Shifting gears, as always our final set of benchmarks is a look at compute performance. As we have seen with GTX 680, GK104 appears to be significantly less balanced between rendering and compute performance than GF110 or GF114 were, and as a result compute performance suffers.  Cache and register file pressure in particular seem to give GK104 grief, which means that GK104 can still do well in certain scenarios, but falls well short in others.

Our first compute benchmark comes from Civilization V, which uses DirectCompute to decompress textures on the fly. Civ V includes a sub-benchmark that exclusively tests the speed of their texture decompression algorithm by repeatedly decompressing the textures required for one of the game’s leader scenes. Note that this is a DX11 DirectCompute benchmark.

It’s quite shocking to see the GTX 670 do so well here. For sure it’s struggling relative to the Radeon HD 7900 series and the GTX 500 series, but compared to the GTX 680 it’s only trailing by 4%. This is a test that should cause the gap between the two cards to open up due to the lack of shader performance, but clearly that this not the case. Perhaps we’ve been underestimating the memory bandwidth needs of this test? If that’s the case, given AMD’s significant memory bandwidth advantage it certainly helps to cement the 7970’s lead.

Our next benchmark is SmallLuxGPU, the GPU ray tracing branch of the open source LuxRender renderer. We’re now using a development build from the version 2.0 branch, and we’ve moved on to a more complex scene that hopefully will provide a greater challenge to our GPUs.

SmallLuxGPU on the other hand finally shows us that larger gap we’ve been expecting between the GTX 670 and GTX 680. The GTX 680’s larger number of SMXes and higher clockspeed cause the GTX 670 to fall behind by 10%, performing worse than the GTX 570 or even the GTX 470. More so than any other test, this is the test that drives home the point that GK104 isn’t a strong compute GPU while AMD offers nothing short of incredible compute performance.

For our next benchmark we’re looking at AESEncryptDecrypt, an OpenCL AES encryption routine that AES encrypts/decrypts an 8K x 8K pixel square image file. The results of this benchmark are the average time to encrypt the image over a number of iterations of the AES cypher.

Once again the GTX 670 has a weak showing here, although not as bad as with SmallLuxGPU. Still, it’s enough to fall behind the GTX 570; but at least it’s enough to beat the 7950. Clockspeeds help as showcased by the EVGA GTX 670SC but nothing really makes up for the missing SMX.

Our foruth benchmark is once again looking at compute shader performance, this time through the Fluid simulation sample in the DirectX SDK. This program simulates the motion and interactions of a 16k particle fluid using a compute shader, with a choice of several different algorithms. In this case we’re using an (O)n^2 nearest neighbor method that is optimized by using shared memory to cache data.

For reasons we’ve yet to determine, this benchmark strongly dislikes GTX 670 in particular. There doesn’t seem to be a performance regression in NVIDIA’s drivers, and there’s not an incredible gap due to TDP, it just struggles on the GTX 670. As a result performance of the GTC 670 only hits 42% of the GTX 680, which is well below what the GTX 670 should theoretically be getting. Barring some kind of esoteric reaction between this program and the unbalanced GPC a driver issue is still the most likely culprit, but it looks to only affect the GTX 670.

Finally, we’re adding one last benchmark to our compute run. NVIDIA  and the Folding@Home group have sent over a benchmarkable version of the client with preliminary optimizations for GK104. Folding@Home and similar initiatives are still one of the most popular consumer compute workloads, so it’s something NVIDIA wants their GPUs to do well at.

Whenever NVIDIA sends over a benchmark you can expect they have good reason to, and this is certainly the case for Folding@Home. GK104 is still a slouch given its resources compared to GF110, but at least it can surpass the GTX 580. At 970 nanoseconds per day the GTX 670 can tie the GTX 580, while the GTX 680 can pull ahead by 6%. Interestingly this benchmark appears to be far more constrained by clockspeed than the number of shaders, as the EVGA GTX 670SC outperforms the GTX 680 thanks to its 1188MHz boost clock, which it manages to stick to the entire time.

Civilization V Synthetics


View All Comments

  • Blackchild1101 - Thursday, May 10, 2012 - link

    I'll take two please! Reply
  • Ryan Smith - Thursday, May 10, 2012 - link

    You'll get nothing and like it!

    (Sorry, was watching Caddyshack last weekend)
  • Wreckage - Thursday, May 10, 2012 - link

    To think a few months ago you could have gotten a pair of 7970s for $1100.

    I'm betting there are a lot of sad AMD fans out there. Their viral marketing group in the forums is going to have a rough year for sure.
  • retrospooty - Thursday, May 10, 2012 - link

    I doubt anyone that places happiness in their preferred companies products being #1 is all too happy to begin with ;) Reply
  • RampantAndroid - Tuesday, May 15, 2012 - link

    Sure, but realizing that waiting a few months could have saved them serious $$$.

    Same probably goes for GTX680 owners.
  • CeriseCogburn - Monday, May 28, 2012 - link

    The partners of nVidia are going to be happy, because what comes out of the 680 and 670 is an auto overclock and an overclockable card, with locks on power increases, and therefore far, far less chance of anything burning out.

    Overclock to your hearts desire - you won't be burning these up while the amd cards will still be a housefire and cost the partners plenty to replace.

    nVidia's partners are very, very happy.
  • JlHADJOE - Saturday, July 21, 2012 - link

    They would if they have stocks invested though.

    /putting money where fanboy mouth is
  • Lazlo Panaflex - Thursday, May 10, 2012 - link

    Waaaaaah waaaaah I can't post in the forums waaaaaaaah waaaaaaaaah

    btw, your mom says 'hi' & said to get back in the basement
  • wut - Thursday, May 10, 2012 - link

    Oh no, YOUR MOM. Reply
  • Lazlo Panaflex - Thursday, May 10, 2012 - link

    bwahahahahahahahaha :D Reply

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