Getting the Most Out of GCN: Driver Improvements

With the launch of any new architecture there’s still a lot of room for improvement on the part of driver developers, and GCN is no exception. On January 20th AMD released the first driver update for the 7000 Series, which brought with it an interesting mix of bug fixes, new features, and performance improvements. On the feature side AMD enabled support for Analytical Anti-Aliasing and Super Sample Anti-Aliasing for DX10+ games, an overdue feature that we’re very happy to see finally make it to AMD cards. Meanwhile on the performance side the new drivers improved the performance of the 7000 series in several games. Game performance typically rises slowly over time, but as this is one of the first post-launch driver releases, the gains are larger than what we’re used to seeing farther down the line.

To get an idea of where performance has improved and by how much, we reran our entire benchmark suite on the 7970.

As to be expected, at this point in time AMD is mostly focusing on improving performance on a game-by-game basis to deal with games that didn’t immediately adapt to the GCN architecture well, while the fact that they seem to be targeting common benchmarks first is likely intentional. Crysis: Warhead is the biggest winner here as minimum framerates in particular are greatly improved; we’re seeing a 22% improvement at 1920, while at 2560 there’s still an 11% improvement. Metro:2033 and DiRT 3 also picked up 10% or more in performance versus the release drivers, while Battlefield 3 has seen a much smaller  2%-3% improvement. Everything else in our suite is virtually unchanged, as it looks like AMD has not targeted any of those games at this time.

As one would expect, a result of these improvements the performance lead of the 7970 versus the GTX 580 has widened. The average lead for the 7970 is now 19% at 1920 and 26% at 2560, with the lead approaching 40% in games like Metro that specifically benefited from this update. At this point the only game the 7970 still seems to have trouble pulling well ahead of the GTX 580 is Battlefield 3, where the lead is only 8%.

AMD's Radeon HD 7950 Meet the Sapphire HD 7950 Overclock Edition
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  • chizow - Sunday, February 5, 2012 - link

    No its not my standard, its the standard for what the market will bear using historical data points as my evidence.

    Buts its fine, its clear illogical and irrational people such as yourself don't have any standard to determine buy decisions, which is fine too.

    Ignorance is bliss.
  • Galidou - Sunday, February 5, 2012 - link

    LOL ultimate knowledge is crazyness...
  • Galidou - Sunday, February 5, 2012 - link

    I'm not saying at ANY time that the pricing is super right, that it is the right thing to do, I'm just saying from the beginning that it isn'T the worse that ever happened while you're making a freaking case of it.
  • Galidou - Sunday, February 5, 2012 - link

    And btw, the freaking card is around 75-90% faster than a 6950 which isn't bad. Nothing amazing but... That gtx 280 was around 65% to 100% faster than a 8800gt(2 gen below gtx2xx series).
  • Galidou - Sunday, February 5, 2012 - link

    Whenever any card came out there was already a part that was an x2 card more powerful and cheaper that what was actually out there, what'S new today?
  • JNo - Thursday, February 2, 2012 - link


    You keep writing like AMD couldn't adjust their prices after Kepler's launch. Also, you do realise that AMD isn't competing with nvidia's 580 from a year ago right? They are competing with it *right now*.

    Well done if you bought the 580 a year ago but which card is better value today if you're a buyer? Right now the 7970 looks to be a better price performance proposition. If AMD's pricing makes the 580 look poor, nvidia are free to adjust their pricing but I'd go for the 7950 personally as it is right now.

    And no point pre-judging AMD pricing based on a for 'after the Kepler launch' argmument. Just because nvidia haven't adjusted pricing downwards, doesn't mean AMD won't.

    I'm not an AMD fan (I buy both camps) but your arguments don't make sense.
  • chizow - Thursday, February 2, 2012 - link


    I'm not ignoring that possibility at all, I've actually alluded to the possibility on numerous occasions with my "when Kepler launches" comments. It hinges greatly on what Nvidia does of course and how Kepler performs but I don't think ANYONE expects Nvidia to introduce "next-gen" parts at last-gen performance levels because that's the ONLY way AMD's current pricing on these Tahiti parts will make sense. Why? Because they're basing next-gen pricing on last-gen performance.

    Instead, what's most likely to happen based on historical pricing and performance metrics, Nvidia will release a new line-up that will completely shift the current market that effectively makes last-gen price/performance obsolete and establishing a new metric that will offer roughly +50% performance at the same price points. Again, mountains of historical evidence from both Nvidia and AMD back my point. This is what is expected from "Next-Gen" architectures on "Next-Gen" fabrication processes.

    What AMD is doing here is cashing in short-term profits but ignoring long-term repercussions. As I stated in another comment, the people most likely to buy this product are AMD's most devout and loyal fans. IF they have to drop the pricing on these Tahiti parts because they were forced to so shortly after launch as a result of Nvidia's Kepler price/performance, how do you think these early adopters are going to feel? Their biggest fans are going to feel the biggest burn.

    There is precedence for this with the GTX 280 launch. Nvidia did right by their customers by issuing rebate checks for $100-150 per card. Do you think AMD is willing to do the same? Just something to consider.
  • Sabresiberian - Tuesday, January 31, 2012 - link

    People like you love to look at benchmark results that support their statements, and ignore the rest of them.

    Your statement is no more accurate than the statements of those that say the 7970 is barely faster than the GTX 580.

  • swx2 - Thursday, February 2, 2012 - link

    Are you listening to your self? did you just say that a overclocked 7970 (current gen card) is JUST NOW competitive with a last gen card? And you think that AMD has done well with this accomplishment?

  • Iketh - Tuesday, January 31, 2012 - link

    Ladies and gentlemen, drugs are bad for you.

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