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Why many GPU reviews are not fit for purpose

Why many GPU reviews are not fit for purpose

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Why many GPU reviews are not fit for purpose…

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There are a few aspects, even before testing begins, which can impact the results in a review. The first is the choice of components/configuration, the second the tests used. The configuration of a system doesn’t just mean the components, it also means the drivers and this is one of the key areas where a lazy reviewer will often take shortcuts. Across the industry there are a wide range of sites who regularly recycle results for months on end. This means taking a set of benchmarks from say October then when they test again in December, January etc. the same figures are used again but the new products being added are either tested on a newer driver or an outdated driver. So how can that impact performance?

Help Persuasive Essays Order Resume Online Your NOTE: For the purposes of this article we are sticking to games which have been available throughout the lifespan of our oldest drivers, where possible.

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Moving to the second point we mentioned above, the tests chosen can have an impact on results, but how significant? Before we look at the figures achieved in some different tests it is worth noting that there are 3 main ways to test "gaming" performance currently. First are synthetic tests such as 3DMark. Then there are inbuilt benchmarks/timedemos where a game plays a pre-defined section using its engine. Then there is real world gameplay using (usually) FRAPS to record performance.

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In this test not only is the Timedemo showing we would get lower performance than the actual game, this particular bench is so far off our performance more than doubles when actually gaming.

So overall we have seen above that the choice of test and the configuration used has a significant impact on results but configuration comes in two parts when thinking about GPU testing. The other side is the hardware used.

Assignment Help Griffith Hardware Used – The impact
Shown below we have a common scenario, the use of two different CPUs for gaming tests. This isn’t a random choice, it is based on a similar scenario to a GTX Titan review we read where that card (in fact multiple TITANs) was tested on an i5 CPU. Does it matter? To look at high end GPU performance on different CPUs here is a high end i5 vs a high end i7 in Hitman and Max Payne 3.


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Testing real world gameplay in Hitman shows us that the average difference in framerate between an i5-3570K and i7-3960X is 15fps on a high end GPU and that rises to nearly 20fps on minimum framerate.


Max Payne 3 Settings

In Max Payne 3 we again see a difference in performance between two different CPUs when the rest of the components are the same (excluding motherboard). This time the average framerate increases by 10frames per second on the i7, the minimum by 16fps.

How To Write A Good Application Essay History Impacting the outcome of a review
By this point in the article we have seen that the drivers used, components used and tests used can all have a significant impact on the results in a review. We could of course engineer a scenario based on this which combines all three aspects for a massive difference in performance but it is actually more beneficial to step back a little. Let’s return to that first test of Battlefield 3 and imagine a common review where we are comparing something like a 7970 with a new GTX 680 (maybe a manufacturer releases a new cooler design on their own PCB). If we take our old 7970 Catalyst 12.9 results…they are less than 6months old after all /sarcasm… and compare them to our new 680 testing the GTX has a massive average fps advantage in Battlefield 3. That could send consumers down a purchase route. If however we retest the two cards with the latest drivers the result shows the Radeon to be much more competitive on average framerates with a win on minimum. That could completely change the purchase decision and once again, this can work both ways with different games and driver configurations swinging the results from AMD favoured to NVIDA being more competitive.


Battlefield 3 Settings

Help With A Thesis Statement How we do things and why.
We like to think that when it comes to GPU testing (all testing really) we take a common sense approach. At the core of that is the thought "what experience will this GPU, or its competitors, give me as an end user if I buy it today?".

To get that answer we want to know what it will do for us in the latest games… in actual gameplay. We also want to know what the cards specific features will offer us. We need to know that the performance we are seeing is accurate and not impacted by factors outside the GPU too.

As an example Ghostwriter Der let’s take our GTX Titan review. Here is our test system (which was also used for this article):

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Intel Core i7-3960X @ 5.0GHz
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Corsair Vengeance Keyboard, Mouse and Headset

As it happens a big chunk of the components in that review are Corsair branded, that’s part of an upcoming article, but the key point is suitability. There is absolutely a valid argument that this test system isn’t necessarily suited to, for example, budget GPU reviews but that said there is another side which would say it absolutely is because it removes any potential bottleneck.

Anyway, with this test system the choice seems pretty simple. Someone buying a $999 GPU probably isn’t going to run it on i5… they are likely going to have an SSD too… and so on. Past that we also tested with the latest drivers (at the time of writing) which were 314.09 for Titan, 314.07 for GTX 680 and Catalyst 13.2 Beta6 for the AMD configs. All on Windows 8 64bit, fully patched and of course the motherboard BIOS was up to date. This is standard practice, we always test every product as if it was new for each graphics card review even though it massively increases the time to test over using old results.

Of course in addition to a test system which was relevant to the products target audience, one which was up to date too, we also tested real world gameplay in the latest games on a mix of engines and game genres:

Crysis 3
Aliens: Colonial Marines
Battlefield 3
Far Cry 3
Assassins Creed 3
Hitman: Absolution
StarCraft 2: Heart of the Swarm (Beta)
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Borderlands 2
Star Wars The Old Republic
Skyrim: Dragonborn

We are not completely against synthetic testing though so the new 3DMark was included too… as was the recently released Heaven 4.0.

It’s in tests like the games listed above and the new synthetic benchmarks that new testing really benefits reviews. Through using old games and old results a reviewer locks themselves into using old tests.

Past that though a modern GPU is not just all about framerates… GTX Titan for example is also aimed at GPU compute performance (we tested that, real world and synthetic) and supports features like TXAA/FXAA (we tested those in Mass Effect 3 and Assassins Creed 3), PhysX (Borderlands 2), Media Playback (HD content acceleration on Blu-Ray or Streaming) and 3DVision (Skyrim).

Compare that to other reviews you have read of GTX Titan and consider these areas which can often indicate use of old, inaccurate results.

While you do, here are the warning signs:

  • Don’t be blinded by a comparison with 20 other GPUs. It is unlikely they were all tested on the latest hardware/drivers and we know from above the impact of that!
  • Look for new tests, the latest games (or synthetic tests) signify new testing. (It’s nice to see some old favourites mixed in though, they have value to some readers).
  • Look for the latest drivers being used on ALL products. You wouldn’t buy a card and install old drivers would you?
  • Look for detailed test specifications and an explanation of how testing was performed. Is the hardware relevant for the product being tested? Has the reviewer retested multiple times to remove any spurious results?
  • Look to see if real gameplay is stated, or if it is timedemos. And are the settings relevant… for example Eyefinity and Surround included for High End GPUs? Anti-Aliasing etc? Basically are the reviews testing at settings end users would game at?
  • Look for examples which prove testing was real world… for example screenshots of gameplay (and that they are different to past articles).
  • Look for charts showing minimum framerates across time.
  • Look for charts showing frame latency, this is now just as important as framerate.
  • Look for more than just gaming… power/thermal etc should also be there but extra tests are also worthy of inclusion. After all many people watch streaming HD content on their PC and modern browsers include GPU acceleration to assist the CPU. We want that to perform great too, right?
  • Look for transparency. A quality review will have all the answers in it… everything done will be detailed because the reviewer should be proud to show the quality of their work, the effort put into it.

What can we all take away from this?

Ap English Language Essay Reviewers:
We absolutely get that some new review sites cannot afford the latest high end kit but for established sites using the wrong hardware is inexcusable. Speak to your editor, have them speak to manufacturers or buy in hardware to build an appropriate system. It may seem crazy but the review we mentioned using i5 to test multiple Titans was actually one of the largest in its region… if they can’t spare one of the high end i7 CPUs that they previously tested (and yes Intel tend to let larger sites keep them for future tests/comparisons) then there is something seriously wrong there. And that’s on the admin side, before we consider the impact in results from the lower spec CPU, or even that Z77 has potentially limited PCIe bandwidth for multi-GPU tests compared to X79.

When it comes to testing… have some pride. Think about the service you are providing and always put the reader first. What do they need/want and how do you provide it? (Almost always the answer is hard work).

Industry/Manufacturer Staff:
In the same way that it is inexcusable for review sites to provide sub-standard testing it is ridiculous that those providing the samples don’t have more understanding and control over their product coverage. Not that a manufacturer should be able to say "you wrote a negative review, no samples in future". More that PR reps should understand how quality testing benefits them. Passing (in this case) a GPU to a site who cannot adequately test it helps no one. As one example we had a conversation recently with a rep who stated that sales of a particular high end product hadn’t been great in a region so that impacted future product sampling. Is it any wonder that this is the case when the majority of reviews in that region did the bare minimum to test the previous product?… and failed to cover more than the basic features? Why would anyone buy the product compared to another if they couldn’t see anything other than comparison framerates which were out of date? (As a side issue, next time round that same company sampled sites with, they assume, large readership rather than quality testing… kind of a case of hoping enough people would read to get some sales… but that’s a whole other article!)

So when it comes to sampling, and you work in the industry look for examples of reviews where the writer is providing quality, relevant, thorough and up to date testing. If you don’t know what that is… see above and below. If you are worried about viewing figures, remove that concern by sharing the best content with your social media users, company website or via links on online stores for your product. Thematic Essay About Louisiana Purchase Consumers/Readers:
You are the most important stakeholder in this entire scenario. You pay the bills of the review sites who you visit. You keep manufacturers in business with purchases. It sadly isn’t enough to assume that each is doing all they can. Don’t just stare at graphs, pay attention to the entire article… read it and when you see a quality review, spread the word. If you don’t understand something or think that additional tests would be worthwhile join the forum/comments system and ask questions or comment. Any worthwhile site will love constructive comments/questions. (That’s another warning sign… if sites moderate their comments on articles what are they trying to hide and what valid comments are you not seeing?) Just as important as reading, commenting and getting involved in the production of better content… when you see a sub-standard article question it and spread the word of that too.

Why do we have frame latency/micro stutter graphs in our reviews now? As much as we would like to think we are all knowing and read everything, it was a post on our forum which highlighted it after a recent GPU review and upon investigating further we added it. That’s how things should work.

Basically, demand more of your content providers… look to get what you need and more from a product review.

Top Homework Help In Summary:
Make no mistake, we are in no way saying our GTX Titan review is perfection, though we do stand by our methods of relevant hardware, real world testing, testing of all features, using recent games, up to date drivers and retesting for every review… there is always room for improvement and we are constantly looking for ways to enhance product reviews but it is clear that this industry can improve, A LOT. We all have a part to play in that but from a reviewers point of view our goal should always be to provide the most thorough, accurate and relevant content possible… at a minimum.

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Stuart Davidson

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