Podcast #256 - Mobile Frame Rating, NVIDIA licensing Kepler, Xbox One DRM and more!

Subject: General Tech | June 20, 2013 - 11:03 AM |
Tagged: video, podcast, 780m, frame rating, nvidia, kepler, xbox one, Adobe, CC, opencl

PC Perspective Podcast #256 - 06/20/2013

Join us this week as we discuss Mobile Frame Rating, NVIDIA licensing Kepler, Xbox One DRM 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, Josh Walrath, Allyn Malventano and Morry Teitelman

Program length: 1:33:43

  1. Week in Review:
  2. News items of interest:
    1. 0:43:30 Ryan's summary of E3
      1. Oculus 1080p, Razer Blade, Monoprice, SHIELD
  3. 1:22:00 Hardware/Software Picks of the Week:
    1. Allyn: Swiss-Tech Keychain Tools
  4. 1-888-38-PCPER or podcast@pcper.com
  5. Closing/outro

PCPer Live! Frame Rating and FCAT - Your Questions Answered!

Subject: Editorial, Graphics Cards | May 8, 2013 - 08:37 PM |
Tagged: video, nvidia, live, frame rating, fcat

Update: Did you miss the live stream?  Watch the on-demand replay below and learn all about the Frame Rating system, FCAT, input latency and more!!

I know, based solely on the amount of traffic and forum discussion, that our readers have really adopted and accepted our Frame Rating graphics testing methodology.  Based on direct capture of GPU output via an external system and a high end capture card, our new systems have helped users see GPU performance a in more "real-world" light that previous benchmarks would not allow.

I also know that there are lots of questions about the process, the technology and the results we have shown.  In order to try and address these questions and to facilitate new ideas from the community, we are hosting a PC Perspective Live Stream on Thursday afternoon.

Joining me will be NVIDIA's Tom Petersen, a favorite of the community, to talk about NVIDIA's stance on FCAT and Frame Rating, as well as just talk about the science of animation and input. 

fr-2.png

The primary part of this live stream will be about education - not about bashing one particular product line or talking up another.  And part of that education is your ability to interact with us live, ask questions and give feedback.  During the stream we'll be monitoring the chat room embedded on http://pcper.com/live and I'll be watching my Twitter feed for questions from the audience.  The easiest way to get your question addressed though will be to leave a comment or inquiry here in this post below.  It doesn't require registration and this will allow us to think about the questions before hand, giving it a better chance of being answered during the stream.

Frame Rating and FCAT Live Stream

11am PT / 2pm ET - May 9th

PC Perspective Live! Page

So, stop by at 2pm ET on Thursday, May 9th to discuss the future of graphics performance and benchmarking!

Podcast #249 - Corsair 350D, Frame Rating in 4K, the Oculus Rift and more!

Subject: General Tech | May 2, 2013 - 11:59 AM |
Tagged: podcast, video, Indiegogo, corair, obsidian, 350d, mATX, frame rating, 4k, titan, 7990, 690, Oculus, rift, VR, 3d, amd, amd fx, vishera, hUMA, hsa

PC Perspective Podcast #249 - 05/02/2013

Join us this week as we discuss the Corsair 350D, Frame Rating in 4K, the Oculus Rift 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: Josh Walrath, Allyn Malventano, Scott Michaud and Morry Teitelman

Program length: 1:04:02

  1. Week in Review:
  2. News items of interest:
    1. Ryan: Windows Movie Maker lets you record webcam videos!
    2. Jeremy: anti-pick - hotels that don't offer a RJ45 jack in the rooms!
    3. Allyn: Ventev USB charging stuff (home / auto)
  3. 1-888-38-PCPER or podcast@pcper.com
  4. Closing/outro

 

Author:
Manufacturer: Various

Our 4K Testing Methods

You may have recently seen a story and video on PC Perspective about a new TV that made its way into the office.  Of particular interest is the fact that the SEIKI SE50UY04 50-in TV is a 4K television; it has a native resolution of 3840x2160.  For those that are unfamiliar with the new upcoming TV and display standards, 3840x2160 is exactly four times the resolution of current 1080p TVs and displays.  Oh, and this TV only cost us $1300.

seiki5.jpg

In that short preview we validated that both NVIDIA and AMD current generation graphics cards support output to this TV at 3840x2160 using an HDMI cable.  You might be surprised to find that HDMI 1.4 can support 4K resolutions, but it can do so only at 30 Hz (60 Hz 4K TVs won't be available until 2014 most likely), half the refresh rate of most TVs and monitors at 60 Hz.  That doesn't mean we are limited to 30 FPS of performance though, far from it.  As you'll see in our testing on the coming pages we were able to push out much higher frame rates using some very high end graphics solutions.

I should point out that I am not a TV reviewer and I don't claim to be one, so I'll leave the technical merits of the monitor itself to others.  Instead I will only report on my experiences with it while using Windows and playing games - it's pretty freaking awesome.  The only downside I have found in my time with the TV as a gaming monitor thus far is with the 30 Hz refresh rate and Vsync disabled situations.  Because you are seeing fewer screen refreshes over the same amount of time than you would with a 60 Hz panel, all else being equal, you are getting twice as many "frames" of the game being pushed to the monitor each refresh cycle.  This means that the horizontal tearing associated with Vsync will likely be more apparent than it would otherwise. 

4ksizes.png

Image from Digital Trends

I would likely recommend enabling Vsync for a tear-free experience on this TV once you are happy with performance levels, but obviously for our testing we wanted to keep it off to gauge performance of these graphics cards.

Continue reading our results from testing 4K 3840x2160 gaming on high end graphics cards!!

Podcast #248 - AMD HD 7990, CrossFire Frame Rating improvements, 4K TVs and more!

Subject: General Tech | April 25, 2013 - 11:13 AM |
Tagged: video, Xe, seiki, raidr, podcast, nvidia, Never Serttle, hd 7990, GA-Z77N-WiFi, frame rating, crossfire, amd, 4k

PC Perspective Podcast #248 - 04/25/2013

Join us this week as we discuss AMD HD 7990, CrossFire Frame Rating improvements, 4K TVs 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

Program length: 1:16:34

  1. 0:01:20 Update on Indiegogo: You guys rock!
  2. Week in Review:
  3. News items of interest:
    1. Ryan: Seiki 4K TV - more support from enthusiasts! and wet puppies
    2. Jeremy: This is not news people, NFC is a feature but if you are paranoid you can check with this app
    3. Allyn: Put your bits on an ioSafe. Put your 'papers' here.
    4. Tim: BT Sync, it's in public alpha now so go grab it!
  4. 1-888-38-PCPER or podcast@pcper.com
  5. Closing/outro

 

Author:
Manufacturer: AMD

The card we have been expecting

Despite all the issues that were brought up with our new graphics performance testing methodology we are calling Frame Rating, there is little debate in the industry that AMD is making noise once again in the graphics field.  From the elaborate marketing and game bundles with all Radeon HD 7000 series cards over the last year to the hiring of Roy Taylor, VP of sales but also the company's most vocal supporter. 

slide1_0.jpg

Along with the marketing though goes plenty of technology and important design wins.  With the dominance of the APU on the console side (Wii U, Playstation 4 and the next Xbox), AMD is making sure that the familiarity with its GPU architecture there pays dividends on the PC side as well.  Developers will be focusing on AMD's graphics hardware for 5-10 years with the console generation and that could result in improved performance and feature support for Radeon graphics for PC gamers. 

Today's release of the Radeon HD 7990 6GB Malta dual-GPU graphics card shows a renewed focus on high-end graphics markets since the release of the Radeon HD 7970 in January of 2012.  And while you may have seen something for sale previously with the HD 7990 name attached, those were custom designs built by partners, not by AMD. 

slide2_0.jpg

Both ASUS and PowerColor currently have high-end dual-Tahiti cards for sale.  The PowerColor HD 7990 Devil 13 used the brand directly but ASUS' ARES II kept away from the name and focused on its own high-end card brands instead. 

The "real" Radeon HD 7990 card was first teased at GDC in March and takes a much less dramatic approach to its design without being less impressive technically.  The card includes a pair of Tahiti, HD 7970-class GPUs on a single PCB with 6GB of total memory.  The raw specifications are listed here:

slide6_0.jpg

Considering there are two HD 7970 GPUs on the HD 7990, the doubling of the major specs shouldn't be surprising though it is a little deceiving.  There are 8.6 billion transistors yes, but there are still 4.3 billion on each GPU.  Yes there are 4096 stream processors but only 2048 on each GPU requiring software GPU scaling to increase performance.  The same goes with texture fill rate, compute performance, memory bandwidth, etc.  The same could be said for all dual-GPU graphics cards though.

Continue reading our review of the AMD Radeon HD 7990 6GB Graphics Card!!

Author:
Manufacturer: Various

A very early look at the future of Catalyst

Today is a very interesting day for AMD.  It marks both the release of the reference design of the Radeon HD 7990 graphics card, a dual-GPU Tahiti behemoth, and the first sample of a change to the CrossFire technology that will improve animation performance across the board.  Both stories are incredibly interesting and as it turns out both feed off of each other in a very important way: the HD 7990 depends on CrossFire and CrossFire depends on this driver. 

If you already read our review (or any review that is using the FCAT / frame capture system) of the Radeon HD 7990, you likely came away somewhat unimpressed.  The combination of a two AMD Tahiti GPUs on a single PCB with 6GB of frame buffer SHOULD have been an incredibly exciting release for us and would likely have become the single fastest graphics card on the planet.  That didn't happen though and our results clearly state why that is the case: AMD CrossFire technology has some serious issues with animation smoothness, runt frames and giving users what they are promised. 

Our first results using our Frame Rating performance analysis method were shown during the release of the NVIDIA GeForce GTX Titan card in February.  Since then we have been in constant talks with the folks at AMD to figure out what was wrong, how they could fix it, and what it would mean to gamers to implement frame metering technology.  We followed that story up with several more that showed the current state of performance on the GPU market using Frame Rating that painted CrossFire in a very negative light.  Even though we were accused by some outlets of being biased or that AMD wasn't doing anything incorrectly, we stuck by our results and as it turns out, so does AMD. 

Today's preview of a very early prototype driver shows that the company is serious about fixing the problems we discovered. 

If you are just catching up on the story, you really need some background information.  The best place to start is our article published in late March that goes into detail about how game engines work, how our completely new testing methods work and the problems with AMD CrossFire technology very specifically.  From that piece:

It will become painfully apparent as we dive through the benchmark results on the following pages, but I feel that addressing the issues that CrossFire and Eyefinity are creating up front will make the results easier to understand.  We showed you for the first time in Frame Rating Part 3, AMD CrossFire configurations have a tendency to produce a lot of runt frames, and in many cases nearly perfectly in an alternating pattern.  Not only does this mean that frame time variance will be high, but it also tells me that the value of performance gained by of adding a second GPU is completely useless in this case.  Obviously the story would become then, “In Battlefield 3, does it even make sense to use a CrossFire configuration?”  My answer based on the below graph would be no.

runt.jpg

An example of a runt frame in a CrossFire configuration

NVIDIA's solution for getting around this potential problem with SLI was to integrate frame metering, a technology that balances frame presentation to the user and to the game engine in a way that enabled smoother, more consistent frame times and thus smoother animations on the screen.  For GeForce cards, frame metering began as a software solution but was actually integrated as a hardware function on the Fermi design, taking some load off of the driver.

Continue reading our article on the new prototype driver from AMD to address frame pacing issues in CrossFire!!

Podcast #247 - Frame Rating and Vsync, the future of GLOBALFOUNDRIES, the OCZ Vertex 3.20 and more!

Subject: General Tech | April 18, 2013 - 10:46 AM |
Tagged: vsync, vertex 3.20, podcast, pcper, overclocking, ocz, haswell, gtx 780, GLOBALFOUNDRIES, gigabyte brix, frame rating

PC Perspective Podcast #247 - 04/18/2013

Join us this week as we discuss Frame Rating and Vsync, the future of GLOBALFOUNDRIES, the OCZ Vertex 3.20 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!

Program length: 1:07:41

  1. Week in Review:
  2. News items of interest:
    1. 0:58:00 Gigabyte BRIX small form factor PC--NUC and Zotac Nano competitor
    1. Jeremy: support Full Control not just because they're nordic
    2. Allyn: (portable headsets that don't suck)
  3. 1-888-38-PCPER or podcast@pcper.com
  4. Closing/outro

 

Poll: Visual Effects of Vsync on Gaming Animation

Subject: Graphics Cards | April 16, 2013 - 12:01 PM |
Tagged: vsync, stutter, smoothness, microstutter, frame rating, animation

We are running a poll in conjunction with our Frame Rating: Visual Effects of Vsync on Gaming Animation story that compares animation smoothness between fixed 30 FPS and 60 FPS captures and Vsync enabled versions. 

If you haven't read the story linked above, these questions won't make any sense to you so please go read it and then stop back here to answer the polls!

Author:
Manufacturer: PC Perspective

Not a simple answer

After publishing the Frame Rating Part 3 story, I started to see quite a bit of feedback from readers and other enthusiasts with many requests for information about Vsync and how it might affect the results we are seeing here.  Vertical Sync is the fix for screen tearing, a common artifact seen in gaming (and other mediums) when the frame rendering rate doesn’t match the display’s refresh rate.  Enabling Vsync will force the rendering engine to only display and switch frames in the buffer to match the vertical refresh rate of the monitor or a divisor of it.  So a 60 Hz monitor could only display frames at 16ms (60 FPS), 33ms (30 FPS), 50ms (20 FPS), and so on.

Many early readers hypothesized that simply enabling Vsync would fix the stutter and runt issues that Frame Rating was bringing to light.  In fact, AMD was a proponent of this fix, as many conversations we have had with the GPU giant trailed into the direction of Vsync as answer to their multi-GPU issues. 

In our continuing research on graphics performance, part of our Frame Rating story line, I recently spent many hours playing games on different hardware configurations and different levels of Vertical Sync.  After this time testing, I am comfortable in saying that I do not think that simply enabling Vsync on platforms that exhibit a large number of runt frames fixes the issue.  It may prevent runts, but it does not actually produce a completely smooth animation. 

To be 100% clear - the issues with Vsync and animation smoothness are not limited to AMD graphics cards or even multi-GPU configurations.  The situations we are demonstrating here present themselves equally on AMD and NVIDIA platforms and with single or dual card configurations, as long as all other parameters are met.  Our goal today is only to compare a typical Vsync situation from either vendor to a reference result at 60 FPS and at 30 FPS; not to compare AMD against NVIDIA!!

Crysis3_1920x1080_PLOT_1.png

In our initial research with Frame Rating, I presented this graph on the page discussing Vsync.  At the time, I left this note with the image:

The single card and SLI configurations without Vsync disabled look just like they did on previous pages but the graph for GTX 680 SLI with Vsync on is very different.  Frame times are only switching back and forth between 16 ms and 33 ms, 60 and 30 instantaneous FPS due to the restrictions of Vsync.  What might not be obvious at first is that the constant shifting back and forth between these two rates (two refresh cycles with one frame, one refresh cycle with one frame) can actually cause more stuttering and animation inconsistencies than would otherwise appear.

Even though I had tested this out and could literally SEE that animation inconsistency I didn't yet have a way to try and demonstrate it to our readers, but today I think we do.

The plan for today's article is going to be simple.  I am going to present a set of three videos to you that show side by side runs from different configuration options and tell you what I think we are seeing in each result.  Then on another page, I'm going to show you three more videos and see if you can pinpoint the problems on your own.

Continue reading our article on the effects of Vsync on gaming animation smoothness!!