Posted: 26 Nov 2012 08:35 PM PST
We've been discussing AMD's Enduro 5.5 update for a few months now; when last we checked in, everything was almost in place...everything except fully optimized DX9 support. A little over a week ago, AMD posted one final (maybe?) beta release for Enduro laptops, and since we still have the AVADirect P170EM available we quickly ran it through our benchmarks one last time. (Note: the Enduro Beta is similar but not entirely the same as the Desktop/Mobile 12.11 Beta8 driver; we only tested a couple titles with the latter and saw lower performance, so we recommend the Enduro driver for Enduro enabled laptop users -- which makes sense, given the driver name.) Not a whole lot has changed, and some of the games even show minor drops -- basically margin of error stuff -- but let's just run the numbers.
For many of the games, we see only minor differences; in fact, of the fourteen tested games, only three show more than a 5% difference, but those three titles all show major improvements. Batman: Arkham City is the least impressive, clocking in 20% faster with the latest driver and basically matching the best results we've seen from the 7970M (the original 12.3 driver was still slightly faster at 61 FPS). Civilization V finally fixes the inexcusably poor performance from the 7970M and boosts frame rates by 50%. And finally, DiRT: Showdown also gets a major kick in the pants and is up 65% compared to the previous Enduro beta.
Overall, those three titles are enough to give an average performance increase of 7%, but really it's the difference between borderline playable and smooth performance in those specific games. The only game where we're still down a ways from the best result we've seen on 7970M is Portal 2; the DX9 Hotfix we tested still manages about 10% better performance than we're seeing with the 12.11 Beta8 Enduro driver
Looking at the big picture, the 7970M still can't max out details on every single title you're likely to play -- Sleeping Dogs and The Witcher 2 in particular are brutal, with Battlefield 3 and Guild Wars 2 also hovering closer to 30FPS than we'd like. Still, you're not going to get much faster should you opt for the NVIDIA GTX 680M at this point. Here's the latest breakdown of how the two top mobile GPUs compare:
NVIDIA still holds punishingly large leads in Borderlands 2, Diablo 3, and Portal 2 (57%, 113%, and 43% faster, respectively), which is what keeps the GTX in the overall lead by 15%. AMD on the other hand comes away with sizeable wins in DiRT: Showdown and Sniper Elite V2. The remaining games are all close to the 10% or less range, and if we discount the big wins we just listed, the nine other titles are basically a wash -- NVIDIA wins by 2.5%. But that's painting perhaps too rosy a picture for AMD.
The fact is, NVIDIA is still ahead on the drivers and support side of the equation. The latest Enduro driver certainly closes the gap, but NVIDIA has been better about getting updated mobile drivers out with support for new releases for two years now. I suspect if I were to go out and test Black Ops 2, Assassin's Creed 3, and Hitman Absolution, I'd be more likely to see additional large NVIDIA wins -- especially since I believe two of those titles carry NVIDIA branding while Hitman is AMD branded. Still, if I get a chance, I'll try to confirm performance on those games, since all three are likely to be popular.
And that's really AMD's problem: they need to get better optimizations for more high profile games. I loved Deus Ex: Human Revolution, and the DiRT series has been pretty popular as well. Sleeping Dogs looks pretty cool, but I haven't had a chance to play it much so I can't really comment there. Sniper Elite V2 on the other hand has not received particularly high marks, and neither has Nexuiz. Basically, NVIDIA ends up with co-branding on more major releases than AMD, and with the latest talks about AMD sell offs and buy outs circulating on the net, it's difficult to imagine things changing for the better any time soon.
If you've already got an AMD-equipped laptop, the latest drivers are definitely worth a download. If you're on the fence, we're to the point where waiting for the next mobile GPUs (e.g. "8000M" and "700M") might be the way to go.
Posted: 26 Nov 2012 08:01 PM PST
When I reviewed the BitFenix Ghost, some of you requested we take a look at the Nanoxia Deep Silence 1. Nanoxia isn't selling on American shores yet, but there's been a lot of buzz going around about this case, and Nanoxia has been steadily making inroads towards getting it into our hands. If you couldn't tell from the name, the Deep Silence 1 is designed for quiet, efficient running, and in many ways it looks like exactly the case I requested at the end of my review of the Ghost: same principles, just bigger and better.
As it turns out, Nanoxia wanted us to look at the Deep Silence 1 as well. I was initially reluctant as you can't actually buy it in the States yet, but hopefully this review will help change that. While the Deep Silence 1 isn't the grand slam some people make it out to be, it is very close, and demonstrates a real evolution in the way silent cases are designed. So what did this small German firm do with the Deep Silence 1 that makes it so different from other silent cases? A few things, as it turns out.
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