Overclocking AMD Mantle API with Catalyst 14.1

AMD Mantle Logo

On February 1, 2014 AMD released the first public beta of the Catalyst 14.1 drivers as Beta 1.6 with Mantle support.  Previously we tested Beta 1.5 drivers, and found it increased the performance of Battlefield 4 by 15.8% on a Sapphire Radeon R7 260X video card.  As this is a new build, we wanted to do some additional testing, focusing on how well Mantle works with both video card and processor overclocking. The percent performance increase from DirectX to Mantle varies greatly and depends on the video card that you are using. AMD provided us with a slide that shows performance of four discrete graphics cards on the AMD A10-7700K processor and the performance gains ranged from just around 6% on the AMD Radeon R9 270X to over 40% on the AMD Radeon R9 290X. We've been testing with an AMD Radeon R7 260X due to the affordability of the card and the fact that many gamers are using it since it supports both AMD Mantle and TrueAudio technologies.

bf4-mantle-performance

Currently there are only two ways to test the AMD Mantle API. You can use the latest build of the highly popular Battlefield 4 game title or there is a new synthetic benchmark called Star Swarm that is now available to download and use. We tried both benchmark options out on what we consider a mainstream gaming platform (Intel Core i5-3570 ‘Ivy Bridge Process w/ a Sapphire Radeon R7 260X 2GB video card).

 

Let’s see how the number increase as we begin overclocking the CPU and GPU.

Test System

Before taking a look at the benchmarks, let’s take a look at the test system that was used. All testing was done with a fresh install of Windows 8.1 Pro x64, no additional software was running during the tests.

Sapphire R7 260X Front

Intel Z77/LGA1155 Platform

Z77X-UP5 TH CPUZ Screens

The Intel Z77 system used to test the video cards done on a system with an Intel Core i5-3570K 'Ivy Bridge' processor on the Gigabyte Z77X-UP5 TH motherboard with the F11 BIOS from 09/03/2012. Installed for memory was 16GB Kingston Hyper-X Blue 1866MHz, running at the rated speed with 9-11-9-27 2T timings. An Intel 520 series 180GB SSD was used for the OS and benchmarks. Testing was completed in a room with an ambient temperature of 65F.
The Intel Z77 Test System

Component

Brand/Model

Live Pricing

Processor Intel Core i5-3570K Click Here
Motherboard Gigabyte Z77X-UP5-TH Click Here
Memory 16GB Kingston Blue 1866MHz Click Here
SSD Intel 520series 180GB Click Here
Cooling Phanteks PH-TC12DX Click Here
Power Supply Lepa G650-MAS Click Here
Operating System Windows 8.1 Pro 64-Bit Click Here

Sapphire R7 260X Video Card GPU-Z Information

Sapphire R7 260X GPU-Z Base

The Sapphire R7 260X has 2GB of GDDR5, which is set to 1650MHz, or 6600MHz effective.  The Bonaire GPU has been factory overclocked to 1150MHz.  

Overclocking

Sapphire TRIXX Overclocked

The GPU will be overclocked using Sapphire's TRIXX software.  In our testing of the Sapphire R7 260X we found the GPU could be overclocked to 1255MHz from the factory overclock of 1150MHz.  In addition the GPU memory could be overclocked 125MHz over the base 1650MHz for an overclock speed of 1775Mhz.  These overclocks resulted in a 9% overclock for the GPU clock, and a 7.5% overclock for the memory.

Sapphire R7 260 GPU-Z OC

CPU Overclocking

Overclocking greatly depends on the hardware and the skill of the overclocker; even with the same hardware overclocking success can be different. Utilizing the UEFI BIOS of the Gigabyte Z77X-UP5 TH the  multiplier is raised to 43, overclocking the CPU from 3.4GHz to 4.3GHz.

GA-Z77-UP5-TH 3570K OC

The overclocking done on the Gigabyte GA-Z77-UP5 TH motherboard and the Sapphire R7 260X was a very quick and simple overclock.   Neither were overclocked very aggressively, and potentially could be overclocked a little further, however somebody overclocking their system further than this most likely will be using a higher end CPU and GPU.

Battlefield 4

As a recap, for Battlefield 4 to work with the Mantle API, you will need to select it in the Video options, after which  the game will need to be restarted for it to take effect.  For more information See Here.

Battlefield 4 Mantle API

Sadly, FRAPS does not support Mantle at this time, so DICE has enabled a new console tool to do benchmarking; “PerfOverlay.FrameFileLogEnable 1″ to start the recording and “PerfOverlay.FrameFileLogEnable 0″ to stop the recording.  While we would like to thank DICE for this tool, it would be great if they would do an automated benchmark tool.  The tool saves the results as a .CSV file, and with a little analysis we can determine the FPS.  As is common practice, the same portion of the mission will be run three times and the results averaged

Sapphire 260X BF4 OC Mantle

In Battlefield 4, a very slight performance boost was received by overclocking.  The largest boost was from overclocking the GPU.  While not a huge increase, overclocking both the GPU and CPU provides another 5.5% performance boost. 

Unfortunately, the latest buid, Beta 1.6 seems to have some instability.  Randomly Battlefield 4 would lock up when I was in the menu's or opening the console.  There did not seem to be any pattern to the lock-ups, opening task manager and ending Battlefield 4 was the only way to get out of the game.  At that point, it could be restarted and played until it decided to lock up again. 

Benchmark Results:  Overclocking appears to have some affect on Mantle, a 5.5% boost in performance is still a nice little increase.  

Star Swarm Alpha

Star Swarm is the newest benchmark focusing on Oxide Games next generation Nitrous engine.  Nitrous was designed for hardware found in modern PC’s, Playstation 4 and XBox One. Built on a 64-bit multicore engine, it will allow a high number of 3D objects to be drawn and rendered at the same time.  
Star Swarm Menu
The benchmark has various settings, we will be using the Extreme setting and allowing it to run for 6 minutes.  Due to Star Swarms random nature, each of the tests will be run three times, with the results averaged.
Sapphire 260X Star Swarm OC Mantle
For Star Swarm, the Follow test shows negligible difference between the stock 260X and the CPU being overclocked.  We do see a performance increase when the GPU is overclocked of 7.3%, and once again a small difference when both the CPU and GPU are overclocked receiving an 8.6% boost in performance.
Sapphire 260X Star Swarm OC Mantle Attract
While the Follow test did not show any impact when the CPU was overclocked, the Attract test did; a 10.4% boost.  Overclocking both increased the numbers a little to a 12% performance boost, but it wasn't compounded by the amount of when the GPU and CPU were overclocked individually.
Sapphire 260X Star Swarm OC Mantle RTS
Now we are back to seeing very little boost when the CPU is overclocked, but the GPU overclock makes a slight difference.  Overclocking both the GPU and CPU resulted in a 9.5% performance boost.
Sapphire 260X Star Swarm OC Mantle SHMUP

The final test, follows the previous tests with the CPU and GPU overclocked getting a 6.9% performance boost.  However, one slight difference the overclocking of the CPU actually lowered the average results for the SHMUP test.  This was surprising, so I re-ran the test multiple times and still came out with a similar number.

Benchmark Results: As far as Star Swarm showed, overclocking the GPU provided a boost in performance, however overall overclocking the CPU did not provide a significant boost in performance.

Final Thoughts and Conclusions

The first beta release we tested provided a significant increase in performance when Mantle was enabled, compared to the same test using the DirectX API.  In these tests, we overclocked the CPU and GPU to see which would provide any additional performance boost.

AMD Mantle API

Previously when we tested Battlefield 4 at 1080P, we received a 15.8% performance boost.  This was slightly higher than the estimated provided by AMD and EA-DICE of 13.28%.  While that is a good performance boost from a driver and a game update, overclocking provided an additional boost of 5.5%.  When the CPU was overclocked to 4.3GHz and the GPU overclocked to 1255MHz, the performance boost increased to 22.2% when compared to the DirectX API.

For StarSwarm, we received an additional 9.25% boost in performance across all four scenarios when looking at the Mantle performance at stock speeds.  Getting close to a 10% performance boost isn't terrible.  With the exception of the Attract scenario, overclocking the CPU did not provide a significant boost in performance.  The SHMUP scenario actually showed a negative impact when the CPU was overclocked.

Currently with Catalyst 14.1, Beta 1.6 we have seen some instability issues in Battlefield 4.  I was able to play for several hours without any lock-ups, the next time it locked up as soon as I went into the console to enable the new benchmarking tool.  The random instability will cause the game to lock up, however it seems to mostly happen when using the console or the game options menus.  

Legit Bottom Line:  Overclocking the CPU and GPU provides a little additional boost in performance.  In Battlefield 4, we received an additional 5.5% performance boost when both were overclocked.