You need a bit of power for this
PC gamers. We do some dumb shit sometimes. Those on the outside looking in, forced to play on static hardware with fixed image quality and low expandability, turn up their noses and question why we do the things we do. It’s not an unfair reaction, they just don’t know what they are missing out on.
For example, what if you decided to upgrade your graphics hardware to improve performance and allow you to up the image quality on your games to unheard of levels? Rather than using a graphics configuration with performance found in a modern APU you could decide to run not one but FOUR discrete GPUs in a single machine. You could water cool them for optimal temperature and sound levels. This allows you to power not 1920x1080 (or 900p), not 2560x1400 but 4K gaming – 3840x2160.
All for the low, low price of $3000. Well, crap, I guess those console gamers have a right to question the sanity of SOME enthusiasts.
After the release of AMD’s latest flagship graphics card, the Radeon R9 295X2 8GB dual-GPU beast, our mind immediately started to wander to what magic could happen (and what might go wrong) if you combined a pair of them in a single system. Sure, two Hawaii GPUs running in tandem produced the “fastest gaming graphics card you can buy” but surely four GPUs would be even better.
The truth is though, that isn’t always the case. Multi-GPU is hard, just ask AMD or NVIDIA. The software and hardware demands placed on the driver team to coordinate data sharing, timing control, etc. are extremely high even when you are working with just two GPUs in series. Moving to three or four GPUs complicates the story even further and as a result it has been typical for us to note low performance scaling, increased frame time jitter and stutter and sometimes even complete incompatibility.
During our initial briefing covering the Radeon R9 295X2 with AMD there was a system photo that showed a pair of the cards inside a MAINGEAR box. As one of AMD’s biggest system builder partners, MAINGEAR and AMD were clearly insinuating that these configurations would be made available for those with the financial resources to pay for it. Even though we are talking about a very small subset of the PC gaming enthusiast base, these kinds of halo products are what bring PC gamers together to look and drool.
As it happens I was able to get a second R9 295X2 sample in our offices for a couple of quick days of testing.
Working with Kyle and Brent over at HardOCP, we decided to do some hardware sharing in order to give both outlets the ability to judge and measure Quad CrossFire independently. The results are impressive and awe inspiring.
AMD Makes some Lemonade...
I guess we could say that AMD has been rather busy lately. It seems that a significant amount of the content on PC Perspective this month revolved around the AMD AM1 platform. Before that we had the Kaveri products and the R7 265. AMD also reported some fairly solid growth over the past year with their graphics and APU lines. Things are not as grim and dire as they once were for the company. This is good news for consumers as they will continue to be offered competing solutions that will vie for that hard earned dollar.
AMD is continuing their releases for 2014 with the announcement of their latest low-power and mainstream mobile APUs. These are codenamed “Beema” and “Mullins”, but they are based on the year old Kabini chip. This may cause a few people to roll their eyes as AMD has had some fairly unimpressive refreshes in the past. We saw the rather meager increases in clockspeed and power consumption with Brazos 2.0 a couple of years back, and it looked like this would be the case again for Beema and Mullins.
I was again expecting said meager improvements in power consumption and clockspeeds that we had received all those years ago with Brazos 2.0. Turns out I was wrong. This is a fairly major refresh which does a few things that I did not think were entirely possible, and I’m a rather optimistic person. So why is this release surprising? Let us take a good look under the hood.
Subject: Cases and Cooling | April 28, 2014 - 03:47 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: water cooling, SFF, Intel, H75, corsair, amd
Corsair's H75 has a smaller footprint than previous models, the radiator of 120 x 152 x 25mm should fit inside even smaller cases, allowing you to reduce the noise produced in the smaller case. As well they have dropped support for LGA775, the change in mounting hardware should make it easier to install on both AMD and Intel systems. While Morry was quite pleased with the performance of this cooler considering it's size; [H]ard|OCP had a slightly different take. When they looked at the cooler in terms of price for performance they felt that there are better values on the market but do still recommend it for those who need a small, powerful cooler and are willing to shop around to find it on special.
"Corsair has been in the liquid CPU cooling game for over 10 years now. As sealed system liquid CPU coolers have become the norm among hardware enthusiasts, the competition has gotten stiff to say the least. Another thing that has changed over the years is that many DIYers are going to smaller cases for their systems; the H75 looks to address this."
Here are some more Cases & Cooling reviews from around the web:
- Coolermaster Nepton 140XL & 280L All-In-One CPU Water Cooler @ eTeknix
- XSPC RX360 V3 Radiator Review @HiTech Legion
- Raijintek Pallas Low-Profile CPU Cooler Review @ Modders-Inc
- Noctua NH-D15 CPU Cooler Review @ NikKTech
- Cooler Master Blizzard T2 CPU Cooler Review @ Hardware Secrets
- Be Quiet! Shadow Rock Slim CPU Cooler @ NikKTech
- be quiet! Dark Rock 3 @ techPowerUp
- Raijintek Pallas Low Profile Heatsink Review @ Frostytech
- Enermax ETS-N30 Budget CPU Air Cooler @ [H]ard|OCP
- NZXT H440 @ techPowerUp
- NCASE M1: Crowdfunded Enthusiast Mini-ITX Case @ SPCR
- Silverstone Raven RVZ01 Mini-ITX Case Review @ Hardware Asylum
- Bitfenix Prodigy M M-ATX review @ Bjorn3d
- Cooler Master Elite 110 Mini-ITX Case Review @ Modders-In
- Corsair Obsidian 450D Mid-Tower Computer Case @ Madshrimps
- Enermax iVektor Computer Case Review @ Modders-Inc
- Thermaltake Core V71 Full-Tower @ Benchmark Reviews
Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards | April 27, 2014 - 04:22 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: nvidia, linux, amd
GPU drivers have been a hot and sensitive topic at the site, especially recently, probably spurred on by the announcements of Mantle and DirectX 12. These two announcements admit and illuminate (like a Christmas tree) the limitations of APIs on gaming performance. Both AMD and NVIDIA have their recent successes and failures on their respective fronts. This will not deal with that, though. This is a straight round-up of new GPUs running the latest drivers... in Linux.
In all, NVIDIA tends to have better performance with its 700-series parts than equivalently-priced R7 or R9 products from AMD, especially in low-performance Source Engine titles such as Team Fortress 2. Sure, even the R7 260X was almost at 120 FPS, but the R9 290 was neck-and-neck with the GeForce GTX 760. The GeForce GTX 770, about $50 cheaper than the R9 290, had a healthy 10% lead over it.
In Unigine Heaven, however, the AMD R9 290 passed the NVIDIA GTX 770 by a small margin, coming right in line with it's aforementioned $50-bigger price tag. In that situation, where performance became non-trivial, AMD caught up (but did not beat). Also, third-party driver support is more embraced by AMD than NVIDIA. On the other hand, NVIDIA's proprietary drivers are demonstrably better, even if you would argue that the specific cases are trivial because of overkill.
And then there's Unvanquished, where AMD's R9 290 did not achieve triple-digit FPS scores despite the $250 GTX 760 getting 110 FPS.
Update: As pointed out in the comments, some games perform significantly better on the $130 R7 260X than the $175 GTX 750 Ti (HL2: Lost Coast, TF2, OpenArena, Unigine Sanctuary). Some other games are the opposite, with the 750 Ti holding a sizable lead over the R7 260X (Unigine Heaven and Unvanquished). Again, Linux performance is a grab bag between vendors.
There's a lot of things to consider, especially if you are getting into Linux gaming. I expect that it will be a hot topic, soon, as it picks up... ... Steam.
Subject: General Tech | April 24, 2014 - 02:22 PM | Ken Addison
Tagged: podcast, video, amd, AM1, Athlon 5350, evga, EVGA SuperNOVA, ubuntu, 14.04 LTS, catalyst 14.4, never settle forever
PC Perspective Podcast #297 - 04/24/2014
Join us this week as we discuss gaming on the AMD AM1 Platform, AMD Never Settle Forever, 15nm Flash Memory and more!
The URL for the podcast is: http://pcper.com/podcast - Share with your friends!
- iTunes - Subscribe to the podcast directly through the 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
Week in Review:
News items of interest:
0:31:15 Ubuntu 14.04 LTS Released
Hardware/Software Picks of the Week:
Subject: Editorial | April 23, 2014 - 09:51 PM | Josh Walrath
Tagged: TDP, Athlon 5350, Asus AM1I-A, amd, AM1
If I had one regret about my AM1 review that posted a few weeks ago, it was that I used a pretty hefty (relatively speaking) 500 watt power supply for a part that is listed at a 25 watt TDP. Power supplies really do not hit their efficiency numbers until they are at least under 50% load. Even the most efficient 500 watt power supply is going to inflate the consumption numbers of these diminutive parts that we are currently testing.
Keep it simple... keep it efficient.
Ryan had sent along a 60 watt notebook power supply with an ATX cable adapter at around the same time as I started testing on the AMD Athlon 5350 and Asus AM1I-A. I was somewhat roped into running that previously mentioned 500 watt power supply due to comparative reasons. I was using a 100 watt TDP A10-6790 APU with a pretty loaded Gigabyte A88X based ITX motherboard. That combination would have likely fried the 60 watt (12v x 5A) notebook power supply under load.
Now that I had a little extra time on my hands, I was able to finally get around to seeing exactly how efficient this little number could get. I swapped the old WD Green 1 TB drive for a new Samsung 840 EVO 500 GB SSD. I removed the BD-ROM drive completely from the equation as well. Neither of those parts uses a lot of wattage, but I am pushing this combination to go as low as I possibly can.
The results are pretty interesting. At idle we see the 60 watt supply (sans spinning drive and BD-ROM) hitting 12 watts as measured from the wall. The 500 watt power supply and those extra pieces added another 11 watts of draw. At load we see a somewhat similar numbers, but not nearly as dramatic as at idle. The 60 watt system is drawing 29 watts while the 500 watt system is at 37 watts.
So how do you get from a 60 watt notebook power adapter to ATX standard? This is the brains behind the operation.
The numbers for both power supplies are both good, but we do see that we get a nice jump in efficiency from using the smaller unit and a SSD instead of a spinning drive. Either way, the Athlon 5350 and AMD AM1 infrastructure sip power as compared to most desktop processors.
Subject: Motherboards | April 22, 2014 - 01:59 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: amd, asus, A88X, FM2+, A88X-PRO
When building a budget system for yourself or someone else that either does not need a powerful CPU or is better served with a powerful GPU then AMD is really the manufacturer you should be looking to. The ASUS A88X-Pro, for ~$125, could serve as a solid backbone for your system with a pair of PCIe 16x 3.0 ports along with a single 4x, a pair of 1x and even two legacy PCI slots for your older hardware. The storage system can support six SATA 6Gbps ports and an additional pair of eSATA along with a half dozen USB 3.0 ports and an impressive 10 USB 2.0 ports. As the board is intended for use with an APU it sports D-Sub, HDMI, DisplayPort and DVI-D out but for gaming you are best served picking up a discrete GPU. [H]ard|OCP found overclocking to be a bit challenging as not upping the voltage enough sometimes caused drive corruption but for those willing to put in the effort a speed of 4.5GHz @ 1.575v is certainly achievable. See the full performance review right here.
"It’s important to take a step back once in awhile and remember that not everyone can afford huge multi-GPU rigs and eight core CPUs. If you are in the market for a shiny new APU, you won’t want to miss our coverage of the ASUS A88X-Pro. This new FM2+ socket motherboard may not be the answer for you, but it could surely be a solution."
Here are some more Motherboard articles from around the web:
- MSI A88X-G45 Gaming Motherboard Review @ Modders-Inc
- Gigabyte AM1M-S2H @ Phoronix
- Gigabyte G1.Sniper A88X Review @ Bjorn3D
- MSI A88X-G45 Gaming Motherboard Review @HiTech Legion
- Biostar Hi-Fi A88W 3D (AMD FM2+) @ techPowerUp
- ASUS Rampage IV Black Edition Motherboard Review @ Hardware Canucks
- ASUS Rampage IV Black Edition @ [H]ard|OCP
- MSI Z87M-GAMING Motherboard Review @ Madshrimps
- ASUS Maximus VI Impact LGA 1150 @ [H]ard|OCP
- ASRock Fatal1ty B85 Killer Motherboard @ Hardware Secrets
Subject: Graphics Cards | April 22, 2014 - 01:06 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: catalyst 14.4, catalyst, amd
The latest available AMD Catalyst Windows and Linux drivers can be found here:
AMD Catalyst Windows: http://support.amd.com/en-us/kb-articles/Pages/latest-catalyst-windows-beta.aspx
AMD Catalyst Linux: http://support.amd.com/en-us/kb-articles/Pages/latest-linux-beta-driver.aspx
Highlights of AMD Catalyst™ 14.4 Windows Driver
- Support for the AMD Radeon R9 295X
CrossFire fixes enhancements:
- Crysis 3 – frame pacing improvements
- Far Cry 3 – 3 and 4 GPU performance improvements at high quality settings, high resolution settings
- Anno 2070 – Improved CrossFire scaling up to 34%
- Titanfall – Resolved in game flickering with CrossFire enabled
- Metro Last Light – Improved Crossfire scaling up to 10%
- Eyefinity 3x1 (with three 4K panels) no longer cuts off portions of the application
- Stuttering has been improved in certain applications when selecting mid-Eyefinity resolutions with V-sync Enabled
Full support for OpenGL 4.4
Mantle beta driver improvements:
- BattleField 4: Performance slowdown is no longer seen when performing a task switch/Alt-tab
- BattleField 4: Fuzzy images when playing in rotated SLS resolution with an A10 Kaveri system
Highlights of AMD Catalyst™ 14.1 Linux Driver
- Support for the AMD Radeon R9 295X
- Ubuntu 12.04.4 support
- Full support for OpenGL 4.4
Resolved Issue highlights:
- Corruption and system hang observed while running Sanctuary BM with Tear Free Desktop enabled
- Memory leak about hardware context EGL create context error for glesx
- GPU hand in CrossFire Mode [Piglit]
- Test "spec/arb_vertex_array_object" failed [Piglit]
- Test "glx/GLX_EXT_import_context/free context" failed [Piglit]
- Test "spec/ARB_seamless_cube_map" failed Piglit]
- Test "texture swizzle with border color" failed
- Glxtest failures observed in log file Blank screen observed while running steam games with Big picture
- 4ms delay observed in the glxSwapBuffers when vsync is enabled
- RBDoom3BFG the game auto quit when use the security camera terminal
- ETQW segmentation fault
Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards | April 21, 2014 - 01:55 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: radeon, never settle forever, never settle, amd
AMD has been taking PC gaming very seriously, especially over the last couple of years. While they have a dominant presence in the console space, with only IBM in opposition, I believe that direct licensing revenue was not their main goal, rather that they hope to see benefits carry over to the PC and maybe mobile spaces, eventually. In the PC space, Never Settle launched as a very successful marketing campaign. While it had a stutter with the launch of the R9 (and R7) product lines, it is back and is still called, "Never Settle Forever".
Keeping with Forever's alteration to the Never Settle formula, the type of card that you purchase yields a Gold, Silver, or Bronze reward. Gold (the R9 280 and R9 290 series, and the R9 295X2) gets three free games in the Gold tier, Silver (R9 270 and R7 260 series) gets two in the Silver tier, and Bronze (R7 250 and R7 240 series) gets one free game in the Bronze tier. By and large, the tiers are the same as last time plus a few old games and one upcoming Square Enix release: Murdered: Soul Suspect. They have also made deals with certain independent developers, where two indie titles bundled together count as one choice.
The complete breakdown of games is as follows:
|Murdered: Soul Suspect (June 3, 2014)||Yes||Yes||No|
|Dungeon Siege III||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Company of Heroes 2||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Total War: Shogun 2||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Titan Quest (Gold Edition)||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Supreme Commander (Gold Edition)||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Deus Ex: Human Revolution||Yes||Yes||No|
|Just Cause 2||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Banner Saga + Mutant Blobs Attack (indie combo)||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Guacamelee + DYAD (indie combo)||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Mutant Blobs Attack + DYAD (indie combo)||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Banner Saga + DYAD (indie combo)||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Mutant Blobs Attack + Guacamelee (indie combo)||Yes||Yes||Yes|
Oddly enough, there does not seem to be a Banner Saga + Guacamelee combo...
... the only impossible combination.
AMD has also announced that Never Settle will continue for more "additions" in 2014. Which ones? Who knows. It is clear that they have a great working relationship with Square Enix Europe, including basically their last six major titles in Never Settle and keeping them there, but there is not really anything from them on the horizon (at least, not announced). AMD does sound confident in having other deals lined up this year, however.
Never Settle Forever graphics cards are available now "at participating retailers". Bundle codes can be redeemed any time between now and August 31st.
There is some regional variance in game availability, however. Read up before you purchase (especially if you live in Japan). You should be fine if you live in North America, Europe, Middle East, Africa, New Zealand, Australia, and Latin America, though, at least where AMD products are available. Still, it is a good idea to check.
AM1 Walks New Ground
After Josh's initial review of the AMD AM1 Platform and the Athlon 5350, we received a few requests to look at gaming performance with a discrete GPU installed. Even though this platform isn't being aimed at gamers looking to play demanding titles, we started to investigate this setup anyway.
While Josh liked the ASUS AM1I-A Mini ITX motherboard he used in his review, with only a x1 PCI-E slot it would be less than ideal for this situation.
Luckily we had the Gigabyte AM1M-S2H Micro ATX motherboard, which features a full length PCI-E x16 slot, as well as 2 x1 slots.
Don't be mistaken by the shape of the slot though, the AM1 chipset still only offers 4 lanes of PCI-Express 2.0. This, of course, means that the graphics card will not be running at full bandwidth. However, having the physical x16 slot makes it a lot easier to physically connect a discrete GPU, without having to worry about those ribbon cables that miners use.