Author:
Manufacturer: NVIDIA

A powerful architecture

In March of this year, NVIDIA announced the GeForce GTX Titan Z at its GPU Technology Conference. It was touted as the world's fastest graphics card with its pair of full GK110 GPUs but it came with an equally stunning price of $2999. NVIDIA claimed it would be available by the end of April for gamers and CUDA developers to purchase but it was pushed back slightly and released at the very end of May, going on sale for the promised price of $2999.

The specifications of GTX Titan Z are damned impressive - 5,760 CUDA cores, 12GB of total graphics memory, 8.1 TFLOPs of peak compute performance. But something happened between the announcement and product release that perhaps NVIDIA hadn't accounted for. AMD's Radeon R9 295X2, a dual-GPU card with full-speed Hawaii chips on-board, was released at $1499. I think it's fair to say that AMD took some chances that NVIDIA was surprised to see them take, including going the route of a self-contained water cooler and blowing past the PCI Express recommended power limits to offer a ~500 watt graphics card. The R9 295X2 was damned fast and I think it caught NVIDIA a bit off-guard.

As a result, the GeForce GTX Titan Z release was a bit quieter than most of us expected. Yes, the Titan Black card was released without sampling the gaming media but that was nearly a mirror of the GeForce GTX 780 Ti, just with a larger frame buffer and the performance of that GPU was well known. For NVIDIA to release a flagship dual-GPU graphics cards, admittedly the most expensive one I have ever seen with the GeForce brand on it, and NOT send out samples, was telling.

NVIDIA is adamant though that the primary target of the Titan Z is not just gamers but the CUDA developer that needs the most performance possible in as small of a space as possible. For that specific user, one that doesn't quite have the income to invest in a lot of Tesla hardware but wants to be able to develop and use CUDA applications with a significant amount of horsepower, the Titan Z fits the bill perfectly.

Still, the company was touting the Titan Z as "offering supercomputer class performance to enthusiast gamers" and telling gamers in launch videos that the Titan Z is the "fastest graphics card ever built" and that it was "built for gamers." So, interest peaked, we decided to review the GeForce GTX Titan Z.

The GeForce GTX TITAN Z Graphics Card

Cost and performance not withstanding, the GeForce GTX Titan Z is an absolutely stunning looking graphics card. The industrial design started with the GeForce GTX 690 (the last dual-GPU card NVIDIA released) and continued with the GTX 780 and Titan family, lives on with the Titan Z. 

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The all metal finish looks good and stands up to abuse, keeping that PCB straight even with the heft of the heatsink. There is only a single fan on the Titan Z, center mounted, with a large heatsink covering both GPUs on opposite sides. The GeForce logo up top illuminates, as we have seen on all similar designs, which adds a nice touch.

Continue reading our review of the NVIDIA GeForce GTX Titan Z 12GB Graphics Card!!

NVIDIA Launches GeForce Experience 2.1

Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards | June 2, 2014 - 02:52 PM |
Tagged: nvidia, geforce, geforce experience, ShadowPlay

NVIDIA has just launched another version of their GeForce Experience, incrementing the version to 2.1. This release allows video of up to "2500x1600", which I assume means 2560x1600, as well as better audio-video synchronization in Adobe Premiere. Also, because why stop going after FRAPS once you start, it also adds an in-game framerate indicator. It also adds push-to-talk for recording the microphone.

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Another note: when GeForce Experience 2.0 launched, it introduced streaming of the user's desktop. This allowed recording of OpenGL and windowed-mode games by simply capturing an entire monitor. This mode was not capable of "Shadow Mode", which I believed was because they thought users didn't want a constant rolling video to be taken of their desktop in the event that they wanted to save a few minutes of it at some point. Turns out that I was wrong; the feature was coming and it arrived with GeForce Experience 2.1.

GeForce Experience 2.1 is now available at NVIDIA's website, unless it already popped up a notification for you.

Source: NVIDIA

NVIDIA Finally Launches GeForce GTX Titan Z Graphics Card

Subject: Graphics Cards | May 28, 2014 - 08:19 AM |
Tagged: titan z, nvidia, gtx, geforce

Though delayed by a month, today marks the official release of NVIDIA's Titan Z graphics card, the dual GK110 beast with the $3000 price tag. The massive card was shown for the first time in March at NVIDIA's GPU Technology Conference and our own Tim Verry was on the grounds to get the information

The details remain the same:

Specifically, the GTX TITAN Z is a triple slot graphics card that marries two full GK110 (big Kepler) GPUs for a total of 5,760 CUDA cores, 448 TMUs, and 96 ROPs with 12GB of GDDR5 memory on a 384-bit bus (6GB on a 384-bit bus per GPU). For the truly adventurous, it appears possible to SLI two GTX Titan Z cards using the single SLI connector. Display outputs include two DVI, one HDMI, and one DisplayPort connector.

The difference now of course is that all the clock speeds and pricing are official. 

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A base clock speed of 705 MHz with a Boost rate of 876 MHz places it well behind the individual GPU performance of a GeForce GTX 780 Ti or GTX Titan Black (rated at 889/980 MHz). The memory clock speed remains the same at 7.0 Gbps and you are still getting a massive 6GB of memory per GPU.

Maybe most interesting with the release of the GeForce GTX Titan Z is that NVIDIA seems to have completely fixated on non-DIY consumers with the card. We did not receive a sample of the Titan Z (nor did we get one of the Titan Black) and when I inquired as to why, NVIDIA PR stated that they were "only going to CUDA developers and system builders."

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I think it is more than likely that after the release of AMD's Radeon R9 295X2 dual GPU graphics card on April 8th, with a price tag of $1500 (half of the Titan Z), the target audience was redirected. NVIDIA already had its eye on the professional markets that weren't willing to dive into the Quadro/Tesla lines (CUDA developers will likely drop $3k at the drop of a hat to get this kind of performance density). But a side benefit of creating the best flagship gaming graphics card on the planet was probably part of the story - and promptly taken away by AMD.

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I still believe the Titan Z will be an impressive graphics card to behold both in terms of look and style and in terms of performance. But it would take the BIGGEST NVIDIA fans to be able to pass up buying a pair of Radeon R9 295X2 cards for a single GeForce GTX Titan Z. At least that is our assumption until we can test one for ourselves.

I'm still working to get my hands on one of these for some testing as I think the ultra high end graphics card coverage we offer is incomplete without it. 

Several of NVIDIA's partners are going to be offering the Titan Z including EVGA, ASUS, MSI and Zotac. Maybe the most intersting though is EVGA's water cooled option!

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So, what do you think? Anyone lining up for a Titan Z when they show up for sale?

NVIDIA Titan Z Missed Its Release Date

Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards | May 12, 2014 - 05:00 PM |
Tagged: titan z, nvidia, gtx titan z, geforce

To a crowd of press and developers at their GTC summit, NVIDIA announced the GeForce GTX Titan Z add-in board (AIB). Each of the two, fully unlocked, GK110 GPUs would each have access to 6GB of GDDR5 memory (12GB total). The card was expected to be available on May 8th but has yet to surface. As NVIDIA has yet to comment on the situation, many question whether it ever will.

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And then we get what we think are leaked benchmarks (note: two pictures).

One concern about the Titan Z was its rated 8 TeraFLOPs of compute performance. This is a fairly sizable reduction from the theoretical maximum of 10.24 TeraFLOPs of two Titan Black processors and even less than two first-generation Titans (9 TeraFLOPs combined). We expected that this is due to reduced clock rates. What we did not expect is for benchmarks to show the GPUs boost way above those advertised levels, and even beyond the advertised boost clocks of the Titan Black and the 780 Ti. The card was seen pushing 1058 MHz in some sections, which leads to a theoretical compute performance of 12.2 TeraFLOPs (6.1 TeraFLOPs per GPU) in single precision. That is a lot.

These benchmarks also show that NVIDIA has a slight lead over AMD's R9 295X2 in many games, except Battlefield 4 and Sleeping Dogs (plus 3DMark and Unigine). Of course, these benchmarks measure the software reported frame rate and frame times and those may or may not be indicative of actual performance. While I would say that the Titan Z appears to have a slight performance lead over the R9 295X2, although a solid argument for an AMD performance win exists, it does so double the cost (at its expected $3000 USD price point). That is not up for debate.

Whichever card is faster, AMD's is half the price and available for purchase right now.

So, until NVIDIA says anything, the Titan Z is in limbo. I am sure there exists CUDA developers who await its arrival. Personally, I would just get three Titan Blacks since you are going to need to manually schedule your workloads across multiple processors anyway (or 780 Tis if 32-bit arithmetic is enough precision). That is, of course, unless you cannot physically fit enough GeForce Titan Blacks in your motherboard and, as such, you require two GK110 chips per AIB (but not enough to bother writing a cluster scheduling application).

Source: Unknown

NVIDIA Announces Watch_Dogs Bundle with GeForce GPUs

Subject: Graphics Cards | April 29, 2014 - 07:22 AM |
Tagged: nvidia, watch_dogs, watch dogs, bundle, geforce

A bit of a surprise email found its way to my inbox today that announced NVIDIA's partnership with Ubisoft to include copies of the upcoming Watch_Dogs game with GeForce GTX graphics cards. 

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Gamers that purchase a GeForce GTX 780 Ti, GTX 780, GTX 770 or GTX 760 from select retailers will qualify for a free copy of the game. You can details on this bundle and available GPUs to take advantage of it at Amazon.com!

The press release also confirms inclusion of NVIDIA exclusive features like TXAA and HBAO+ in the game itself, which is interesting. From what I am hearing, Watch_Dogs is going to be a beast of a game on GPU hardware and we are looking forward to using it as a test platform going forward.

Full press release is included below.

OWN THE TECH AND CONTROL THE CITY WITH NVIDIA® AND UBISOFT®

Select GeForce GTX GPUs Now Include the Hottest Game of the Year: Watch_Dogs™

Santa Clara, CA  April 29, 2014 — Destructoid calls it one of the “most wanted games of 2014.” CNET said it was “one of the most anticipated games in recent memory.” MTV said it’s one of the “Can’t-Miss Video Games of 2014.” This, all before anyone out there has even played it.

So, starting today(1), gamers who purchase select NVIDIA® GeForce® GTX® 780 Ti, 780, 770 and 760 desktop GPUs can get their chance to play Watch_Dogs™, the new PC game taking the world by storm and latest masterpiece from Ubisoft®.

Described as a “polished, refined and truly next generation experience,” in Watch_Dogs you play as Aiden Pearce, a brilliant hacker whose criminal past led to a violent family tragedy. While seeking justice, you will monitor and hack those around you, access omnipresent security cameras, download personal information to locate a target, control traffic lights and public transportation to stop the enemy and more.

Featuring NVIDIA TXAA and HBAO+ technology for an interactive, immersive experience, it’s clear that gamers can’t wait to play Watch_Dogs, especially considering the effusive praise that the official trailer received. Launched mere weeks ago, the trailer has already been viewed more than a combined 650,000 times. For gamers, Watch_Dogs seamlessly blends a mixture of single-player and multiplayer action in a way never before seen, and Ubisoft has gone one step further in creating a unique ctOS mobile companion app for users of smartphone and tablet devices allowing for even greater access to the fun. If you haven’t checked out the trailer, please check it out here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3eHCJ8pWdf0.

The GeForce GTX and Watch_Dogs bundle is available starting today from leading e-tailers including Newegg, Amazon.com, TigerDirect, NCIX; add-in card vendors such as EVGA; and nationwide system builders including AVADirect, CyberPower, Digital Storm, Falcon Northwest, iBUYPOWER, Maingear, Origin PC, Puget Systems, V3 Gaming PC and Velocity Micro. For a full list of participating partners, please visit: www.GeForce.com/GetWatchDogs.

Source: NVIDIA
Author:
Subject: General Tech
Manufacturer: PC Perspective

AM1 Walks New Ground

After Josh's initial review of the AMD AM1 Platform and the Athlon 5350, we received a few requests to look at gaming performance with a discrete GPU installed. Even though this platform isn't being aimed at gamers looking to play demanding titles, we started to investigate this setup anyway.

While Josh liked the ASUS AM1I-A Mini ITX motherboard he used in his review, with only a x1 PCI-E slot it would be less than ideal for this situation.

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Luckily we had the Gigabyte AM1M-S2H Micro ATX motherboard, which features a full length PCI-E x16 slot, as well as 2 x1 slots.

Don't be mistaken by the shape of the slot though, the AM1 chipset still only offers 4 lanes of PCI-Express 2.0. This, of course, means that the graphics card will not be running at full bandwidth. However, having the physical x16 slot makes it a lot easier to physically connect a discrete GPU, without having to worry about those ribbon cables that miners use.

Continue reading AMD AM1 Platform and Athlon 5350 with GTX 750 Ti - 1080p at under $450!!

Author:
Manufacturer: Various

Competition is a Great Thing

While doing some testing with the AMD Athlon 5350 Kabini APU to determine it's flexibility as a low cost gaming platform, we decided to run a handful of tests to measure something else that is getting a lot of attention right now: AMD Mantle and NVIDIA's 337.50 driver.

Earlier this week I posted a story that looked at performance scaling of NVIDIA's new 337.50 beta driver compared to the previous 335.23 WHQL. The goal was to assess the DX11 efficiency improvements that the company stated it had been working on and implemented into this latest beta driver offering. In the end, we found some instances where games scaled by as much as 35% and 26% but other cases where there was little to no gain with the new driver. We looked at both single GPU and multi-GPU scenarios on mostly high end CPU hardware though.

Earlier in April I posted an article looking at Mantle, AMD's answer to a lower level API that is unique to its ecosystem, and how it scaled on various pieces of hardware on Battlefield 4. This was the first major game to implement Mantle and it remains the biggest name in the field. While we definitely saw some improvements in gaming experiences with Mantle there was work to be done when it comes to multi-GPU scaling and frame pacing. 

Both parties in this debate were showing promise but obviously both were far from perfect.

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While we were benchmarking the new AMD Athlon 5350 Kabini based APU, an incredibly low cost processor that Josh reviewed in April, it made sense to test out both Mantle and NVIDIA's 337.50 driver in an interesting side by side.

Continue reading our story on the scaling performance of AMD Mantle and NVIDIA's 337.50 driver with Star Swarm!!

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 - 12:30 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.

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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.

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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!

Some NVIDIA R337.50 Driver Controversy

Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards | April 8, 2014 - 03:44 PM |
Tagged: nvidia, geforce, drivers

NVIDIA's GeForce 337.50 Driver was said to address performance when running DirectX 11-based software. Now that it is out, multiple sources are claiming the vendor-supplied benchmarks are exaggerated or simply untrue.

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ExtremeTech compiled benchmarks from Anandtech and BlackHoleTec.

Going alphabetically, Anandtech tested the R337.50 and R331.xx drivers with a GeForce GTX 780 Ti, finding a double-digit increase with BioShock: Infinite and Metro: Last Light and basically zero improvement for GRID 2, Rome II, Crysis: Warhead, Crysis 3, and Company of Heroes 2. Adding a second GTX 780 Ti into the mix helped matters, seeing a 76% increase in Rome II and about 9% in most of the other titles.

BlackHoleTec is next. Testing the mid-range, but overclocked GeForce 760 between R337.50 and R335.23 drivers, they found slight improvements (1-3 FPS), except for Battlefield 4 and Skyrim (the latter is not DX11 to be fair) which noticed a slight reduction in performance (about 1 FPS).

ExtremeTech, finally, published one benchmark but it did not compare between drivers. All it really shows is CPU scaling in AMD GPUs.

Unfortunately, I do not have any benchmarks to present of my own because I am not a GPU reviewer nor do I have a GPU testbed. Ironically, the launch of the Radeon R9 295 X2 video card might have lessened that number of benchmarks available for NVIDIA's driver, who knows?

If it is true, and R337.50 does basically nothing in a setup with one GPU, I am not exactly sure what NVIDIA was hoping to accomplish. Of course someone was going to test it and publish their results. The point of the driver update was apparently to show how having a close relationship with Microsoft can lead you to better PC gaming products now and in the future. That can really only be the story if you have something to show. Now, at least I expect, we will probably see more positive commentary about Mantle - at least when people are not talking about DirectX 12.

If you own a GeForce card, I would still install the new driver though, especially if you have an SLi configuration. Scaling to a second GPU does see measurable improvements with Release 337.50. Even for a single-card configuration, it certainly should not hurt anything.

Source: ExtremeTech