AMD just released a beta version of their Fusion for Gaming tool. This application is targeted at the not-so-hardcore gamer who still wants to get the most out of his or her system. The idea is that at the press of a button that sits on your desktop, you could engage a system state that is more ... let's say ... gaming friendly.

This is what the button looks like.

One of the major features of this software is that it automatically overclocks both the CPU and the GPU. Because of this, AMD will only allow the tool to run on all-AMD platforms, meaning that people who run AMD GPUs on Intel CPUs and AMD CPUs with NVIDIA GPUs will not be able to benefit from this applications.

Sure, the platform focus makes sense in a lot of ways. Adding some sort of value beyond the hardware to your platform is one way to try and get more people to purchase your products, especially when one of your product lines is doing well while another is not. AMD CPUs just don't compete like they used to, and with the overclockability of many Intel CPUs, AMD needs another way to sell their hardware.

If more tweaking is required or different things are needed for different games, AMD supports multiple profiles.

For an overclocking tool, we'd say it does the job, but there's something else that's even more interesting in this application. A little special sauce, if you will, that we would very much like to see available to anyone running Vista these days. But we'll get to that in a second.

The automatic overclocking for the GPU is just as simple as enabling overdrive, except you do it from a button on your desktop. Simultaneously automatically overclocking the CPU is a welcome addition for people who want to safely increase performance but don't know how or don't want to chance overclocking manually. While AMD does offer an overdrive equivalent for their CPUs, combining both CPU and GPU overclocking into one utility is convenient. But this aspect of the tool isn't really for people who already know how to overclock.

Additionally, like the overdrive feature that already exists on the GPU, clock speed and performance increases on the GPU will be temperature dependent. This means that if you are in a warm environment, you could see less benefit from the automatic overclock than someone in a cold environment. Case and component cooling is going to be key in getting maximum performance. And really adding a couple more case fans is still easier for the end user than teaching them how to effectively overclock their system. The only other issue is that performance can decrease with time while gaming because of the temperature increase in the system as it is being used. The temperature issue doesn't really impact the CPU, but then the GPU has a much large impact on overall game performance anyway.

Here's a look at some quick benchmarks we ran.

  Fusion Off Fusion On (Basic Profile) Fusion On (Boost Disabled)
Crysis 37 37.5 37.1
ET:QW 85.7 107.4 84.4

With Fusion on but without automatic overclocking enabled, scores were roughly the same.

The really interesting thing about this application actually has nothing to do with overclocking.

The other day, while disabling some services before doing a little light morning benchmarking, I remarked to Anand that, you know what, I wish there was a button that could just turn off anything "Vista". He inquired: "You just want Windows 2000 with DirectX 10?" Precisely. Champagne would fall from the heavens. Doors would open. Velvet ropes would part.

Later that day, AMD calls us up to tell us about Fusion for Gaming and how, in addition to one-touch automatic clock adjustment, their tool would also shut down any specified applications and Vista services that were not needed or wanted during gameplay. Hitting the button to turn off overclocking also restarts all these applications and services. AMD is giving me exactly what I asked for. And it's not that I couldn't do it all myself: it's just that it takes forever to make sure Vista is running the way I want it to for my benchmarks.

Each profile can be edited to specify exactly what to turn off and on.

Honestly, without the overclocking bit, average performance doesn't really improve from a clean Vista install. But Vista is known for its random decisions to do something in the background that really isn't necessary while a game is going on. Every once in a while we'll see a random hiccup or pause that has nothing to do with the game or the hardware. Doing multiple benchmark runs reduces this as a factor in our tests, but it still affects people who actually play games, and it's not something that is consistent or predictable.

But the biggest benefit to the average non-enthusiast consumer would probably be shutting down background applications and restarting them. Things like Windows Defender and virus scanners and messaging programs and email programs and all the little random stuff people like to have up and running while they are surfing the web or getting work done. Any one of these programs might not really impact performance, but having a lot going on just increases the chance of stability and performance issues. An easy way not only to shut all this down, but also to bring them all back up, would go a long way in helping average gamers get more out of their system.

My wife Laura, for example, loves playing Civilization. But her computer, in addition to being a little underpowered, has a bunch of stuff running on it all the time. I had to teach her how to go through and shut everything down in the notification area of the taskbar and how to kill running processes from the task manager. This isn't something she likes doing -- she just wants to play her game. I told her about this button and she really wanted it.

Of course, then I had to tell her she can't have it because she has an Intel processor in her computer and AMD requires the tool only be run on their hardware. She was not happy about that. Especially since she saw that this functionality clearly has nothing to do with hardware.

When I asked her if this software would motivate her to buy AMD hardware, she said she would continue to go after the fastest hardware she could get within her budget. If that happened to end up with an all AMD system then she'd love to use the tool, but it wouldn't change her purchasing decision.

Our strong suggestion to AMD is to make a "lite" version of the software that only handles shutting down and restarting applications and services that would run on all hardware. Part of our request is selfish: we would really like to have this to aid in improving benchmark consistency. But we also think this would have a lot of appeal to every gamer out there who has ever had to shut down an application, turn off a background task, or kill a process before running a game. While this doesn't cover everyone that plays games, it is going to be a very sizeable chunk.

I've briefly looked around but haven't found any other tool like this out there. AMD has the opportunity to really fill a niche here. If they position themselves as the standard for this type of software, they stand to benefit quite a bit from it. We do understand the platform focus, but there is a major branding opportunity here if they open up a cut down version of the software to all gamers. Imagine if every Intel + NVIDIA system had an AMD button sitting on the desktop. That wouldn't be a bad move for AMD by a long shot.

The enthusiast market is always going to be determined by hardware performance, and no software is going to change that. Of course, this tool is aimed at the more mainstream gamer, and with that target branding is even more important. For gamers who just want a good computer, associating a good tool with your name can go a long way. Now, I'm not a fan of marketing in general, but I'm much less a fan of unnecessarily restricting the use of software. Especially when I want to use that software. I'm just saying that it would by no means be a loss to keep the automatic overclocking bits for a platform only version and let the rest of it run on any system.

In any case, there it is. AMD Fusion for Gaming: automatic overclocking with some special sauce.

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  • ATAT - Sunday, October 12, 2008 - link

    A trick I leared for clearing background issue that i know works for at least games like World of Warcraft is to have WMP up in the background not playing anything and it automaticly reallocates all resorces to the game you are playing improving performance. This is some thing that i found out on wow insider that does close to the same thing with the background info as this program seems to.
  • nezuko - Friday, October 3, 2008 - link

    Well, AMD would never build this software or anypart of this software for other platform, coz, that would be suicide in my opinion.

    And licensing its ATi technology of CrossFire is such an idiot decision, coz, that makes people can buy GPU for their Intel CPU. If ATi didn't licensed its technology to Intel, then NVidia would never come in, too. And Intel will be suck for their poor Graphic Core.

    I think it would be better if AMD make a platform which only all AMD product are allowed, like Intel does with its Centrino notebook platform. that will make increasing in earnings.
  • Wwhat - Friday, September 26, 2008 - link

    I'm amazed that a anadtech writer is unable to throw together a simple batch himself to stop some services and start them again.
    And incidentally, are you sure this AMD thing can stop your viruskiller? some of them are quite particular and don't allow it so easily to stop their services, understandably so else any old simple virus/script could turn off the viruskiller and it would become almost useless.

  • gochichi - Sunday, September 21, 2008 - link

    I am amazed by how little money it takes to blow games out of the water these days. Crysis runs alright in my system but not great, other than that it's 1920x1200 all options maxed (Gears of War, COD4, Bioshock, Mass Effect, and on and on). I only have a $700.00 computer. I can't overclock the CPU so I'm stuck at Q6600 stock 2.4Ghz x 4 (not bad AT ALL). I have a 4850 and four gigs of RAM... that may sound like a lot but it's very little cash. Ram = $80.00, Radeon 4850 = $150.00.
    I think what we (PC gamers) need a lot more than anything else is more COD4 quality games. The hardware is there, and honestly, I hope they design games for this level hardware. I don't mean that selfishly... but it's a lot of hardware and a lot of graphics horsepower. I mean, I'm basically at the level where I can run XBOX 360 games with more detail, more fluidly, and at 1920x1200 res... I'd say that's enough.
    More than trying to get an extra 10% out of this hardware, I want some Blizzard games to jam to. Starcraft 2 should run fine on this setup, and Diablo 3 or whatever probably would too. Those guys are such an important factor in why PC gaming is still the very best in spite of all the extra hassle.
    This product feature sounds like a bunch of hype to me. I see no need for it. MY Radeon 4850 is super easy to overclock and I don't b/c why do it? Either a game runs PERFECT or the game is Crysis. My motherboard blows, but the intel chip overclocks "for real"... so anybody that would care about overclocking knows that Intel is still the way to go by a wide margin. I frankly see no need for a faster chip, 2.4Ghz Quad is a whole lot. If a game can't run right on that, it probably can't run right period... and needless to say I'm probably in the top 25% (if not more) in terms of hardware right now... so who would these games be for exactly? I very satisfied with my hardware, if you're way behind the times and waiting around for the "next big thing"... don't, despite the hoopla there's very little (nearly no need) need for more. Now waiting to upgrade until your favorite game to release is a different thing altogether.

    Life is short, and $150.00 for "too much" graphics power is a steal. Do it now, you'll feel like you have a $500.00 video card... you'll even feel guilty about it until you do a double take and realize it's super reasonable. Bluray acceleration is perfect, not good, not decent, but perfect.
  • nubie - Monday, September 22, 2008 - link

    Point ---------> Up Here

    Your Head -----> Roughly this altitude.

    The article mostly focused on maximizing performance simply on a bloated windows platform.

    The integrated overclocking functionality is clearly not needed for you, as you own a current-gen video solution and a decent mid-range quad core (so shutting down background apps likely wouldn't matter much to you, unless they access the HDD or fill up the lvl2 cache).

    Most of the users here have friends or relatives that don't keep up with current hardware and also use tons of background software, but still want to play a game or two without using task manager to kill everything.

    This is an intriguing article that brings anand's focus onto "run-level" for windows, hopefully we will see this functionality from the OS as windows matures, especially as they try to sell it as a game platform (games in general usually try to use all available resources, and windows in general tends to use more and more resources).
  • Griswold - Saturday, September 20, 2008 - link

    All 3 of you are tools for various reasons, just zip it already.
  • bitethebullet - Friday, September 19, 2008 - link

    AlacrityPC shuts down everything, even explorer.exe. No desktop, just your chosen app running, and the AlacrityPC DOS window, so you can restart your desktop and apps. Works great and is free.
  • nubie - Monday, September 22, 2008 - link

    Thanks for this you guys, I am investigating it right now.

    It looks to be a very good app that will help with my range of old PC's the family uses for light gaming (and my brother who still manually kills explorer on his P4 1.5ghz)
  • CollectorZ - Monday, September 22, 2008 - link

    I read this article and thought exactly the same thing.

    Obviously neither Derek or Anand are flight sim fans.
    Though it works with other programs as well.

  • Finally - Friday, September 19, 2008 - link

    ...the tool you geeks are asking for is called "EndItAll".

    Although, it's funny how people admit - only thru the back-door- that Windowas is bloated with useless backgroundrunning crap, which sucks the performance of otherwise decent hardware.

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