Do AMD's Radeon HD 7000s Trade Image Quality For Performance?

Comparing Three Different Graphics Cards

We begin by comparing graphics cards. AMD's Radeon HD 6000 series is represented by the 6970, and Nvidia's GeForce GTX 500 series by the 580. We also tested the GeForce GTX 680 prior to its launch in order to verify the newer card's output is similar to the old one, and it is. We also test the Radeon HD 7870 and Radeon 7970 to see if the issue spans the entire 7000 series, or if it's specific to AMD's Pitcairn GPU. All of the Radeon boards are tested with the Radeon HD 7800 press driver (8.95.5-120224a-134185E-ATI), while the lone GeForce is tested with the  295.73 WHQL driver.

Our first comparison comes from The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. Note how the tree texture on the right and rocks on the left are notably clearer on the GeForce GTX 580 and Radeon HD 6970. The Radeon HD 7870 and 7970 are blurry in comparison.

Next up is Battlefield 3. Pay attention to the white building details at the top of the image. We see some blurry textures from the Radoen HD 7000-series cards, just as we did in Skyrim. The GeForce GTX 580 and Radeon HD 6970 are noticeably crisper.

In Metro 2033, the Radeon HD 7000 series delivers less texture detail once again. Note the changes in the small circles just upper-left of center.

We scrutinized Crysis 2 screenshots, but couldn't find any differences in texture quality.

So, out of the four games we tested, the Radeon HD 7000s demonstrated sub-par texture detail in three. Crysis 2 was the lone example where the output was consistent across our sample of boards, though that's no guarantee that Crysis 2 is impervious. It might simply means that the scene we chose to analyze doesn't suffer in an obvious way from the problem.

Regardless, because the Radeon HD 7870 and 7970 both suffer from the same lower-quality output in multiple titles, we can conclude that the texturing issue affects AMD's GCN-based GPUs, and not just the two cards centering on the company's Pitcairn processor.

Now that we've identified the issue as a Radeon HD 7000 problem, let's explore the driver situation more closely.

Create a new thread in the US Reviews comments forum about this subject
This thread is closed for comments
256 comments
Comment from the forums
    Your comment
    Top Comments
  • buzznut
    Huh, don't know about all of that but thx for the article. I do think its important to bring such things to the vendor's attention and follow up to see if they respond appropriately. Good job!
    32
  • sha7bot
    Nice work Tom's, but I can't help question the wisdom in putting this article on the front page for weeks to come when it should have been a blurb in the news section.

    As nebun so artfully pointed out, there a many readers that will see a headline and jump to conclusions. In this regard would it not have been better to say make your headline, "AMD's Radeon HD 7000s Trade Image Quality For Performance? Short answer NO."

    As "investigative journalists" your opinions should be omitted. Complaining of AMDs delay in response, or misleading your readers by eluding to the fact that their avoiding you is entirely opinionated, and the fact that they not only worked with you, gave you a complete answer, and a solution should have necessitated a rewrite of your article.

    I don't think you're biased, but this article does lend credence to those claims.


    I think you're doing what all journalists do, making a story out of nothing, hurting any individuals involved, and then moving on without a backward glance at the consequences.

    I may be being dramatic, but AMD deserves better than this on one of the top PC hardware sites in the world.
    31
  • lahawzel
    These differences are things that no one would ever notice if tech review sites didn't point them out.

    Well, not that I mind knowing that it can be fixed with a driver update, but I find it unnecessary for the average gamer to worry about these minor differences with image quality (knowing it's "fixed" is more of a placebo than an actual improvement of gaming experience). Not to mention that the typical gamer plays on 6-bit TN-panel monitors because "HURR 1ms RESPONSE TIME HOLY SHIT BEST SCREEN EVER" and they in turn elect to give up the superior color gamut and viewing angles conferred by IPS panels. They ought to the last ones who deserve to complain about image quality, at any rate.
    24
  • Other Comments
  • lahawzel
    These differences are things that no one would ever notice if tech review sites didn't point them out.

    Well, not that I mind knowing that it can be fixed with a driver update, but I find it unnecessary for the average gamer to worry about these minor differences with image quality (knowing it's "fixed" is more of a placebo than an actual improvement of gaming experience). Not to mention that the typical gamer plays on 6-bit TN-panel monitors because "HURR 1ms RESPONSE TIME HOLY SHIT BEST SCREEN EVER" and they in turn elect to give up the superior color gamut and viewing angles conferred by IPS panels. They ought to the last ones who deserve to complain about image quality, at any rate.
    24
  • nebun
    got to love nvidia....why is it that most of AMD's graphics are blurry?
    -43
  • nebun
    Almost forgot...AMD was caught lying again :)...what a shame
    -41
  • buzznut
    Huh, don't know about all of that but thx for the article. I do think its important to bring such things to the vendor's attention and follow up to see if they respond appropriately. Good job!
    32
  • therabiddeer
    Is it just me or is toms heavily biased towards nvidia? We see tons of articles for the Nvidia 6xx but very few for the 7xxx. Nothing negative for nvidia, but an article like this for AMD's, which is already being fixed even though it is undetectable... and the fix doesnt even yield a real change in framerates.
    -1
  • the associate
    "HURR 1ms RESPONSE TIME HOLY SHIT BEST SCREEN EVER"

    HAHAHAHAHA
    Oh man that made my night. But yea, that's exactly why I just got a panny st30 screen, tn's are just garbage, and lcd just can't do black. As for framerate lag? Doesn't affect my average scoreboard k/d ratios, or lap times, or whatever other "precision" timing actions both online and offline.
    Least I got a screen that can do my cards justice, this also makes me glad I got my crossfire setup with the 6780's instead of waiting for the 7000 series...
    -17
  • SteelCity1981
    Nothing new really early driver support for new graphics cards always have their bugs, but normally by the 3rd supported driver version a lot of the generel bugs are normally fixed, because by then a lot more people own that card series thus giving a lot more feedback to the gpu company about the drivers suppported for that card.
    16
  • the associate
    6870's**
    -16
  • neon neophyte
    Do AMD's Radeon HD 7000s Trade Image Quality For Performance?

    No, no they do not
    22
  • airborne11b
    the associate"HURR 1ms RESPONSE TIME HOLY SHIT BEST SCREEN EVER"HAHAHAHAHAOh man that made my night. But yea, that's exactly why I just got a panny st30 screen, tn's are just garbage, and lcd just can't do black. As for framerate lag? Doesn't affect my average scoreboard k/d ratios, or lap times, or whatever other "precision" timing actions both online and offline.Least I got a screen that can do my cards justice, this also makes me glad I got my crossfire setup with the 6780's instead of waiting for the 7000 series...


    Going from a dell u2711 2560 x 1600 to a asus vg278h 120hz 2ms tn panel, there is a clear difference in gaming. The u2711 compared to vg278h feels sluggish. The image quality, sharpness and color is clearly better in u2711, but the lag is terribly noticable.

    Once you get a real gaming monitor, you will see the difference for yourself. TN 120hz monitors are the only true choice for pro gaming, imo.
    -6
  • Maximus_Delta
    Glad its fixed, I want the best possible IQ so it was important this defect in the drivers was identified, escalated and driven to resolution. Let's hope 12.4 absolutely nails it for the 7000 series (I had to roll back to 12.2 on my CrossFire 7970s but won't go into why here). Cheers
    12
  • Anonymous
    Thanks Tom for doing this sort of investigation with image quality. I don't have the tools or knowledge to actual notice this, but i do want the crispiest image possible with no turning back.
    18
  • dragonsqrrl
    therabiddeerIs it just me or is toms heavily biased towards nvidia?

    ...it's just you.
    24
  • scrumworks
    I knew writer of this was "Don" immediately after I saw the title. Always talking trash about AMD/ATi.
    -17
  • sha7bot
    Nice work Tom's, but I can't help question the wisdom in putting this article on the front page for weeks to come when it should have been a blurb in the news section.

    As nebun so artfully pointed out, there a many readers that will see a headline and jump to conclusions. In this regard would it not have been better to say make your headline, "AMD's Radeon HD 7000s Trade Image Quality For Performance? Short answer NO."

    As "investigative journalists" your opinions should be omitted. Complaining of AMDs delay in response, or misleading your readers by eluding to the fact that their avoiding you is entirely opinionated, and the fact that they not only worked with you, gave you a complete answer, and a solution should have necessitated a rewrite of your article.

    I don't think you're biased, but this article does lend credence to those claims.


    I think you're doing what all journalists do, making a story out of nothing, hurting any individuals involved, and then moving on without a backward glance at the consequences.

    I may be being dramatic, but AMD deserves better than this on one of the top PC hardware sites in the world.
    31
  • scrumworks
    "we went back and found one specific setting that was causing the described texture blurriness. This has now been removed and the quality of textures should be as intended, with performance unchanged."

    So "Don" spend his whole week writing this Radeon bashing article (hoping it would be a hardware issue of course) about something nobody noticed just to find out there was a simple driver fix for it. Ain't that great?
    20
  • Anonymous
    Thanks Toms for keeping these guys honest.
    4
  • tacoslave
    everything looks the same to me
    -1
  • noob2222
    So is this part of dons or toms testing methods not to check the settings before just jumping right into benchmarking? Now you write an entire review to complain that you didn't check the settings that can only be seen while face planting a wall to see the textures as close as possible?

    Conclusion: its amd's fault that we didn't check any settings ... I think you should try an electron microscope next to see what else you can complain about.

    This should have been a 1 or 2 page blog, not a 6 page review discussing how one setting wasn't the same. Next article by don should be titled " why I think AMD sucks."
    -20
  • Maximus_Delta
    I'm looking forward to an investigation into something nVidia related? I'm sure you can find something odd about the 3DMark scores or something? Did nVidia game 3DMark11 when games 7000 series performance is much closer? I am sure you can find something Tom's ;)
    -1