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Dual Graphics: Does Kaveri Fix CrossFire's Problems?

AMD A10-7850K And A8-7600: Kaveri Gives Us A Taste Of HSA
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If you're not already familiar with AMD's Dual Graphics technology, you can think of it as a form of CrossFire that pairs an APU and discrete GPU to extract additional performance. The company started touting Dual Graphics back in the Llano days, so we published an in-depth examination of its inner workings back in August of last year (AMD Dual Graphics Analysis: Better Benchmarks; Same Experience?).

Back then, we observed that Fraps suggested that the add-in GPU was adding a lot of extra speed. However, our video-based FCAT testing showed a lot of those new frames were getting dropped and chopped off, ultimately yielding an experience no better than integrated graphics operating on its own. To demonstrate this phenomenon to our readers, we captured lossless video from the graphics card and uploaded it to YouTube with instructions on how to watch at 60 Hz. If you want more information, and haven't already seen the story we wrote, you owe it to yourself to check it out. 

It took a few months, but AMD says it addressed the problem in its beta Catalyst 13.35 driver. We didn't have much time to prepare for this piece, but we did manage to test with Tomb Raider, BioShock Infinite, and The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. Previously, all three games fared well in Fraps and fell on their faces during our FCAT analysis.

We begin with Tomb Raider. These results were recorded using FCAT, so dropped and runt frames are excluded; the results can be believed because we're pulling the output straight from the DVI port.

There's an almost-100% boost with Dual Graphics enabled. But before we get too excited, let's look at frame time variance:

Latencies appear low, and lower is better. But to make sure our quantitative data corresponds to what we see, let's revisit the video like we did in our previous Dual Graphics analysis.

A8-7600 With Radeon R7 240 Dual Graphics - Tomb Raider

Our video jives with the data we collected; Dual Graphics appears to work much better in Tomb Raider than it did on AMD's previous-gen platform.

Next up is BioShock Infinite, which has also been problematic in the past.

A8-7600 With Radeon R7 240 Dual Graphics - Bioshock

Frame rates clearly jump in BioShock thanks to Dual Graphics, though we do observe more of that nasty frame time variance.

The last title we had time for was The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim.

A8-7600 With Radeon R7 240 Dual Graphics - Skyrim

FCAT tells us that Skyrim's average frame rate is up with Dual Graphics enabled. However, the game's minimum performance level doesn't increase. A look at frame rate over time reveals a couple of valleys, one of which corresponds to a spike in the frame time variance chart. Worse, the Dual Graphics comparison video doesn't look any smoother than the A8-7600 or Radeon R7 240 on their own. If anything, it even looks choppier at times.

Skyrim is known for its frame time variance issues, and we've seen other dual-GPU configurations behave strangely in the game. Although we plan to write a more thorough follow-up to our first excursion with Dual Graphics, we're at least glad that frame pacing appears enabled in the company's driver. As for the value analysis, we have to save that for next time.

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  • 13 Hide
    vertexx , January 16, 2014 5:30 AM
    While the gaming enthusiast may not have much here to get excited about, I think the real story here is the A8-7600. Especially at 45W, the numbers are quite impressive for this part.

    Of course, the other part of this story will be the adoption of HSA and Mantle. In this regard, I think AMD is playing its cards right. If you want to provide incentive for game developers to invest in developing for Mantle, that economic incentive is not going to come from providing a high-end part that tries to compete with high-end discrete GPUs. That economic incentive, and I believe it's huge, is in lowering the cost of entry to play your game.

    With the A8-7600, I believe AMD is providing a tremendous market opportunity and incentive if, with the combination of Kaveri plus embedded technologies (Mantle & True Audio), you can provide a playable gaming environment for the mass market. Admittedly, it may not be a "playable gaming environment" from an enthusiast standpoint, but as an entry point, it is quite good enough. It will be important for AMD to show that the release of Mantle for BF4 impacts performance for the Kaveri APUs in particular. More specifically, they will need to show that Mantle makes BF4 playable on a 7600. If they are successful in that regard, then I think they may really have something exciting here.

    I'm hoping AMD is successful in this, because it's obvious that the desktop CPU performance race has reached a point of diminishing returns. Kudus for AMD for potentially changing the game in the industry.

    All that said, they screwed up the pricing for the high-end. It needs to be $30 cheaper, and what is even the point of the 7700K? The 7850K at ~$145 and the 7600 where it is would have made much more sense if they want to incent adoption of this technology. The other point is they need to get motherboard manufacturers on-board with bringing more ITX FM2+ motherboards to market at different price points.
  • 11 Hide
    Someone Somewhere , January 16, 2014 4:23 AM
    Quote:
    A10-7850k is slower than A10-6800K ?? WTF.


    I got the opposite impression. Which graph are you looking at?
Other Comments
  • 0 Hide
    vipervoid1 , January 16, 2014 3:54 AM
    Somethings with Diagram u provided at page 9 ~ Core i5 4760k @@Please fix that ~
  • 1 Hide
    Someone Somewhere , January 16, 2014 4:10 AM
    Yeah, almost all the diagrams refer to the 4760K.

    Given that AM3+ looks like it's done, it would have been nice to see a 6-core chip. Still, one of these may end up in my next laptop.
  • 1 Hide
    cangelini , January 16, 2014 4:21 AM
    Will get the charts fixed shortly--thanks for the catch!
  • 11 Hide
    Someone Somewhere , January 16, 2014 4:23 AM
    Quote:
    A10-7850k is slower than A10-6800K ?? WTF.


    I got the opposite impression. Which graph are you looking at?
  • 8 Hide
    Jaroslav Jandek , January 16, 2014 4:24 AM
    Thank you for the article (especially the power consumption measurements), Chris. It is definitely an improvement over Richland but kind of boring (disappointingly expectable).

    I really like where AMD is going (HSA, GCN and TrueAudio).Too bad the manufacturing process of GlobalFoundries just can't match Intel's.

    Also, it would be interesting to see the new Bay Trail Pentium or Celeron CPUs (whichever is closer in performance) in the Efficiency graphs.
  • -1 Hide
    Someone Somewhere , January 16, 2014 4:25 AM
    I'm fairly sure that this is on TSMC's 28nm node. GlobalFoundries can't do that yet; this is on the same process used for AMD GPUs currently.
  • 0 Hide
    Jaroslav Jandek , January 16, 2014 4:45 AM
    Quote:
    I'm fairly sure that this is on TSMC's 28nm node. GlobalFoundries can't do that yet; this is on the same process used for AMD GPUs currently.

    28nm SHP from GlobalFoundries. AMD bought over $1 billion worth of wafers from them in december...

    I guess you have been reading the articles from a year ago about AMD still using TSMC despite promises of GlobalFoundries' new 28nm SHP process.
  • 9 Hide
    jacobian , January 16, 2014 5:12 AM
    I don't really believe into the whole HSA smoke-screen. By the time HSA-enabled apps take off, you will be ready to upgrade from your CPU again. The one terrible truth that stands out right now is that at current prices, the flagship Kaveri A10 doesn't make any sense whatsoever. Kaveri A8? Maybe. Richland A10-6790K? Perhaps. But the Kaveri A10 at $180 is a just a joke, specially after all that hype.
  • 3 Hide
    Someone Somewhere , January 16, 2014 5:16 AM
    CPUs are usually released at ridiculous prices, and come down over a month or two.
  • 13 Hide
    vertexx , January 16, 2014 5:30 AM
    While the gaming enthusiast may not have much here to get excited about, I think the real story here is the A8-7600. Especially at 45W, the numbers are quite impressive for this part.

    Of course, the other part of this story will be the adoption of HSA and Mantle. In this regard, I think AMD is playing its cards right. If you want to provide incentive for game developers to invest in developing for Mantle, that economic incentive is not going to come from providing a high-end part that tries to compete with high-end discrete GPUs. That economic incentive, and I believe it's huge, is in lowering the cost of entry to play your game.

    With the A8-7600, I believe AMD is providing a tremendous market opportunity and incentive if, with the combination of Kaveri plus embedded technologies (Mantle & True Audio), you can provide a playable gaming environment for the mass market. Admittedly, it may not be a "playable gaming environment" from an enthusiast standpoint, but as an entry point, it is quite good enough. It will be important for AMD to show that the release of Mantle for BF4 impacts performance for the Kaveri APUs in particular. More specifically, they will need to show that Mantle makes BF4 playable on a 7600. If they are successful in that regard, then I think they may really have something exciting here.

    I'm hoping AMD is successful in this, because it's obvious that the desktop CPU performance race has reached a point of diminishing returns. Kudus for AMD for potentially changing the game in the industry.

    All that said, they screwed up the pricing for the high-end. It needs to be $30 cheaper, and what is even the point of the 7700K? The 7850K at ~$145 and the 7600 where it is would have made much more sense if they want to incent adoption of this technology. The other point is they need to get motherboard manufacturers on-board with bringing more ITX FM2+ motherboards to market at different price points.
  • 1 Hide
    Au_equus , January 16, 2014 5:40 AM
    There appears to a typo or at least a contradiction on the table (first page), which lists the A10-7700K with 512 shaders. The paragraph below then says it has 384 shaders.
  • 3 Hide
    Nossy , January 16, 2014 5:40 AM
    Basically at this point it is not worth the premium $50-60USD or so over Richland and Trinity. At $180, you can get an i5 3570k at some places like Microcenter. Another disappointing release from AMD.
  • 0 Hide
    The_Trutherizer , January 16, 2014 5:51 AM
    I'm extremely excited to see the results from more HSA compliant apps myself. Some of the benchmarks I have seen are beastly.I'm really starting to think that the APU is a superior approach. With x86 performance past a certain point CPUs with traditional cores will be relegated to specialised servers in the eyes of consumers. I mean how quickly do you want to open an excel spreadsheet or encode or decode music and video? 0.5s or 0.3s?
  • 8 Hide
    nezzymighty , January 16, 2014 5:52 AM
    Quote:
    With the A8-7600, I believe AMD is providing a tremendous market opportunity and incentive if, with the combination of Kaveri plus embedded technologies (Mantle & True Audio), you can provide a playable gaming environment for the mass market. .... they may really have something exciting here.
    @ vertexx ... finally a non troll or die hard Intel/AMD fan that is making sensible points...I used to be a gamer and spent thousands, being a die hard fan of one today's chip makers. Now, as a mainstream user that has to use their money towards real life applications (rather than FPS) like a house, family, children, eating, paying bills, etc... I tend now to look for a solution to spend the disposable income on a solution that is cheap but encompasses the ability to do a little of everything...Well done AMD... please keep the innovation coming, and competition alive too keep prices down for all to enjoy...
  • 1 Hide
    rolli59 , January 16, 2014 5:54 AM
    Well if this is the future from AMD they are going to leave Intel alone in the high end gaming space.
  • -2 Hide
    styrkes , January 16, 2014 5:55 AM
    This measly increase in performance is just shoddy. Wonder what amazing story and hype AMD will put out for their next APU. I'm pretty much done with all this new advanced technology that's supposed to bring increased efficiency, performance, etc. etc. They've been doing this ever since they released their first APU. The next time AMD releases their next APU, I'll just jump straight into the benchmarks, see if that's any good.
  • -8 Hide
    styrkes , January 16, 2014 5:56 AM
    This measly increase in performance is just shoddy. Wonder what amazing story and hype AMD will put out for their next APU. I'm pretty much done with all this new advanced technology that's supposed to bring increased efficiency, performance, etc. etc. They've been doing this ever since they released their first APU. The next time AMD releases their next APU, I'll just jump straight into the benchmarks, see if that's any good.
  • 2 Hide
    Trachu , January 16, 2014 6:02 AM
    A8-7600 paired with R9-240 looks like a good deal. I belive this is a great Chance for AMD here if it sorts Crossfire performance things right Here lays the whole reason to buy APU instead of plain CPU.Why you have not commented about it in your final words when you thought about the alternatives?
  • 6 Hide
    logainofhades , January 16, 2014 6:32 AM
    Quote:
    Basically at this point it is not worth the premium $50-60USD or so over Richland and Trinity. At $180, you can get an i5 3570k at some places like Microcenter. Another disappointing release from AMD.


    Yesterday there was an HD7770 so low that you could get that and an FX 6300 for like $5 more than what newegg is asking for the 7850k. You can get an HD 7750 in that general price range with an FX 6300 now. In desktop, APU's still hold no appeal to me at all. Mobile, they have promise for sure.
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