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.

GPU Market sees 20-point swing in 2014: NVIDIA gains, AMD falls

Subject: Graphics Cards | February 21, 2015 - 12:18 PM |
Tagged: radeon, nvidia, marketshare, market share, geforce, amd

One of the perennial firms that measures GPU market share, Jon Peddie Research, has come out with a report on Q4 of 2014 this weekend and the results are eye opening. According to the data, NVIDIA and AMD each took dramatic swings from Q4 of 2013 to Q4 of 2014.

  Q4 2014 Q3 2014 Q4 2013 Year-to-year Change
AMD 24.0% 28.4% 35.0% -11.0%
Matrox 0.00% 0.10% 0.10% -0.1%
NVIDIA 76.0% 71.5% 64.9% +11.1%
S3 0.00% 0.00% 0.00% +0.0%

Data source: Jon Peddie Research

Here is the JPR commentary to start us out:

JPR's AIB Report tracks computer add-in graphics boards, which carry discrete graphics chips. AIBs used in desktop PCs, workstations, servers, and other devices such as scientific instruments. They are sold directly to customers as aftermarket products, or are factory installed. In all cases, AIBs represent the higher end of the graphics industry using discrete chips and private high-speed memory, as compared to the integrated GPUs in CPUs that share slower system memory.

The news was encouraging and seasonally understandable, quarter-to-quarter, the market decreased -0.68% (compared to the desktop PC market, which decreased 3.53%).

On a year-to-year basis, we found that total AIB shipments during the quarter fell -17.52% , which is more than desktop PCs, which fell -0.72%.

However, in spite of the overall decline, somewhat due to tablets and embedded graphics, the PC gaming momentum continues to build and is the bright spot in the AIB market.

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NVIDIA's Maxwell GPU

The overall PC desktop market increased quarter-to-quarter including double-attach-the adding of a second (or third) AIB to a system with integrated processor graphics-and to a lesser extent, dual AIBs in performance desktop machines using either AMD's Crossfire or Nvidia's SLI technology.

The attach rate of AIBs to desktop PCs has declined from a high of 63% in Q1 2008 to 36% this quarter.

The year to year change that JPR is reporting is substantial and shows a 20+ point change in market share in favor of NVIDIA over AMD. According to this data, AMD's market share has now dropped from 35% at the end of 2013 to just 24% at the end of 2014. Meanwhile, NVIDIA continues to truck forward, going from 64.9% at the end of 2013 to 76% at the end of 2014.

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The Radeon R9 285 release didn't have the impact AMD had hoped

Clearly the release of NVIDIA's Maxwell GPUs, the GeForce GTX 750 Ti, GTX 970 and GTX 980 have impacted the market even more than we initially expected. In recent weeks the GTX 970 has been getting a lot of negative press with the memory issue and I will be curious to see what effect this has on sales in the near future. But the 12 month swing that you see in the table above is the likely cause for the sudden departure of John Byrne, Collette LaForce and Raj Naik.

AMD has good products, even better pricing and a team of PR and marketing folks that are talented and aggressive. So how can the company recover from this? Products, people; new products. Will the rumors circling around the Radeon R9 390X develop into such a product?

Hopefully 2015 will provide it.

Amazon, Newegg and others offering partial refunds on GTX 970 purchases

Subject: Graphics Cards | February 19, 2015 - 01:51 PM |
Tagged: nvidia, memory issue, GTX 970, geforce

It looks like some online retailers are offering up either partial refunds or full refunds (with return) for those users that complain about the implications of the GeForce GTX 970 memory issue. On January 25th NVIDIA came clean about the true memory architecture of the GTX 970 which included changes to specifications around L2 cache and ROP count in addition to the division of the 4GB of memory into two distinct memory pools. Some users have complained about performance issues in heavy memory-depedent gaming scenarios even though my own testing has been less than conclusive

GM204_arch.jpg

Initially there was a demand for a recall or some kind of compensation from NVIDIA regarding the issue but that has fallen flat. What appears to be working (for some people) is going to the retailer directly. A thread on reddit.com's Hardware sub-reddit shows quite a few users were able to convince Amazon to issue 20-30% price refunds for their trouble. Even Newegg has been spotted offering either a full refund with return after the typical return window or a 20% credit through gift cards. 

gtx970refund.jpg

To be fair, some users are seeing their requests denied:

"After going back and forth for the past hour I manage to escalated my partial refund to a supervisor who promptly declined it."

"Are you serious? NewEgg told me to go complain to the vendor."

So, while we can debate the necessity or vadidity of these types of full or partial refunds from a moral ground, the truth is that this is happening. I'm very curious to hear what NVIDIA's internal thinking is on this matter and if it will impact relationships between NVIDIA, it's add-in card partners and the online retailers themselves. Who ends up paying the final costs is still up in the air I would bet.

Our discussion on the original GTX 970 Issue - Subscribe to our YouTube Channel for more!

What do you think? Is this just some buyers taking advantage of the situation for their own gain? Warranted requests from gamers that were taken advantage of? Leave me your thoughts in the comments!

Further reading on this issue:

Source: Reddit.com

ASUS Announces GTX 960 Mini - A New Small Form-Factor Graphics Card

Subject: Graphics Cards | February 16, 2015 - 11:04 AM |
Tagged: SFF, nvidia, mini-ITX GPU, mini-itx, gtx 960, graphics, gpu, geforce, asus

ASUS returns to the mini-ITX friendly form-factor with the GTX 960 Mini (officially named GTX960-MOC-2GD5 for maximum convenience), their newest NVIDIA GeForce GTX 960 graphics card.

image.jpg

Other than the smaller size to allow compatibility with a wider array of small enclosures, the GTX 960 Mini also features an overclocked core and promises "20% cooler and vastly quieter" performance from its custom heatsink and CoolTech fan. Here's a quick rundown of key specs:

  • 1190 MHz Base Clock / 1253 MHz Boost Clock
  • 1024 CUDA cores
  • 2GB 128-bit GDDR5 @ 7010 MHz
  • 3x DisplayPort, 1x HDMI 2.0, 1x DVI output

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​No word on the pricing or availability of the card just yet. The other mini-ITX version of the GTX 960 on the market from Gigabyte has been selling for $199.99, so expect this to run somewhere between $200-$220 at launch.

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ASUS has reused this image from the GTX 970 Mini launch, and so have I

The product page is up on the ASUS website so availability seems imminent.

Source: ASUS

NVIDIA Releases 347.52 Drivers and Brothers for GRID

Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards, Mobile | February 11, 2015 - 08:00 AM |
Tagged: shieldtuesday, shield, nvidia, gridtuesday, grid, graphics drivers, geforce, drivers

Update: Whoops! The title originally said "374.52", when it should be "347.52". My mistake. Thanks "Suddenly" in the comments!

Two things from NVIDIA this week, a new driver and a new game for the NVIDIA GRID. The new driver aligns with the release of Evolve, which came out on Tuesday from the original creators of Left4Dead. The graphics vendor also claims that it will help Assassin's Creed: Unity, Battlefield 4, Dragon Age: Inquisition, The Crew, and War Thunder. Several SLi profiles were also added for Alone in the Dark: Illumination, Black Desert, Dying Light, H1Z1, Heroes of the Storm, Saint's Row: Gat out of Hell, Total War: Attila, and Triad Wars.

Brothers_A_Tale_of_Two_Sons_cover_art.jpg

On the same day, NVIDIA released Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons on GRID, bringing the number of available games up to 37. This game came out in August 2013 and received a lot of critical praise. Its control style is unique, using dual-thumbstick gamepads to simultaneously control both characters. More importantly, despite being short, the game is said to have an excellent story, even achieving Game of the Year (2013) for TotalBiscuit based on its narrative, which is not something that he praises often.

I'd comment on the game, but I've yet to get the time to play it. Apparently it is only a couple hours long, so maybe I can fit it in somewhere.

Also, they apparently are now calling this “#SHIELDTuesday” rather than “#GRIDTuesday”. I assume this rebranding is because people may not know that GRID exists, but they would certainly know if they purchased an Android-based gaming device for a couple hundred dollars or more. We could read into this and make some assumptions about GRID adoption rates versus SHIELD purchases, or even purchases of the hardware itself versus their projections, but it would be pure speculation.

Both announcements were made available on Tuesday, for their respective products.

Source: NVIDIA
Author:
Manufacturer: NVIDIA

A baker's dozen of GTX 960

Back on the launch day of the GeForce GTX 960, we hosted NVIDIA's Tom Petersen for a live stream. During the event, NVIDIA and its partners provided ten GTX 960 cards for our live viewers to win which we handed out through about an hour and a half. An interesting idea was proposed during the event - what would happen if we tried to overclock all of the product NVIDIA had brought along to see what the distribution of results looked like? After notifying all the winners of their prizes and asking for permission from each, we started the arduous process of testing and overclocking a total of 13 (10 prizes plus our 3 retail units already in the office) different GTX 960 cards.

Hopefully we will be able to provide a solid base of knowledge for buyers of the GTX 960 that we don't normally have the opportunity to offer: what is the range of overclocking you can expect and what is the average or median result. I think you will find the data interesting.

The 13 Contenders

Our collection of thirteen GTX 960 cards includes a handful from ASUS, EVGA and MSI. The ASUS models are all STRIX models, the EVGA cards are of the SSC variety, and the MSI cards include a single Gaming model and three 100ME. (The only difference between the Gaming and 100ME MSI cards is the color of the cooler.)

cards2.jpg

Jenga!

To be fair to the prize winners, I actually assigned each of them a specific graphics card before opening them up and testing them. I didn't want to be accused of favoritism by giving the best overclockers to the best readers!

Continue reading our overclocking testing of 13 GeForce GTX 960 cards!!

Author:
Manufacturer: NVIDIA

Battlefield 4 Results

At the end of my first Frame Rating evaluation of the GTX 970 after the discovery of the memory architecture issue, I proposed the idea that SLI testing would need to be done to come to a more concrete conclusion on the entire debate. It seems that our readers and the community at large agreed with us in this instance, repeatedly asking for those results in the comments of the story. After spending the better part of a full day running and re-running SLI results on a pair of GeForce GTX 970 and GTX 980 cards, we have the answers you're looking for.

Today's story is going to be short on details and long on data, so if you want the full back story on what is going on why we are taking a specific look at the GTX 970 in this capacity, read here:

Okay, are we good now? Let's dive into the first set of results in Battlefield 4.

Battlefield 4 Results

Just as I did with the first GTX 970 performance testing article, I tested Battlefield 4 at 3840x2160 (4K) and utilized the game's ability to linearly scale resolution to help me increase GPU memory allocation. In the game settings you can change that scaling option by a percentage: I went from 110% to 150% in 10% increments, increasing the load on the GPU with each step.

bf4settings.jpg

Memory allocation between the two SLI configurations was similar, but not as perfectly aligned with each other as we saw with our single GPU testing.

bf4mem.png

In a couple of cases, at 120% and 130% scaling, the GTX 970 cards in SLI are actually each using more memory than the GTX 980 cards. That difference is only ~100MB but that delta was not present at all in the single GPU testing.

Continue reading our look at Frame Rating comparisons between GTX 970 and GTX 980 cards in SLI!

Author:
Manufacturer: NVIDIA

A Summary Thus Far

UPDATE 2/2/15: We have another story up that compares the GTX 980 and GTX 970 in SLI as well.

It has certainly been an interesting week for NVIDIA. It started with the release of the new GeForce GTX 960, a $199 graphics card that brought the latest iteration of Maxwell's architecture to a lower price point, competing with the Radeon R9 280 and R9 285 products. But then the proverbial stuff hit the fan with a memory issue on the GeForce GTX 970, the best selling graphics card of the second half of 2014. NVIDIA responded to the online community on Saturday morning but that was quickly followed up with a more detailed expose on the GTX 970 memory hierarchy, which included a couple of important revisions to the specifications of the GTX 970 as well.

At the heart of all this technical debate is a performance question: does the GTX 970 suffer from lower performance because of of the 3.5GB/0.5GB memory partitioning configuration? Many forum members and PC enthusiasts have been debating this for weeks with many coming away with an emphatic yes.

GM204_arch.jpg

The newly discovered memory system of the GeForce GTX 970

Yesterday I spent the majority of my day trying to figure out a way to validate or invalidate these types of performance claims. As it turns out, finding specific game scenarios that will consistently hit targeted memory usage levels isn't as easy as it might first sound and simple things like the order of start up can vary that as well (and settings change orders). Using Battlefield 4 and Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare though, I think I have presented a couple of examples that demonstrate the issue at hand.

Performance testing is a complicated story. Lots of users have attempted to measure performance on their own setup, looking for combinations of game settings that sit below the 3.5GB threshold and those that cross above it, into the slower 500MB portion. The issue for many of these tests is that they lack access to both a GTX 970 and a GTX 980 to really compare performance degradation between cards. That's the real comparison to make - the GTX 980 does not separate its 4GB into different memory pools. If it has performance drops in the same way as the GTX 970 then we can wager the memory architecture of the GTX 970 is not to blame. If the two cards perform differently enough, beyond the expected performance delta between two cards running at different clock speeds and with different CUDA core counts, then we have to question the decisions that NVIDIA made.

IMG_9792.JPG

There has also been concern over the frame rate consistency of the GTX 970. Our readers are already aware of how deceptive an average frame rate alone can be, and why looking at frame times and frame time consistency is so much more important to guaranteeing a good user experience. Our Frame Rating method of GPU testing has been in place since early 2013 and it tests exactly that - looking for consistent frame times that result in a smooth animation and improved gaming experience.

reddit.jpg

Users at reddit.com have been doing a lot of subjective testing

We will be applying Frame Rating to our testing today of the GTX 970 and its memory issues - does the division of memory pools introduce additional stutter into game play? Let's take a look at a couple of examples.

Continue reading our look at GTX 970 Performance Testing using Frame Rating!

NVIDIA Plans Driver Update for GTX 970 Memory Issue, Help with Returns

Subject: Graphics Cards | January 28, 2015 - 10:21 AM |
Tagged: nvidia, memory issue, maxwell, GTX 970, GM204, geforce

UPDATE 1/29/15: This forum post has since been edited and basically removed, with statements made on Twitter that no driver changes are planned that will specifically target the performance of the GeForce GTX 970.

The story around the GeForce GTX 970 and its confusing and shifting memory architecture continues to update. On a post in the official GeForce.com forums (on page 160 of 184!), moderator and NVIDIA employee PeterS claims that the company is working on a driver to help improve performance concerns and will also be willing to "help out" for users that honestly want to return the product they already purchased. Here is the quote:

Hey,

First, I want you to know that I'm not just a mod, I work for NVIDIA in Santa Clara.

I totally get why so many people are upset. We messed up some of the stats on the reviewer kit and we didn't properly explain the memory architecture. I realize a lot of you guys rely on product reviews to make purchase decisions and we let you down.

It sucks because we're really proud of this thing. The GTX970 is an amazing card and I genuinely believe it's the best card for the money that you can buy. We're working on a driver update that will tune what's allocated where in memory to further improve performance.

Having said that, I understand that this whole experience might have turned you off to the card. If you don't want the card anymore you should return it and get a refund or exchange. If you have any problems getting that done, let me know and I'll do my best to help.

--Peter

This makes things a bit more interesting - based on my conversations with NVIDIA about the GTX 970 since this news broke, it was stated that the operating system had a much stronger role in the allocation of memory from a game's request than the driver. Based on the above statement though, NVIDIA seems to think it can at least improve on the current level of performance and tune things to help alleviate any potential bottlenecks that might exist simply in software.

IMG_9794.JPG

As far as the return goes, PeterS at least offers to help this one forum user but I would assume the gesture would be available for anyone that has the same level of concern for the product. Again, as I stated in my detailed breakdown of the GTX 970 memory issue on Monday, I don't believe that users need to go that route - the GeForce GTX 970 is still a fantastic performing card in nearly all cases except (maybe) a tiny fraction where that last 500MB of frame buffer might come into play. I am working on another short piece going up today that details my experiences with the GTX 970 running up on those boundaries.

Part 1: NVIDIA Responds to GTX 970 3.5GB Memory Issue
Part 2: NVIDIA Discloses Full Memory Structure and Limitations of GTX 970

NVIDIA is trying to be proactive now, that much we can say. It seems that the company understands its mistake - not in the memory pooling decision but in the lack of clarity it offered to reviewers and consumers upon the product's launch.

Author:
Manufacturer: NVIDIA

A few secrets about GTX 970

UPDATE 1/28/15 @ 10:25am ET: NVIDIA has posted in its official GeForce.com forums that they are working on a driver update to help alleviate memory performance issues in the GTX 970 and that they will "help out" those users looking to get a refund or exchange.

Yes, that last 0.5GB of memory on your GeForce GTX 970 does run slower than the first 3.5GB. More interesting than that fact is the reason why it does, and why the result is better than you might have otherwise expected. Last night we got a chance to talk with NVIDIA’s Senior VP of GPU Engineering, Jonah Alben on this specific concern and got a detailed explanation to why gamers are seeing what they are seeing along with new disclosures on the architecture of the GM204 version of Maxwell.

alben.jpg

NVIDIA's Jonah Alben, SVP of GPU Engineering

For those looking for a little background, you should read over my story from this weekend that looks at NVIDIA's first response to the claims that the GeForce GTX 970 cards currently selling were only properly utilizing 3.5GB of the 4GB frame buffer. While it definitely helped answer some questions it raised plenty more which is whey we requested a talk with Alben, even on a Sunday.

Let’s start with a new diagram drawn by Alben specifically for this discussion.

GM204_arch.jpg

GTX 970 Memory System

Believe it or not, every issue discussed in any forum about the GTX 970 memory issue is going to be explained by this diagram. Along the top you will see 13 enabled SMMs, each with 128 CUDA cores for the total of 1664 as expected. (Three grayed out SMMs represent those disabled from a full GM204 / GTX 980.) The most important part here is the memory system though, connected to the SMMs through a crossbar interface. That interface has 8 total ports to connect to collections of L2 cache and memory controllers, all of which are utilized in a GTX 980. With a GTX 970 though, only 7 of those ports are enabled, taking one of the combination L2 cache / ROP units along with it. However, the 32-bit memory controller segment remains.

You should take two things away from that simple description. First, despite initial reviews and information from NVIDIA, the GTX 970 actually has fewer ROPs and less L2 cache than the GTX 980. NVIDIA says this was an error in the reviewer’s guide and a misunderstanding between the engineering team and the technical PR team on how the architecture itself functioned. That means the GTX 970 has 56 ROPs and 1792 KB of L2 cache compared to 64 ROPs and 2048 KB of L2 cache for the GTX 980. Before people complain about the ROP count difference as a performance bottleneck, keep in mind that the 13 SMMs in the GTX 970 can only output 52 pixels/clock and the seven segments of 8 ROPs each (56 total) can handle 56 pixels/clock. The SMMs are the bottleneck, not the ROPs.

Continue reading our explanation and summary about the NVIDIA GTX 970 3.5GB Memory Issue!!