Author:
Manufacturer: NVIDIA

SLI Testing

Let's see if I can start this story without sounding too much like a broken record when compared to the news post I wrote late last week on the subject of NVIDIA's new 337.50 driver. In March, while attending the Game Developer's Conference to learn about the upcoming DirectX 12 API, I sat down with NVIDIA to talk about changes coming to its graphics driver that would affect current users with shipping DX9, DX10 and DX11 games. 

As I wrote then:

What NVIDIA did want to focus on with us was the significant improvements that have been made on the efficiency and performance of DirectX 11.  When NVIDIA is questioned as to why they didn’t create their Mantle-like API if Microsoft was dragging its feet, they point to the vast improvements possible and made with existing APIs like DX11 and OpenGL. The idea is that rather than spend resources on creating a completely new API that needs to be integrated in a totally unique engine port (see Frostbite, CryEngine, etc.) NVIDIA has instead improved the performance, scaling, and predictability of DirectX 11.

NVIDIA claims that these fixes are not game specific and will improve performance and efficiency for a lot of GeForce users. Even if that is the case, we will only really see these improvements surface in titles that have addressable CPU limits or very low end hardware, similar to how Mantle works today.

In truth, this is something that both NVIDIA and AMD have likely been doing all along but NVIDIA has renewed purpose with the pressure that AMD's Mantle has placed on them, at least from a marketing and PR point of view. It turns out that the driver that starts to implement all of these efficiency changes is the recent 337.50 release and on Friday I wrote up a short story that tested a particularly good example of the performance changes, Total War: Rome II, with a promise to follow up this week with additional hardware and games. (As it turns out, results from Rome II are...an interesting story. More on that on the next page.)

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Today I will be looking at seemingly random collection of gaming titles, running on some reconfigured test bed we had in the office in an attempt to get some idea of the overall robustness of the 337.50 driver and its advantages over the 335.23 release that came before it. Does NVIDIA have solid ground to stand on when it comes to the capabilities of current APIs over what AMD is offering today?

Continue reading our analysis of the new NVIDIA 337.50 Driver!!

NVIDIA GeForce Driver 337.50 Early Results are Impressive

Subject: Graphics Cards | April 11, 2014 - 03:30 PM |
Tagged: nvidia, geforce, dx11, driver, 337.50

UPDATE: We have put together a much more comprehensive story based on the NVIDIA 337.50 driver that includes more cards and more games while also disputing the Total War: Rome II results seen here. Be sure to read it!!

When I spoke with NVIDIA after the announcement of DirectX 12 at GDC this past March, a lot of the discussion centered around a pending driver release that promised impressive performance advances with current DX11 hardware and DX11 games. 

What NVIDIA did want to focus on with us was the significant improvements that have been made on the efficiency and performance of DirectX 11.  When NVIDIA is questioned as to why they didn’t create their Mantle-like API if Microsoft was dragging its feet, they point to the vast improvements possible and made with existing APIs like DX11 and OpenGL. The idea is that rather than spend resources on creating a completely new API that needs to be integrated in a totally unique engine port (see Frostbite, CryEngine, etc.) NVIDIA has instead improved the performance, scaling, and predictability of DirectX 11.

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NVIDIA claims that these fixes are not game specific and will improve performance and efficiency for a lot of GeForce users. Even if that is the case, we will only really see these improvements surface in titles that have addressable CPU limits or very low end hardware, similar to how Mantle works today.

Lofty goals to be sure. This driver was released last week and I immediately wanted to test and verify many of these claims. However, a certain other graphics project kept me occupied most of the week and then a short jaunt to Dallas kept me from the task until yesterday. 

To be clear, I am planning to look at several more games and card configurations next week, but I thought it was worth sharing our first set of results. The test bed in use is the same as our standard GPU reviews.

Test System Setup
CPU Intel Core i7-3960X Sandy Bridge-E
Motherboard ASUS P9X79 Deluxe
Memory Corsair Dominator DDR3-1600 16GB
Hard Drive OCZ Agility 4 256GB SSD
Sound Card On-board
Graphics Card NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780 Ti 3GB
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 770 2GB
Graphics Drivers NVIDIA: 335.23 WHQL, 337.50 Beta
Power Supply Corsair AX1200i
Operating System Windows 8 Pro x64

The most interesting claims from NVIDIA were spikes as high as 70%+ in Total War: Rome II, so I decided to start there. 

First up, let's take a look at the GTX 780 Ti SLI results, the flagship gaming card from NVIDIA.

TWRome2_2560x1440_OFPS.png

TWRome2_2560x1440_PER.png

TWRome2_2560x1440_PLOT.png

With this title, running at the Extreme preset, jumps from an average frame rate of 59 FPS to 88 FPS, an increase of 48%! Frame rate variance does increase a bit with the faster average frame rate but it stays within limits of smoothness, but barely.

Next up, the GeForce GTX 770 SLI results.

TWRome2_2560x1440_OFPS.png

TWRome2_2560x1440_PER.png

TWRome2_2560x1440_PLOT.png

Results here are even more impressive as the pair of GeForce GTX 770 cards running in SLI jump from 29.5 average FPS to 51 FPS, an increase of 72%!! Even better, this occurs without any kind of frame rate variance increase and in fact, the blue line of the 337.50 driver is actually performing better in that perspective.

All of these tests were run with the latest patch on Total War: Rome II and I did specifically ask NVIDIA if there were any differences in the SLI profiles between these two drivers for this game. I was told absolutely not - this just happens to be the poster child example of changes NVIDIA has made with this DX11 efficiency push.

Of course, not all games are going to see performance improvements like this, or even improvements that are measurable at all. Just as we have seen with other driver enhancements over the years, different hardware configurations, image quality settings and even scenes used to test each game will shift the deltas considerably. I can tell you already that based on some results I have (but am holding for my story next week) performance improvements in other games are ranging from <5% up to 35%+. While those aren't reaching the 72% level we saw in Total War: Rome II above, these kinds of experience changes with driver updates are impressive to see.

Even though we are likely looking at the "best case" for NVIDIA's 337.50 driver changes with the Rome II results here, clearly there is merit behind what the company is pushing. We'll have more results next week!

Microsoft Confirms AMD Mantle Not Compatible with Xbox One

Subject: Graphics Cards | October 14, 2013 - 08:52 PM |
Tagged: xbox one, microsot, Mantle, dx11, amd

Microsoft posted a new blog on its Windows site that discusses some of the new features of the latest DirectX on Windows 8.1 and the upcoming Xbox One.  Of particular interest was a line that confirms what I have said all along about the much-hyped AMD Mantle low-level API: it is not compatible with Xbox One

We are very excited that with the launch of Xbox One, we can now bring the latest generation of Direct3D 11 to console. The Xbox One graphics API is “Direct3D 11.x” and the Xbox One hardware provides a superset of Direct3D 11.2 functionality. Other graphics APIs such as OpenGL and AMD’s Mantle are not available on Xbox One.

mantle.jpg

What does this mean for AMD?  Nothing really changes except some of the common online discussion about how easy it would now be for developers to convert games built for the console to the AMD-specific Mantle API.  AMD claims that Mantle offers a significant performance advantage over DirectX and OpenGL by giving developers that choose to implement support for it closer access to the hardware without much of the software overhead found in other APIs.

Josh summed it up in a recent editorial.

This is what Mantle does.  It bypasses DirectX (and possibly the hardware abstraction layer) and developers can program very close to the metal with very little overhead from software.  This lowers memory and CPU usage, it decreases latency, and because there are fewer “moving parts” AMD claims that they can do 9x the draw calls with Mantle as compared to DirectX.  This is a significant boost in overall efficiency.  Before everyone gets too excited, we will not see a 9x improvement in overall performance with every application.  A single HD 7790 running in Mantle is not going to power 3 x 1080P monitors in Eyefinity faster than a HD 7970 or GTX 780 (in Surround) running in DirectX.  Mantle shifts the bottleneck elsewhere.

I still believe that AMD Mantle could bring interesting benefits to the AMD Radeon graphics cards on the PC but I think this official statement from Microsoft will dampen some of the over excitement.

Also worth noting is this comment about the DX11 implementation on the Xbox One:

With Xbox One we have also made significant enhancements to the implementation of Direct3D 11, especially in the area of runtime overhead. The result is a very streamlined, “close to metal” level of runtime performance. In conjunction with the third generation PIX performance tool for Xbox One, developers can use Direct3D 11 to unlock the full performance potential of the console.

So while Windows and the upcoming Xbox One will share an API there will still be performance advantages for games on the console thanks to the nature of a static hardware configuration.

Source: Microsoft
Author:
Manufacturer: NVIDIA

NVIDIA Finally Gets Serious with Tegra

Tegra has had an interesting run of things.  The original Tegra 1 was utilized only by Microsoft with Zune.  Tegra 2 had a better adoption, but did not produce the design wins to propel NVIDIA to a leadership position in cell phones and tablets.  Tegra 3 found a spot in Microsoft’s Surface, but that has turned out to be a far more bitter experience than expected.  Tegra 4 so far has been integrated into a handful of products and is being featured in NVIDIA’s upcoming Shield product.  It also hit some production snags that made it later to market than expected.

I think the primary issue with the first three generations of products is pretty simple.  There was a distinct lack of differentiation from the other ARM based products around.  Yes, NVIDIA brought their graphics prowess to the market, but never in a form that distanced itself adequately from the competition.  Tegra 2 boasted GeForce based graphics, but we did not find out until later that it was comprised of basically four pixel shaders and four vertex shaders that had more in common with the GeForce 7800/7900 series than it did with any of the modern unified architectures of the time.  Tegra 3 boasted a big graphical boost, but it was in the form of doubling the pixel shader units and leaving the vertex units alone.

kepler_smx.jpg

While NVIDIA had very strong developer relations and a leg up on the competition in terms of software support, it was never enough to propel Tegra beyond a handful of devices.  NVIDIA is trying to rectify that with Tegra 4 and the 72 shader units that it contains (still divided between pixel and vertex units).  Tegra 4 is not perfect in that it is late to market and the GPU is not OpenGL ES 3.0 compliant.  ARM, Imagination Technologies, and Qualcomm are offering new graphics processing units that are not only OpenGL ES 3.0 compliant, but also offer OpenCL 1.1 support.  Tegra 4 does not support OpenCL.  In fact, it does not support NVIDIA’s in-house CUDA.  Ouch.

Jumping into a new market is not an easy thing, and invariably mistakes will be made.  NVIDIA worked hard to make a solid foundation with their products, and certainly they had to learn to walk before they could run.  Unfortunately, running effectively entails having design wins due to outstanding features, performance, and power consumption.  NVIDIA was really only average in all of those areas.  NVIDIA is hoping to change that.  Their first salvo into offering a product that offers features and support that is a step above the competition is what we are talking about today.

Continue reading our article on the NVIDIA Kepler architecture making its way to mobile markets and Tegra!

Holy failed patch Batman!

Subject: General Tech | December 14, 2011 - 12:42 PM |
Tagged: gaming, dx11, batman arkham city

Batman makes it three for three as far as failed patches go for the current major releases.  Battlefield's patch was probably the best of the three, Skyrim being the worst with Batman's simply failing to deliver what it promised ... improved DX11 performance.  [H]ard|OCP recently reviewed the original game and now has published the results of their testing with the new patch.  The good news is that most of the stuttering and crashes have been fixed, leaving only significantly lower performance when in DX11 mode compared to DX9.  Originally you could expect a 50% reduction in fps when enabling DX11 and NVIDIA users can expect the same results at this point, AMD users will see their performance reduced by even more than pre-patch though the game its self should be more stable.  If you want to run Batman Arkham Asylum at high resolution, you better have two GPUs.

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"Days after our Batman: Arkham City Gameplay Performance and IQ review was published, the game was patched. The patch was ostensibly reported to fix DirectX 11 performance problems plaguing the game, but does it really do the trick? Where do our DX11 video cards stand now?"

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Gaming

Source: [H]ard|OCP

Batman can clean up everything in Arkham City except for the new villain that goes by the name of DX11

Subject: General Tech | December 7, 2011 - 12:57 PM |
Tagged: dx11, batman arkham city, gaming

We have seen previously that at the time of release, Batman Arkham City was not really a DX11 game.  Sure you could enable DX11 but it would make the game unplayable.  [H]ard|OCP were one of the first to complain about the performance and recently they revisited the game now that we have some new drivers ... and were disappointed again.  Right now the best experience you can have is with a GTX580 and with DX11 effects disabled.  [H] feels this is truly sad as tessellation would bring a lot to the atmosphere of the game but until DX11 is fixed you simply won't be able to see the game as it should be.  Their recommendation is to hold off on purchasing this game until they have fixed it.

H_BM_AC.jpg

"The Caped Crusader has returned to crack more skulls on the streets of Arkham City. Rocksteady has enhanced the venerable UE3 engine with DirectX 11 and PhysX support, but can this aging graphics engine really handle such large, richly detailed outdoor areas? You might be surprised."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Gaming

 

Source: [H]ard|OCP

So you want to play Batman? Dump the DX11!

Subject: General Tech | November 30, 2011 - 12:51 PM |
Tagged: gaming, batman arkham city, dx11, oops, consolitis

Just in case you were under the impression that Ryan was the only one having issues with DirectX 11 in Batman Arkham City, check out the problems [H]ard|OCP had.  DX11 was essentially unplayable even on multi-GPU systems, with NVIDIA handling the game a little better than AMD.  Using DX 11 in the game enables HBAO and tessellation as well as something new for NVIDIA users called Multi-View Soft Shadows, which do add to the visual quality of the game, if you are willing to live with an average 30fps or so ... with bonus stuttering.  Even better, this is yet another example of a game with its frames capped by default, not quite as bad as Need For Speed The Run but it is still limited to 24-62fps until an .ini file tweak is performed.

Batman-Arkham-City.jpg

"Batman: Arkham City is upon us, and we wanted to give you a preliminary look at how performance is stacking up. We've found some issues running in DX11 that seem to be a detriment to gameplay. DX11 may not be the best option, at this time, for this game, our performance data and feedback explain why."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Gaming

 

Source: [H]ard|OCP

Batman: Arkham City DX11 Stuttering Issue

Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards | November 23, 2011 - 03:50 PM |
Tagged: dx11, batman

We have been waiting for Batman: Arkham City for quite some time on the PC, and after weeks of delays, the game was finally released this week, to quite a bit of fanfare.  NVIDIA has been touting the game as the poster child for several technology features like DX11, 3D Vision, PhysX, etc.  It appears that the developers have had some issues though with the release - DX11 features are causing significant stuttering even with high end hardware.

batmanac2.png

Batman doesn't like it when his games are late...and broken.

I put together a quick video comparing the gameplay experience with and without DX11 enabled; you can see it below.  The system specifications for our test bed for this video were:

  • Intel Core i7-965
  • Intel X58 motherboard
  • 6GB DDR3-1600 memory
  • GeForce GTX 580 1.5GB graphics card
  • Driver version: 285.79
  • Windows 7 SP1 x64

The DX11 settings that are causing the issues are tessellation, ambient occlusion and a new type of soft shadow rendering.  When these features are enabled the game experiences noticeable, repeatable and quite annoying stutters both in the actual gameplay and during the integrated benchmark. 

batmanac.png

In our video below you can clearly the see the phenomenon in action. 

On the official Batman: Arkham City forums, the publisher gave the following statement, confirming the broken DX11 implementation.

PC DirectX 11 Issues Please Read
We have received reports of performance issues from players of Batman: Arkham City on PC. After researching the matter, we found that running the game with DX 11 is causing the performance issues. We’re working on a title update to address this matter and expect to make it available in the near future.

In the meantime, a workaround for this issue is to run the game with DX 9 instead of DX 11. Instructions on how to turn off DX 11 are listed below.

We sincerely apologize for any inconvenience with your gameplay experience and thank you all for your patience as we work to resolve this issue.

While we love to see new technologies implemented in games that improve our gameplay experience, we HATE it when it delays games or causes issues like this when released.  Here is hoping that the developer, publisher and driver teams from AMD and NVIDIA can fix this quickly.

Never mind the barrier, we even tessellated the water table!

Subject: General Tech | August 17, 2011 - 02:56 PM |
Tagged: crysis 2, dx11, tessellation

The Tech Report took an indepth look at the "Enhanced, bionic Jersey barrier in DirectX 11" recently.  The original Crysis is still famous for its ability to crush even the best GPUs that were available when it was originally released and its continued ability to do so at very high resolutions.  Now that Crysis 2 has power slid out of it's console roots and we PC gamers received not only support for DX11 but also a high resolution texture patch which helped the game with its visual impact, it seemed worthwhile to investigate the actual changes to the process used to draw images in Crysis 2.  That lead to the discovery of not only the world's most detailed concrete barriers but also the realization that whether you can see it or not, water is being rendered in painstaking detail.

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A hydrologist's dream

"When we fired up Crysis 2 in its DirectX 11 "ultra" quality mode, we saw that some obvious peaks were related to the creation of tessellated objects. Not only could we see the hull shaders used in the first stage of tessellation—proof that tessellation was in use—but we were also able to see the polygon meshes output by the tessellation process. We noticed some of the same things Damien pointed out, along with a few new ones, including one of the true wonders of this game's virtual world."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Gaming

 

Podcast #160 - Lenovo ThinkPad X1, OCZ RevoDrive 3 X2, Crysis 2 DX11 update, Llano preview and more!

Subject: General Tech | June 30, 2011 - 02:50 PM |
Tagged: podcast, X1, Thinkpad, revodrive, ocz, nvidia, llano, Lenovo, Intel, dx11, crysis 2, amd

PC Perspective Podcast #160 - 6/30/2011

This week we talk about the Lenovo ThinkPad X1, OCZ RevoDrive 3 X2, Crysis 2 DX11 update, Llano preview 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

This Podcast is brought to you by MSI Computer, and their all new Sandy Bridge Motherboards!

Program length: 57:49

Program Schedule:

  1. 0:00:45 Introduction
  2. 1-888-38-PCPER or podcast@pcper.com
  3. http://pcper.com/podcast
  4. http://twitter.com/ryanshrout and http://twitter.com/pcper
  5. 0:02:16 Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Review: Thin is In
  6. 0:03:08 Samsung Nexus S 4G Review: Google Bliss.
  7. 0:05:04 Super Fast PCI Express Cable Capable of 32 Gbps Announced By The PCI SIG
  8. 0:08:37 OCZ RevoDrive 3 x2 480GB PCIe SSD Review - Seriously Fast Storage
  9. 0:24:23 This Podcast is brought to you by MSI Computer, and their all new Sandy Bridge Motherboards!
  10. 0:25:00 Crysis 2: DirectX 11 free update released
  11. 0:31:45 NVIDIA Releases GeForce GTX 580M and 570M, Brings Optimus to Hardcore Gaming Laptops
  12. 0:34:10 Badaboom, the once NVIDIA only transcoding accelerator, now works with Sandy Bridge
  13. 0:38:40 Llano's dance card is available, pick a date with your favourite new AMD APU tomorrow
  14. 0:41:05 Just Delivered: Cost effective AM3+ Boards.
  15. 0:42:30 Show and tell: Llano CPU and MB
  16. 0:44:26 Free games?
    1. http://www.pcper.com/news/General-Tech/Meet-Medic-Uber-Update-and-TF2-itself-are-freed
  17. 0:48:20 Quakecon Reminder - http://www.quakecon.org/
  18. 0:50:45 Hardware / Software Pick of the Week
    1. Ryan: Bitcoins?  Ken is testing a LOT of GPUs for this!
    2. Jeremy: I guess I'll shout out to Might & Magic entertaining me for 25 SMEGGING YEARS!
    3. Josh: Eyefinity!  It is a lot of fun.  Surprising capabilities from many modern applications.  Even a lot of older ones...
    4. Allyn: RevoDrive 3!
  19. http://pcper.com/podcast   
  20. http://twitter.com/ryanshrout and http://twitter.com/pcper
  21. 0:56:35 Closing

 

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