AMD Mantle Testing on Radeon R9 290

 
by  •  Feb 14, 2014

There’s a lot of buzz around the potential of AMD’s Mantle driver to get better performance for gaming. Battlefield 4 is the first game to offer gamers a chance to test some of the information coming out but with so many configurations, connections, system specs and such how can you tell if Mantle is something worth looking at for your existing PC setup or for planning your next upgrade.

Mantle?

If you’re a PC gamer and you’ve been either deployed or living under a rock, here’s the quick and easy lay-mans term update straight from AMD

MantleLarge-200W

Mantle is the harmony of three essential ingredients:

  1. A driver within the AMD Catalyst™ software suite that lets applications speak directly to the Graphics Core Next architecture;
  2. A GPU or APU enabled with the Graphics Core Next architecture;
  3. An application or game written to take advantage of Mantle.

Mantle reduces the CPU’s workload by giving developers a way to talk to the GPU directly with much less translation. With less work for the CPU to do, programmers can squeeze much more performance from a system, delivering the greatest benefits in gaming systems where the CPU can be the bottleneck.

For Comparison

What I did here at ODG HQ is put the machine into a situation where there is some basis for comparison with other tests. My friend @WDA_Punisher recently put up his own Mantle tests so after getting a look, I decided that I would mirror his Battlefield 4 video settings. Here’s Punisher’s video on what he did and his results.

A Few Notes

  1. I run a three monitor system and utilize Eyefinity in a display resolution of 5760×1080 but run the game in WINDOWED mode and simply size to the center monitor so roughly a 1920×1080 experience. I am looking at doing some benchmark testing at both the full widescreen resolution vs turning off Eyefinity and running full screen display. Feel free to comment on your thoughts about the impact if you’ve got experience.
  2. Connection is Comcast 50mb plan
  3. Hardware breakdown is available here but with one main change, the system has been updated with a new AMD Radeon R9 290 (not the 290x version) video card
  4. I found a server that was stable, ran a generally acceptable ping from my Chicago area location and was as close to the full 64 player max as possible

Video Settings

For the most part, we are running ‘ULTRA’ settings for video quality with some tweaks that Punisher likes to run on HUD and FOV. The ONLY change done is switching the API from MANTLE to DIRECTX 11 and then restarting Battlefield 4.

Settings-MantleTest

Our Test Details

First, running under Direct X 11

R9290BF4DX11

Flip the switch and now Mantle

R9290BF4Mantle

Frames Per Second change

MantleFPSchange

What We Learned

  1. Mantle without a doubt will reduce the CPU workload which is the point of the Mantle system which aims to allow your GPU to concentrate on the graphics while your CPU is left to handle the job it is intended to and allow you to get smoother gameplay with better graphics quality.
  2. Results WILL vary and your decision to run Mantle or purchase hardware to utilize shouldn’t be based on simple FPS changes. Mantle pushes the workload to the GPU and eases CPU load so if you’re CPU is a little older you likely will see greater gains.
  3. Mantle offered the opportunity to squeeze on average 10 more frames per second, if you’re running sub 30 then these kinds of gains could be a big difference in how you manage your video quality settings and reduce the frustration of having a really great game that has to be dumbed down so far as to be playable.

Final Say

Mantle is new, games that run with Mantle are pretty much Battlefield 4 at this point. The tech is intriguing and the possibilities for getting more out of your hardware are clearly there. There are some odd spikes that came up during game-play with Mantle set that I ran into but nothing that caused the game experience to be a problem. Only time will tell as the driver matures and we get some greater indication on formal adoption by game studios.

One little gotcha to be aware of is for those of you who stream, record or otherwise capture your video. Mantle is a different animal than DirectX and as such, many programs do not recognize it, we used in game statistics since FRAPS was unable to “see” the game while running Mantle. It’s not something that is impossible to work around but if you’re a hardcore YouTube or Twitch user then you may want to consider it when making your plans.

If you’ve got the hardware to support Mantle, then it’s a no-brainer to turn it on and give it a shot with your system. If you’re crunched for cash and cant afford to upgrade that aging CPU and put your money into a compatible GPU then Mantle could offer you a great outlet to gain quality and performance with your current system.