The First Custom R9 290X
It has been a crazy launch for the AMD Radeon R9 series of graphics cards. When we first reviewed both the R9 290X and the R9 290, we came away very impressed with the GPU and the performance it provided. Our reviews of both products resulted in awards of the Gold class. The 290X was a new class of single GPU performance while the R9 290 nearly matched performance at a crazy $399 price tag.
But there were issues. Big, glaring issues. Clock speeds had a huge amount of variance depending on the game and we saw a GPU that was rated as "up to 1000 MHz" running at 899 MHz in Skyrim and 821 MHz in Bioshock Infinite. Those are not insignificant deltas in clock rate that nearly perfectly match deltas in performance. These speeds also changed based on the "hot" or "cold" status of the graphics card - had it warmed up and been active for 10 minutes prior to testing? If so, the performance was measurably lower than with a "cold" GPU that was just started.
That issue was not necessarily a deal killer; rather, it just made us rethink how we test GPUs. The fact that many people were seeing lower performance on retail purchased cards than with the reference cards sent to press for reviews was a much bigger deal. In our testing in November the retail card we purchased, that was using the exact same cooler as the reference model, was running 6.5% slower than we expected.
The obvious hope was the retail cards with custom PCBs and coolers would be released from AMD partners and somehow fix this whole dilemma. Today we see if that was correct.
Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards | December 18, 2013 - 04:25 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: GeForce GTX 780 Ti, DirectCU II, asus
There has not been too many custom coolers for top-end NVIDIA graphics cards as of late. Starting with the GeForce GTX 690, NVIDIA allegedly demands AIB partners stick to the reference designs for certain models. Obviously, this is a problem as it limits the innovation realized by partners when they are forced to compete on fewer metrics (although the reference designs were pretty good regardless). This is especially true because the affected models are the upper high-end where pricing is more flexible if the product is worth it.
This is apparently not the case for the top end GTX 780 Ti. ASUS has just announced the GeForce GTX 780 Ti DirectCU II graphics card. ASUS claims this will lead to 30% cooler operating with 3x less noise. A 6% bump to performance (as measured in Battlefield 4) will accompany that cooler and quieter operation as the full GK110 GPU will boost to 1020MHz.
ASUS makes custom GPUs for both AMD and NVIDIA. Be sure to check out our review of another high-end DirectCU II card, with 100% less NVIDIA, very soon. It will definitely be a great read and maybe even an excellent podcast topic.
A slightly smaller MARS
The NVIDIA GeForce GTX 760 was released in June of 2013. Based on the same GK104 GPU as the GTX 680, GTX 670 and GTX 770, the GTX 760 disabled a couple more of the clusters of processor cores to offer up impressive performance levels for a lower cost than we had seen previously. My review of the GTX 760 was very positive as NVIDIA had priced it aggressively against the competing products from AMD.
As for ASUS, they have a storied history with the MARS brand. Typically an over-built custom PCB with two of the highest end NVIDIA GPUs stapled together, the ASUS MARS cards have been limited edition products with a lot of cache around them. The first MARS card was a dual GTX 285 product that was the first card to offer 4GB of memory (though 2GB per GPU of course). The MARS II took a pair of GTX 580 GPUs and pasted them on a HUGE card and sold just 1000 of them worldwide. It was heavy, expensive and fast; blazing fast. But at a price of $1200+ it wasn't on the radar of most PC gamers.
Interestingly, the MARS iteration for the GTX 680 never occurred and why that is the case is still a matter of debate. Some point the finger at poor sales and ASUS while others think that NVIDIA restricted ASUS' engineers from being as creative as they needed to be.
Today's release of the ASUS ROG MARS 760 is a bit different - this is still a high end graphics card but it doesn't utilize the fastest single-GPU option on the market. Instead ASUS has gone with a more reasonable design that combines a pair of GTX 760 GK104 GPUs on a single PCB with a PCI Express bridge chip between them. The MARS 760 is significantly smaller and less power hungry than previous MARS cards but it is still able to pack a punch in the performance department as you'll soon see.
Subject: Displays | December 16, 2013 - 09:11 AM | Ryan Shrout
Tagged: video, vg248qe, nvidia, gsync, g-sync, asus
It looks like some G-Sync ready monitors are going to be on sale starting today, though perhaps not from the outlets you would have expected. NVIDIA let me know last night that they are working with partners, including ASUS obviously, to make a small amount of pre-modified ASUS VG248QE G-Sync monitors available for purchase. These are the same monitors we used in our recent G-Sync preview story so you should check that article out if you want our opinions on the display and the technology.
Those people selling the displays? Digital Storm, Falcon Northwest, Maingear, and Overlord Computer. This creates some unfortunate requirements on potential buyers. For example, Falcon Northwest is only selling the panels to users that either are buying a new Falcon PC or already own a Falcon custom system. Digital Storm on the other hand WILL sell the monitor on its own or allow you to send in your VG248QE monitor to have the upgrade service done for you. The monitor alone will sell for $499 while the upgrade price (with module included) is $299.
This distribution model for G-Sync technology likely isn't what users wanted or expected. After all, we were promised upgrade kits for users of that specific ASUS VG248QE display and we still do not have data on how NVIDIA plans to sell them or distribute them. Being able to purchase the display from these resellers above is at least SOMETHING before the holiday, but it really isn't the way we would like to see G-Sync showcased. NVIDIA needs to get these products in the hands of gamers sooner rather than later.
NVIDIA also prepared a new video to showcase G-Sync. Unlike other marketing videos this one wasn't placed on YouTube as the ability for it to run at a fixed 60 FPS is a strict requirement, something that YouTube can't do or can't do reliably. For this video's demonstration to work correctly you need set your display to a 60 Hz refresh rate and you should use a video player capable of maintaining the static 60 FPS content decoding.
To grab a copy of this video, you can use the link right here that will download the file directly from Mega.co.nz. It should help demonstrate the effects us using a G-Sync enabled display for users that don't have access to see one in person.
Oh, and I know that LOTS of you have been clamoring for information on how you can get your hands on one of those DIY G-Sync upgrade kits for yourself and I have some good news. Though I can't tell you where to buy one or how much it will cost, I can offer you one of 5 FREE G-Sync ASUS VG248QE upgrade kits through a giveaway we are hosting at PC Perspective! Check out this page for the details!!
Quality time with G-Sync
Readers of PC Perspective will already know quite alot about NVIDIA's G-Sync technology. When it was first unveiled in October we were at the event and were able to listen to NVIDIA executives, product designers and engineers discuss and elaborate on what it is, how it works and why it benefits gamers. This revolutionary new take on how displays and graphics cards talk to each other enables a new class of variable refresh rate monitors that will offer up the smoothness advantages of having V-Sync off, while offering the tear-free images normally reserved for gamers enabling V-Sync.
NVIDIA's Prototype G-Sync Monitor
We were lucky enough to be at NVIDIA's Montreal tech day while John Carmack, Tim Sweeney and Johan Andersson were on stage discussing NVIDIA G-Sync among other topics. All three developers were incredibly excited about G-Sync and what it meant for gaming going forward.
Also on that day, I published a somewhat detailed editorial that dug into the background of V-sync technology, why the 60 Hz refresh rate existed and why the system in place today is flawed. This basically led up to an explanation of how G-Sync works, including integration via extending Vblank signals and detailed how NVIDIA was enabling the graphics card to retake control over the entire display pipeline.
In reality, if you want the best explanation of G-Sync, how it works and why it is a stand-out technology for PC gaming, you should take the time to watch and listen to our interview with NVIDIA's Tom Petersen, one of the primary inventors of G-Sync. In this video we go through quite a bit of technical explanation of how displays work today, and how the G-Sync technology changes gaming for the better. It is a 1+ hour long video, but I selfishly believe that it is the most concise and well put together collection of information about G-Sync for our readers.
The story today is more about extensive hands-on testing with the G-Sync prototype monitors. The displays that we received this week were modified versions of the 144Hz ASUS VG248QE gaming panels, the same ones that will in theory be upgradeable by end users as well sometime in the future. These monitors are TN panels, 1920x1080 and though they have incredibly high refresh rates, aren't usually regarded as the highest image quality displays on the market. However, the story about what you get with G-Sync is really more about stutter (or lack thereof), tearing (or lack thereof), and a better overall gaming experience for the user.
Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards | December 9, 2013 - 03:03 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: R9 290X, DirectCU II, asus
The AMD Radeon R9 290X is a very good graphics processor whose reference design is marred with a few famous design choices. AMD specs the GPU to run at a maximum of 95C, perpetually, and will push its frequency up to 1 GHz if it can stay at or under that temperature. Its cooler in the typical, "Quiet", default setting is generally unable to keep this frequency for more than a handful of minutes. This lead to countless discussions about what it means to be a default and what are the components actual specifications.
All along we note that custom designs from add-in board (AIB) partners could change everything.
ASUS seems to be first to tease their custom solution. This card, based on their DirectCU II design, uses two fans and multiple 10mm nickel plated heatpipes directly atop the processor. The two fans should be able to move more air at a slower rate of rotation and thus be more efficient per decibel. The heatsink itself might also be able to pull heat, quicker, altogether. I am hoping that ASUS provisioned the part to remain at a stable 1GHz under default settings or perhaps even more!
The real test for Hawaii will be when the wave of custom editions washes on shore. We know the processor is capable of some pretty amazing performance figures when it can really open up. This, and other partner boards, would make for possibly the most interesting AIB round-up we have ever had.
No word, yet, on pricing or availability.
Subject: General Tech, Mobile | December 6, 2013 - 04:13 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: asus, padfone, PadFone Mini
I will be entirely honest with you: every time I need to look up the PadFone to make sure I am not getting it confused with the FonePad.
An older model but it gets the point across.
The upcoming PadFone Mini is expected to be a phone of some size (probably smaller than the 5" Pad Fone Infinity) with a dock of some other unknown size. The phone was briefly mentioned in a China Times article back in September. There it was expected to have a 4-inch display on the handset and a 7-inch display on the tablet dock. According to Engadget's interpretation of the VR-Zone leak (who saw that coming?) that might have changed since then.
The device itself is expected to be based on the quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 SoC, run Android 4.3 (Jelly Bean), and have a handset resolution of 960x540. That is about all that we have even the slightest clue about at this point.
No word yet on whether this device will even be available in North America though. For that, we will probably need to wait until the actual announcement (or even later).
Subject: General Tech | November 21, 2013 - 03:13 PM | Ken Addison
Tagged: video, teardown, sshd, ps4 ssd, ps4, podcast, mars 760, mars, asus
PC Perspective Podcast #278 - 11/21/2013
Join us this week as we discuss our PS4 Teardown and Storage Benchmarks, ASUS MARS 760, 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
Subject: Graphics Cards | November 20, 2013 - 01:52 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: mars, asus, ROG MARS 760, gtx 760, dual gpu
Fremont, CA (November 19, 2013) - ASUS Republic of Gamers (ROG) today announced the MARS 760 graphics card featuring two GeForce GTX 760 graphics-processing units (GPUs) capable of delivering incredible gaming performance and ensuring ultra-smooth high-resolution gameplay. The MARS 760 even outpaces the GeForce GTX TITAN — with game performance that’s up to 39% faster overall. The MARS 760 is a two-slot card packed with exclusive ASUS technologies including DirectCU II for 20%-cooler and vastly quieter operation, DIGI+ voltage-regulator module (VRM) for ultra-stable power delivery and GPU Tweak, an easy-to-use utility that lets users safely overclock the two GTX 760 GPUs.
Exclusive ASUS features provide cool, quiet, durable and stable performance ASUS exclusive DirectCU II technology puts 8 highly-conductive cooling copper heatpipes in direct contact with both GPUs. These heatpipes provide extremely efficient cooling, allowing the MARS 760 to run 20% cooler and vastly quieter than reference GeForce GTX 690 cards. Dual 90mm dust-proof fans help to provide six times (6X) greater airflow than reference design. And with 4GB of GDDR5 video memory, the ASUS ROG MARS 760 is capable of delivering visuals with incredibly high frame rates and no stutter, ensuring extremely smooth gameplay — even at WQHD resolutions. An attention-grabbing LED even illuminates as the MARS 760 is operating under load.
The MARS 760 is equipped with ROG’s acclaimed DIGI+ voltage-regulation module (VRM), featuring a 12-phase power design that reduces power noise by 30% and enhances efficiency by 15%. Custom sourced black metallic capacitors offer 20%-better temperature endurance for a lifespan that’s up to five times (5X) longer. The new card is built with extremely hardwearing polymerized organic-semiconductor capacitors (POSCAPs) and has an aluminum back-plate, further lowering power noise while increasing both durability and stability to unlock overclocking potential.
The exclusive GPU Tweak tuning tool allows quick, simple and safe control over clock speeds, voltages, cooling-fan speeds and power-consumption thresholds; GPU Tweak lets users push the two GTX 760 GPUs even further. The ROG edition of GPU Tweak included with the MARS 760 also enables detailed GPU load-line calibration and VRM-frequency tuning, allowing for the most extensive control and tweaking parameters in order to maximize overclocking potential — all adjusted via an attractive and easy-to-use graphical interface.
The GPU Tweak Streaming feature, the newest addition to the GPU Tweak tool, lets users share on-screen action over the internet in real time so others can watch live as games are played. It’s even possible to add a title to the streaming window along with scrolling text, pictures and webcam images.
- NVIDIA GeForce GTX 760 SLI
- PCI Express 3.0
- 4096MB GDDR5 memory (2GB per GPU)
- 1008MHz (1072MHz boosted) core speed
- 6004 MHz (1501 MHz GDDR5) memory clock
- 512-bit memory interface
- 2560 x 1600 maximum DVI resolution
- 2 x dual-link DVI-I output
- 1 x dual-link DVI-D output
- 1 x Mini DisplayPort output
- HDMI output (via dongle)
Subject: Motherboards | November 7, 2013 - 01:41 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: asus, ASUS ROG, rampage iv black edition, lga2011
Fremont, CA (November 7th, 2013) - ASUS today announced the Republic of Gamers (ROG) Rampage IV Black Edition, an E-ATX gaming and overclocking motherboard designed to unleash the full potential of Intel LGA 2011 Core i7 Ivy Bridge-E processors is available for pre-order at select sites.
Based on the Intel X79 Express chipset, the Rampage IV Black Edition includes all of the best ROG technologies and innovations for unrivaled gaming and overclocking performance. With its four PCI-E 3.0 x16 slots, two PCI-E 2.0 x1 slots and eight DIMM slots supporting up to 64GB of overclocked DDR3 DRAM, the Rampage IV Black Edition has near limitless expansion possibilities, including support for both 4-way NVIDIA SLI and AMD CrossFireX.
Every Rampage IV Black Edition includes a free copy of Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag, allowing gamers to take advantage of premium ROG hardware and software features right out of the box.
Born to push limits and break records
ASUS designed the Rampage IV Black Edition for those who demand the ultimate feature set. It includes the OC Panel, a real-time system-monitoring and tuning console that is great for gamers and a huge advantage for overclockers. It can be mounted internally for everyday monitoring of temperatures, base clock and fan speeds while also offering one-click CPU Level Up for an instant speed boost. Externally, it can be used to monitor and control multiple parameters in real-time via onboard buttons. Extreme overclocking has never been easier.
Prior to becoming widely available, world-class overclockers have already demonstrated the Rampage IV Black Edition’s record-breaking capabilities as it currently holds chart-topping scores in top benchmarks and numerous other world records on the X79 platform.
Built for the most demanding games and gamers
In order to be able to push the limits, ROG engineers combined thoughtful design with superior quality components.
The Rampage IV Black Edition’s Extreme Engine DIGI+ III voltage-regulator module (VRM) provides highly precise and stable power delivery by employing NexFET MOSFETs, 60A (amp) chokes and high-endurance Japanese-made 10K black metallic capacitors. The motherboard’s black-themed heat-sink is exclusively and cleverly integrated with the MOSFET area to extend to the input/output (I/O) cover for even better cooling and stability.
Built-in SupremeFX Black technology provides sound quality that is on par with high-end dedicated sound cards. Premium components such as ELNA audio capacitors and German-made WIMA film capacitors deliver impeccable clarity, while high-fidelity op-amps (operational amplifiers) and a Cirrus Logic CS4398 DAC (digital/analog converter) deliver lossless audio and a brilliant 120dB SNR (signal-to-noise ratio).
ROG’s Sonic Radar on-screen overlay provides fans of first-person shooter (FPS) games with an ear to the ground, as it displays the precise direction and origin of in-game sounds such as gunshots, footsteps and call-outs — giving ROG gamers a leg-up when trying to pinpoint the enemy.
Ultra-fast Intel Gigabit Ethernet with ROG’s GameFirst II utility optimizes network traffic to keep latency to a minimum and reduce all-important ping times. The ROG RAMDisk utility allows up to 80% of a computer’s available RAM to be used as a high-speed virtual drive — lending a strong performance boost to many modern games that regularly read or write data during gameplay.