Subjective impressions and conclusions
As I said on the previous page, Battlefield 4's Mantle renderer is kind of a double-edged sword. That's true on Kaveri much as it is on the high-end, R9 290X-powerd system that Scott tested. The renderer's effect, in a nutshell, is generally smoother gameplay with occasional but quite noticeable skips in the action.
We at TR have a certain distaste for latency spikes and gameplay skips. One reason is that, after what must be hundreds of hours of inside-the-second testing, our senses have become finely attuned to them. Another reason is that hitching breaks the illusion of motion and can pull you out of the action—or, worse, get you killed in a heated multiplayer skirmish.
While playing Battlefield 4 on Kaveri, though, I found it hard to decide whether the negative of the latency spikes really outweighed the positive of the overall performance gain. Part of the problem is that, when you run a demanding game like BF4 on integrated graphics, you're often right on the threshold of playability. That's definitely true with BF4's Direct3D renderer on Kaveri. Even at 1366x768 using the "Low" detail preset, the game is choppy, the controls respond with a slight lag, and aiming at a moving target can be challenging. Small as it may be, Mantle's overall performance gain (which comes in the form of lower and more even frame times) has a very palpable impact on playability and responsiveness. The difference is large enough that, after testing the D3D renderer, I had to take a little time to adjust to the Mantle renderer's extra smoothness in order to keep the test runs similar.
And yet those latency spikes are there—and they're noticeable, and they mar the experience somewhat. It's a shame. I'd hoped that the problem would be fixed in the latest BF4 patch, whose change log mentions a fix for a "memory system leak that could cause stalls" in the Mantle renderer. However, the numbers you saw on the previous page were run with the patch installed, and they're just as spiky as those I got before. Clearly, more work needs to be done, either by DICE or AMD, to make Mantle less of a mixed blessing.
For now, I'd still recommend that Kaveri users give the Mantle renderer a shot. There's no harm in trying. Ill-placed latency spikes might get you killed in multiplayer, but at the end of the day, I think the Direct3D renderer's general choppiness and lag might actually lead to more lost battles.
119 comments — Last by maxxcool at 9:55 AM on 02/21/14
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