AMD Catalyst 13.8 Beta Review – Frame Pacing Fix

AMD Catalyst 13.8 Beta Frame Pacing Fix featuring Radeon HD 7990

AMD Catalyst 13.8 Beta Review – Frame Pacing Fix?

For some time now review sites, including ours, have been looking at how well graphics cards deliver frames to our displays when gaming. Average framerates and minimum remain an important aspect of results but a card must deliver frames without delay to give us a truly smooth gaming experience.

So over the last few months this aspect of performance has been receiving attention from both NVIDIA and AMD. Today AMD deliver what they hope is a beta driver which addresses frame pacing as they call it in certain scenarios. Those are…

DirectX 10 and 11 games
Resolutions up to 2560×1600.

A future driver will cover DirectX 9, OpenGL and resolutions such as 5760×1080 (3screen Eyefinity) and it is worth noting that in 13.8 this "fix" is on by default as AMD feel there is no negative performance impact.

Catalyst Control Center

We have had a copy of the driver for a few days now and have run it through a selection of real world gaming and here are the results.

NOTE: All tests were performed on Windows 8 with the latest patches/drivers. The test system was a Core i7-3960X CPU @5GHz on X58 with 16GB of DDR3-2133. The games were fully patched and running off a SATA3 based SSD. All games were running at their maximum settings on 1920×1080 using a 7990. We have included a GTX 690 in our results purely to give an indication of how NVIDIA dual GPU solutions score on frametimes.

Benchmark

Benchmark

Benchmark

BF3 Settings BF3 Screenshot
Benchmark

Benchmark

Benchmark

Crysis 3 Settings Crysis 3 Settings
Crysis 3 Screenshot
Benchmark

Benchmark

Benchmark

GRID 2 Settings GRID 2 Settings GRID 2 Settings
GRID 2 Screenshot
Benchmark

Benchmark

Benchmark

Metro Settings Metro Screenshot

So what do we make of that lot? Well overall it’s hard not to be a little underwhelmed. There are aspects where initially it looks like progress has been made, Battlefield 3 for example where the 13.8 driver ends its run better than the 13.6 but the new version is a little worse to begin with. We must bear in mind though that Battlefield 3 has a pretty low latency anyway so it’s not a huge issue. Where we would have liked to see an improvement is Metro: Last Light but sadly framerates decreased and we saw larger spikes in frametimes on 13.8 which was disappointing. Really though one of the key titles which needs frametime improvements is Crysis 3 (on NVIDIA and AMD hardware) but that remains pretty much the same on the new 13.8 driver which is a shame as in this game the micro stutters are very noticable to the naked eye.

Overall we have to say this release doesn’t deliver what we would have expected and to be honest we are not sure why AMD has rushed to deliver it in a state where there are no significant real world improvements in key titles… or why they felt waiting until all resolutions and DX9/OpenGL were ready wasnt worthwhile. It could be that there is an improvement in tests which use FCAT technology to record driver improvements but until the gains are replicated in real world use for games such as Crysis 3 we see no reason to change our conclusions from recent reviews.

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