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A quick look at Mantle on AMD's Kaveri APU

Pushin' it to the limit

It was on the morning of Monday, November 11 that AMD showed Battlefield 4 running on its Kaveri APU for the first time. The chip was just over two months from release, and AMD promised that its integrated graphics would deliver playable performance in the new shooter. In addition, the company told of future performance improvements that Mantle, its close-to-the-metal graphics programming interface, would bring to Kaveri in BF4.

Now, three months hence, Kaveri is here. After multiple delays and setbacks, so are the Mantle version of Battlefield 4 and AMD's first Mantle-enabling Catalyst graphics driver.

Scott has already tested Mantle with AMD's top-of-the-line Radeon R9 290X, and Geoff has already seen how Kaveri handles the Direct3D version of Battlefield 4. Over the past few days, I've been doing some additional testing to fill in the last piece of the puzzle: how does Mantle impact graphics performance on Kaveri?

I've now compiled the results, and I'm ready to share them with you guys.

Our testing methods
Instead of procuring my own Kaveri test rig, I pilfered Geoff's. The results you'll see on the next page were obtained with the same A8-7600 chip, Gigabyte motherboard, and DDR3-2133 AMD memory that Geoff used to run the numbers for original Kaveri review.

In this instance, testing was done with the chip at its highest wattage preset: 65W. The A8-7600 isn't the fastest or the highest-wattage member of the Kaveri lineup, of course—that honor belongs to the 95W A10-7850K. However, the A8-7600 happens to be the Kaveri chip I had on hand to test, and its 65W TDP makes it a better fit than the A10-7850K for all kinds of small-form-factor builds, including those meant to complement a home theater setup.

Here's a more or less exhaustive list of the parts and drivers used:

Processor AMD A8-7600
Motherboard Gigabyte F2A88XN-WIFI
Platform hub AMD A88X
Memory size 16 GB (2 DIMMs)
Memory type AMD Gamer Series
DDR3 SDRAM at 2133 MT/s
Memory timings 10-11-11-30 2T
Platform drivers AMD Catalyst 13.25
Audio Realtek ALC889
with default Windows drivers
Integrated graphics Radeon R7
with Catalyst 14.1 beta 1.6
Solid-state drive Crucial m4 256GB
Power supply PC Power & Cooling Silencer 760W
OS Windows 8.1 Pro

Thanks to AMD, Crucial, and PC Power & Cooling for helping to outfit this test rig.

Image quality settings were left at the control panel defaults, with the exception of two settings. Surface format optimizations were disabled, and tessellation was set to "use application settings." Vertical refresh sync (vsync) was disabled for all tests, as well.

I used Battlefield 4's built-in benchmarking tool to log frame times. Capturing frame times while playing isn't precisely repeatable, so I tried to make each run as similar as possible to the others. I tested each sequence five times per rendering mode (i.e. five times for Direct3D, five times for Mantle) in order to compensate for variability. In the frame-by-frame plot at the start of the next page, you'll see the results from a single, representative pass through the test sequence.

The tests and methods we employ are generally publicly available and reproducible. If you have questions about our methods, hit our forums to discuss them with us.