A curious new driver from AMD
AMD has a new ‘Never Settle’ driver that promises some impressive performance improvements. We test it out to see what changes and what stays the same .
In case you missed the news, AMD is going to be making a big push with their Radeon brand from now until the end of the year starting with an incredibly strong game bundle that includes as many as three full games and 20% off the new Medal of Honor. The second part of this campaign is a new driver specifically the 12.11 beta that will be posted to the public later this week.
AMD is claiming to have made some substantial improvements on quite a few games including the very popular Battlefield 3 and the upcoming Medal of Honor (both of which use the same base engine). But keep in mind that 15% is a LOT and this is the best case scenario in specific maps and you may not see benefits on others.
There are going to be some debates about the validity of these performance boosts from AMD until we can get some more specific details on WHAT has changed. Essentially the company line is that they have finally "caught up" to the GCN GPU architecture introduced with the Radeon HD 7970 in January of 2012. We traditionally see this happen with new GPU architectures from both vendors but for it to have taken this long is troublesome and will surely cause some raised eyebrows from gamers and the competition.
We decided to run through the Radeon HD 7870 GHz Edition with this new 12.11 beta driver to compare it to the 12.9 beta driver we had just completed testing on a few weeks ago. AMD claims performance advantages for all the GCN cards including the 7700/7800/7900 cards though we only had time to test a single card for our initial article. The results are on the following pages…
Our Test Setup
For the Radeon HD 7970 3GB review (and all those going forward) we decided it was high time we replaced the somewhat dated Nehalem-based infrastructure (even though honestly, it was fast enough) with something a bit more current. Obviously that meant going with the new Intel Sandy Bridge-E processor and X79 motherboard – by combining support for 40 PCI Express lanes and 3-4 full size GPU slots it makes for the perfect GPU base.
From this point on, our reviews will based around the following system:
- Intel Core i7-3960X CPU
- ASUS P9X79 Pro motherboard
- Corsair DDR3-1600 4 x 4GB Vengeance memory
- 600GB Western Digital VelociRaptor HDD
- 1200 watt Corsair Professional Series power supply
- Windows 7 SP1 x64
The ASUS P9X79 Pro
The Intel Core i7-3960X gives us the fastest consumer-level CPU on the market to help eliminate the possibility of any processor-based bottlenecks in our testing (whenever possible). There are still going to be some games that could use more speed (Skyrim comes to mind) but for our purposes this is as good as you get without getting into any kind of overclocked settings. The ASUS P9X79 Pro motherboard has enough space for three dual-slot graphics cards when the time comes for testing 3-Way SLI and CrossFire and 8 DIMM slots should we want to go up from our current setup of 16GB of Corsair Vengeance memory.
I chose to stick with the 600GB VelociRaptor hard drive rather than an SSD as our total installation size with Windows 7 SP1 x64 and 6+ games was already hitting the 115GB range. Finally the 1200 watt power supply from Corsair offers up more than enough juice for three power hungry graphics cards while running quietly enough to not throw off our noise testing drastically.
Speaking of noise, for this article we are re-introducing our sound level testing thanks to the Extech 407738 Sound Level Meter capable of monitor decibel ratings as low as 20db. This allows me to accurately tell you the noise levels generated by the graphics cards that make in-house at PC Perspective.
Along with the new hardware configuration comes a host of new games. For this review we will be using the following benchmarks and games for performance evaluation:
- Battlefield 3
- Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
- DiRT 3
- Batman: Arkham City
- Metro 2033
- Deus Ex: Human Revolution
- Unigine Heaven v2.5
This collection of games is both current and takes into account several different genres as well – first person role playing, third person action, racing, first person shooting, etc. 3DMark11 and Unigine Heaven give us a way to see how the cards stack up in a more synthetic environment while the real-world gameplay testing provided by the six games completes the performance picture.
The Radeon HD 7870 GHz Edition
This article will show you the Radeon HD 7870 GHz Edition with both the 12.9 and 12.11 beta drivers to see how much of a performance boost you are actually getting with this "Never Settle" push. Also on the graphs you'll find the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 660 Ti and the GTX 670 using the 306.23 driver.