Eidos Montreal reminded everyone before the launch of the much-anticipated Thief reboot that the game’s two draws for AMD users, Mantle and TrueAudio, would only be coming in a later patch to the game and with help from new drivers from AMD. Well, those drivers are available and the game was recently patched. Hit the jump to see what running a GCN graphics card nets you in terms of performance in-game.
For the moment, few people have the patch and the updated Catalyst drivers and as of this writing Anandtech and Tom’s Hardware are the only sites who have both along with published results. Eidos’ use of Mantle appears to be much more mature than DICE’s work in Battlefield 4 and rather astonishingly, there are big gains to be had on the CPU side. Its a bigger performance jump than Battlefield 4’s numerous comparisons strewn across the web and I’m anxiously waiting for someone to have solid frame pacing and hardware utilisation statistics.
Mantle does its job
Tom’s Hardware’s results are pretty interesting, at least for the moment while they complete some more in-depth testing and work out kinks with AMD. Running Thief on low at 1080p, they tested the Nvidia Geforce GTX650 against the Radeon R7 250X which is a rebadged HD7770. There are no discernable differences between the three scores on the Geforce card – all the processors are bottlenecked by it. But jumping to the R7 250X even with DirectX rendering enabled there’s a decent performance jump thanks to the better hardware.
Although the results between Mantle and DirectX look very similar, there is a definite boost to minimum framerates with Mantle enabled. All the processors, even the FX-4170 which is still based on Bulldozer, hikes things up to the same level as the Core i7-4770K and the FX-8350. Thief, then, is a much better threaded game under Mantle and is more than likely using the four Bulldozer cores to their maximum capacity without the burden of driver bloat.
Running things up to normal settings, things look even more promising. The Radeon R9 270 gets pitted against the Geforce GTX660 and there’s a definite CPU bottleneck with these more powerful GPUs as you’ll notice the FX-4170 and the FX-8350 with minimum framerates below 30fps even with the stronger R9 270. Switch to Mantle and immediately both processors beat the Core i7-4770K in minimum framerates and more than hold their own for maximums. That makes AMD’s processors, which are cheaper, much more attractive.
Anandtech’s results are a little more puzzling but on closer inspection they aren’t using different processors – they’re just disabling cores on their Core i7-4960X and running it at different clock speeds to simulate the same results you’d probably see on a Core i3 processor. With the AMD Radeon R9 290X, Mantle doesn’t seem to increase their FPS numbers that much when all the cores are running with very high settings – and keep in mind those aren’t averages either, only max FPS.
There is a jump in the results on the simulated Core i3 with very high settings pushing up over 60fps. If Anandtech were to clock up that “Core i3″ to 4.2Ghz, I’d imagine that the results would be fairly close and that would correlate to Mantle’s first and most important promise – to remove CPU bottlenecks in games when using a high-powered GPU. At low settings where the CPU is taxed more there’s a pretty big leap in performance there, but without minimum framerates for comparison the data is a bit moot.
Using the Radeon R7 260X shows even less gains and still no minimum framerate results. In short, it’s not wise to use a CPU worth over ten grand with a GPU that cost less than R2000 because you’ll just end up being GPU-bottlenecked. But the results for the simulated Core i3 are promising, with a big jump in framerates using Mantle at low settings.
TrueAudio needs some more testing
With all the hullabaloo about Mantle AMD’s other contribution to the industry, TrueAudio, isn’t getting as much press. AMD released a demo showing off what the sound experience when using TrueAudio in a supported game could be like. A short demo titled “Tuscany” sets players in this house in the middle of nowhere with various sounds being played including a piece of classical music, running water on a fountain, the breeze of the wind and other small things that game developers sometimes miss. All of this is being done in software when you’re playing the video, but it can be done in hardware as well, using AMD’s TrueAudio hardware found in a few discrete desktop graphics cards as well as their latest Kaveri APUs.
However, both Anandtech and Tom’s note that TrueAudio needs more testing and time getting used to. The way in which Thief uses the extra functionality and the convolution reverb option seems to fill in the sound space with extra echoes and noise and it remains to be seen if that’s just a temporary glitch or something that Eidos intended.
All in all, the second game using Mantle now has it’s update and we can see a clear benefit for gamers, even the ones using weaker systems. Mantle presents some interesting opportunities for developers and it remains to be seen what exactly Microsoft will do to combat it with DirectX 12. Perhaps OpenGL’s implementation will be just as good?
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