AMD’s 7000-series graphics cards which feature the Graphics Core Next architecture (GCN) have been suffering from microstuttering issues since their release – that’s where some frames take a significantly longer time to render than the surrounding frames – leading to visibly jerky animation when it happens. The Tech Report have discovered that in their latency-focused gaming tests, an AMD HD 7950 could actually be bested by an NVIDIA GTX 660 Ti due to microstuttering, despite the AMD card having significantly more powerful hardware. They even posted a slow motion video of this effect in action.
Well, it turns out that the root cause is due to drivers not being full optimized for the 7000-series cards, which were released a year ago in December 2011! AMD’s David Baumann contacted The Tech Report and explained that the drivers don’t work as well as they could with GCN-based graphics cards, since memory management isn’t being used optimally with this architecture:
“Additionally, when we switched from the old VLIW architecture to the GCN core there was a significant updates to all parts of the driver was needed – although not really spoken about the entire memory management on GCN is different to prior GPU’s and the initial software management for that was primarily driven by schedule and in the meantime we’ve been rewriting it again and we have discovered that the new version has also improved frame latency in a number of cases so we are accelerating the QA and implementation of that.”
So, how can AMD let a significant problem like this linger for so long? Surely the drivers should be fully optimised for a new GPU architecture at its release, with only a few inevitable bugs and glitches here and there to sort out for the next driver release? Well, let’s hope that AMD finally get this problem sorted out very soon as long-running issues like this aren’t good for competitiveness and can make your customers lose confidence in your products. After all the whole point of spending a lot of money on a high end PC with a powerful CPU and graphics card is to get rid of annoying stutters and dropped frames!
So a specific portion of AMD’s driver code needs some additional attention in order to perform optimally on the year-old GCN architecture—and AMD has accelerated an overhaul of it after discovering that the new revision can alleviate frame latency issues. Wow.