Framerate stuttering

Discussion in 'Videocards - AMD Radeon' started by mayberry1, Jun 18, 2014.

  1. mayberry1

    mayberry1 Member

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    Hello users of Guru3D. I'm hoping someone with a better understanding of AMD cards and drivers can help me out and point me in the right direction.

    To start, here are my system specs to prevent any sort of hardware confusion:

    • ASrock Z77 Pro4 Motherboard
    • Intel Core i5 3550 @ 3.3 GHz
    • G.Skill DDR3 RAM 8GB @ 1866 MHz
    • ASUS Radeon R9 280 DirectCU II
    • Crucial M4 64GB SSD
    • Western Digital 750 GB 7200 RPM HDD
    • Creative Sound Blaster ZxR
    • Rosewill 550W Gold Certified PSU

    On the software side, I am running:

    • Windows 8.1 x64
    • Catalyst Driver 13.251 (from ASUS); Driver Packing Version 13.251-131206a-168005C-Asus
    • Intel Rapid Storage
    • Creative Sound Blaster drivers with support for Windows 8.1 (can't find exact version information)

    Now to the problem I'm having. Recently I purchased and installed an R9 280 series card from ASUS (not the 280X). Initial benchmarks and testing were very promising, and I am happy with the enhanced image quality this card can provide me. During my testing, though, I have been experiencing a lot of framerate stuttering in certain situations, a problem I had with my old Radeon HD 6850.

    I have tested both DirectX 11 and DirectX 9 games, and both exhibit the same issue (some games worse than others).

    The games I have tested are:

    • Borderlands 2
    • Crysis 2
    • Battlefield 4

    I have been extensively testing Borderlands 2 and Battlefield 4, since these are the games I have tried that seem to exhibit this issue quite severely.

    In Borderlands 2, the issue is only prevalent when initially loading in a new level. What happens is there is a lot of stuttering and hitching when things are loading in. For example, if I attempt to turn the camera around in a full circle horizontally, there is noticeable stuttering in the camera movement. After that, I can turn around as much as I want and the framerate will be smooth. This was a huge problem for me on my Radeon HD 6850. I have spent many hours on Google searching for forum posts trying to find a solution, but I have not found anyone who appears to have the same problem as me.

    On my HD 6850, I tried to pinpoint if this was a software issue by doing things like changing values in the .ini files as recommended by other online users, reinstalling Catalyst drivers, reinstalling Windows 8.1, installing Windows 7, adjusting quality settings within Borderlands 2, changing the window mode, setting frame rate caps (both inside and outside of Borderlands 2), turning VSync on, turning VSync off, forcing triple buffering and VSync with D3DOverrider and Radeon Pro, forcing VSync within Catalyst, disabling Catalyst AI (not sure if that's relevant anymore), playing in offline mode, disabling network adapters within Windows, adjusting priority to High, creating a "gaming" power profile within Windows (based off Max Performance settings), disabling Intel SpeedStep and CPU power saving features within the BIOS, disabling HPET, enabling HPET and forcing Windows to use it with debug boot options as recommended by other online users, overclocking the GPU, flashing different VBIOS's, and flashing different BIOS updates for my motherboard.

    I have tried many different things based on any information I could find online not just because I was having framerate issues with Borderlands 2, but because I was having framerate issues with other games. Many times I came to the conclusion that it was a hardware problem with my GPU, and that replacing the GPU was the only thing that would fix it. However, because I didn't have the money at the time to purchase a more powerful GPU, I continued, in frustration and obsession, to search the Internet and try any software fixes that I could find relating to my issue.

    In the end, nothing I tried worked. So when I got enough money to upgrade, I took to the Internet again to research which GPU was the best value price to performance in 1080p gaming. I have had my eye on the GTX 760 for the past few months now, but, with the recent price drops on equivalent AMD cards, I was able to score an R9 280 for cheaper than the 760. This was after I had concluded that, in theoretical performance, the R9 280 was on par with the GTX 760.

    Before the new card was shipped to my door, I reinstalled Windows 8.1 (using Intel integrated GPU) to make sure that there wouldn't be any driver issues after installing the card. As I mentioned before, performance has been great. The Unigine Valley benchmark was very smooth at high quality settings (framerates ranging from the low 60's to the 90's), and I do not experience framerate dips during combat in Borderlands 2 (another problem I had with my HD 6850). However, the stuttering issues that plagued my HD 6850 are still occurring with the R9 280 in the games I have tested.

    Testing the campaign in Battlefield 4 (I haven't tried multiplayer), the framerate was reported a constant 60 and the image was smooth. During gameplay, though, I experienced minor stuttering at certain points, and I realized that the stutter would occur every time the game autosaved. Using the in game FPS counter and enabling the performance graph, I discovered that at points when the game autosaved, there was a spike in the CPU usage, and, as a result, the framerate would drop anywhere from 1 to 3 frames. That's not much, but is enough to cause a noticeable stutter that gets in the way of the experience.

    Based on the information I have gathered, the spike in CPU usage is caused by the game performing a read and/or write operation to my SSD, where the save file for the game is located. This was an interesting find for me, because similar read/write operations in Borderlands 2, such as many textures streaming in after the level has loaded from the HDD, would cause the same stuttering issue. I was not aware that these I/O operations were causing a sudden spike in CPU usage until testing Battlefield 4, and could explain why the frames would skip, causing stuttering.

    I had my brother test the campaign of Battlefield 4 on his machine to see if he would experience the same stutter caused by a spike in CPU usage. His specs are very similar to mine:

    • ASrock Z77 Extreme4 Motherboard
    • Intel Core i5 3570k
    • 16 GB of DDR3 RAM @ 1600 MHz
    • 256 GB Samsung 840 series SSD
    • Multiple Western Digital 7200 RPM HDD's
    • Corsair 650W PSU

    The only major difference is he has an EVGA GTX 680. During his testing, he would see a similar spike in CPU usage during autosave points, but it would not cause his game to stutter. He also has very smooth performance during spawning and level loading in Borderlands 2.

    I had my brother test the R9 280 with his hardware, and he had similar stuttering issues in Borderlands 2 with the 14.4 Catalyst drivers. After reinstalling the NVIDIA card, the stutter during spawning was brought down to a minimum.

    So what's going on with AMD hardware that is causing the frames to skip? With the GCN architecture, I was hoping all the stuttering issues I was experiencing would be eliminated. Unfortunately, my assumption on different architectures was wrong. It now seems like an issue with AMD's Catalyst drivers and the way frames are handled in DirectX games. I would love to replace this card with the GTX 760 I was originally going to get, but I cannot refund the card. So now I am just trying to figure out a solution that does not involve replacing the hardware, as I do not have the money to spend at the moment. It looks like replacing the hardware will probably be the easiest, but I want to figure out WHY my AMD card is suffering from this issue before I try to sell it.
  2. AcidSnow

    AcidSnow Master Guru

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    Seems like you tested pretty much every ally, but you said that you are experiencing the same stuttering with the new 280, as you had been with your previous 6850, so I'd say it's either your RAM or HDD (more on this later).

    You mentioned making a High-Performance power save profile - I'm pretty sure that windows 8.1 disables CPU parking, but I'm not sure. ...Nevertheless look into un-parking your CPU just in case (it's super easy, just a software adjustment in some file somewhere).

    Anyway, it's odd that you're getting such awful performance in all your games (with BL2 being your main reference). As a side note, make sure you disable Physics, it's only for Nvidia cards, and will make the game run terribly on AMD any card. I personally have no issues in any game, unless the game is actually broken on PC (like Fallout: New Vegas) :3eyes:

    ...Initially I wanted to say it was your RAM, because when you first load up a game, and look around in different directions, all those new textures get buffered into your RAM. But your RAM looks fast, and you have 8GB of it, and G.Skill makes good RAM, so maybe it isn't your RAM???

    Keep in mind that you're running your games from your 7200RPM HDD, so when data gets saved it will always cause a hick up. I recently bought a 256GB SSD, so I never see any hick ups during quick-saves.

    ...As you seem to conclude, you assume your stuttering is due to the R9 280, but that sounds really odd, because I haven't heard anyone comment about stuttering issues. Plus you had the same issue with your 6850. So I want to say it's something hardware related - like maybe you have a bad 7200 HDD (or it is dying?).

    As a side note, you made a mistake by putting your 280 in your brother's PC. You were supposed to take his card and put it in your PC... That way you could rule out hardware issues (RAM/HDD) in your PC!
  3. CrunchyBiscuit

    CrunchyBiscuit Member Guru

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    I hope you find the core of the problem, must really suck having bought a new videocard not meeting your expectations.

    Nearly all Unreal Engine games perform slightly stuttery for me, including Borderlands 2. The only ones I can remember that performed nearly flawless are Mass Effect 2 & 3 and Singularity. I always presumed the Unreal Engine was at fault, but it might actually be an AMD problem instead.

    It seems like some games have video memory and texture management issues and stutter while streaming textures. Many Unreal Engine games stutter on first look, but also afterwards when I idle for a while. Like it's clearing all data in memory, then needs to reload it when I look around again.

    Crysis 2 performs flawless for me, but I have an older version installed and use a framerate cap just below the refreshrate. Later versions always perform kinda poor on my system. Strangely enough Crysis 3 is a different story, even though my framerate is splendid, it still visually stutters, no matter the settings. Same with Far Cry 3.

    I have never played BF4.
  4. mayberry1

    mayberry1 Member

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    I have more games I need to test with the new card, but with the HD 6850 I had a lot of performance issues, which was really frustrating for me.

    With Borderlands 2, I have always played with the PhysX setting on Low, because I know the calculations will run on the CPU which results in generally poor performance. Besides, I am unable to change the setting anyway, unless I install PhysX, but I don't bother with that crap.

    I have considered if something else hardware wise could be the culprit. Generally performance in Windows is stable, and I have not gotten a BSOD for the two years I have had this hardware. So if it is a RAM or CPU issue, I would be surprised. Of course I should probably try Memtest overnight first before I make that assumption. :)

    It could also be an issue with my HDD. I only have a Western Digital Blue drive running at 7200 RPM, so it's a possibility. Unfortunately, I currently don't have the money to buy a new Western Digital Black drive or a higher capacity SSD, so, until then, I can't say for sure if it is the HDD. The drive seems to be functioning fine. I have not lost any files randomly or have Windows tell me there are bad sectors on the drive, so if it is dying I, again, would be surprised.

    Testing the card (R9 280) on my brother's hardware was to see if it was a problem with my hardware or the AMD card. Noticing similar issues, I concluded that it was the AMD card. You're right, though. I should test my brothers card in my PC and see what results I get. It will be something I will do either later tonight or within the next few days. I have a new CPU heatsink and fan coming in today, so I have to take apart my machine anyway.

  5. mayberry1

    mayberry1 Member

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    Mass Effect 2 was one of the few games that performed flawless on my HD 6850 as well. I haven't tested it with the R9 280, but I'm not expecting any performance issues with that game. Crysis 2 only gives me minor stuttering problems on the R9 280, but I have the Steam version, so the game is patched to 1.9 automatically. I don't own Crysis 3, so I can't test that game.
  6. mayberry1

    mayberry1 Member

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    Good news!

    If anyone is still tracking this post, I have some good news! I was able to significantly reduce the amount of stuttering in Borderlands 2 by changing the render ahead limit to two and changing a value in one of the .ini files to allow the shaders to be initialized on demand. Initializing shaders on demand did not make a significant difference in performance on my HD 6850, but with the R9 280 there is a massive improvement!

    I have tried changing the render ahead limit to two in Battlefield 4, and it did seem to help with the stuttering during autosaves, but it still occurs. I guess it's not a big deal, just kind of distracting when it happens. And, plus, this issue should not occur during multiplayer, so I'm not going to get too worked up about it.

    In my first post, I wanted to share some screenshots I had taken of the CPU spike shown in the graph during save points, but I was not able to share links or images until I had reached ten posts. If anyone can share if they have had a similar issue with an AMD card, that would help in letting me know I'm not the only one having this issue. I've read posts and watched videos of people having frame rate issues in multiplayer, but I couldn't find anything on single player.

    Here is an example of just the spike:

    Here's an example of the slight drop in frame rate right as the spike occurs:

    Another game I've been playing is L.A. Noire. It's my understanding that the game has general performance issues for a lot of people, although I've seen some posts from people saying the game runs great with all the highest detail settings. For me, I'm having a lot of frame rate issues, especially when I'm driving. Again, it seems to only stutter when objects and textures are loading in. I have not noticed any frame rate issues during times when I'm interrogating or interviewing someone.

    It's strange because all these issues seem to be caused by I/O from loading objects, texture streaming, and saving. I can't determine if it's an issue with Windows or my hardware. I'll try running Memtest overnight and see if there are any errors that show up when I check it in the morning. If there are none, I'll try running a CPU stability test overnight and see what happens.
  7. MaskedMuchaco

    MaskedMuchaco Active Member

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    It looks like your problems are all down to your hard drive to me.

    I would have suggested that windows was putting your hard drive into PIO mode like it tends to do for no reason some times on perfectly good drives but the intel rapid storage drivers seem to put a stop to that so it may not be the problem.

    You should run a benchmark on the drive and check the SMART status to make sure it's performing like it should. HDtune should do the job.

    If all looks well then try a decent defrag of the drive since you say you have been using it for 2 years, windows is supposed to do this on the fly but it's not always very good. MyDefag does a pretty good job, you should choose the data disk monthly option for your mechanical drive, don't defrag the SSD.
  8. mayberry1

    mayberry1 Member

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    Can you explain to me what PIO mode is? I've never heard of it before.


    I tested my brothers GTX 680 with my hardware and all the issues I was having went away. It seems like this might be a buffering problem with my AMD card, probably made worse by my HDD. I know that the 680 has an effective memory clock of roughly 6000 MHz, while the R9 280 I own has an effective memory clock of 5200 MHz. I'll try overclocking my card and see what results I get.
    Last edited: Jun 23, 2014

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