The tale of my AMD FX-9590 Easter-PC

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I usually never participate in sweepstakes. Last Easter I decided to participate in a sweepstake promoted on the AMD Facebook page for a change. The chellange was to find hidden easter eggs on an online shop and then put together a word from the letters on the eggs. I figured out the word (the riddle wasn’t easy for sure) and sent it in for the drawing. Surprisingly I won a high-end AMD PC worth 1900 Euro built by a German computer manufacturer that I don’t want to mention because I don’t want any bad press for them. After all they have been really nice to me. It just took some time till I had the PC running… like 3-4 months 😉 Initially the PC, an AMD FX-9590 based water cooled rig in a stylish white Corsiar 600T case arrived with

a.) a totally broken graphics card that turned out to be a 7970 instead of a R9 290X

b.) a H80i Corsair water cooler running at maximum RPM not throttling down being loud as hell and

c.) a missing SSD that was on the specs.

You can’t imagine the disappointment. I never won something that expensive and that broken!

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The company where I won the PC sent me a new graphics card as a replacement that was finally a R9 290X as listed on the specs. Unfortunately it either wasn’t really new (it didn’t come in a package but just in a foil bag – later they claimed it was from a bulk buy) or the reference design fan couldn’t cope with the heat of the GPU reaching 95° C on full load. After a week it stopped working correctly and artifacts showed up after booting from time to time. Meanwhile I found out why the water cooler was running so loud. The person who assembled the computer forgot to connect the water cooler pump heatsink element sitting on the CPU with the mainboard via an USB cable. While trying to plug in the wrong cable in it I broke the socket of the USB connector but the manufacturer sent me a completely new water cooler. That was reall nice by them. So far so good… The water cooler was still not throttling down. It turned out the Corsair Link software for the fan control is incompatible with Windows 8.1 that came with the PC. I had to manually change some entries in the registey after finding the solution on a forum. There I was now with a SSD, a new water cooler I managed to mount and get running properly and a randomly working graphics card. Of course the company where I won the PC promised to change the parts for free. I got a shock when they sent me a collection letter and thought I would need to give this case to a lawyer. It turned out to be a mistake. Then they sent me an all new R290 (no R290X) but one that was much better because it had 2 fans, a PowerColor Radeon R9 290 TurboDuo. This one came in a package and worked flawlessly. When using the PC for gaming I noticed freezes after 1-2 hours of playing. It turned out the CPU needs a more aggressive water cooler than the H80i but I was able to create a custom profile that runs on slow and silent 1000-1500 RPM in idle mode and moderately loud high 2000-2700 RPM in games while keeping the CPU stable at 4,7 GHz (depending on the room temperature).

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Generally speaking the PC has an outstanding performance that runs every game in stereoscopic 3D on at least 30 fps via Tridef and everything else in normal 3D on rock solid 60 fps on maxed out settings. It’s not very silent but you can get used to it. The noise level is barable in my opinion. As the AMD FX-9590 is the last of it’s kind in the lost arms race with Intel it’s a special feeling owning such a machine. The CPU wars in future won’t be fought in the high-end segment for gaming rigs! AMD lost the race there but placed their APUs in the PS4 and XB1 next-gen consoles. The CPU wars of the future will be fought in the tablet and mobile segment!

This PC might be even my last true Desktop rig. As an AMD fanboy maybe I’ll get a nice Kaveri Notebook with an AMD FX-7600P or A10-7300 APU for content creation and coding on Windows or Linux and a PlayStation 4 running an AMD APU for gaming. Intel will keep staying outside my Android tablets BTW… No matter how much they pay the tablet makers there is nothing better than an ARM SoC!

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Another amazingly bad console game PC port

The Amazing Spider-Man game is absoutely great … but someone didn’t spend enough time on the quality assurance after the game has been released it seems. It stutters on AMD graphic cards with recent drivers. I’m not entiery sure if it’s maybe not the fault of AMD who didn’t add an optimzed profile for the game but you can easliy fix it by fooling the game in thinking you have an Nvidia graphics card! Check out a detailed instruction here: http://steamcommunity.com/app/212580/discussions/0/828925849355197850/#c828925849477117777

The problem with this workaround is that you have to delete the fake dll file each time and add it after running the launcher in the folder so I hope AMD or Beenox is going to fix it in a driver update of patch!

Also the developers didn’t add any proper anti-alias or it simply fails to work especially on indoor parts of the game. On a console it’s not that importat as you sit far away from your TV set but PC monitors are usually relatively close to your eyes. Turning on morphological anti-alias (http://sites.amd.com/us/game/technology/Pages/morphological-aa.aspx) helps a bit but not much. I guess you can really fix that it by using down-sampling anti-alias tools like this SSAA-Tool: http://www.tommti-systems.de/start.html

Stereoscopic 3D with AMD HD3D and an Acer GR235Hbmii

This hot piece of Taiwanese hardware is my new monitor. It’s a 23” gaming monitor with stereoscopic 3D using polarization technology. My verdict after a few months of using it? It’s for sure worth the money! The Acer is currently priced around 170 Euro and is not only “3D ready” it IS “3D enabled” even for AMD users (like me) as you connect the monitor via HDMI 1.4a and this allows using native AMD HD3D support (i.e. in games like Battlefield 3, Dirt 3, Deus Ex Human Revolution) or running TriDef for other or older games.

There are a few confusing and misleading specs floating around the interwebs so let me clarify:

  • Make no mistake, this not 120Hz! It runs 60Hz or 75Hz in 2D and 23Hz in AMD HD3D mode.
  • The TriDef driver IS included and supported.

Pros:

  • Low price
  • Low input lag and response time
  • Nice design
  • Feels large even as a 23” monitor
  • Supports AMD (former ATI) graphic cards via AMD HD3D and TriDef
  • The polarization 3D glasses don’t need any batteries and are thus are not heavy
  • You can use any polarization 3D glasses, even those you brought from the cinema
  • Games with native AMD HD3D support run with DX11 and only a small performance impact (a good example is Battlefield 3 – with AMD HD3D I can play on high – with TriDef I have to switch to medium quality settings)
  • The TriDef forum is pretty cool and helpful

Cons:

  • Polarization 3D feels a bit blurry as it’s using interpolation
  • TriDef is a performance eater. It cuts the FPS of a game in half.
  • TriDef creates more ghost images than AMD HD3D.
  • Not all TriDef profiles work as expected. In Assassins Creed Brotherhood i.e. players have black eyes. A work around is avaibable but you have to find that in the TriDef forum.
  • AMD HD3D is scaling down the image via HDMI. This can be fixed in 2D mode via the overscan/underscan settings in Catalyst Control center but in 3D mode you get black borders. This looks like a bug and reported this to AMD and Acer

So what games do I enjoy most with stereoscopic 3D?

  • 3rd person games like Assassins Creed Brotherhood, Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell Conviction or Avatar the game just look cool as the character you play always creates a level in the foreground.
  • FPS shooters like Battlefield 3 or Modern Warfare 3 look pretty good but actually I tend to close an eye when aiming so it’s even hindering the gameplay a bit. The only advantage I noticed was in Modern Warfare 3 multiplayer where you have small maps and other players often come out of corners or doors close to you. In that case the 3D was helpful to notice the enemy is close and make a melee attack.
  • Surprisingly Sonic Generations looks super cool in  stereoscopic 3D
  • Racing games like Need for Speed Hot Pursuit look sweet too

What about movies?

  • The are are few demos that come with the TriDef drivers and there is a site where you can watch and buy 3D movies online: yabazam.com
  • I have no Blu-Ray drive in my PC so I can’t tell if playing 3D Blu-Rays would work. I plan to buy such a drive though. Will update the post with learnings of course.
  • YouTube works perfectly with 3D and this monitor and actually has a lot of nice content.

Deus Ex: Stuttering Revolution

A few weeks back I bought a Deus Ex Human Revolution Steam activation key on http://www.gamecard.mobi/ (they sell them cheaper as the codes probably “fell off” from promotional packages). The game is one of the best rated PC games that came out last year on Metacritic with 90% (http://www.metacritic.com/game/pc/deus-ex-human-revolution). What I did not expect is that the game engine is totally buggy!

Deus Ex Human Revolution is even an AMD Gaming Evolved title (the equivalent of “How its meant to be played” by Nvidia) that supports DX11 features.

I have an AMD Phenom II 920@3,2Ghz, AMD Radeon HD 6870 1GB, 4GB Gskill RAM, Asrock 790GX mobo and fuck, the game stutters like hell when entering new areas on maximum, default and even low quality settings in DX11. DX9 is no option as the stutter transforms to a hanging or freeze for a second. I run all other new games like Battlefield 3, Modern Warfare 3, Skyrim, LA Noire on high or maximum settings without any problems on my system BTW. The worst about this is that the developers of the game seem to be tapping in the dark. They released a patch that was supposed to fix it but it helped only a certain group of players. They found out that AMD FX CPUs run constantly around 10 FPS and there is even a fix for that… but the rest of players are stuck with the problem. Some players report they could fix it by running the game in windowed mode, some say they turned on HPET in the BIOS, some under-clocked their graphic cards. Others say they changed refresh settings. For me nothing helped and I am not alone!

This how the stuttering looks like:

More: http://www.joystiq.com/2012/03/01/deus-ex-human-revolution-pc-players-complain-of-stuttering-req/

Useless FAQ by Eidos Community Managers: http://forums.eidosgames.com/showthread.php?t=119698

So what I will do now is to imagine that the stuttering is a side effect of the cyborg augmentation and run the game on highest settings 🙂 The game itself is really awesome and I enjoy playing it a lot.

Batman Arkham City with hybrid PhysX on AMD

Batman Arkham City is just like Mafia II a Nvidia-sponsored game with exclusive CUDA-based-PhysX support:

AMD users don’t get full particles, debris, fog and smoke effects. I bought this game but the exclusive support for Nvidia-owners-only pissed me so much off that I decided to get an additional Nvidia card that would do dedicated CUDA-PhysX calculations after watching a video on YouTube of someone who did it:

I paid 30 Euro for a GT430/PCI-E on eBay as it seemed that this card is sufficient for normal PhysX setting in the game with its 96 processor cores. I build it in next to the HD 6870 but had to switch my Asrock AOD790GX/128M main-board from PCI-E 16/1 mode to PCI-E 8/8 Crossfire-mode in order to detect the card. The GT430 barely fit in as the HD 6870 is a 2 slot card but it worked. After doing that I installed the latest Nvidia drivers 285.62 that come with PhysX 0621 and then applied the patch that makes this all possible…

http://www.ngohq.com/graphic-cards/17706-hybrid-physx-mod-v1-03-v1-05ff.html

… it made possible what Nvidia says is impossible: you can use an AMD card for the 3D acceleration and an additional one from Nvidia for PhysX rendering. Nvidia is using PhysX as a unique selling point for their GeForce cards and is pushing it into the market by paying developers to implement exclusive support. That’s not fair and the poor success of the Bullet Physics Library shows how serious Nvidia is about it. They push this proprietary “standard” by all means.

The setup with the GT430 in hybrid-mode together with the HD 6870 is maybe not the fastest and my system is mid-range (Phenom II @3,2 GHz, 6870 1GB, 4GB RAM) but it’s enough to get 30 FPS average in the in-game benchmark and play the game smoothly on DX11 normal tessellation normal PhysX settings (rest is set to very high). Before it was ~50 FPS without the PhysX effects but in this game the performance hit is worth it IMHO. To get high PhysX effects you would need to use a GTX460 BTW and to get more FPS something in general like a 6970 with 2GB.

AMD and the Smurf-Rage story

First of all I want to mention that I’m a huge AMD fan! My last Intel CPU was a Pentium 120Mhz. Later I had Athlons of various generations and now a Phenom II 920 running @ 3,2 GHz. My last Nvidia graphics card was a GeForce 6800 that I killed with overclocking. Later I had ATI cards like the X850, 4850 and now an AMD 6870 with 1GB. I love my AMD system as it’s really giving a lot of bang-for-the-buck meaning that is good value for the money.

The video above shows Rage with the latest AMD 11.10 Catalyst WHQL drivers. This is now the 4th driver AMD released that is supposed to fix problems with id Software’s Rage. The last version 11.9 had problems with texture streaming that have been fixed later by AMD in the 11.10 preview 2 & 3 drivers. The first preview driver made Rage run faster but it had the texture popping shown in the video below. The 11.10 final version totally broke it and we have Smurf-like blue textures!

Nvidia had this problem too (just to be fair) but they managed to fix it in a driver update. AMD totally failed to do that and even made it worse with the blue texture bug! It even looks to me this might be some kind of revenge by AMD because id Software and Bethesda blamed AMD for the initial texture popping problem. Maybe it’s even because id Software cooperated with Intel on making Rage run on their Sandy Bridge CPU-integrated HD 3000 GPU. AMD looks bad here… and they should change that! It should be like in this commercial: left and right should be the same image. Currently with AMD and Intel/Nvidia on Rage it’s not the same picture even if the price is lower on the AMD side :/

AMD, you don’t want me to like the “AMD SUCKS” site on Facebook don’t you? It’s only one click away at http://www.facebook.com/pages/AMD-SUCKS/301628902631

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If you want to solve this problem manually there is a community-driven solution for the blue texture problem: http://forums.bethsoft.com/index.php?/topic/1249144-ati-1110-final-drivers-fix/

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Edit:  The Catalyst 11.11 performance driver finally fixes all the problems!

DL: http://support.amd.com/us/kbarticles/Pages/catalyst-1111b-performance.aspx

Asus 6870 DirectCU

This is my new graphics card. An AMD Radeon HD 6870 based Asus with custom heat-pipe air cooling. More info: http://www.asus.com/Graphics_Cards/AMD_Series/EAH6870_DC2DI2S1GD5/.

Before buying it I read tons of reviews on the AMD 6000 series and compared it to Nvidia GTX 460 and 550 Ti cards in the same price range… but first let’s start with the motivation why I upgraded: When I put together the configuration of my AMD Phenom II machine I had to be careful with costs. I even considered using the on-board HD 3300 graphics unit of the 790GX chip set motherboard (an Asrock AOD790GX/128M) but in the end went for an low-end 4800 series card, the ATI 4830. The performance of it is somewhere in the range of a Nvidia 8800 GTX. Basically sufficient for the majority of games that are currently on the market. Not sure if you noticed but games these days rarely go over the hardware limits of a Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3. Crysis 2 is a good example of that. Game developers develop cross platform so you don’t need a high end graphics card in your PC as the GPUs of the Xbox and PS3 are a bit outdated by now.

Moreover cloud gaming is upcoming! With OnLive your games will run on remote servers and also remote graphics cards. More Info: http://www.onlive.com/#1 Another argument for not spending much on a graphics card.

So why the new graphics card?

  1. There are actually some game titles on the PC that go beyond console limitations and one of them even came included with the 6870: Shogun 2 Total War! A game that would make an Xbox CPU + GPU smoke. A console simply could’t handle it.
  2. DirectX 11games are picking up. More and more titles make use of it and there are even value games like Stalker Call of Pripyat or Metro 2033 for 10 Euro that have DirectX 11 support. Of course the DirectX 11 launch-title Dirt 2 looks even better on it.
  3. OnLive is not available in Europe yet and the quality of the streaming video isn’t that good.
  4. I consider getting a 24″monitor for stereoscopic 3D and the 6870 supports AMD HD3D. Moreover you need 1GB video memory to run games with full HD resolution.
Why the Asus?
  1. The Asus has a kick-ass heat-pipe based air cooling system that allows to overclock it to 1 GHz.
  2. It’s relatively silent for such a powerful card.
  3. It came with a Shogun 2 Total War Steam key voucher.
Why not Nvidia?
  1. I don’t like these guys. Nvidia pays game developers ridiculous amounts of money to get exclusive support of their physics acceleration standard PhysX. AMD cards can do physics acceleration as well.
  2. Nvidia has some weird deal with Microsoft making these guys look even more bad.
  3. In the same price range (160 Euro) Nvidia cards suck performance-wise at the moment.
  4. Nvidia 3D Vision stereoscopic glasses cost about 130 Euro. Shutter glasses for AMD HD3D come included with Viewsonic 120 Hz monitors for example.
  5. The future belongs to AMD and to Fusion… the melting of CPU and GPU. This is why Nvidia is so pissed about Intel integrating this in their new Sandy Bridge chips. They didn’t complain about AMD because they probably would look just foolish 😉

Complete review @Legit I recommend to read if you consider getting the Asus 6870 DirctCU: http://www.legitreviews.com/article/1605/