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

A Texture Quality Problem Confirmed And Fixed

We did, in fact, find texture quality anomalies in AMD's new Radeon HD 7000 series, and we were originally concerned that history was repeating itself when we discovered the problem. If you've paid any attention to the graphics space over the past 10 years, you'll probably remember a time when ATI and Nvidia quietly played around with image quality, sacrificing visual fidelity for performance in order to help their products perform better in high-profile game benchmarks.

To be clear, the discrepancies we found on the Radeon HD 7000 cards aren’t obvious until you start poring over screen captures. With that in mind, we're still reminded of a time when some folks argued that optimizations are acceptable if they're not noticeable during game play. Despite this contrarian view, common sense won out in the court of public opinion and users made it clear that they wanted to see the output quality that the developer intended. Since then, it has been acceptable to give players the option to lower quality in exchange for performance, but the default setting is sacred, and we expect a similar experience across all graphics cards when it's employed.

Based on our original findings, it wasn’t a stretch to question if AMD had decided to try an old trick with the 7000 series, giving up hard-to-notice texture detail for a couple of frames per second in some games. We’re glad that AMD responded, clarified the situation, and provided proof in a fixed pre-release driver, plus a commitment to include that resolution in the upcoming Catalyst 12.4 WHQL driver. The driver it sent us for testing suggests that the issue can be solved without sacrificing performance.

As a tech journalist, it’s somewhat gratifying to identify a problem and then work with a vendor to get it fixed, and Tom’s Hardware has a rich history of this kind of investigative journalism.

I will say that I’m a bit surprised that the original findings we published in the Radeon HD 7870/7850 launch article didn’t seem to generate a significant amount of concern from our readers or the community. Toying with graphics quality is a slippery slope, and it should be something enthusiasts care about. Perhaps today's power users have more faith that these kinds of problems are nothing more than rare accidents that get fixed quickly and on their own. In this case, it appears the end result will probably mirror that optimistic expectation. But I think it’s important to stay diligent about defending the quality expectations we have of both AMD and Nvidia. Indeed, if Catalyst 12.4 goes live and the fix isn’t included, we’ll be the first to let you know.

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    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