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The Performance Impact Of Lower-Quality Textures

Do AMD's Radeon HD 7000s Trade Image Quality For Performance?
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In light of the visual improvement we see when we tune the Catalyst A.I. slider, we want to know how performance gets impacted at each step of the way on AMD's Radeon HD 7870 and 6970 cards.

Crysis 2 definitely yields a quantifiable difference between the Radeon HD 7870 and 6970, as we'd expect. However, the difference between frame rates at the highest and lowest texture detail settings is negligible.

Battlefield 3 gives us an average 1.4 FPS spread on the Radeon HD 7870 and only a 0.3 FPS spread on the Radeon HD 6970, but that's hardly a notable difference on either card.

In Metro 2033, there's a more substantial 3.8 FPS difference between the highest and lowest texture quality settings on the Radeon HD 7870, while the Radeon HD 6970 incurs less than half of that.

Skyrim is the game with the most obvious texture differences between the 7870 and 6970, and it's also the game that shows the largest spread of frame rates between the highest and lowest texture quality settings on the Radeon HD 7870 (6.7 FPS). The Radeon HD 6970, on the other hand, sees a mere 2.1 FPS separate its Performance and High Quality settings.

To recap, there isn't much to report in either Battlefield 3 or Crysis when it comes to performance delta, regardless of the texture filtering quality setting. But in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim and Metro 2033, the High Quality setting appears to force more of a performance hit on the Radeon HD 7870 than on the 6970.

Considering the data we’ve seen up until this point, we have to come to the disturbing conclusion that AMD's Radeon HD 7000-series cards currently enjoy more aggressive benchmark results at their default driver settings, resulting in reduced texture quality compared to the Radeon HD 6000s and GeForce GTX 500s. Using the highest Catalyst A.I. setting appears to be the remedy, though it costs additional speed.

This is the kind of result that makes us uncomfortable. Is it possible that AMD knowingly sacrificed texture quality to gain marginally-better performance in some benchmarks? The company took a couple weeks to respond to our queries, and we wondered as we waited.

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Top Comments
  • 32 Hide
    buzznut , April 11, 2012 5:04 AM
    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!
  • 31 Hide
    sha7bot , April 11, 2012 6:12 AM
    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.
  • 24 Hide
    dragonsqrrl , April 11, 2012 5:59 AM
    therabiddeerIs it just me or is toms heavily biased towards nvidia?

    ...it's just you.
Other Comments
  • 24 Hide
    lahawzel , April 11, 2012 4:50 AM
    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.
  • 32 Hide
    buzznut , April 11, 2012 5:04 AM
    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!
  • 0 Hide
    therabiddeer , April 11, 2012 5:05 AM
    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.
  • 16 Hide
    SteelCity1981 , April 11, 2012 5:06 AM
    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.
  • 22 Hide
    neon neophyte , April 11, 2012 5:26 AM
    Do AMD's Radeon HD 7000s Trade Image Quality For Performance?

    No, no they do not
  • -6 Hide
    airborne11b , April 11, 2012 5:29 AM
    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.
  • 12 Hide
    Maximus_Delta , April 11, 2012 5:35 AM
    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
  • 18 Hide
    Anonymous , April 11, 2012 5:47 AM
    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.
  • 24 Hide
    dragonsqrrl , April 11, 2012 5:59 AM
    therabiddeerIs it just me or is toms heavily biased towards nvidia?

    ...it's just you.
  • 31 Hide
    sha7bot , April 11, 2012 6:12 AM
    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.
  • 20 Hide
    scrumworks , April 11, 2012 6:14 AM
    "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?
  • 4 Hide
    Anonymous , April 11, 2012 6:16 AM
    Thanks Toms for keeping these guys honest.
  • -1 Hide
    tacoslave , April 11, 2012 6:25 AM
    everything looks the same to me
  • -1 Hide
    Maximus_Delta , April 11, 2012 6:57 AM
    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 ;) 
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