AMD explains their new "Game Clock" GPU metric at E3 2019

After making a big splash at Computex with the debut of their new 3rd generation Ryzen CPUs, AMD put the focus on their graphics cards at E3 2019. They revealed more details of their new rDNA architecture and announced two new GPUs: the RX 5700 and the 5700 XT. Along with boasting impressive performance for the price and including some boundary-pushing new technology, both cards were also discussed along with a new "Game Clock" benchmark metric.

Following the big announcements, I spoke with AMD's Mithun Chandrasekhar, who is the project manager for AMD's newest Radeon products, to get more information on this new way of measuring and advertising GPU performance. The following is an edited excerpt of our interview.


Mithun Chandrasekhar: There's a new concept called a Game Clock. Now what we would see in the past, with Vega, we had a base clock and a boost clock. The base clock was kind of like a worst case scenario that was almost never really "real," so to speak. And then you had the best case scenario, which was boost clock. And the GPU would sort of go somewhere in between. So while that is very similar to CPUs, the one thing that gamers want to see is when they're playing a game, a triple-A title, where should they expect their clocks to roughly be? That's exactly what the game clock is.

Think of game clock as a base, while gaming. So what that means is that, in realistic gaming situations, you'd be going somewhere in between game and boost. And unlike in the past, we've intentionally been fairly conservative with the clocks, because we want to delight the gamer. If we say it's 1700 Mhz but gamers see "Oh this is actually closer to 1750 or 1800 most of the time!" no one is going to complain about free performance. No one is going to complain about auto-overclocking, and that's basically what this is.


GameCrate: So is there a particular kind of game you have in mind, with game clock? Because obviously the performance would vary a little bit.

MC: Very very good question. So as part of our testing, again, we intentionally went fairly conservative. Because you know there is die-to-die variation, number one. Number two, you may have an exceptionally good intake, exhaust, and all that stuff. I may not. And plus, different games tend to stress different parts of the GPU in different ways, resulting in different clocks. So again, this isn't a guarantee - no one can guarantee a clock speed. But think of this essentially as a: hey, realistically you're not going to see your clock speeds dip below this while playing almost any game. That's what it is.

GC: And so game clock is going to start showing up on your product descriptions and marketing materials?

MC: It will, absolutely. Going back to the others, we have the boost, which is the "up to." Then we have the game clock, which is what we're typically going to see around games. Usually better than that, but we want to make sure we don't disappoint you. And the absolute worst case scenario, base clock.

The boost clock is opportunistic, in that if I have the headroom, thermal and electrical and everything else, I'll boost up to that. And by the way - that doesn't mean that's the overclocking headroom. Next gen 7 nm process, brand spanking architecture, there's a good bit of overclocking headroom as well. So we're really excited to see what our partners are going to come up with, because again, building off of feedback we got from Radeon 7, we will be launching with the reference cards, but all of our partners will be coming on board with their custom versions post-launch.


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