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Tested: AMD's Frame Rate Target Control delivers real benefits for Radeon gamers

Jason Evangelho | July 3, 2015
For years, AMD has prioritized raw graphics processing horsepower over things like power efficiency and quieter operation. Then Nvidia's Maxwell architecture came along and proved that video cards could dominate the benchmarks while still sipping power.

We rounded up AMD's new flagship Radeon Fury X and a Sapphire Tri-X Radeon 390x to observe FRTC's impact on both liquid-cooled and traditional air-cooled video cards. We then fired up Dirt Rally, BioShock Infinite, and Civilization: Beyond Earth at 1440p and measured minimum and maximum system power draw levels with FRTC off, capped at 55 fps, and capped at 75 fps.

To get a good bead on any noise level and GPU temperature improvements, we ran the Heaven Valley benchmark in 15-minute loops and took note of peak decibel levels and temps under load once the cards were nice and warmed up.

With FRTC off and Heaven Valley set to Medium quality at 1440p, frame rates ranged from 75 fps all the way up to 120 fps, depending on scene complexity. What happens when we put a leash on those frames? The already-cool Fury X sees a 15-percent temperature reduction, and Sapphire's air-cooled 390x reaps the identical benefit, dropping from 71 degrees Celsius down to 60 degrees Celsius.

No one enjoys a noisy graphics card whirring away in their chassis, which is why it's awesome to see that FRTC has notable influence over noise levels. Sapphire's 390x starts off reasonably quiet, but with FRTC capped at 55 fps (currently the lowest setting possible), it dives from 66dB to 59dB. On the surface that might seem inconsequential, but decibels are measured in increasing magnitudes of intensity. This translates to a card that isn't merely 7dB quieter--it's 1.6x quieter.

So how about AMD's power consumption claim? Does trimming the frame-rate fat really result in less system power pulled from the wall? It does indeed.

Take a look at that BioShock Infinite chart, especially the Fury X results. It's a power hog with its frame rate left unencumbered (in the low to mid 100s). The minimum amount of power drawn from the wall while running with FRTC off is higher than the maximum power draw with FRTC set to 55 fps. All told, it's a healthy 34-percent reduction in wattage at the wall. Other high-frame-rate titles like Civilization: Beyond Earth and Dirt Rally exhibit similar--if a bit more minor--energy savings.

Bottom line

So with a simple Catalyst Control Center tweak that taps into Radeon 300 series graphics cards and AMD's Fury lineup, we see a meaningful set of benefits. AMD's Frame Rate Target Control makes your PC gaming sessions more enjoyable by turning down the ambient volume, dropping the degrees, saving you a few bucks at the wall, and likely extending the life of your video card by removing some unnecessary stress.

There's one minor quibble worth pointing out. Originally we wanted to test Blizzard's Heroes of the Storm, but found that FRTC had no effect on it. We then bounced over to Diablo III, and FRTC was once again ineffective. At this point we suspect it's a glitch with titles, at the very least within our test environment. An inquiry to AMD has gone unanswered as of this writing.


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