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[PCper] Frame Rating Dissected: Full Details on Capture-based Graphics Performance Testing

post #1 of 420
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Result graphs (Click to show)





Quote:
Today’s results focus on the Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition and the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 680 as well as their SLI/CrossFire options

Where AMD has definite issues is with HD 7970s in CrossFire, and our Frame Rating testing is bringing that to light in a startling fashion. In half of our tested games, the pair of Radeon HD 7970s in CrossFire showed no appreciable measured or observed increase in performance compared to a single HD 7970. I cannot overstate that point more precisely: our results showed that in Battlefield 3, Crysis 3 and Sleeping Dogs, adding in another $400+ Radeon HD 7970 did nothing to improve your gaming experience, and in some cases made it worse by introducing frame time variances that lead to stutter.

The NVIDIA GeForce GTX 680 looks slower than the HD 7970 in our single GPU comparisons, but that all changes when we compare dual-GPU to dual-GPU in this category. While AMD’s solution showed thousands of runt frames on BF3, Crysis 3 and Sleeping Dogs (two of which are AMD Gaming Evolved titles), NVIDIA’s SLI was able to handle scaling without a problem. Battlefield 3 at 2560x1440 goes from an average of 57 FPS on one GTX 680 to 100 FPS on two of them; Crysis 3 at 1920x1080 scales from 31 FPS to 56 FPS; Sleeping Dogs goes from 24 to 46 FPS at 2560x1440. And it is able to do so without massive frame time variance, which means the animations are not only improved by better frame rates but are still nearly as smooth as the single card options.

Source
 
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post #2 of 420
So a £1k 7990 seems even more bizarre then?

tongue.gif
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post #3 of 420
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Kane2207 View Post

So a £1k 7990 seems even more bizarre then?

tongue.gif

Well as the last Anand article said AMD will most likely spend the next few months on the defensive when it comes to this. I think in July they should have the driver where you get to choose between worse frame times and worse latency.
 
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post #4 of 420
Hmm this is interesting, even says it used AMD: 13.2 beta 7 drivers, wasn't frame latency supposed to be fixed before those?
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post #5 of 420
This is the opinion of 3d guru boss
Quote:
Actually its on par with what I always have stated. See the reason we started so late with frametime measurements is that FRAPS measures at gametime. Therefore it's bound to miss some stuff but can also show stuff that you as an end user can not see. However it is indicative of issues at hand, just not 100% precise. Its the reason why I really didn't want to use it. But an indication is always better then nothing, and combined with the request from you guys I inserted frametime recording as of recent.

However with that in mind -- Here's what I have been working on and wrote down in blog style as part of a future article:

----

For a couple of weeks now I have been working on a method as exposed on another website, with a framegrabber.

On my testing we have our traditional Game PC with the dedicated graphics card installed. We startup a game or benchmark sequence. The game is rendered, passes several stages and then each frame rendered is ready and served towards the monitor. It is precisely at that stage where we make a bypass.

The DVI-DL monitor output cable we connect towards a Dual Link DVI Distribution Amplifier (basically high resolution capable DVI switch). We connect out graphics card towards the input. Now the switch will clone the signal towards two outputs on that switch. One output we connect the monitor to but the second output we connect towards a framegrabber aka Video Capture Card.

Ours is a Single Channel 4 lane PCI Express bus with maximum data rate of 650MB/sec and support for a maximum canvas of 4kx4k HD video (we wanted to be a little future proof) capture for all progressive and interlaced DVI/HDMI modes. This card was 1500 EUR alone.

We are not there yet though as we need to place the framegrabber into a PC of course. Fast is good, so we are using a Z77 motherboard with Core i7 3770K processor. The encoding prices is managed by the processor on the frame grabber in real-time, to if IO is managed fast enough we'll have less then 5% CPU utilization while capturing 2560x1440 @ 60Hz streams in real-time.

Now we need to save the rendered frames in real-time, uncompressed as an AVI file. Now here's the problem:

Capturing at 1920x1080 @ 60 Hz in real-time shows IO writes of roughly 200~250 MB/s.
Capturing at 2560x1440 @ 60 Hz in real-time shows IO writes of roughly 400~475 MB/s.

Correct - That's ~450 MB each second continuesly (!)

The first time I notice that, yes I cursed and nearly vomited. At 2560x1440 The only way to tackle the real-time writes without clogging up system IO for the recording PC is to get multiple SATA3 SSDs setup in RAID Stripe mode. That will still create a CPU load somehow. So there is a more easy solution.

We contacted OCZ and asked them to send out the RevoDrive 3 X2. These PCie 4x based products have their own Hardware SSD and Raid controllers, thus lowering a lot of overhead for the PC. They can write sustained 500 MB/sec quite easily. And with 450 MB/sec writes (nearly a full GB for 2 seconds of recording, you'll need some storage volume space as well. So we got the 700 EUR 480 GB version. Which in theory will record 4-5 minutes before it's full.

But that's sufficient for our purposes. While doing all this high-end capturing we see a low CPU overhead of only 3-4%. Why am I so keen on low CPU utilization you might ask ? Because this is precise measuring and analyzing. We want to prevent accidentally recording dropped frames at all times. But yeah at this point we have spend like 3500 EUR alone on the frame grabber PC and a switch.


Once we have setup all the hardware we install the framegrabber. With supported software we can now tap in on the framegrabber and record the frames fired at us from that Game PC.

Recording an AVI and then what ?

Good question, we have the ability to grab and thus record all frames fired at the framegrabber PC. We record them in an AVI file. But that alone is not enough as how are you going to analyze date from an AVI file ?
So here science starts. We leave the framegrabber PC to rest for a minute and go back towards the Game PC that is rendering our game, benchmark or whatever.

On the game PC we have installed a small overlay utility with extremely low CPU overhead. Here's what is is doing, each frame that the GPU is rendering will get a colored bar assigned, example:

Frame 1 gets a Yellow colored bar top the left.
Frame 2 gets a Green colored bar top the left.
Frame 3 gets a Red colored bar top the left.
Frame 4 gets a Purple colored bar top the left.
Frame 5 gets a Blue colored bar top the left.

And so on ... so each rendered frame will have a color tag, that's simple enough to understand right ? Now we go back to the frame grabber PC and record our game play. The output of the Game PC including the color tags per frame from the overlay application is now recorded. Once we look at the AVI file, we can indeed see that with each frame that we pass we see a colored tag on the left side of the frame.

Going deeper
But that is still not enough right ? So here's where I'll simplify the explanation a little bit. We now fire off a perl script at the AVI. The Perl scrip will analyze the AVI file, each frame has a certain latency, each frame has a certain color and that way it can differentiate and distinguish frames and thus values from each other. It will output the date in an XML file. And once data is in an XML file, we can chart it.

We fire off another Perl script to make a nice chart out of the XML data and boom ... we have output that represent the frame experience you guys see and observe on your monitor.


So above just a quick part of that article. Unfortunately we are running into many issues software and hardware related. See if we want to catch frame experience / stutter issues then the above method is the only valid one. Unfortunately there is so much hardware and software involved that currently I see anomalies in the charts that should not be there. Even the RevoDrive 3 X2 is not fast enough as we see IO issues causing framedrops ... and that is the one thing that may not happen.

It will take a while (months) to get this refined. However I am fighting another problem, my work week is already 60+ hours, the methodology described above seriously EATS away time into tremendous numbers. So we're not sure how, if and when this new method will become effective. It would be a 2-3 page addition towards (on top of) our current reviews next to average framerates, for the sole reason to hunt down graphics anomalies.

Okay ... this post is too long ... but that said, we are working on a method that is accurate, measuring at DVI output is literally what you'll see on the monitor and thus on the charts. It's however complicated x10 and very time consuming.
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post #6 of 420
I know plenty of people who will take issue with some statements contained in the quotes above.

From someone who went from a single HD 7970 and two HD 7970's for multi monitor gaming, I CERTAINLY noticed a difference in playability. Frame times aside, with two cards I was able to increase detail settings while still maintaining frame rates above the 30 mark. With a single card, the games turned into slide shows.

Without putting my reviewer hat on, I think TOO MUCH focus is now being put on frame times as a basic measurement of playability and enjoyment. Frame times / ratings are a an excellent METRIC but without contextual support from frame rate results, they're pointless.

Personally, I think it is important to show what the end user will actually see and experience. Some of these testing methodologies go way too far beyond that. That's their prerogative and I support it but making blanket statements based on intangibles is a mistake.
Edited by SKYMTL - 3/27/13 at 6:57am
post #7 of 420
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by SKYMTL View Post

I know plenty of people who will take issue with some statements contained in the quotes above.

From someone who went from a single HD 7970 and two HD 7970's for multi monitor gaming, I CERTAINLY noticed a difference in playability. Frame times aside, with two cards I was able to increase detail settings while still maintaining frame rates above the 30 mark. With a single card, the games turned into slide shows.

That's why I always think that average frame rates are a good indication of the general performance of the setup. They don't tell the whole story but if you have a setup that can't push 30fps in some game then that should be your first priority when looking at upgrades.

I think the problem starts showing when you have more than playable frame rates and you're trying to gauge the user experience using plain old fps numbers. At that point you should start checking out if there are inconsistencies in frame times, big spikes, extremely short frames etc.

So my method of looking at performance would be to first look at fps numbers / average frame times and if those are fine and all then focus on the details like the stuff detailed here.
 
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post #8 of 420
680 SLI destroys 7970 Crossfire.....?

I wonder if that translates well for my 670 smile.gif (planning on SLI'ng it soon)
Edited by lacrossewacker - 3/27/13 at 7:24am
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post #9 of 420
This is the day when GPU testing was forever changed.
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post #10 of 420
I'm surprised that people....are surprised by these findings. That is all. thumb.gif
     
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2x Crucial M4 256 GB SSDs, 4x WD RE4 2 TB HDDs ... Lite-on BD/DVD/CD Drive XSPC RayStorm CPU Block XSPC RX360 Rad + XSPC RX120 Rad 
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6x Scythe AP-15 GTs Windows 7 Ultimate, 64-bit Achieva QH270 (LG) 2560x1440, IPS, 27" Logitech G19 
PowerCaseMouseAudio
Corsair AX1200 Corsair 800D Alienware TactX (G9x) Recon3D Fatal1ty Pro Sound Card w/ Front Panel 
AudioAudioOtherOther
Ultimate Ears TripleFi 10.vi Corsair Vengeance 1100 Headset/Mic Lamptron FC Touch Fan Controller WinTV HVR-950Q TV Tuner 
Other
Bigfoot Networks Killer 2100 NIC 
CPUMotherboardGraphicsRAM
i5 3317U @ 1.7 Ghz Surface Pro proprietary Intel HD 4000 4GB DDR3 
Hard DriveCoolingOSMonitor
128GB mSATA SSD Passive Windows 8 Pro, 64-bit 1920x1080p, IPS, Capacitive Touchscreen, with D... 
KeyboardAudio
Type Cover keyboard Built-in Stereo speakers 
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Overclock.net › Forums › Industry News › Hardware News › [PCper] Frame Rating Dissected: Full Details on Capture-based Graphics Performance Testing