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AMD 12.11 "Never Settle" Driver Performance

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
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Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
12,857
Location
Montreal
There’s an unwritten law in the gaming world that says a graphics card is only as good as its drivers. We’ve seen potentially great GPU architectures cut off at the knees due to lackluster driver support in the latest games. Other products tend to shine from day one with quick updates whenever new titles are released. So while engineers can control how their creation ultimately processes game information, it is a company’s software team that keeps a GPU lineup competitive throughout its lifetime.

This brings us to the reasoning behind today’s article. AMD’s new 12.11 “Never Settle” drivers are supposed to breathe new life into their HD 7000-series parts by increasing performance by some significant levels. That seems like a tall order to fulfill for an architecture that's already been around for almost 10 months but AMD’s driver team has pulled off surprises in the past. These new drivers should be available as you read this so if you have an AMD card, get on moving to the driver download page.

In addition to the release of new performance-enhancing drivers, AMD is also introducing a new game promo today. By including up to three free games (Hitman: Absolution, Sleeping Dogs and Far Cry 3) and a coupon for 20% off Medal of Honor: Warfighter with the purchase of new HD 7000-series cards, a potent one-two punch is being thrown against the competition.


Typically new drivers –even the ones with “performance” monikers- focus solely on a few select titles but this time around AMD is going a different route. 12.11 brings a nearly across-the-board framerate increase due to architectural optimizations within the driver stack rather than title-specific enhancements. This has primarily been achieved through the use of better memory management, meaning AMD’s GCN cores are now able to use memory bandwidth more efficiently. Additional in-game benefits were derived through some game engine optimizations but the lion’s share of this driver’s boost comes from good, old fashioned hard work on the driver team’s part.


Optimizations for certain game engines tend to rub off on other titles which use the same technology and DICE’s Frostbite 2 engine is a great example of this. With Medal of Honor: Warfighter being a Gaming Evolved title, AMD has been hard at work with the developers optimizing its engine for the HD 7000-series. Naturally, this has benefited Battlefield 3 in a big way so expect to see framerate jumps of between 15 to 20 percent depending on the card being used.

AMD has assured us that every optimization they’ve found hasn’t come at the expense of image quality and we have to agree. After using this driver extensively for the better part of a week, we haven’t been able to find a single instance where visual fidelity may have suffered. 12.11 is simply allowing an architecture that’s been on the market since January another chance to shine again.

Drivers make the graphics card work go ‘round and AMD is hoping the new 12.11s will improve their lineup’s position against NVIDIA’s strong competition. Considering the HD 7000-series has gone through its fair share of price cuts since the GTX 600-series was released, this move could have a significant impact upon the graphics card market right before the critical holiday season.

Before we go on to the actual benchmarks, let's lay out the ground rules. All of the tests are conducted as we normally would for any graphics card review with one small exception: two different AMD drivers (12.7 and 12.11) will be used. NVIDIA meanwhile benefits from their newest 306.97 driver which was released a few weeks ago. Due to the timing involved with this article, we were only able to test the HD 7970 GHz, a GTX 680 and a GTX 670. Additional testing will be done over the next few weeks in order to give a fuller perspective of how the 12.11 stack affects AMD's product positioning.
 
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SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
12,857
Location
Montreal
Test System & Setup / Benchmark Sequences

Main Test System

Processor: Intel i7 3930K @ 4.5GHz
Memory: Corsair Vengeance 32GB @ 1866MHz
Motherboard: ASUS P9X79 WS
Cooling: Corsair H80
SSD: 2x Corsair Performance Pro 256GB
Power Supply: Corsair AX1200
Monitor: Samsung 305T / 3x Acer 235Hz
OS: Windows 7 Ultimate N x64 SP1


Acoustical Test System

Processor: Intel 2600K @ stock
Memory: G.Skill Ripjaws 8GB 1600MHz
Motherboard: Gigabyte Z68X-UD3H-B3
Cooling: Thermalright TRUE Passive
SSD: Corsair Performance Pro 256GB
Power Supply: Seasonic X-Series Gold 800W


Drivers:
NVIDIA 306.97
AMD 12.7 / 12.11


Application Benchmark Information:
Note: In all instances, in-game sequences were used. The videos of the benchmark sequences have been uploaded below.


Batman: Arkham City

<object width="640" height="480"><param name="movie" value="http://www.youtube.com/v/Oia84huCvLI?version=3&hl=en_US&rel=0"></param><param name="allowFullScreen" value="true"></param><param name="allowscriptaccess" value="always"></param><embed src="http://www.youtube.com/v/Oia84huCvLI?version=3&hl=en_US&rel=0" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" width="640" height="480" allowscriptaccess="always" allowfullscreen="true"></embed></object>​


Battlefield 3

<object width="640" height="480"><param name="movie" value="http://www.youtube.com/v/i6ncTGlBoAw?version=3&hl=en_US"></param><param name="allowFullScreen" value="true"></param><param name="allowscriptaccess" value="always"></param><embed src="http://www.youtube.com/v/i6ncTGlBoAw?version=3&hl=en_US" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" width="640" height="480" allowscriptaccess="always" allowfullscreen="true"></embed></object>​


Crysis 2

<object width="560" height="315"><param name="movie" value="http://www.youtube.com/v/Bc7_IAKmAsQ?version=3&hl=en_US"></param><param name="allowFullScreen" value="true"></param><param name="allowscriptaccess" value="always"></param><embed src="http://www.youtube.com/v/Bc7_IAKmAsQ?version=3&hl=en_US" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" width="560" height="315" allowscriptaccess="always" allowfullscreen="true"></embed></object>​


Deus Ex Human Revolution

<object width="560" height="315"><param name="movie" value="http://www.youtube.com/v/GixMX3nK9l8?version=3&hl=en_US"></param><param name="allowFullScreen" value="true"></param><param name="allowscriptaccess" value="always"></param><embed src="http://www.youtube.com/v/GixMX3nK9l8?version=3&hl=en_US" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" width="560" height="315" allowscriptaccess="always" allowfullscreen="true"></embed></object>​


Dirt 3

<object width="560" height="315"><param name="movie" value="http://www.youtube.com/v/g5FaVwmLzUw?version=3&hl=en_US"></param><param name="allowFullScreen" value="true"></param><param name="allowscriptaccess" value="always"></param><embed src="http://www.youtube.com/v/g5FaVwmLzUw?version=3&hl=en_US" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" width="560" height="315" allowscriptaccess="always" allowfullscreen="true"></embed></object>​


Metro 2033

<object width="480" height="360"><param name="movie" value="http://www.youtube.com/v/8aZA5f8l-9E?version=3&hl=en_US"></param><param name="allowFullScreen" value="true"></param><param name="allowscriptaccess" value="always"></param><embed src="http://www.youtube.com/v/8aZA5f8l-9E?version=3&hl=en_US" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" width="480" height="360" allowscriptaccess="always" allowfullscreen="true"></embed></object>​


Shogun 2: Total War

<object width="560" height="315"><param name="movie" value="http://www.youtube.com/v/oDp29bJPCBQ?version=3&hl=en_US"></param><param name="allowFullScreen" value="true"></param><param name="allowscriptaccess" value="always"></param><embed src="http://www.youtube.com/v/oDp29bJPCBQ?version=3&hl=en_US" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" width="560" height="315" allowscriptaccess="always" allowfullscreen="true"></embed></object>​


Skyrim

<object width="640" height="480"><param name="movie" value="http://www.youtube.com/v/HQGfH5sjDEk?version=3&hl=en_US&rel=0"></param><param name="allowFullScreen" value="true"></param><param name="allowscriptaccess" value="always"></param><embed src="http://www.youtube.com/v/HQGfH5sjDEk?version=3&hl=en_US&rel=0" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" width="640" height="480" allowscriptaccess="always" allowfullscreen="true"></embed></object>​


Wargame: European Escalation

<object width="640" height="480"><param name="movie" value="http://www.youtube.com/v/ztXmjZnWdmk?version=3&hl=en_US&rel=0"></param><param name="allowFullScreen" value="true"></param><param name="allowscriptaccess" value="always"></param><embed src="http://www.youtube.com/v/ztXmjZnWdmk?version=3&hl=en_US&rel=0" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" width="640" height="480" allowscriptaccess="always" allowfullscreen="true"></embed></object>​


Witcher 2 v2.0

<object width="560" height="315"><param name="movie" value="http://www.youtube.com/v/tyCIuFtlSJU?version=3&hl=en_US"></param><param name="allowFullScreen" value="true"></param><param name="allowscriptaccess" value="always"></param><embed src="http://www.youtube.com/v/tyCIuFtlSJU?version=3&hl=en_US" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" width="560" height="315" allowscriptaccess="always" allowfullscreen="true"></embed></object>​

*Notes:

- All games tested have been patched to their latest version

- The OS has had all the latest hotfixes and updates installed

- All scores you see are the averages after 3 benchmark runs

All IQ settings were adjusted in-game and all GPU control panels were set to use application settings
 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
12,857
Location
Montreal
3DMark 11 (DX11)

3DMark 11 (DX11)


3DMark 11 is the latest in a long line of synthetic benchmarking programs from the Futuremark Corporation. This is their first foray into the DX11 rendering field and the result is a program that incorporates all of the latest techniques into a stunning display of imagery. Tessellation, depth of field, HDR, OpenCL physics and many others are on display here. In the benchmarks below we have included the results (at default settings) for both the Performance and Extreme presets.


Performance Preset



Extreme Preset

 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
12,857
Location
Montreal
Batman: Arkham City (DX11)

Batman: Arkham City (DX11)


Batman: Arkham City is a great looking game when all of its detail levels are maxed out but it also takes a fearsome toll on your system. In this benchmark we use a simple walkthrough that displays several in game elements. The built-in benchmark was avoided like the plague simply because the results it generates do not accurately reflect in-game performance.

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SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
12,857
Location
Montreal
Battlefield 3 (DX11)

Battlefield 3 (DX11)


For this benchmark, we used a sequence from the Rock and Hard Place mission. The results may seem lower than normal and this is due to the fact that after playing through the game multiple times, this one are was found to be the most demanding on the GPU. As with all of the tests, we try to find a worst case scenario in order to ensure a given card can properly play through the whole game instead of just a “typical” section.

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SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
12,857
Location
Montreal
Crysis 2 (DX11)

Crysis 2 (DX11)


Crysis 2 with the DX11 and Texture Package installed not only looks great but it is a strain on any GPU. For this benchmark, we used a classic runthrough which includes far views, explosions, combat and close-in knifing; basically every hallmark of gameplay.

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2560 x 1600

 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
12,857
Location
Montreal
Deus Ex: Human Revolution (DX11)

Deus Ex: Human Revolution (DX11)


Deus Ex: Human Revolution may not be the hardest game for today’s high end gaming rigs to render. While the game mostly takes place indoors, it is the few outdoor areas that put additional strain on graphics cards. So for this test, we use one of the more involved outdoor sections: the Sharif Manufacturing Loading Docks.

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SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
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Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
12,857
Location
Montreal
Dirt 3 (DX11)

Dirt 3 (DX11)


Dirt 3 isn’t all that much different from its predecessor but the developers have added a few more visual touches but boost image quality. In this case, we used the Michigan Rally track since it features some of the hardest to render features of the game: expansive vistas, water, dirt effects, trees and many other items.

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SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
12,857
Location
Montreal
Metro 2033 (DX11)

Metro 2033 (DX11)


For this test we use a walkthrough and combat scene from The Bridge level which starts at the beginning of the level and lasts for about 3 minutes of walking, running and combat. Famerates are measured with FRAPS and Advanced PhysX is turned off.

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2560 x 1600

 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
12,857
Location
Montreal
Shogun 2: Total War (DX11)

Shogun 2: Total War (DX11)


Due to its very nature, Shogun 2 is a tough game to benchamark since the in-game tool doesn’t accurately convey an in-game experience. So we took a pre-recorded battle which pits three large armies against one another and includes camera zooms, fog, gun smoke and other items. Using a pre-recorded sequence also effectively removes the CPU from the equation since it doesn’t have to process AI.

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