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AMD's Mantle API appears in new beta driver, free Star Swarm benchmark released

AMD’s Mantle API appears in new beta driver, free Star Swarm benchmark released

AMD’s Mantle API appears in new beta driver, free Star Swarm benchmark released

It finally happened. AMD has released their new graphics API Mantle to the public, and you can get it now in the new Catalyst 14.1 beta driver update. Obviously there are some caveats. The first is that it’s a beta driver, so don’t expect it to be rock-solid under any circumstances – I’ve had some glitches in CrossFireX rigs that I haven’t seen in single-GPU setups.

But the big caveat is that only AMD GPU owners need to apply, and then only those with the Graphics Core Next architecture in the card. This means that all HD 77XX and above, and all R7 and above, will be able to support the new API.

Essentially, the new application programming interface (API) is designed as a low-level language that developers can leverage to get as close to graphics hardware as possible. “It’s a way to get developers as close to the metal as possible,” AMD senior director Neil Robison told me in January. “Like they do on consoles.”

It’s a drop-in replacement for Microsoft’s DirectX API, and people like EA’s DICE and Firaxis/Stardock offshoot Oxide Games believe it gives them more power on today’s PCs. However, what’s a bit odd about the graphics API is that it has a bigger impact on CPU performance than anything else. This means that the low-power CPU will not be the bottleneck.

“Mantle – or Mantle-like technology – is absolutely necessary,” AMD’s Raja Koduri explained to me. “You’ve seen a lot of overhead in the current PC API — it just consumes a lot of CPU cycles for no reason.”

So in any Mantle compatible game running with high CPU overhead, AMD’s new API should help. In GPU-hindered games, Mantle is unlikely to have an impact.

There is currently only one game compatible with Mantle, Battlefield 4. If online shooters aren’t your thing, you can still start playing Mantle yourself with Oxide Games’ free Star Swarm stress test. If you have a GCN card, you will be able to see the performance difference immediately.

I’m currently going through some heavier BF4 benchmarks, but a quick look at Star Swarm on my review machine should give you an idea of ​​Mantle’s potential. The “Extreme” test ran at 25.52 FPS on my DX11 CrossFire’d R9 280Xs and i7 3960X and changed to 53.26 with Mantle. This is almost a 110% improvement.

We’re unlikely to see this kind of improvement in Battlefield 4, but the Star Swarm benchmark shows what’s possible when the engine is designed from the ground up to take advantage of the new API.

Stay tuned for Dave’s BF4 Mantle benchmark later this week.

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Wilbert Wood
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