Subject: Graphics Cards | February 28, 2013 - 02:42 AM | Josh Walrath
Tagged: workstations, virtualization, Teradici, remote management, R5000, pitcairn, PCoIP, firepro, amd
A few days back AMD released one of their latest FIREPRO workstation graphics cards. For most users out there this will be received with a bit of a shrug. This release is a bit different though, and it reflects a change in direction in the PC market. The original PC freed users from mainframes and made computing affordable for most people. Today we are seemingly heading back to the mainframe/thin client setup of yore, but with hardware and connectivity that obviously was not present in the late 70s. The FIREPRO R5000 is hoping to redefine remote graphics.
Today’s corporate environment is chaotic when it comes to IT systems. The amount of malware, poor user decisions, and variability in software and hardware configurations is a constant headache to IT workers. A big push it to make computing more centralized in the company with easy oversight from IT workers. Servers with multiple remote users can be more easily updated and upgraded than going to individual PCs around the offices to do the same work. This is good for a lot of basic users, but it does not address the performance needs of power users who typically run traditional workstations.
AMD hopes to change that thinking with the R5000. This is a Pitcairn based product (7800 series on the desktop) that is built to workstation standards. It also features a secret weapon; the Teradici TERA2240 host processor. Teradici is a leader in PCoIP technology. PCoIP is simply “PC over IP”. Instead of a traditional remote host which limits performance and desktop space, Teradici developed PCoIP to more adequately send large amounts of pixel data over a network. The user essentially is able to leverage the power of a modern GPU rather than rely on the more software based rendering of remote sessions. The user has a thin client provided by a variety of OEMs to choose from and they connect directly over IP.
The advantages here is that the GPU is again used to its full potential, which is key for those doing heavy video editing work, 3D visualization, and CADD type workloads. The latest R5000 can support resolutions up to 2560x1600 up to two displays. The same card can support 1920x1200 on four displays. It supports upwards of 60 fps in applications. The TERA2240 essentially encodes the output and streams it over IP. The thin client re-encodes the stream and displays the results. This promises very low latency over smaller networks, and very manageable latency over large or wide area networks.
The downside here is that one client at a time can connect to the card. The card cannot be virtualized as such so that multiple users can access the resources of the GPU. The card CAN run in a virtualized environment, but it is again limited to one client per card. Multiple cards can be placed in each server and the hardware is then placed in its own VM. While this makes management of hardware a bit easier, it still is an expensive solution when it comes to a per user basis. Where efficiency may be regained is when it is placed in an environment where shift work takes place. Or another setting is a University where these cards are housed in high powered servers away from classrooms so cooling and sound are not issues impeding learning.
Subject: Graphics Cards | February 26, 2013 - 03:04 PM | Ryan Shrout
Tagged: amd, tressfx, lara croft, tomb raider, crystal dynamics
Last week we got an email from AMD teasing an upcoming technology called TressFX that had something to do with hair and something to do with graphics. It should come as no surprise today that AMD has announced that TressFX is a hair modeling technology that utilized DirectCompute for simulation. The proper rendering of hair has been a thorn in the side of game developers for decades now and it seems that with every generation of GPU released by either NVIDIA or AMD/ATI we would see a tech demo about how hair modeling "has been changed forever."
This time though, we are seeing the technology in a AAA gaming title.
TressFX Hair revolutionizes Lara Croft’s locks by using the DirectCompute programming language to unlock the massively-parallel processing capabilities of the Graphics Core Next architecture, enabling image quality previously restricted to pre-rendered images. Building on AMD’s previous work on Order Independent Transparency (OIT), this method makes use of Per-Pixel Linked-List (PPLL) data structures to manage rendering complexity and memory usage.
DirectCompute is additionally utilized to perform the real-time physics simulations for TressFX Hair. This physics system treats each strand of hair as a chain with dozens of links, permitting for forces like gravity, wind and movement of the head to move and curl Lara’s hair in a realistic fashion. Further, collision detection is performed to ensure that strands do not pass through one another, or other solid surfaces such as Lara’s head, clothing and body. Finally, hair styles are simulated by gradually pulling the strands back towards their original shape after they have moved in response to an external force.
It's a lot of technology for a little bit of rendering - but realistic hair presents a very unique problem and I am very interested to see this in action when Tomb Raider releases on March 5th.
I asked AMD a couple of questions including if this was going to be a technology that NVIDIA users would be missing out on. Their response? "We don't create features that lock out other vendors." That doesn't mean GTX 600-series card users will have access to this accelerated hair technology or that it will perform similarly if they do, but I'll take a look when I get my hands on the game.
We are hoping to get some video to go along with our screenshots as I think that will have a stronger impact. You can find more details on AMD's TressFX landing page.
Subject: Graphics Cards | February 22, 2013 - 10:29 PM | Ryan Shrout
Tagged: tressfx, amd
I got an odd email just now that I thought I would share with you. From AMD's Gaming Evolved account I got this:
You're at the top of your game. Why isn't your hair? TressFX is specially formulated with dynamic compounds like PPLL to re-energize your tired locks with vitality and luster.
An odd campaign for sure, but it appears that on Tuesday AMD is going to discuss a technology that will bring realistic hair to gaming. Finally some use for all that GPGPU horsepower on the Southern Islands graphics cards?
In case you missed it...
In one of the last pages of our recent NVIDIA GeForce GTX TITAN graphics card review we included an update to our Frame Rating graphics performance metric that details the testing method in more detail and showed results for the first time. Because it was buried so far into the article, I thought it was worth posting this information here as a separate article to solict feedback from readers and help guide the discussion forward without getting lost in the TITAN shuffle. If you already read that page of our TITAN review, nothing new is included below.
I am still planning a full article based on these results sooner rather than later; for now, please leave me your thoughts, comments, ideas and criticisms in the comments below!
Why are you not testing CrossFire??
If you haven't been following our sequence of stories that investigates a completely new testing methodology we are calling "frame rating", then you are really missing out. (Part 1 is here, part 2 is here.) The basic premise of Frame Rating is that the performance metrics that the industry is gathering using FRAPS are inaccurate in many cases and do not properly reflect the real-world gaming experience the user has.
Because of that, we are working on another method that uses high-end dual-link DVI capture equipment to directly record the raw output from the graphics card with an overlay technology that allows us to measure frame rates as they are presented on the screen, not as they are presented to the FRAPS software sub-system. With these tools we can measure average frame rates, frame times and stutter, all in a way that reflects exactly what the viewer sees from the game.
We aren't ready to show our full sets of results yet (soon!) but the problems lie in that AMD's CrossFire technology shows severe performance degradations when viewed under the Frame Rating microscope that do not show up nearly as dramatically under FRAPS. As such, I decided that it was simply irresponsible of me to present data to readers that I would then immediately refute on the final pages of this review (Editor: referencing the GTX TITAN article linked above.) - it would be a waste of time for the reader and people that skip only to the performance graphs wouldn't know our theory on why the results displayed were invalid.
Many other sites will use FRAPS, will use CrossFire, and there is nothing wrong with that at all. They are simply presenting data that they believe to be true based on the tools at their disposal. More data is always better.
Here are these results and our discussion. I decided to use the most popular game out today, Battlefield 3 and please keep in mind this is NOT the worst case scenario for AMD CrossFire in any way. I tested the Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition in single and CrossFire configurations as well as the GeForce GTX 680 and SLI. To gather results I used two processes:
- Run FRAPS while running through a repeatable section and record frame rates and frame times for 60 seconds
- Run our Frame Rating capture system with a special overlay that allows us to measure frame rates and frame times with post processing.
Here is an example of what the overlay looks like in Battlefield 3.
Frame Rating capture on GeForce GTX 680s in SLI - Click to Enlarge
The column on the left is actually the visuals of an overlay that is applied to each and every frame of the game early in the rendering process. A solid color is added to the PRESENT call (more details to come later) for each individual frame. As you know, when you are playing a game, multiple frames will make it on any single 60 Hz cycle of your monitor and because of that you get a succession of colors on the left hand side.
By measuring the pixel height of those colored columns, and knowing the order in which they should appear beforehand, we can gather the same data that FRAPS does but our results are seen AFTER any driver optimizations and DX changes the game might make.
Frame Rating capture on Radeon HD 7970 CrossFire - Click to Enlarge
Here you see a very similar screenshot running on CrossFire. Notice the thin silver band between the maroon and purple? That is a complete frame according to FRAPS and most reviews. Not to us - we think that frame rendered is almost useless.
Subject: Graphics Cards | February 20, 2013 - 01:00 AM | Ryan Shrout
Tagged: video, tahiti, radeon, never settle reloaded, live, Crysis 3, crysis, amd
UPDATE: If you missed the live stream you can still catch the YouTube replay right here!!
On February 19th on the PC Perspective Live! page we will be streaming some single player game action of the new Crysis 3. If there has ever been a game that defined the world of PC gaming graphics and technology, it is the Crysis series.
"Sure, but can it play Crysis?"
There is probably no more famous line of dialogue that pigeon hole's new hardware releases.
With the release of the latest version of Crysis 3 on February 19th, we will be teaming up with AMD once again to provide a fun and exciting PCPer Game Stream that includes game demonstrations and of course, prizes and game keys for those that watch the event LIVE!
Crysis 3 Game Stream
5pm PT / 8pm ET - February 19th
Warning: this one will DEFINITELY have mature language and content!!
The stream will be sponsored by AMD and its Never Settle Reloaded game bundles which we previously told you about. Depending on the AMD Radeon HD 7000 series GPU that you buy, you could get some amazing free games including:
Radeon HD 7900 Series
- FREE Crysis 3
- FREE Bioshock Infinite
Radeon HD 7800 Series
- FREE Bioshock Infinite
- FREE Tomb Raider
Radeon HD 7900 CrossFire Set
- FREE Crysis 3
- FREE Bioshock Infinite
- FREE Tomb Raider
- FREE Far Cry 3
- FREE Hitman: Absolution
- FREE Sleeping Dogs
AMD's Robert Hallock (@Thracks on twitter) will be joining us via Skype to talk about the game's technology, performance considerations as well as helping me with some co-op gaming!
Of course, just to sweeten the deal a bit we have some prizes lined up for those of you that participate in our Crysis 3 Game Stream:
- 2 x Radeon HD 7970 3GB graphics cards
- 4 x Combo codes for both Crysis 3 AND Bioshock Infinite
Pretty nice, huh? All you have to do to win is be present on the PC Perspective Live! Page during the event as we will announce both the content/sweepstakes method AND the winners!
Stop in on February 19th for some PC gaming fun!!
Subject: Graphics Cards | February 19, 2013 - 11:09 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: amd, catalyst, 2012
Today might be Titan Preview Day as you can see from the links below as well as Ryan's article here, but [H]ard|OCP would like to offer you solid performance numbers instead. They took a look back at the Catalyst 12.x series of drivers that AMD GPU owners have been using over the past year. With the HD 7970 and HD 7950 they tested 7 of AMD's past drivers for performance on four popular games. The findings are fairly clear, after a poor start to the year AMD's drivers showed improved performance as the year went on, with leaps after games were released and the driver could be optimized for speed. The HD7970 did improve over the year but it was the 7950 that proved to receive the biggest gains.
"We continuing our look at driver performance improvements over time by evaluating AMD’s 2012 driver performances on both the AMD Radeon HD 7970 and HD 7950 video cards. We will see how drivers from the beginning of the year to the end of year have impacted real world gameplay performance . "
Here are some more Graphics Card articles from around the web:
- NVIDIA's GeForce GTX Titan, Part 1: Titan For Gaming, Titan For Compute @ AnandTech
- Nvidia GeForce GTX Titan Video Card Preview @ Ninjalane
- NVIDIA GeForce GTX Titan Video Card Preview @ Legit Reviews
- NVIDIA GeForce GTX TITAN; GK110’s Opening Act @ Hardware Canucks
- aming and Supercomputing Collide: NVIDIA Announces GeForce Titan @ Techgage
- NVIDIA GeForce GTX Titan Review @ OCC
- Asus GTX 660Ti DirectCU II TOP @ eTeknix
- EVGA GTX 650 Ti SSC 2 GB @ techPowerUp
Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards | February 19, 2013 - 06:38 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: Q4 2012, NVIDA, jon peddie, Intel, amd
Jon Peddie Research have released their findings on the state of the discrete and integrated graphics market, not counting servers, smartphone nor ARM based systems. While the overall PC market showed a negligible gain of 2.8% over the final quarter of 2012, discrete graphics sales saw a decline of 8.2%, which JPR attributes to a noticeable increase of purchases of systems with only an Intel or AMD embedded GPU. When you break the quarter down by manufacturer the news is not good. For AMD the last quarter did see an increase of less than 1% on desktop CPUs but declines of 19% in laptop CPU sales and 13.6% in discrete GPU sales. Intel saw desktop CPU sales up 3% but lost over 6% on laptop sales with their overall decline compared to last quarter sitting at about 3%. NVIDIA was hit the hardest at the end of 2012 with only their discrete GPU sales applying to this survey, a loss of 15% on the desktop and a loss of 18% on mobile GPUs lead to an overall decline of 16%.
Compared to the final quarter of 2011, AMD lost 29.4%, Intel 5% and NVIDIA 4.6%, reflecting the difficulty of making sales in the past year; the total discrete GPU market dropped almost 10% or about 3 million units. Even with the companies making profits, in some cases significant profits, the entire GPU market is depressed with ARM based devices and smartphones starting to erode the market that is already shrinking thanks to Intel and AMD shipping CPUs with embedded GPUs that are good enough for many users needs.
"The news was disappointing for every one of the major players. AMD dropped 13.6%, Intel slipped the least, just 2.9%, and Nvidia declined the most with 16.7% quarter-to-quarter change, this coming on the heels of a spectacular third quarter. The overall PC market actually grew 2.8% quarter-to-quarter while the graphics market declined 8.2% reflecting a decline in double-attach. That may be attributed to Intel's improved embedded graphics, finally making "good enough" a true statement."
Here is some more Tech News from around the web:
- Ubuntu? Fedora? Mint? Debian? We'll find you the right Linux to swallow @ The Register
- HDMI breakout lets you sniff HDCP crypto keys @ Hack a Day
- Nvidia announces Tegra 4i : Tegra 4's smaller sibling @ Hardware.info
- AMD: Star Trek holodecks within reach @ The Register
- Kingston Joint Giveaway @ NikKTech
Subject: Graphics Cards | February 15, 2013 - 06:50 PM | Ryan Shrout
Tagged: southern islands, Solar System, Sea Islands, radeon, oland, mars, holycrapiamtotallyconfused, amd
Remember that story we posted last week and then discussed on the podcast about AMD not releasing any new GPUs in 2013? Today we had a call with AMD that attempted to answer some questions, clear up some confusion and give us some insight to the company's direction. I say 'attempted' because after a 53 minute discussion, we have some answers, but we also have some interesting questions that remain.
First, some definitions. If you have heard about code names like "Solar System" and "Sea Islands" you might not know what they refer to. Sea Islands is a new line that will fall into the 8000-series of products and will be a refresh, slightly different architecture based heavily on the Southern Islands parts you've come to love in the Radeon HD 7000 parts. Solar System is the name AMD has given to the sub-category of Sea Islands directly related to mobile products, the 8000M.
The slide that started this confusion - and our questions.
What might make things even more confusing is that there are some 8000-series parts that are already shipping in OEM desktops and notebooks that use verbatim HD 7000 GPU specs. So what you have is a combination series with Radeon HD 8000 that is made up of some rebrands and at least a couple of "new" chips thus far. Those two new GPUs, Mars and Oland (Radeon HD 8650 and HD 8670) depending on the mobile or desktop target, are already out and you can find them if you look hard. They are NOT available in the channel or for DIY PC users.
Our readers might be disappointed to learn that Sea Islands is heavily focused on the notebook and mobile markets though AMD did indicate that there some good things coming for the channel users in the future in 2013.
We also learned that the HD 7900-series will remain the company's high end parts through the end of 2013 but AMD said that there are new SKUs set to be released in this series sometime this year as well. Will that be the elusive HD 7990 dual-GPU product or maybe just something in the mainstream 7800 segments? They wouldn't tell us but we are definitely hoping for higher performance parts. You might also expect to see these new 7000-series parts to use Sea Islands silicon...
The Radeon HD 7970 looks like it will stay a focus for AMD throughout 2013.
Many readers might be wondering why AMD is breaking its standard cadence of near-yearly GPU releases. The answer came from AMD's Roy Taylor, VP of Channel Sales, who said that "7000 series parts are continuing to ramp UP, sales are increasing" so it is premature for AMD, as a company intending to make money, to introduce a new series or architecture.
In fact Roy was very emphatic about relieving us of potential ambiguity.
We have products, we have a road map. We are not announcing them now because we want to reposition the ones we have now. We are not sitting still, we do not lack resources, we do not lack imagination.
So what can you expect for the future? Sea Islands chips will continue to be released and eventually in the desktop, channel market and some of them will be branded as 7000-series parts and some of them will be branded as 8000-series parts. They wouldn't give us information on whether or not you'll see BIGGER chips (which we would assume would be faster) than the current HD 7900 cards or if they would all be in the mainstream segment.
AMD thinks its partnerships with key games like Crysis 3 will help keep momentum in 2013.
The residual message from this call was that AMD wants everyone to know that they have the best products on the market today and to maintain that momentum, AMD will enhance drivers, establish big partnerships with gaming companies and developers and release SOME new GPUs.
AMD was cagey again when asked about the possibility of a new architecture by the end of 2013 but based on the reactions of AMD reps I tend to believe we will see it, though probably very very close to the end of that time. (Update: AMD did in fact say that an entire new product stack would be releaed by the end of 2013.)
That all clear now?
Subject: General Tech | February 14, 2013 - 09:07 PM | Ken Addison
Tagged: podcast, NVDIMMS, Raspberry Pi, Thinkpad, tablet 2, nvidia, amd, southern islands, Solar System, Crysis 3, Intel
PC Perspective Podcast #238 - 02/14/2013
Join us this week as we discuss the Thinkpad Tablet 2, Raspberry Pi, Nonvolatile DIMMS 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
Program length: 1:13:52
Podcast topics of discussion:
- Week in Reviews:
- 0:16:18 This Podcast is brought to you by MSI!
- News items of interest:
- 1-888-38-PCPER or firstname.lastname@example.org
- http://twitter.com/ryanshrout and http://twitter.com/pcper
Subject: Graphics Cards | February 9, 2013 - 03:03 AM | Ryan Shrout
Tagged: amd, radeon
In a report first spotted by Rage3D from source website 4gamer.net, news is filtering out that AMD may in fact have no new discrete graphics card releases for the remainder of 2013! While talking with the APAC media about the fantastic Never Settle Reloaded game bundle, they showed THIS slide.
That seems to indicate that at the very least through the 3rd quarter of 2013, AMD has no plans to update or add to its discrete graphics card roadmap. We had heard whispers of this fact while at CES in January but this pretty much puts a cap on it. And with the wording of "throughout 2013" it could indicate we won't see new product until 2014.
Also shown, this product comparison between AMD and NVIDIA, put together by AMD, is a bit lopsided and less than 100% accurate in my eyes. With the release of the new 3DMark Fire Strike benchmark AMD has a distinct advantage and it seems the slide here is based completely on that....blech.
Regardless, what does it mean if AMD actually has no new discrete, enthusiast class cards for 2013? We know the rumors are swirling about the NVIDIA GeForce Titan based on the GK110 and sporting 2688 CUDA cores and it will likely take the place as the fastest single GPU card on the market. AMD has been depending on its partners to build multi-GPU options based on Southern Islands like the ASUS ARES II and Powercolor Devil 13 but they have been pretty low volume. Our original review of the HD 7970 launched in December 2011....this could be quite a drought.