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Smart Access Memory first performance benchmarks tested on Intel Core i9-10900K
By Chad Norton on December 4th, 2020 at 04:00pm - original article from game-debate

With the recent unofficial update from ASUS that adds support for the Smart Access Memory tech on Intel Z490 motherboards, a Japanese website decided to test the feature out with some benchmarks running some of the latest games on an Intel processor. Is SAM support worth it then? Let’s check it out...

AMD’s Smart Access Memory is interesting to say the least, and promises to increase performance - albeit, by a small amount - at the flick of a button. That’s still impressive even if it’s not a lot of performance gains, but still worth it nonetheless.

For now though, the tech is somewhat limited to the latest hardware, currently requiring the Ryzen 5000 series of processors paired with a Radeon RX 6000 graphics card on an AMD 500 series motherboard. Unless you download one of the few unofficial patches available from manufacturers, you will need a combination of this hardware to use the new technology.

Okay, okay, let’s get on with it then. We’ve talked about the semi-boring stuff now let’s get into the nitty-gritty juicy stuff that we’re all waiting for: actual benchmark results.

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AMD claims you can experience a slight increase in performance when enabling Smart Access Memory. Their own benchmark results show an improvement of anywhere from 5% up to 13% in recent games like ¬¬g_id:36628[World of Warcraft: Shadowlands]¬¬, ¬¬g_id:36740[Resident Evil 3 Remake]¬¬, ¬¬g_id:35640[Gears 5]¬¬, ¬¬g_id:35599[Forza Horizon 4]¬¬, ¬¬g_id:35863[Assassins Creed: Valhalla]¬¬, and ¬¬g_id:24105[Ashes of the Singularity: Escalation]¬¬ when settings are set to 4K resolution at the max graphics settings. 

Smart Access Memory performance benchmarks AMD

First of all, the Japanese site tested Smart Access Memory performance across a range of games including Assassins Creed Valhalla, Forza Horizon 4, ¬¬g_id:9339[Red Dead Redemption 2]¬¬, and ¬¬g_id:20387[Rainbow Six: Siege]¬¬. All tests were carried out using the highest graphics settings available in-game at 1080p, and in the case of Forza Horizon 4, at 1440p as well.

In terms of hardware specs, the configuration included a ¬¬p_id:2655[Core i9-10900K]¬¬ CPU coupled with an ¬¬gc_id:5144[RX 6800 XT]¬¬ GPU and 32GB of RAM.

Smart Access Memory benchmarks performance specs

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Assassins Creed Valhalla

First up is Assassins Creed Valhalla, which shows a slight increase in performance all round with both minimum and average frame rates increasing by 11fps and 17fps respectively. This test was also conducted using the DirectX12 API.

Assassins Creed Valhalla Smart Access Memory performance benchmarks 1080p

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Red Dead Redemption 2

Next up is Red Dead Redemption 2 which saw a significant increase in minimum frame rates when enabling the Smart Access Memory feature. Whilst average FPS did not budge up by much (roughly 9fps increase), minimum FPS jumped from 33.61 to a massive 94.65.

Red Dead Redemption 2 Smart Access Memory performance benchmarks 1080p

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Rainbow Six: Siege

R6 Siege also saw an increase in FPS when enabling Smart Access Memory, however once again it was not by much. Minimum FPS was the most affected here again at a 33fps increase, but when your frame rates are already at 279 an increase of 33fps is not a whole lot unless you’re playing competitively on a high refresh rate monitor. But at least it shows that the tech does, at the very least, improve frame rates by a small amount.

Rainbow Six Siege Smart Access Memory performance benchmarks 1080p

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Forza Horizon 4

Finally we have Forza Horizon 4, which the site interestingly chose to be the only game to test at 1080p and 1440p resolutions. Either way, the results are still interesting, and shows that Smart Access Memory helps increase average frame rates at higher resolutions over 1080p.

Additionally, it’s clear that the Japanese site used the in-game benchmarking tool as the results include the GPU minimum, average, and maximum frame rates which is different from your normal average frame rates: which takes into account the CPU minimum, average, and maximum as well. This is why the average frame rates are lower than the average GPU FPS.

Whilst it would be interesting to see how the CPU frame rates are affected (since Smart Access Memory directly affects the processor) it’s also interesting to see that the feature actually improves GPU performance as well.

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Forza Horizon 4 1080p

At 1080p, Smart Access Memory does not do a whole lot to increase average FPS in Forza Horizon 4; going from 220fps without, to 221fps with it enabled. However, once again it is the minimum FPS that sees the most difference, with average and maximum GPU frame rates also increased significantly.

Forza Horizon 4 Smart Access Memory performance benchmarks 1080p

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Forza Horizon 4 1440p

At 1440p, the benefits of enabling Smart Access Memory is more prominent in Forza Horizon 4, as not only do the minimum, average, and maximum GPU frame rates increase, but average FPS also increases from 200fps to 217fps.

Forza Horizon 4 Smart Access Memory performance benchmarks 1440p

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Results

Okay so let’s take all those numbers above and turn it into a data table that we can quickly glance at and see the performance improvements clearly:

Game Min (SAM off) Min (SAM on) % FPS increase AVG (SAM off) AVG (SAM on) % FPS increase
¬¬g_id:35863[Assassins Creed: Valhalla]¬¬ 86 97 12.8% 120 137 14.2%
¬¬g_id:9339[Red Dead Redemption 2]¬¬ 33.61 94.65 181.6% 119.65 128.99 7.8%
¬¬g_id:20387[Rainbow Six: Siege]¬¬ 279 312 11.8% 441 443 0.5%
¬¬g_id:35599[Forza Horizon 4]¬¬ - 1080p 209.1 251.6 20.3% 220 221 0.5%
¬¬g_id:35599[Forza Horizon 4]¬¬ - 1440p 181.6 212.4 17% 200 217 8.5%

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Conclusion

It’s clear that Smart Access Memory does make an improvement to frame rates and performance, though not by a large margin in most cases. What is definitely clear though is how much more stable frame rates get with the feature turned on, as minimum frame rates were the ones affected most significantly.

Since the SAM feature does not appear to affect performance negatively in any way, this just seems like a win-win scenario where everyone might as well flick the feature on to see improved performance.

It’s also clear that the benefits are very dependent on which game you are playing, as some games will see better average FPS, whilst others will see better minimum FPS, and some won’t see much of a difference at all.

What do you think? Are you excited for Smart Access Memory? Will you be enabling the feature when it’s available on your hardware? And will this feature influence your decision on buying new hardware? Let us know!