“Team Red” appears to have been invigorated lately, inspired by unknown forces to “take software very seriously” and improve timely driver roll-outs. The company, which went about half a year without a WHQL driver from 2H14-1H15, has recently boosted game-ready drivers near launch dates, refocused on software, and is marketing its GPU strengths.
The newest video card from AMD bears the R300 series mark, from which we previously reviewed the R9 380 & R9 390 GPUs. AMD's R9 380X 4GB GPU costs $230 MSRP, but retails closer to $240 through board partners, and hosts 13% more cores than the championed R9 380 graphics card (~$200 after MIRs). That places the R9 380X in direct competition with nVidia's GTX 960 4GB, priced at roughly $230, and 2GB alternative at $210.
Today, we're reviewing the Sapphire Nitro version of AMD's R9 380X graphics card, including benchmarks from Battlefront, Black Ops III, Fallout 4, Assassin's Creed Syndicate, and more. The head-to-head would pit the R9 380X 4GB vs. the GTX 960 4GB, something we've done in-depth below. We'll go into thermals, power consumption, and overclocking on the last page.
Our hardware news recap for the week of 11/14 is now live on YouTube, covering a few primary topics: GPU shipment volume, a new Cherry MX Nature White switch, ASUS' move to Augmented Reality, nVidia's GameWorks VR / UE4 integration, and Corsair's HG10 updated for the 900 series.
You can find the video news recap below. This week, for those who stay up on the site, we'll primarily be working on Star Wars Battlefront content. We've also got some power supply stuff going live shortly, alongside the video version of our Black Ops optimization guide (live in a few hours from this posting).
Jon Peddie Research today released its independent GPU shipment analysis, its highlights including an averaged 9% growth in GPU shipping volume, despite a year-over-year desktop GPU shipment decline of 13%.
JPR has released these reports before. The research firm includes Intel's IGPs and AMD's APUs whenever mentioning “GPU shipments” or “GPU sales,” unless otherwise noted in their documentation. This fact is important to understand why some of the metrics appear the way they do.
NVidia's implementation of volumetric lighting utilizes tessellation for light shafts radiation and illumination of air. This approach allows better lighting when light sources are occluded by objects or when part of a light source is obfuscated, but requires that the GPU perform tessellation crunching to draw the light effects to the screen. NVidia is good at tessellation thanks to their architecture and specific optimizations made, but AMD isn't as good at it – Team Red regularly struggles with nVidia-implemented technologies that drive tessellation for visual fidelity, as seen in the Witcher's hair.
When benchmarking Fallout 4 on our lineup of GPUs, we noticed that the R9 390X was outclassed by the GTX 970 at 1080p with ultra settings. This set off a few red flags that we should investigate further; we did this, tuning each setting individually and ultimately finding that the 970 always led the 390X in our tests – no matter the configuration. Some settings, like shadow distance, can produce massive performance deltas (about 16-17% here), but still conclude with the 970 in the lead. It isn't until resolution is increased to 1440p that the 390X takes charge, somewhat expected given AMD's ability to handle raw pixel count at the higher-end.
Further research was required.
Last week, we decided to start running weekly news round-ups on Saturdays that are more video-centered, giving us some more time to continue working on heavier article content for the week. This also helps us continue creating high-quality video content, something we've done a lot of lately.
Some of our previous AMD GPU reviews have concluded that the devices were hamstrung by AMD's ability to support the hardware through adequate drivers and software. Recent attempts made by the company seek to turn this around, AMD stating on a press call that it is “getting extremely serious about software.” Radeon Software is AMD's newest endeavor to enable its hardware through improved software support.
Catalyst Control Center is being retired and repackaged as “Radeon Software,” which features a new, minimalism-inspired interface with some improved profiling functionality. The newest Radeon Software suite is codenamed “Crimson,” a version identifier for this year's deployment. We're told that each major update – likely once a year – will rollover to a new shade of red for sub-versioning identifiers of “Radeon Software.”
A lot happens in a few days, especially when it's nearing the holiday season. In the past week, HDD juggernaut Western Digital acquired SanDisk for $19 billion, Razer's OSVR solution was announced available for $300, NZXT's HUE+ got its first review, and asymmetrical GPU solutions underwent testing. On the more “industry” side of news, Logitech also posted its best retail sales growth since 2010, with substantial gains in NA, EMEA, and Asia-pacific markets.
We've recapped the news of the week below in video form, but a transcript of the video can be found further down. If there's news you think is worth telling others about, feel free to drop a comment below with info!
Microprocessor manufacturer AMD posted its third-quarter financials yesterday, reporting a ~40% revenue fall to $1.06 billion from $1.43 billion in 3Q14. AMD posted a $158 million operating loss for the quarter.
The company continues its endless restructure, the Radeon Technologies Group (RTG) now largely independent, with new shifts including a separation of the ATMP group.
The newest AMD graphics drivers resolve a few media playback issues, an issue with Star Wars Battlefront, and improve performance for Ashes of Singularity Dx12 API usage.
Star Wars: Battlefront now correctly allows AMD mobile GPUs to be utilized (rather than the IGP) when playing the game on portable devices. Ashes of Singularity sees resolution to the “A Driver has stopped responding” failure that has been spotted with Dx12 in use.
The latest AMD Catalyst driver resolves a memory leak issue found in AMD’s 15.9 update. Users who installed 15.9 during its brief availability should upgrade immediately to improve performance.
AMD’s new Catalyst 15.9 drivers added optimizations for Fable Legends and Star Wars Battlefront (the beta), with the 15.9.1 patch retaining these improvements alongside the memory leak resolution. CrossFire users should expect flickering in Battlefront for the time being; disabling CrossFire eliminates this issue.
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