AMD Frame Pacing Prototype and Final Thoughts

A new challenger appears…

There is a catch to all of the data presented here today – AMD at the last minute provided me with a prototype driver with a completely from the ground up frame pacing algorithm in an attempt to fix the runt frame issues we have been seeing with CrossFire for nearly a year. However, this driver is not nearly close to end-user availability so we were not comfortable reviewing a product with it.  I don't expect this driver until the late-June or July time frame, but the early results look promising:

It would appear that by implementing a software version of the frame metering technology that NVIDIA has had with SLI for some time now, AMD is able to improve frame pacing to improve our result with the Frame Rating performance measuring technology. 

Though I did not include these results with the Radeon HD 7990 review because I didn't want readers to think those were the actually performance results available when this card actually ships, I did put together another article that outlines the new driver changes and our first results from it.

Be sure you check out that article after finishing up our conclusion here for the early testing results with AMD's frame pacing prototype driver!



In a best case scenario, the new AMD Radeon HD 7990 would perform just slightly lower than a pair of Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition cards running in a CrossFire configuration, but doing so while taking up less space in your case, using less power and in general being a "cleaner" solution.  That is still the summation of performance that I came away with, it just unfortunate that the HD 7990 depends so heavily on CrossFire, a technology that still has problems with frame pacing and our Frame Rating performance testing. 

ASUS' ARES II Beat AMD to the Punch

In a couple of games, like Skyrim and DiRT 3, the HD 7990 outputs some impressive numbers and when it all works well, the new dual-GPU option from AMD is actually faster than the GTX 690 and the GTX Titan, the competing $999 cards from NVIDIA's GeForce line.  Even Far Cry 3 at 1920×1080 is a better experience on the HD 7990 than the GTX 690, but at 2560×1440 that just isn't the case. For products in this market segment, we will always assume users are running 25×16/25×14 monitors or plan to very shortly.

Perhaps they are using multiple displays for Eyefinity/Surround setups – in that case, the HD 7990 has different but equally traumatic problems.  In our testing, nearly every other frame generated by all of our games tested are dropped and never shown to the gamer, resulting in frame rates at about half of what they should be and half of what is being reported by some other testing methods.  That's just not acceptable.  We are working on another story that directly compares the issues of Eyefinity and Surround that we hope to have up by next week along with some videos to demonstrate those complicated issues. 


Pricing and Availability

AMD tells us that the Radeon HD 7990 will be available within two weeks in the retail channel as well as through system builders. 

For a second, let's assume that AMD fixes all of these Frame Rating problems in a driver and we can just judge the cards in that way.  The HD 7990 is more expensive than a pair of HD 7970s in CrossFire but it does so while using less power and taking up only a single PCIe slot in your system.  It requires a lower wattage power supply and only uses two PCIe power connectors as well.  If you were looking to go dual-GPUs with a Radeon solution, I would pick that over the HD 7970s for sure. 

There are more $1000 graphics cards than ever it seems…

But we can't really assume that today…  So how does it compare to the GTX 690 or the GTX Titan?  Honestly if you are going to spend $999 on a graphics cards you should really be deciding between the GTX 690 and the GTX Titan.  I would go the route of the Titan and its single GPU + 6GB frame buffer for multi-monitor setups and the GTX  690 for single, high resolution monitor users. 


Final Thoughts

I knew this review was going to turn out like this after publishing our faux-HD 7990 performance results last month.  With its performance completely dependent on CrossFire technology, the HD 7990 as a $1000 graphics card has a very hard time justifying its price.  With our early testing of the Catalyst prototype driver showing positive results though, there is yet hope for CrossFire to be fixed in this generation, at least for single monitor users!  But until that driver is perfected, is bug free and is presented to buyers as a made-for-primetime solution, I just cannot recommend an investment this large on the Radeon HD 7990.

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