Manufacturer: PC Perspective

It's Basically a Function Call for GPUs

Mantle, Vulkan, and DirectX 12 all claim to reduce overhead and provide a staggering increase in “draw calls”. As mentioned in the previous editorial, loading graphics card with tasks will take a drastic change in these new APIs. With DirectX 10 and earlier, applications would assign attributes to (what it is told is) the global state of the graphics card. After everything is configured and bound, one of a few “draw” functions is called, which queues the task in the graphics driver as a “draw call”.

While this suggests that just a single graphics device is to be defined, which we also mentioned in the previous article, it also implies that one thread needs to be the authority. This limitation was known about for a while, and it contributed to the meme that consoles can squeeze all the performance they have, but PCs are “too high level” for that. Microsoft tried to combat this with “Deferred Contexts” in DirectX 11. This feature allows virtual, shadow states to be loaded from secondary threads, which can be appended to the global state, whole. It was a compromise between each thread being able to create its own commands, and the legacy decision to have a single, global state for the GPU.

Some developers experienced gains, while others lost a bit. It didn't live up to expectations.

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The paradigm used to load graphics cards is the problem. It doesn't make sense anymore. A developer might not want to draw a primitive with every poke of the GPU. At times, they might want to shove a workload of simple linear algebra through it, while other requests could simply be pushing memory around to set up a later task (or to read the result of a previous one). More importantly, any thread could want to do this to any graphics device.

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The new graphics APIs allow developers to submit their tasks quicker and smarter, and it allows the drivers to schedule compatible tasks better, even simultaneously. In fact, the driver's job has been massively simplified altogether. When we tested 3DMark back in March, two interesting things were revealed:

  • Both AMD and NVIDIA are only a two-digit percentage of draw call performance apart
  • Both AMD and NVIDIA saw an order of magnitude increase in draw calls

Read on to see what this means for games and game development.

The Intel SMM bug is bad, but not that bad

Subject: General Tech | August 7, 2015 - 01:31 PM |
Tagged: fud, security, Intel, amd, x86, SMM

The SSM security hole that Christopher Domas has demonstrated (pdf)  is worrying but don't panic, it requires your system to be compromised before you are vulnerable.  That said, once you have access to the SMM you can do anything you feel like to the computer up to and including ensuring you can reinfect the machine even after a complete format or UEFI update.  The flaw was proven on Intel x86 machines but is likely to apply to AMD processors as well as they were using the same architecture around the turn of the millennium and thankfully the issue has been mitigated in recent processors.  Intel will be releasing patches for effected CPUs, although not all the processors can be patched and we have yet to hear from AMD.  You can get an over view of the issue by following the link at Slashdot and speculate on if this flaw was a mistake or inserted there on purpose in our comment section.

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"Security researcher Christopher Domas has demonstrated a method of installing a rootkit in a PC's firmware that exploits a feature built into every x86 chip manufactured since 1997. The rootkit infects the processor's System Management Mode, and could be used to wipe the UEFI or even to re-infect the OS after a clean install. Protection features like Secure Boot wouldnt help, because they too rely on the SMM to be secure."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: Slashdot

Upcoming Oculus SDK 0.7 Integrates Direct Driver Mode from AMD and NVIDIA

Subject: Graphics Cards | August 7, 2015 - 10:46 AM |
Tagged: sdk, Oculus, nvidia, direct driver mode, amd

In an email sent out by Oculus this morning, the company has revealed some interesting details  about the upcoming release of the Oculus SDK 0.7 on August 20th. The most interesting change is the introduction of Direct Driver Mode, developed in tandem with both AMD and NVIDIA.

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This new version of the SDK will remove the simplistic "Extended Mode" that many users and developers implemented for a quick and dirty way of getting the Rift development kits up and running. However, that implementation had the downside of additional latency, something that Oculus is trying to eliminate completely.

Here is what Oculus wrote about the "Direct Driver Mode" in its email to developers:

Direct Driver Mode is the most robust and reliable solution for interfacing with the Rift to date. Rather than inserting VR functionality between the OS and the graphics driver, headset awareness is added directly to the driver. As a result, Direct Driver Mode avoids many of the latency challenges of Extended Mode and also significantly reduces the number of conflicts between the Oculus SDK and third party applications. Note that Direct Driver Mode requires new drivers from NVIDIA and AMD, particularly for Kepler (GTX 645 or better) and GCN (HD 7730 or better) architectures, respectively.

We have heard NVIDIA and AMD talk about the benefits of direct driver implementations for VR headsets for along time. NVIDIA calls its software implementation GameWorks VR and AMD calls its software support LiquidVR. Both aim to do the same thing - give more direct access to the headset hardware to the developer while offering new ways for faster and lower latency rendering to games.

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Both companies have unique features to offer as well, including NVIDIA and it's multi-res shading technology. Check out our interview with NVIDIA on the topic below:

NVIDIA's Tom Petersen came to our offices to talk about GameWorks VR

Other notes in the email include a tentative scheduled release of November for the 1.0 version of the Oculus SDK. But until that version releases, Oculus is only guaranteeing that each new runtime will support the previous version of the SDK. So, when SDK 0.8 is released, you can only guarantee support for it and 0.7. When 0.9 comes out, game developers will need make sure they are at least on SDK 0.8 otherwise they risk incompatibility. Things will be tough for developers in this short window of time, but Oculus claims its necessary to "allow them to more rapidly evolve the software architecture and API." After SDK 1.0 hits, future SDK releases will continue to support 1.0.

Source: Oculus

Podcast #360 - Intel XPoint Memory, Windows 10 and DX12, FreeSync displays and more!

Subject: General Tech | July 30, 2015 - 02:45 PM |
Tagged: podcast, video, Intel, XPoint, nand, DRAM, windows 10, DirectX 12, freesync, g-sync, amd, nvidia, benq, uhd420, wasabi mango, X99, giveaway

PC Perspective Podcast #360 - 07/30/2015

Join us this week as we discuss Intel XPoint Memory, Windows 10 and DX12, FreeSync displays and more!

You can subscribe to us through iTunes and you can still access it directly through the RSS page HERE.

The URL for the podcast is: http://pcper.com/podcast - Share with your friends!

  • iTunes - Subscribe to the podcast directly through the iTunes Store
  • RSS - Subscribe through your regular RSS reader
  • MP3 - Direct download link to the MP3 file

Hosts: Ryan Shrout, Jeremy Hellstrom, Josh Walrath, and Sebastian Peak

Subscribe to the PC Perspective YouTube Channel for more videos, reviews and podcasts!!

 

Author:
Manufacturer: Wasabi Mango

Overview

A few years ago, we took our first look at the inexpensive 27" 1440p monitors which were starting to flood the market via eBay sellers located in Korea. These monitors proved to be immensely popular and largely credited for moving a large number of gamers past 1080p.

However, in the past few months we have seen a new trend from some of these same Korean monitor manufacturers. Just like the Seiki Pro SM40UNP 40" 4K display that we took a look at a few weeks ago, the new trend is large 4K monitors.

Built around a 42-in LG AH-IPS panel, the Wasabi Mango UHD420 is an impressive display. Inclusion of HDMI 2.0 and DisplayPort 1.2 allow you to achieve 4K at a full 60Hz and 4:4:4 color gamut. At a cost of just under $800 on Amazon, this is an incredibly appealing value.

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Whether or not the UHD420 is a TV or a monitor is actually quite the tossup. The lack of a tuner
might initially lead you to believe it's not a TV. Inclusion of a DisplayPort connector, and USB 3.0 hub might make you believe it's a monitor, but it's bundled with a remote control (entirely in Korean). In reality, this display could really be used for either use case (unless you use OTA tuning), and really starts to blur the lines between a "dumb" TV and a monitor. You'll also find VESA 400x400mm mounting holes on this display for easy wall mounting.

Continue reading our overview of the Wasabi Mango UHD420 4K HDMI 2.0 FreeSync Display!!

You have a 4K monitor and $650USD, what do you do?

Subject: Graphics Cards | July 27, 2015 - 04:33 PM |
Tagged: 4k, amd, R9 FuryX, GTX 980 Ti, gtx titan x

[H]ard|OCP have set up their testbed for a 4K showdown between the similarly priced GTX 980 Ti and Radeon R9 Fury X with the $1000 TITAN X tossed in there for those with more money than sense.  The test uses the new Catalyst 15.7 and the GeForce 353.30 drivers to give a more even playing field while benchmarking Witcher 3, GTA V and other games.  When the dust settled the pattern was obvious and the performance differences could be seen.  The deltas were not huge but when you are paying $650 + tax for a GPU even performance a few frames better or a graphical option that can be used really matters.  Perhaps the most interesting result was the redemption of the TITAN X, its extra price was reflected in the performance results.  Check them out for yourself here.

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"We take the new AMD Radeon R9 Fury X and evaluate the 4K gaming experience. We will also compare against the price competitive GeForce GTX 980 Ti as well as a GeForce GTX TITAN X. Which video card provides the best experience and performance when gaming at glorious 4K resolution?"

Here are some more Graphics Card articles from around the web:

Graphics Cards

Source: [H]ard|OCP
Manufacturer: PC Perspective

... But Is the Timing Right?

Windows 10 is about to launch and, with it, DirectX 12. Apart from the massive increase in draw calls, Explicit Multiadapter, both Linked and Unlinked, has been the cause of a few pockets of excitement here and there. I am a bit concerned, though. People seem to find this a new, novel concept that gives game developers the tools that they've never had before. It really isn't. Depending on what you want to do with secondary GPUs, game developers could have used them for years. Years!

Before we talk about the cross-platform examples, we should talk about Mantle. It is the closest analog to DirectX 12 and Vulkan that we have. It served as the base specification for Vulkan that the Khronos Group modified with SPIR-V instead of HLSL and so forth. Some claim that it was also the foundation of DirectX 12, which would not surprise me given what I've seen online and in the SDK. Allow me to show you how the API works.

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Mantle is an interface that mixes Graphics, Compute, and DMA (memory access) into queues of commands. This is easily done in parallel, as each thread can create commands on its own, which is great for multi-core processors. Each queue, which are lists leading to the GPU that commands are placed in, can be handled independently, too. An interesting side-effect is that, since each device uses standard data structures, such as IEEE754 decimal numbers, no-one cares where these queues go as long as the work is done quick enough.

Since each queue is independent, an application can choose to manage many of them. None of these lists really need to know what is happening to any other. As such, they can be pointed to multiple, even wildly different graphics devices. Different model GPUs with different capabilities can work together, as long as they support the core of Mantle.

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DirectX 12 and Vulkan took this metaphor so their respective developers could use this functionality across vendors. Mantle did not invent the concept, however. What Mantle did is expose this architecture to graphics, which can make use of all the fixed-function hardware that is unique to GPUs. Prior to AMD's usage, this was how GPU compute architectures were designed. Game developers could have spun up an OpenCL workload to process physics, audio, pathfinding, visibility, or even lighting and post-processing effects... on a secondary GPU, even from a completely different vendor.

Vista's multi-GPU bug might get in the way, but it was possible in 7 and, I believe, XP too.

Read on to see a couple reasons why we are only getting this now...

Team Red gets NASty with QNAP

Subject: Storage | July 23, 2015 - 07:38 PM |
Tagged: TVS-x63, qnap, Puma, amd

AMD is exploring alternate product routes to raise their income and the latest seems to be the Puma powered QNAP TVS-x63.  It is a four bay NAS which is powered by the 2.4GHz AMD GX424-CC SoC which happens to have a 28 stream processor GCN Radeon clocked at 497 MHz.  It has a pair of gigabit ports with an optional add-in card offering a single 10Gb or two additional 1Gb ports, though that will raise you above the cost of the $630 base model. Bjorn3d found the power consumption to be higher than the competition but the overall operation was flawless.

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"The QNAP TVS-x63 marked the world’s first NAS featuring AMD processor. AMD’s new strategy is targeting the markets with high profit return and the company is returning to the server market. NAS, by extension, is like a small scale server, so it makes sense to see AMD putting their processors into these devices."

Here are some more Storage reviews from around the web:

Storage

Source: Bjorn3D

Podcast #359 - AMD R9 Nano, 4TB Samsung SSDs, Windows 10 and more!

Subject: General Tech | July 23, 2015 - 01:53 PM |
Tagged: podcast, video, amd, r9 nano, Fiji, Samsung, 4TB, windows 10, acer, aspire V, X99E-ITX/ac, TSMC, 10nm, 7nm

PC Perspective Podcast #359 - 07/23/2015

Join us this week as we discuss the AMD R9 Nano, 4TB Samsung SSDs, Windows 10 and more!

You can subscribe to us through iTunes and you can still access it directly through the RSS page HERE.

The URL for the podcast is: http://pcper.com/podcast - Share with your friends!

  • iTunes - Subscribe to the podcast directly through the iTunes Store
  • RSS - Subscribe through your regular RSS reader
  • MP3 - Direct download link to the MP3 file

Hosts: Ryan Shrout, Jeremy Hellstrom, Josh Walrath, and Allyn Malventano

Subscribe to the PC Perspective YouTube Channel for more videos, reviews and podcasts!!

AMD A8-7670K (Godavari) Launches with Steamroller

Subject: Processors | July 22, 2015 - 09:56 PM |
Tagged: amd, APU, Godavari, a8, a8-7670k

AMD's Godavari architecture is the last one based on Bulldozer, which will hold the company's product stack over until their Zen architecture arrives in 2016. The A10-7870K was added a month ago, with a 95W TDP at a MSRP of $137 USD. This involved a slight performance bump of +200 MHz at its base frequency, but a +100 MHz higher Turbo than its predecessor when under high load. More interesting, it does this at the same TDP and the same basic architecture.

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Remember that these are AMD's benchmarks.

The refresh has been expanded to include the A8-7670K. Some sites have reported that this uses the Excavator architecture as seen in Carrizo, but this is not the case. It is based on Steamroller. This product has a base clock of 3.6 GHz with a Turbo of up to 3.9 GHz. This is a +300 MHz Base and +100 MHz Turbo increase over the previous A8-7650K. Again, this is with the same architecture and TDP. The GPU even received a bit of a bump, too. It is now clocked at 757 MHz versus the previous generation's 720 MHz with all else equal, as far as I can tell. This should lead to a 5.1% increase in GPU compute throughput.

The A8-7670K just recently launched for an MSRP of $117.99. This 20$ saving should place it in a nice position below the A10-7870K for mainstream users.

Source: AMD