Mantle, first impressions in Battlefield 4.

MantleBenefits

Last week DICE released an update to the Battlefield 4 game on the PC. This update supports the Mantle AMD Graphics Processor Unit API. A day later AMD released their AMD 14.1 beta v 1.6 driver which supports this API. There are known issues with this driver so be weary. All graphics processors based on the Graphics Core Next architecture are supported by Mantle. I’m not going to get into details about the architecture or which devices are supported, but if you would like that information just head over to the AMD site. I had a chance to quickly test the performance of the API and Game. This was a very brief test and there are no metrics associated with this, only my experience.

FBMantle

Either way my setup is as follows:

Eyefinity with 3 Dell IPS monitors @ 1920×1200, with 16:10 aspect ratio. Gigabyte Windforce OC HD7970 card. AMD Athlon II x6 1090T processor, with 16 GB or RAM, and everything stored on SSD drives.

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Collectively in eyefinity the max resolution achievable on this hardware is 5760×1200. However I have been playing Battlefield 4 @ 5040×1050 resolution which relates to a 16:10 aspect ratio monitor with 1680×1050 resolution. Truth is the system could not handle the higher resolution and playing on low was not an option. That resolution was being played on high with a couple tweaks.

With mantle and the BF4 update, I was able to go from 5040×1050 resolution in BF4 to 5760×1200. That is pretty good, I thought I would have to wait another generation before I could max out my resolution on my monitors.

What does Mantle do? Mantle helps and assist the rendering process by optimizing it and sending batches from the processor to the GPU in parallel. DirectX is supposedly also capable of these parallel communications, but developers have not yet been able to achieve this with DirectX, and instead it sends the batches in serial. Basically with Mantle the information gets there faster, there is more of it, and it is optimized for the hardware as it is not a generic API meant for all hardware.

What does this mean? This means that if you have a slower multi-core processor and a mid range to high end video card you will see some performance increases. As it is in my case I was able to go from 5040×1050 resolution to 5760×1200, without any performance hits. Prior to mantle this was not possible on DirectX and the hardware.

What about high end PCs? Higher end machines, with really fast processors that are capable of fast single threaded processing will not see a big performance boost. Mantle is meant for the Mid range, the AMD sweet spot. There are also other hardware limitations to Mantle, lower end GPUs are not seeing a great performance boost either. Hardware is a factor here. The sweet spot seems to be mid range CPU with a mid range to high end GPU.

Mantle shows great promise for the future, especially for games that will be built from the ground up to support this technology. I’m also sure that there is some more performance that can be squeezed out of the hardware and API, it is still in it’s infancy.

Now if DICE could only fix the broken game.

Ready for fall gaming?

Winter is coming, and that means new titles, less time spent outdoors and more time in front of the TV and monitor. For us gamers that’s a blessing in disguise, I’m sure my gym going routine will suffer a bit. 

I recently picked up the Gigabyte Radeon HD 7970 OC Windforce… that’s quite the mouth full if I might say so myself. This is essentially the R9 280, minus 100MHz on the core clock and 125MHz on the memory clock. It’s missing a couple of features as well, but at the steal that I found this at I have no qualms about picking it up. You could catch this up to the R9 280 frequencies with a simple OC, but unfortunately Gigabyte locked the voltages on this line. Either way I was ready to upgrade from my dual 5870s, and the performance boost will be most welcome. I’m going from 1GB to 3GB RAM and this is necessary for the Ultra settings in any game. Well actually you could get away with 1GB GPU RAM but then the computer needs more than 8GB of RAM. Either way BF4 will look better than ever, and so will the other titles this winter.

For those that already own 7970 cards and wish to update to the new R9 series from AMD, have I got a little treat for you. You can go a step further and crossfire the 7970 with a R9 280X. That’s right folks, since they share the same silicon they can be crossfired. The only down side to this,  if one card has a higher clock than the other, the one with the higher frequency will be down clocked to match the slower card. The same goes for the other R7 series cards. Now that is what I call customer service and good old fashined Canadian engineering. If you want to read a little more about this head over to Hardware Canucks they will explain it to you in grater detail. http://www.hardwarecanucks.com/forum/hardware-canucks-reviews/63551-will-crossfire-r9-280x-hd-7970-scaling-tested.html

Then comes Mantle, for those of you not familiar with this term this is AMDs new API. This API gives developers direct access to the silicon and all the features it comes bundled with. It supposedly eliminates the unnecessary overhead of DirectX and OpenGL, improving performance and giving greater control of the hardware to the developers. Currently developers are slaves to the likes of DirectX and OpenGL, and these APIs do not support all the features of the GPU. With Mantle Game Developers will have the same API for the PC, Xbox One, Wii U, and PS4. BF4 will be patching their game in December to utilize the Mantle API from AMD. It will be interesting to see some benchmarks on this to test the performance. While Nvidia spent 5 million on optimization for a couple of Ubisoft games this fall, AMD paid DICE 8 mil or so to essentially design or rather optimize their Mantle API for the Frostbite 3 engine. This encompasses all platforms and a plethora of upcoming games. Whereas Ubisoft is notorious for ignoring the PC gaming space and releasing less than stellar software for it, Ghost Recon Future Soldier comes to mind for me. GRFS was unplayable for 3-4 months after being released on the PC. Go online now and it’s a barren wasteland. Looks like Nvidia is backing the wrong horse. AMD got the better deal and made a smarter business decision in the long run.

There is a lot of exciting and interesting things happening in the PC gaming space right now. Steam is at the fore front of all this trying to Steam roll all the competition/consoles and make it’s way into the living room. It already has into mine. Me being a PC gamer and a member of the Glorious PC Gaming Master Race, this is very exciting in deed. Steam and Valve have the potential to shut those console peasants up for good. I kid, I kid, I own consoles as well and use them as paper weights and book ends, ha ha ha.

Here is a video demonstration of the Steam controller.

Happy gaming to you all.