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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  • mwildtech - Friday, August 2, 2013 - link

    Are you still signed into AOL...? ;) I also haven't had many issues with either, at least from a single GPU perspective. Reply
  • kyuu - Friday, August 2, 2013 - link

    What a surprise, the AMD-bashing trolls are out in force with long rants that nobody will read.

    Give it a rest guys.

    Anyways, great write-up Ryan. Good to see AMD is getting the issue taken care of.
    Reply
  • chizow - Saturday, August 3, 2013 - link

    Except in this case, "AMD bashing trolls" helped fix your CF drivers. A simple "thank you" would have sufficed. Reply
  • TheJian - Tuesday, August 6, 2013 - link

    ROFL...I sincerely thank you for the laugh ;)

    I liked many products over the years but have been saved by vocal complainers pointing out things to make me run, or at least wait until fixes come. I waited for RROD to get fixed with Jasper. Years of complainers finally got a fix (it took so long I started doubting I'd ever own one). My friend who jumped on x360 early shipped his back multiple times in the first year. I believe it spent more time at MS than in his house...LOL. He was a vocal complainer in their forums etc but I never called him a MS bashing troll for it. I laughed and thanked him for being one of the people who saved me years of that frustration :) He only thought that was funny after some beers...LOL

    Thankfully he has a great sense of humor. He's ready with forum accounts everywhere he thinks the complainers will be for xbox1 this time (complainers have value people). But he expects to be a reader this time rather than the complainer ;) I think he'll go PS4 in the end despite the MS love he has vs. Sony. His wallet has no trouble voting against his fanboy thoughts.

    I'm torn over the consoles though. I'd love to see AMD start making some cash, but at the same time I'm pretty unhappy they blew a wad of R&D money on something I want completely dead instead of cpus/gpus/arm socs. Had that R&D went to PC's I don't think I'd be making these statements dissing AMD. At the least they could have kept the layoffs from happening (losing 30% of your smartest people will shaft us on PC's for a few years at least and longer if consoles don't take off by the millions), and had good drivers all last year. That also might have given them a better reputation thus not needing to give out free games that are clearly wiping out profits (Q report shows this). AMD has a great gpu. It's a pity they didn't have enough funding for R&D to pair it with a great driver from day1 and funding to avoid the Fcat disaster. Even if it affects a small group it causes a lot of people to paint your other products with that image.
    Reply
  • Steveymoo - Friday, August 2, 2013 - link

    Interestingly enough, I seem to remember my GTX 460s having microstutter and performance issues in SLI. To the point where your experience in twitch games would be better if you just disabled on of the GPUs. However, over the years, and many driver updates, I don't seem to notice it any more. Nvidia really must have quite a talented software team, who communicate well with the hardware division. I would say there might be some kind of company structure issues for an issue such as this to go unnoticed, and un-fixed for such a long time. Reply
  • anubis44 - Friday, August 2, 2013 - link

    Ssshhhhh! TheJian will be all over you like a duck on a june bug! Remember, Nvidia's drivers are always perfect! They never make any mistakes...

    ...well, except for the chronic problem I had with the GTX670 card I bought for my 3 monitor setup - kept requiring about 20 steps to get all three screens to display due to bad default refresh rate/synch issue in the Nvidia driver. Got so frustrated having to go through 20 steps every time I updated to a newer driver that I sold the card for close to what I paid (~$400) and bought a Gigabyte 7950 for about ~$100 less and flashed the bios to 1050MHz. 3 monitors in eyefinity set up in about 5 minutes in the Catalyst control panel and not a problem since.
    Reply
  • DanNeely - Friday, August 2, 2013 - link

    Are you using display port monitors or an active DP-DVI adapter for your third monitor? If the latter, has it finally gotten plug and play vs the problems when it first came out? I was never able to get an adapter to work with my 5870; and since my setup wasn't EF compatable anyway (2x 1200x1600 1x 2560x1600) ended up cutting my losses with a 5450 for the 3rd monitor and went nVidia for my next GPU in response. Reply
  • krutou - Friday, August 2, 2013 - link

    Nvidia is known to suck at multi-monitor support because AMD was the first to develop the technology. One of AMD's few strengths is Eyefinity support. Reply
  • TheJian - Tuesday, August 6, 2013 - link

    From the article (and this is repeated at every site reviewing the drivers):
    "So what’s being addressed in phase 1? Phase 1 is being dedicated to Direct3D 10+ games running on a single display. What’s not being addressed in the first driver are the Direct3D 9 and OpenGL rendering paths, along with Eyefinity in any scenario."

    So Eyefinity has issues and isn't even touched with phase1. At the very least AMD is the opposite of strength with eyefinity for now. Phase2 maybe? ;)
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Graham%27s_Hier...
    You've stated a point without backing it (4th, green).

    Refutation:
    I found your mistake and explained why it is one and backed it with a direct quote (from this article no less...ROFL) thus proving my point ;) That's the purple one :) But I'm pretty sure I made it into the grey anyway. Your central point is debunked. But I can live with purple if it makes you feel better.

    Being first has no bearing on who is better later. Horses got us from point A to B first, long before cars right? But that didn't stop a car from blowing them away later. I could say the same about the first car engine vs. say a Lamborghini engine today. First doesn't mean best.
    Reply
  • TheJian - Tuesday, August 6, 2013 - link

    Why, he's pointing out reality and what most sites point out. All multi cards had issues for a while and still do. NV just spent a lot more to come up with the tools/software to fix it as best as possible (and I'd still go single potent vs. even NV multi given a reasonable choice). You're mistaking an accurate product complaint for fanboyism. That is not what my complaints are. There is no reason to attack his comment as I already know it's at least partially true for all CF/SLI and the fix is proven (so is AMD's lack of it up to now, and still having issues with 3 cards).

    Would you feel better if I ranted on Bumpgate for a few paragraphs? When a company sucks I point it out. I don't care who it is. Caminogate anyone? I ranted then too. Win8, don't get me started, Vista...(fista? Nuff said). I have equal hate for all crappy releases no matter how much love or hate I have for a company (I hate apple's tactics & pricing, but they do generally have a good polished product). If AMD releases a great 20nm product and NV sucks I will RAVE for AMD and shout at the top of my lungs how NV's product sucks. Based on R&D I doubt NV will suck but AMD can still get out a good product, I just need proof at this point due to lack of funds/engineers pointing to a possible problem launch again.

    Comically you miss the entire point of any of my posts (which are backed by data from other sites etc), then rant yourself on NV. Congrats though, at least you made it to the 4th rung here (well sort of):
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ad_hominem
    But not without making the 2nd worst type of argument first...ROFL. You're not outing me here, you're outing yourself.
    Reply

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