 +6670? Reply

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