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3DMark Time Spy tested: We pit Radeon vs. GeForce in this major new DX12 benchmark

Brad Chacos | July 15, 2016
Finally, a test that measures GPU performance with next-gen graphics.

For a system where either the Graphics or CPU score is substantially higher than the other, the harmonic mean rewards boosting the lower score. This reflects the reality of the user experience. For example, doubling the CPU speed in a system with an entry-level graphics card doesn’t help much in games since the system is already limited by the GPU. Likewise for a system with a high-end graphics card paired with an underpowered CPU.”

Got it? Good. Let’s see how several modern graphics cards compare in Time Spy.

Time Spy tested

We selected six cards to put Time Spy through its paces.

With AMD pushing DirectX 12 so hard, as it takes superb advantage of the dedicated async compute engine hardware inside Radeon graphics cards, testing the Polaris GPU-based $200 Radeon RX 480 was a no-brainer. That card’s competitive with Nvidia’s older Maxwell GPU-based EVGA GTX 970 FTW. We also wanted to test AMD’s older Hawaii GPU, so MSI’s R9 390X Gaming was added to the mix, along with its GeForce counterpart, the reference edition of the GTX 980. Finally, we also tested the Asus Strix Fury and Nvidia’s GeForce GTX 1070 Founders Edition to ensure AMD’s Fiji GPU and Nvidia’s Pascal GPU were each tested.

Why no Fury X? Because we were under time constraints and installing its integrated closed-loop water cooler into our test system’s Corsair Obsidian 750D case is a pain if you’re swapping out a bunch of cards.

Let’s see how things shook out. Focus mainly on the graphics (GPU) score.

time spy results

First impressions: The power of the dedicated async shader hardware inside Radeon graphics cards shines in this test. Excluding the ridonkulously powerful GTX 1070, Radeon hardware dominates Nvidia’s GeForce cards in this DirectX 12-focused test, lending yet more credence to the idea that AMD’s cards have an advantage in next-generation graphics technologies. Even the $200 RX 480 thoroughly trounces the GTX 980. (Note that Nvidia tends to hold an advantage in DirectX 11 performance, however, which still accounts for the vast majority of game releases.)

The CPU scores are largely similar across the board, but we’re using a $1,000, eight-core Core i7-5960X. There’s a decent chance we’d see more variance in a system with a weaker processor, as “closer to the metal” APIs like DirectX 12 show larger performance increases in systems that are CPU-bound.

Here’s the thing, though: Time Spy leans heavily on asynchronous compute to “overlap rendering passes to maximize GPU utilization,” which naturally favors the dedicated hardware in Radeon graphics cards. While many DX12 games will feature async compute, it’s not a required feature of the API.


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