PC Perspective pokes and prods the Radeon Pro Duo

Last year or so, AMD showed off a prototype of an upcoming dual-Fiji card. The two-headed cat eventually came out of the bag, and it was shown to the world as the Radeon Pro Duo. While AMD initially hinted at the Pro Duo being a new breed of gaming monster, the company is now billing the card as a simple, easy-to-install solution for VR developers and other professional users. There's a burning question, though: "how well does it game?" Well, PC Perspective got a hold of one of these babies and put it through its paces.

The Radeon Pro Duo has two full-sized Fiji GPUs and 8GB of HBM RAM. That sounds oddly close to a couple of R9 Nanos, and if you think "Nanos-on-a-stick," you're close enough for most purposes. Since the Pro Duo is a high-powered card, PC Perspective ran its testing at 2560x1440 and 3840x2160 with all the pretties turned up. The main comparison points we'll be looking at are a pair of Radeon R9 Nanos and a similar set of GeForce GTX 980 Ti cards. Let's see how things shook out.

The Radeon Pro Duo showed off its grunt in Fallout 4. Average FPS was quite high even while playing at 4K, often staying around or above 60 FPS. As we repeatedly drill into everyone's heads, though, average FPS numbers by themselves are meaningless if those frames aren't being delivered steadily—or, in other words, if the game you're playing stutters or doesn't otherwise feel completely smooth. Similar-looking FPS averages can turn out to be very different stories in practice.

When it comes to frame times in Fallout 4 at 2560x1440, PC Perspective found that the Radeon Pro Duo and R9 Nano put in a respectable showing, with relatively small frame variation. The set of 980 Ti cards was better overall, but the difference looks to be nothing to write home about. The story is roughly the same at 4K resolution.

The PC version of GTA V is a very pretty game, and great graphics beget great horsepower. The Radeon Pro Duo ought to be at home here, and the initial FPS average measurements seem to indicate it is. That feeling probably only lasted until PC Perspective actually played the game, though. Put simply, the frame time variation displayed by the Radeon Pro Duo and the pair of Nanos is through the roof.

The line graphs look like something Cthulhu would use to comb his barbels, with spikes over the 50-ms range. Meanwhile, the pair of 980 Tis is wondering what all the fuss is about. PC Perspective's results seem to indicate that CrossFire support could use some work.

Rise of the Tomb Raider is the latest installment in the now decades-long series, and one would have to be blind to say it's not a gorgeous game. At 2560x1440, the Radeon Pro Duo and Nanos put up a decent enough showing, with the usual caveat of less-than-optimal smoothness due to frame time variation. At 4K, however, things take a turn for the worse, and something happens to the Radeon cards.

The initial part of the benchmark is peppered by extreme variation in frame times. We can only guess at what happens, but the cards in the red team behave fine for the rest of the benchmark. The problem is exclusive to CrossFire, however—the single Fury X in PC Perspective's results doesn't exhibit this strange behavior. Neither does the pair of GTX 980 Tis.

Witcher 3 is the most gorgeous PC game out there (there, I said it), and it tends to runs pretty well despite its graphical flourishes. Unless you're using a pair of Radeon GPUs, that is. This is sounding like a skipping CD, but something is up with CrossFire. The Radeon Pro Duo, the set of Nanos, and the Radeon R9 295 X2 all exhibit the same wild variations in the initial stages of benchmarking, akin to what happened with Rise of the Tomb Raider at 4K.

The thing is, it happens with Witcher 3 at both 2560x1400 and 4K resolutions. And yes, we're writing the same thing over and over again: the 980 Ti set takes things in stride even at the highest resolution, with small and steady variation in frame times.

The Radeon Pro Duo isn't being positioned as a solution for gamers, with some good reasons. The card's raw performance is akin to a pair of R9 Nanos. However, a pair of Nanos will currently set you back around $1000, while a Radeon Pro Duo goes for $1500. When comparing power consumption figures, the pair of Nanos and the Pro Duo come up evenly matched, too. However, two R9 Nanos will require two PCIe slots. They're dual-height cards, too, and you'll ideally keep some distance between them, so space is a concern when it comes to setting them up. Having this much horsepower in a single card may be quite appealing to some.

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