Podcast #338 - More USB 3.1 Devices, Broadwell NUC, another 840 Evo fix and more!

Subject: General Tech | February 26, 2015 - 02:07 PM |
Tagged: pcper, podcast, video, usb 3.1, Broadwell, Intel, nuc, Samsung, 840 evo, asus, Strix Tactic Pro, GTX 970, directx12, dx12

PC Perspective Podcast #338 - 02/26/2015

Join us this week as we discuss more USB 3.1 Devices, Broadwell NUC, another 840 Evo fix 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, Allyn Malventano, and Sebastian Peak

Program length: 1:46:04

  1. EVGA Contest Winner!
  2. Week in Review:
  3. News item of interest:
  4. Question: Alex from Sydney
    1. Just a quick question regarding DirectX 12. I’m planning to buy a new graphics card soon but I want a DirectX 12 card for all the fancy new features so I’m considering either the GTX 970 or 980, the question I have is are these real DirectX 12 cards? Since DirectX 12 development is still ongoing how can these cards be fully DirectX 12 complaint?
  5. Hardware/Software Picks of the Week:
    1. Ryan: Prime95
    2. Jeremy: Not SSL anyways; old become new is much more pleasant
    3. Allyn: Lenovo Superfish removal tool (once their site is back online, that is)
  6. Closing/outro

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

Windows Update Installs GeForce 349.65 with WDDM 2.0

Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards | February 21, 2015 - 04:23 PM |
Tagged: wddm 2.0, nvidia, geforce 349.65, geforce, dx12

Update 2: Outside sources have confirmed to PC Perspective that this driver contains DirectX 12 as well as WDDM 2.0. They also claim that Intel and AMD have DirectX 12 drivers available through Windows Update as well. After enabling iGPU graphics on my i7-4790K, the Intel HD 4600 received a driver update, which also reports as WDDM 2.0 in DXDIAG. I do not have a compatible AMD GPU to test against (just a couple of old Windows 7 laptops) but the source is probably right and some AMD GPUs will be updated to DX12 too.

So it turns out that if your motherboard dies during a Windows Update reboot, then you are going to be spending several hours reinstalling software and patches, but that is not important. What is interesting is the installed version number for NVIDIA's GeForce Drivers when Windows Update was finished with its patching: 349.65. These are not available on NVIDIA's website, and the Driver Model reports WDDM 2.0.

nvidia-34965-driver.png

It looks like Microsoft pushed out NVIDIA's DirectX 12 drivers through Windows Update. Update 1 Pt. 1: The "Runtime" reporting 11.0 is confusing though, perhaps this is just DX11 with WDDM 2.0?

nvidia-34965-dxdiag.png

I am hearing online that these drivers support the GeForce 600 series and later GPUs, and that there are later, non-public drivers available (such as 349.72 whose release notes were leaked online). NVIDIA has already announced that DirectX 12 will be supported on GeForce 400-series and later graphics cards, so Fermi drivers will be coming at some point. For now, it's apparently Kepler-and-later, though.

So with OS support and, now, released graphics drivers, all that we are waiting on is software and an SDK (plus any NDAs that may still be in effect). With Game Developers Conference (GDC 2015) coming up in a little over a week, I expect that we will get each of these very soon.

Update 1 Pt. 2: I should note that the release notes for 349.72 specifically mention DirectX 12. As mentioned above, is possible that 349.65 contains just WDDM 2.0 and not DX12, but it contains at least WDDM 2.0.

DirectX 12 Preview in New Windows 10 Build. No Drivers Yet.

Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards | January 23, 2015 - 07:11 PM |
Tagged: windows 10, microsoft, dx12, DirectX 12, DirectX

Microsoft has added DirectX 12 with the latest Windows 10 Technical Preview that was released today. Until today, DXDIAG reported DirectX 11 in the Windows 10 Technical Preview. At the moment, there has not been any drivers or software released for it, and the SDK is also no-where to be found. Really, all this means is that one barrier has been lifted, leaving the burden on hardware and software partners (except to release the SDK, that's still Microsoft's responsibility).

microsoft-windows10-jan-preview-dx12.png

No-one needs to know how old my motherboard is...

Note: I have already experienced some issues with Build 9926. Within a half hour of using it, I suffered an instant power-down. There was not even enough time for a bluescreen. When it came back, my Intel GPU (which worked for a few minutes after the update) refused to be activated, along with the monitor it is attached to. My point? Not for production machines.

Update: Looks like a stick of RAM (or some other hardware) blew, coincidentally, about 30 minutes after the update finished, while the computer was running, which also confused my UEFI settings. I haven't got around to troubleshooting much, but it seems like a weirdly-timed, abrupt hardware failure (BIOS is only reporting half of the RAM installed, iGPU is "enabled" but without RAM associated to it, etc.).

The interesting part, to me, is how Microsoft pushed DX12 into this release without, you know, telling anyone. It is not on any changelog that I can see, and it was not mentioned anywhere in the briefing as potentially being in an upcoming preview build. Before the keynote, I had a theory that it would be included but, after the announcement, figured that it might be pushed until GDC or BUILD (but I kept an open mind). The only evidence that it might come this month was an editorial on Forbes that referenced a conversation with Futuremark, who allegedly wanted to release an update to 3DMark (they hoped) when Microsoft released the new build. I could not find anything else, so I didn't report on it -- you would think that there would be a second source for that somewhere. It turns out that he might be right.

The new Windows 10 Technical Preview, containing DirectX 12, is available now from the preview build panel. It looks like Futuremark (and maybe others) will soon release software for it, but no hardware vendor has released a driver... yet.

Windows 10 Consumer Briefing Predictions

Subject: General Tech | January 20, 2015 - 09:45 PM |
Tagged: windows 10, windows, spartan, microsoft, dx12, DirectX 12, DirectX, cortana

Microsoft will hold a briefing tomorrow (Wednesday, January 21st at 12pm EST/5pm UTC) about “The Next Chapter” of Windows 10. This has been described as the Consumer keynote, mirroring the original one that was supposedly intended for the enterprise. Otherwise, there are few official comments regarding the event, but there are also things that we can speculate on.

windows_8_logo-redux2.png

Here is what I expect to see:

A New Build for Windows 10

Maybe it will not be released on the same day as the speech, but it cannot really be too far behind. We are about two-thirds through January and December was skipped, so it must be happening soon. When 9879 was released, Microsoft said that it would be the last build of 2014 and that “We'll have something new to share with you early in 2015”. Whatever that is (or those things are) will probably be discussed at the event, which means that the build is probably not too far behind it.

DirectX 12

When the graphics API was announced, they specifically said the following (see our recap for the second slide that was posted at 10:48am PST):

  • Targeting Holiday 2015 games
  • Preview release coming later this year
  • Don't want to wait that long? Early access!

microsoft-dx12-pcper-slide.jpg

The preview release later in 2014 did not happen, but the early access did. As such, I am guessing that the date slipped to either the next Windows 10 build, or maybe a build or two after. Whenever it happens specifically, I am guessing that it will be mentioned at this event and available for developers soon (and not just a hand-picked group of Early Access members). Sure, it could wait until Build 2015 in April, but the original slide sounds like they were targeting the end of 2014.

Also, the DirectX 12 Twitter Account just retweeted the live stream and Phil Spencer will be there.

'Spartan' Browser (Maybe with DirectX 12 Support?)

Speaking of DirectX 12, its goal is to utilize GPU shader cores as efficiently as possible, reducing the time it holds up the CPU and balancing its load across multiple cores. This leads to power efficiency and the ability to load many more tasks on the GPU.

windows10themefull.0.jpg

Image Credit: cnBeta.com via TheVerge

These are all things that a web browser vendor would love! Web standards are inherently difficult to multi-thread, because they are designed as sets of stages which build upon other stages. DirectX 12 could probably help immensely, at least with the drawing stage. Web content tends to be fairly simple, but there can be a lot of it, especially for complex Canvas animations (and especially for mobile devices).

It was also recently rumored that Trident, the rendering engine behind Internet Explorer and the not-quite-confirmed Spartan browser, was forked into two maintained versions. The expectation is that this was for compatibility reasons, where the new version can be developed to W3C (and other) standards without worrying about legacy, Internet Explorer-based compatibility cruft. If porting a DirectX 11 applications to DirectX 12 will be annoying, I can see why Microsoft chose to draw the compatibility line just behind that initiative. And honestly, how many people care about rendering, power, and multi-core performance increases for IE8-designed, and therefore desktop-based, web applications?

Continuum, Cortana, and Other Changes

microsoft-cortana-icon-listening_InvariantCulture_Default.png

Again, this is what Microsoft considers a Consumer event. As such, it would make sense for them to describe an ideal consumer device, which probably includes two-in-ones. Cortana should also be discussed as well, which is intended to bring value to the users and probably lead them to Bing services. Leaks have also suggested that they are preparing a dark theme.

Am I right? We'll see tomorrow.

Source: Microsoft

Introducing the all new Dynamic Super Resolution Duo!

Subject: General Tech | October 1, 2014 - 01:09 PM |
Tagged: nvidia, maxwell, GTX 980, GTX 970, GM204, geforce, dx12, dsr

Move over Super Best Friends, the Dynamic Super Resolution Duo is here to slay the evil Jaggies!  Ryan covered NVIDIA's new DSR in his review of the new Maxwell cards and how it can upsample a monitor with a resolution of 2560x1440 or lower to much higher resolutions using a process similar to supersampling but is in fact a 13-tap gaussian filter.  That is important because supersampling would have some interesting challenges rendering 2560x1440 on a 1080p monitor.  DSR gives you a much wider choice of resolutions as you can see in the Guild Wars screenshot below, allowing you to choose a variety of multipliers to your displays native resolution to give your game a much smoother look.   The Tech Report has assembled a variety of screenshots from games with different DSR and AA settings which you can examine with your own eyeballs to see what you think.

gw2-resolutions.jpg

"One of the more intriguing capabilities Nvidia introduced with the GeForce GTX 970 and 980 is a feature called Dynamic Super Resolution, or DSR, for short. Nvidia bills it as a means of getting 4K quality on a 2K display. How good is it? We take a look."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

NVIDIA's Maxwell offers smart performance

Subject: Graphics Cards | September 19, 2014 - 02:17 PM |
Tagged: vr direct, video, nvidia, mfaa, maxwell, GTX 980, GTX 970, GM204, geforce, dx12, dsr

The answer to the two most important questions are as follows, the GTX 980 will cost you around $560 compared to the $500 for an R9 290X and the GTX 970 an attractive $330 compared to $380 for an R9 290.  Availability is hard to predict but the cards will be shipping soon and you can pre-order your choice of card by following the links on the last page of Ryan's review.  Among all the new features that have been added to this new GPU one of the most impressive is the power draw, as you can see in [H]ard|OCP's review this card pulls 100W less than the 290X at full load although it did run warmer than the 290X Double Dissipation card which [H] compared it to, something that may change with a 980 bearing a custom cooler.  Follow those links to see the benchmarking results of this card, both synthetic and in game.

14110637240cPED1snfp_5_15_l.jpg

"Today NVIDIA launches its newest Maxwell GPU. There will be two new GPUs, the GeForce GTX 980 and GeForce GTX 970. These next generation GPUs usher in new features and performance that move the gaming industry forward. We discuss new features, architecture, and evaluate the gameplay performance against the competition."

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

Graphics Cards

Source: [H]ard|OCP
Author:
Manufacturer: NVIDIA

The GM204 Architecture

James Clerk Maxwell's equations are the foundation of our society's knowledge about optics and electrical circuits. It is a fitting tribute from NVIDIA to include Maxwell as a code name for a GPU architecture and NVIDIA hopes that features, performance, and efficiency that they have built into the GM204 GPU would be something Maxwell himself would be impressed by. Without giving away the surprise conclusion here in the lead, I can tell you that I have never seen a GPU perform as well as we have seen this week, all while changing the power efficiency discussion in as dramatic a fashion.

IMG_9754.JPG

To be fair though, this isn't our first experience with the Maxwell architecture. With the release of the GeForce GTX 750 Ti and its GM107 GPU, NVIDIA put the industry on watch and let us all ponder if they could possibly bring such a design to a high end, enthusiast class market. The GTX 750 Ti brought a significantly lower power design to a market that desperately needed it, and we were even able to showcase that with some off-the-shelf PC upgrades, without the need for any kind of external power.

That was GM107 though; today's release is the GM204, indicating that not only are we seeing the larger cousin of the GTX 750 Ti but we also have at least some moderate GPU architecture and feature changes from the first run of Maxwell. The GeForce GTX 980 and GTX 970 are going to be taking on the best of the best products from the GeForce lineup as well as the AMD Radeon family of cards, with aggressive pricing and performance levels to match. And, for those that understand the technology at a fundamental level, you will likely be surprised by how much power it requires to achieve these goals. Toss in support for things like a new AA method, Dynamic Super Resolution, and even improved SLI performance and you can see why doing it all on the same process technology is impressive.

The NVIDIA Maxwell GM204 Architecture

The NVIDIA Maxwell GM204 graphics processor was built from the ground up with an emphasis on power efficiency. As it was stated many times during the technical sessions we attended last week, the architecture team learned quite a bit while developing the Kepler-based Tegra K1 SoC and much of that filtered its way into the larger, much more powerful product you see today. This product is fast and efficient, but it was all done while working on the same TSMC 28nm process technology used on the Kepler GTX 680 and even AMD's Radeon R9 series of products.

GeForce_GTX_980_Block_Diagram_FINAL.png

The fundamental structure of GM204 is setup like the GM107 product shipped as the GTX 750 Ti. There is an array of GPCs (Graphics Processing Clustsers), each comprised of multiple SMs (Streaming Multiprocessors, also called SMMs for this Maxwell derivative) and external memory controllers. The GM204 chip (the full implementation of which is found on the GTX 980), consists of 4 GPCs, 16 SMMs and four 64-bit memory controllers.

Continue reading our review of the GeForce GTX 980 and GTX 970 GM204 Graphics Cards!!

Podcast #294 - Frame Rating Mantle in BF4, DirectX 12, Sub-$700 4K Monitors and more!

Subject: General Tech | April 3, 2014 - 01:30 PM |
Tagged: video, Samsung, podcast, Mantle, Glacer 240L, GDC 2014, frame rating, dx12, cooler master, BUILD 2014, BF4, amd, adata, 4k

PC Perspective Podcast #294 - 04/03/2014

Join us this week as we discuss Frame Rating Mantle in BF4, DirectX 12, Sub-$700 4K Monitors 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 Coolermaster, and the CM Storm Pulse-R Gaming Headset!
 
Program length: 1:12:29
 
  1. Week in Review:
  2. 0:43:40 This podcast is brought to you by Coolermaster, and the CM Storm Pulse-R Gaming Headset
  3. News items of interest:
  4. Hardware/Software Picks of the Week:
    1. Allyn: Like MAME? Try MESS, and further - UME (systems list)
  5. Closing/outro

Be sure to subscribe to the PC Perspective YouTube channel!!

 

DX12; translated from marketing speak

Subject: General Tech | April 1, 2014 - 03:17 PM |
Tagged: dx12

Nothing beats speculating on a product that hasn't been released yet; often it ends up being more fun than the release.  Currently DX12 is providing great fodder for enthusiasts, especially when the comparison to Mantle is broached in conversation.  The Tech Report is looking to pass some ammunition on to online prognosticators by fleshing out the debate with some history and a review of what was announced and what has been stated since.  One of their biggest secondary sources of information is Matt Sandy's Blog, as a DX Developer he is a knowledgeable source about the new API, in as far as he is allowed to speak on it.  Check out the three page post here for a good resource of what we know for now.

lead2.png

"We already covered the basics of DirectX 12 amid the GDC frenzy. Now that we've had time to study our notes from the show, we can delve into a little more detail about the new API's inception, the key ways in which it differs from DirectX 11, and what AMD and Nvidia think about it."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Author:
Manufacturer: NVIDIA

DX11 could rival Mantle

The big story at GDC last week was Microsoft’s reveal of DirectX 12 and the future of the dominant API for PC gaming.  There was plenty of build up to the announcement with Microsoft’s DirectX team posting teasers and starting up a Twitter account of the occasion. I hosted a live blog from the event which included pictures of the slides. It was our most successful of these types of events with literally thousands of people joining in the conversation. Along with the debates over the similarities of AMD’s Mantle API and the timeline for DX12 release, there are plenty of stories to be told.

After the initial session, I wanted to setup meetings with both AMD and NVIDIA to discuss what had been shown and get some feedback on the planned direction for the GPU giants’ implementations.  NVIDIA presented us with a very interesting set of data that both focused on the future with DX12, but also on the now of DirectX 11.

15.jpg

The reason for the topic is easy to decipher – AMD has built up the image of Mantle as the future of PC gaming and, with a full 18 months before Microsoft’s DirectX 12 being released, how developers and gamers respond will make an important impact on the market. NVIDIA doesn’t like to talk about Mantle directly, but it’s obvious that it feels the need to address the questions in a roundabout fashion. During our time with NVIDIA’s Tony Tamasi at GDC, the discussion centered as much on OpenGL and DirectX 11 as anything else.

What are APIs and why do you care?

For those that might not really understand what DirectX and OpenGL are, a bit of background first. APIs (application programming interface) are responsible for providing an abstraction layer between hardware and software applications.  An API can deliver consistent programming models (though the language can vary) and do so across various hardware vendors products and even between hardware generations.  They can provide access to feature sets of hardware that have a wide range in complexity, but allow users access to hardware without necessarily knowing great detail about it.

Over the years, APIs have developed and evolved but still retain backwards compatibility.  Companies like NVIDIA and AMD can improve DirectX implementations to increase performance or efficiency without adversely (usually at least) affecting other games or applications.  And because the games use that same API for programming, changes to how NVIDIA/AMD handle the API integration don’t require game developer intervention.

With the release of AMD Mantle, the idea of a “low level” API has been placed in the minds of gamers and developers.  The term “low level” can mean many things, but in general it is associated with an API that is more direct, has a thinner set of abstraction layers, and uses less translation from code to hardware.  The goal is to reduce the amount of overhead (performance hit) that APIs naturally impair for these translations.  With additional performance available, the CPU cycles can be used by the program (game) or be slept to improve battery life. In certain cases, GPU throughput can increase where the API overhead is impeding the video card's progress.

Passing additional control to the game developers, away from the API or GPU driver developers, gives those coders additional power and improves the ability for some vendors to differentiate. Interestingly, not all developers want this kind of control as it requires more time, more development work, and small teams that depend on that abstraction to make coding easier will only see limited performance advantages.

The reasons for this transition to a lower level API is being driven the by widening gap of performance between CPU and GPUs.  NVIDIA provided the images below.

04.jpg

On the left we see performance scaling in terms of GFLOPS and on the right the metric is memory bandwidth. Clearly the performance of NVIDIA's graphics chips has far outpaced (as have AMD’s) what the best Intel desktop processor have been able and that gap means that the industry needs to innovate to find ways to close it.

Continue reading NVIDIA Talks DX12, DX11 Efficiency Improvements!!!