Imminent AMD Catalyst Driver Release To Enable Mantle, Fix Frame Pacing Issues, and Support HSA Features on Kaveri
AMD has a new set of drivers coming in a couple of days that are poised to resolve a number of longstanding issues and enable a handful of new features as well, most notably support for Mantle.
Though the number/naming convention may change by the time the drivers are actually released, we’re told the upcoming Catalyst 14.1 betas are going to be the first publicly available drivers from AMD that will support Mantle, AMD’s “close to the metal” API that’ll let developers wring additional performance from GCN-based GPUs. However, the new drivers will also add support for the HSA-related features introduced with the recently released Kaveri APU, and will reportedly fix the frame pacing issues associated with Radeon HD 7000 series CrossFire configurations, running at resolutions above 1600p. AMD introduced frame pacing into their graphics drivers a few months ago, but resolutions above 2560x1600 were not supported, which meant Eyefinity or 4K monitor owners were out of luck. In addition, we’re told the Catalyst 14.1 drivers will fix frame pacing issues with dual-graphics (APU + Discrete) configurations as well.
Kaveri's HSA Features Will Be Enabled In The Catalyst 14.1 Beta Drivers
We had originally planned to give you a sneak peek at what Mantle could do in an upcoming benchmark called Star Swarm, which leverages the Nitrous 3D engine, but a last minute snafu left us unable to actually do the testing. To give you an idea what you would have most likely seen, check out this video of Star Swarm in action on Mantle...
Star Swarm Using AMD Mantle API
We had seen Star Swarm, and spoken to its developers, previously while out at CES and witnessed the Mantle-enabled version outperforming its DirectX-based counterpart significantly in a live demo, when there were a large number of units on-screen. Of course, the demo was configured in such a way to show the maximum impact of Mantle (mid-range CPU + high-end GPU + tons of objects on-screen), but the performance increase was there nonetheless.
Once the drivers hit, we’ll get them installed and see what Mantle can do for ourselves. Rumor has it, a patch for little game you may have heard of—Battlefield 4—is due to arrive soon as well. With a little luck, we should be able to tell you what kind of real-world impact Mantle has on performance in the not too distant future. In the meantime AMD sent over some numbers we'd like to share:
Battlefield 4 (EA-DICE)
- CPU-limited scenario: 40.9% (1080p) and 40.1% (1600p) performance improvement under Ultra settings and 4xAA on the AMD A10-7700K with an AMD Radeon R9 290X
- GPU-limited scenario: 2.7% (1080p) and 1.4% (1600p) performance improvement under Ultra settings and FXAA on the Core i7-4960X with an AMD Radeon R7 260X
- Average uplift for 1080p: 13.28% (Average of 290X and 260X data on the i7-4960X, A10-7700K, FX 8350 and i5-4670K)
- Average uplift for 1600p: 11.35% (Average of 290X and 260X data on the i7-4960X, A10-7700K, FX 8350 and i5-4670K)
Star Swarm (Oxide Games)
Note that the StarSwarm demo is a beautiful use case for Mantle, as the developers are veterans of Firaxis and Microsoft studios, and the brains behind multiple Sid Meier’s Civilization titles. The “Nitrous” engine from Oxide Games, which powers this demo, utilizes Mantle’s high draw call boundaries to bring more units into play than Oxide could ever achieve under DirectX.
- CPU-limited scenario: 319% (1080p) and 281% (1600p) performance improvement in the “RTS” test on Extreme settings with the AMD A10-7700K and an AMD Radeon R9 290X
- GPU-limited scenario: 5.1% (1080p) and 16.7% (1600p) performance improvement in the “RTS” test on Extreme settings with the Core i7-4960X and an AMD Radeon R7 260X
- Average uplift for 1080p: 115.65% (Average of 290X and 260X data on the i7-4960X, A10-7700K, FX 8350 and i5-4670K)
- Average uplift for 1600p: 75.19% (Average of 290X and 260X data on the i7-4960X, A10-7700K, FX 8350 and i5-4670K)
Once again, we want to reiterate, that these numbers were provided by AMD. We haven't been able to independently prove them out, yet. As you can see though, in CPU limited situations, using Mantle can result in significant performance improvements, even at relatively high resolutions.