Eidos Montreal’s Thief is the second triple AAA game to add support for AMD’s Mantle graphics API and the first game to support AMD’s TrueAudio. Unlike Battlefield 4 where the advantages of Mantle were present but not game changing, in Thief the performance advantage that Mantle offers remains substantial until you use a greater than $240 CPU at which point Mantle only offers a ~5% performance advantage at 1080P. The effect of TrueAudio on the Thief experience is harder to objectively quantify but you can certainly hear the difference when it’s disabled.
AMD had a number of graphs in its reviewer guide but the most interesting one is shown above. According to AMD’s own testing Mantle enables the company to decisively out perform Nvidia in situations where it would normally lose out. Mantle also reduces the dependency of AMD’s GPUs on the CPUs that power them significantly. While Nvidia’s DirectX 11 performance scaled with increases in raw CPU performance AMD’s GPU performance under Mantle plateau’s after $190 CPU price point. In this case that plateau allows an all AMD (R9 290X + FX 8350) system to out perform a high-end Intel plus Nvidia (GTX 780 + i7 4960X) system by about ten frames per second.
While we’re only looking at one possible scenario in this example we have an $810 set of all AMD components outperforming a $1570 Intel and Nvidia combo. So if all you’re ever going to do with your PC is play Thief at 1080P at the Very High detail preset then you should buy an all AMD system, full stop.
That said it’s still early in Mantle’s lifecycle and with only two games on the market it’s still hard to make a recommendation for using AMD’s CPUs in a gaming PC despite these impressive results and the potential cost savings.
AMD had the foresight to answer some other lingering questions about Mantle with this launch. For example the company announced that Mantle will remain proprietary for the time being, but that they are working to get a public specification for Mantle or a Mantle-like API out before the end of the year. As far as multiOS support is concerned AMD says that Mantle will continue to remain Windows only for now. [Editor's note: Boo, hiss, boo.]
MultiGPU will be enabled or disabled by developers rather than by AMD. Thus support for multiple GPU under Mantle in a given game will depend entirely on the whims of the game’s developer. For AMD this means that they will no longer be held accountable for bad multiGPU performance, but the means that devs will likely have to do more work to offer multiGPU support. It’s hard to say at this point whether that’s good or bad for multiGPU users although we have yet to see any Mantle enabled game with solid multiGPU support.
We’re looking forward to seeing more Mantle and TrueAudio enabled games and if you were looking for reassurance that Mantle was a worthwhile effort on AMD’s part then look no further than Thief.S|A
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