AMD Mantle Performance Preview in Battlefield 4
AMD's Mantle is here for Battlefield 4. We take an XFX Radeon R9 290X video card for a spin under the AMD Mantle API and compare it to Direct3D 11.1. We look at performance advantages, compare resolutions, and even take a look at frame time. Is AMD Mantle everything it was cracked up to be? Let's find out in this performance preview.
Please remember, this is just our preview of performance of AMD Mantle on BF4. We have literally only had a day of testing with Mantle and BF4. More time needs to be spent, and more opinions need to be gathered.
We have a full in-depth evaluation planned for AMD Mantle and BF4. It will include not only the current R9 series GPUs, but we will also be testing the previous generation 7000 series for compatibility and performance. We will also be including the competition's performance. This will take us some time to test and put together. Remember, we cannot use FRAPS, so the current method is a bit slower, please be patient.
AMD Mantle Performance Summary
We think most of you will be shocked at what AMD Mantle is meant to do and the results it provides. If you thought AMD Mantle would provide a big performance boost for GPU limited, high resolution settings, you would be mistaken. In fact, it seems AMD Mantle is built to alleviate CPU bottlenecks, rather than GPU bottlenecks. Or at least, it helps GPUs when running on slower and more low-end CPUs and lower resolutions.
Our tests so far back this up. The lower the resolution we tested at, the great performance advantage we experienced with AMD Mantle over Direct3D 11.1. As the resolution decreases, and AA, the CPU becomes the bottleneck. AMD Mantle seems to excel in that scenario, providing substantial performance improvements, even with our overclocked i7 3770K. As we increased the resolution, and AA settings to GPU dependent settings, we experienced less of an advantage with AMD Mantle. However, there still was an advantage at least, so AMD Mantle is providing a "free" performance upgrade.
Gameplay Experience Improvements
The one area we were hoping AMD Mantle would improve things for us would be for us to be able to run at higher in-game settings. With our R9 290X we find 2560x1600 2X AA to be playable in multiplayer. We would like though, to be able to play at 4X AA.
When we enable AMD Mantle, it does not provide enough of a performance improvement to make 4X AA playable. This is a bit disappointing, considering the kinds of performance differences we see at lower resolutions. We wish Mantle would help more at the higher, more GPU dependent settings to provide a real-world experience advantage. However, so far, we just did not find that to be the case.
Where AMD Mantle actually did improve things though is in the frame times. While we weren't able to increase the gameplay settings, we did notice a smoother overall experience while gaming. This in itself is a big plus. The graphs backed up our feelings by showing AMD Mantle to be smoother, more consistent, and also produce lower time between frames, which is very important. This is probably AMD Mantle's biggest claim to fame for us right now, is the improvement in frame times which smooths out your gameplay experience. If this carries through to multi-GPU CrossFire, this could be a huge benefit.
We did experience some odd hitching and unusually large frame time peaks under Mantle. However, we have to remember this is all still early software. The driver itself is still Beta, and will hopefully improve specifically on this point. DICE will release future updates to Mantle improving it over time. We believe the performance and information we are showing today will be different down the road. Six months from now this could all look very different potentially.
We were going to do a write-up on this driver specifically if it warranted it. Upon installing Catalyst 14.1 the interface, Catalyst Control Center, looks exactly the same as the previous driver. There are no interface changes with this driver, and nothing we can see worth writing a whole article over. This driver simply provides the first support of Mantle. This driver is also apparently riddled with bugs that AMD is aware of. There are known issues, and in HardForum people are posting left and right about problems. CrossFire and Eyefinity issues seem to be common with this Beta driver, so be cautious. We look forward to future driver versions fixing these issues.
The Bottom Line
Is AMD Mantle everything it is cracked up to be? The answer is potentially yes. As we stated, you first need to understand the goals of AMD Mantle, and the kind of benefits it can provide. Do not expect GPU dependent performance to get significantly better. Rather, if you are on a more mid-range system this should help more than someone who has the latest bleeding edge hardware overclocked to madness. At least, that is the trend we see so far. When we test lower-end video cards, it will really tell us just what kind of advantages Mantle has in store.
Mantle could potentially, drastically change the gaming world if more games used it. Lower-end computers, especially notebooks, and ultrabooks could see significant gaming performance increases. AMD isn't done with Mantle, this is just a first taste of it. We have to say, this first taste is sweet. We also experienced no issues, no crashing, it was rock stable for all the pounding we gave it the whole day. We look forward to future improvements from DICE and AMD, and hopefully more games that will implement Mantle. Remember, we have more evaluation coming, so stay tuned.
We have several threads in our forums dedicated to AMD Mantle / BF4 / Cat 14.1 performance and issues. Some of our forum posters have seen significant performance improvements. The frame time consistency improvements seems to be one of the largest improvements Mantle provides.