AMD Mantle & TrueAudio Patch for THIEF

Mantle & TrueAudio are a pair of new features used by AMD on select Radeon R7 and R9 video cards that are Graphics Core Next (GCN) compatible.  Mantle is a new graphics API that AMD says provides a performance increase in games that are Mantle enabled.  

AMD Mantle API

Battlefield 4 was the first game to support Mantle, and Legit Reviews found that Mantle did provide a significant performance increase, with just a driver update and a patch by EA-DICE.  As it  is a new unproven technology, it is an interesting technology to keep our eyes on while it matures.

AMD-TrueAudio

AMD's TrueAudio technology is a feature on AMD HD 7790, R7 260, and R290 series graphics cards.  These cards include a dedicated audio processor, which allows the audio processing to be offloaded from the CPU.  This processor processes audio compression and filtering, speech processing and recognition, simulating audio environments and creating 3D sound effects.
AMD Radeon TrueAudio Cards Other than needing one of the Radeon graphic cards that supports Mantle and TrueAudio, no additional hardware is necessary.  TrueAudio will work with your existing audio solution, the software developers will implement TrueAudio allowing the processing to be switched from the CPU to the Xtensa audio cores.

While Battlefield 4 was  the first game to support Mantle, Thief by Square Enix is the first game to support both Mantle and TrueAudio.  TrueAudio is implemented to enhance environmental sound effects.  This was done by taking a snapshot of the echo characteristics of a real-world location and importing it into software to be translated into how the sound should react within the games environments.

Let's take a look at how Mantle affects the performance of Thief, and whether TrueAudio can enhance the games audio.

THIEF Mantle and TrueAudio Performance

Usually we would use FRAPS to test video performance, however FRAPS does not support Mantle at this time, so that makes things a little more difficult.  Thankfully Square Enix has included a benchmark with Thief.  The benchmark takes us down a street during a storm, with people and guards interacting.

To test Mantle, Thief was installed through Steam on a freshly imaged test system running Windows 8.1 Pro.  This test system included the following hardware:

Thief Mantle Selection

Enabling Mantle is done through the Thief Options menu when you start Thief.  All other settings remain the same whether you select Mantle or not.  There is no option to switch to Mantle once inside the game, however you can deselect it when you restart Thief.

Within the Thief Options, there are six preset options for the video quality, Very Low, Low, Normal, High, Very High and Custom.  We will be testing Thief using three of these, Normal, High and Very High.  The integrated benchmark will be run three times and the scores averaged.

Thief Mantle Normal Graphics

First up is Normal, here the quality options are set to a mix of Normal and High, with Texture Filtering set to Default and SSAA set to Off.  Without Mantle, the 260X averaged 33.4FPS which is respectable, however once Mantle was enabled that rose to 40.5FPS; a 21.26% increase in performance.

Thief Mantle High Graphics

The High setting, all the quality options are set to High, while Texture Filtering is 4x Anisotropic and SSAA is set to Low.  The average scores lowered a little; going from 26.7FPS to 30.4FPS, a 13.86% increase.  Double digit increases is always a good thing.

Thief Mantle Very High Graphics

At Very High quality, the options are set to a mix of Very High and High, Texture Filtering set to 8x Anisotropic and SSAA set to High.  As expected, the scores went down again, going from 23FPS without Mantle to 24.3FPS with Mantle.  At Very High settings, the difference is only 5.65%; not as high as the previous tests, however it is still an improvement.

Legit Bottom Line:  Bottom line, the question to ask is whether Mantle provides any form of performance boost; the short answer is yes.  The long answer is yes,  however as the video quality goes up, the performance of Mantle went down.  Results will vary with different hardware; these increases is within the expected margin of performance increase.

THIEF and TrueAudio

AMD-TrueAudio-Games

Thief implements TrueAudio in patch 1.3, which is released along side the latest beta driver, Catalyst 14.3.  Thief is the first game to support TrueAudio and they implemented it to enhance the game's environmental sound.  As games graphics get more realistic, their audio has fallen behind.  TrueAudio looks to change that by creating a more realistic audio environment, by allowing developers to program how a sound should react to the environment.  This allows sound to react differently to metal, wood and stone, just like they do in the real world.

Within Thief, the world is alive with sound, overall, the sound is incredible, the developers have done a great job at making the world sound alive.  Each of the sounds are clear and crisp, letting you hear each sound from the proper direction.  Once TrueAudio is enabled though, sound now echos as it should, when people are talking in the city, you can hear a slight echo as the sound bounces from various objects.  At first, it was a little odd, it was an unexpected sound coming from the game.  After a few minutes though, TrueAudio allowed the game to draw me into it even more.  It became quite obvious when TrueAudio was enabled and when it wasn't.

Final Thoughts and Conclusions

In the limited time we had with the new beta driver and Thief patch, we were able to see a noticeable performance difference when using the integrated benchmark.  As time was running short, we did not have time to overclock the CPU or GPU to see if that makes a difference.  In our previous testing, with Battlefield 4 and StarSwarm we saw an additional boost to performance when the CPU and GPU was overclocked; so we expect that overclocking would provide additional performance here.

AMD Mantle API

When we started testing Thief patch 1.3 and Catalyst 14.3, AMD provided us with results of their in-house testing.  These scores ranged from 5% up to 24% performance boost with Mantle depending on the quality settings.  While our testing did not receive scores up to 24%, a 21.26% performance boost from a driver update and game patch to implement Mantle is hard to beat.  

In addition to testing Mantle, we were also able to give TrueAudio a chance.  Thief is the first game to implement TrueAudio, TrueAudio offloads sound from the CPU to dedicated audio chips on the video card.  Thief implements it to calculate "convolution reverb", which is a technique to simulate noise in a real-life environment, this causes realistic echos which can be a little disconcerting at first.  We are so used to playing games without realistic echos that when we hear it from a game it sounds wierd.  However that fades very quickly and the noises of the game draws you in.

When switching between Mantle and no Mantle support, occasionally Thief would crash before getting into the game.  While any crash is a hassle, most people probably won't be switching between the two settings as frequently as we were during the testing.

Legit Bottom Line:  Receiving a double digit boost in performance is hard to beat, especially when it is provided through a simple driver update and game patch.  So far, both games that support Mantle have shown a good increase in performance once Mantle is implemented.  TrueAudio has a lot of potential, Thief's implementation with echos can make a game much more realistic.  Hopefully more games will implement Mantle and TrueAudio as they mature.