Subject: Graphics Cards | June 8, 2016 - 02:11 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: nvidia, graphics drivers
NVIDIA has released a new graphics driver, in line with EA's new title, Mirror's Edge: Catalyst. Version 368.39 is another of their WHQL-certified, Game Ready-branded drivers that integrates all of their tweaks to improve the game's performance, including an updated SLI profile. It also includes performance tweaks for Insomniac's Oculus-exclusive VR title, Edge of Nowhere, which released on June 6th.
Beyond performance enhancements for specific titles, the driver also includes new features and fixes to known bugs. On the feature side of things, a handful of OpenGL extensions were added to support new features in Pascal. Extensions allow hardware vendors to add features without the Khronos Group needing to officially support it in the standard (although many turn multi-vendor and eventually end up in a later core specification). In this case, NVIDIA has added Single Pass Stereo to increase VR performance, Lens Matched Shading to also increase VR performance, Improved Conservative Rasterization to reduce the chance that a pixel fragment will be missed during rasterization of degenerate or otherwise odd geometry, and Double Precision Atomic Operations to increase reliability when doing GPU-compute on 64-bit, double-precision values in OpenGL.
On Windows 10, seven bugs were fixed in 368.39, and two of those were fairly high profile. First, the GTX 1080 Founders Edition fan speed revving issue has been fixed, as NVIDIA mentioned a few days ago. Second, performance issues (stuttering) in Total War: WARHAMMER were fixed. They also fixed an issue where Metal Gear Solid V would fail to launch (white screen).
The new drivers are available on GeForce Experience or their website.
Subject: Graphics Cards | June 7, 2016 - 08:02 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: graphics drivers, amd
Over the last few months, AMD has been fighting their reputation for being slow and unreliable with driver updates. Ryan wrote a piece about it after AMD discussed the issue with him. He noted that, while the increase is noticeable and great, it takes time and consistency to trust that a company will provide their products with a certain level of support.
Since then, AMD has released two drivers in April, three in May, and now, already, one in June. Each of these provide enhancements for individual games, right in line with their release dates, as well as fix several issues along the way. Crimson Edition 16.6.1 aligns with Mirror's Edge: Catalyst, which makes this post surprisingly difficult to type. It also includes enhancements for Paragon and a Crossfire profile for Dark Souls III. If users were experiencing flickering and corruption with videos in a web browser, AMD claims that was also fixed in this version.
Subject: Graphics Cards | June 3, 2016 - 11:15 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: linux, graphics drivers, AMDGPU, amd
On Windows, we really only have one graphics driver per GPU. On Linux, however, there is a choice between open drivers and closed, binary-only blobs. Open drivers allow users to perpetuate support, for either really old hardware or pre-release software, without needing the GPU vendor to step in. It can also be better for security, because open-source software can be audited, which is better (albeit how much better is up for debate) than just having a few eyes on it... if any at all.
As we reported a few months ago, AMD has been shifting their structure. Rather than two completely different code-bases, AMDGPU is an open-source driver, officially supported by AMD, that communicates with the Linux kernel. This chunk is compliant with the GPL, so it can be bundled with the operating system. Above this, a user space driver adds the various APIs, game-specific optimizations, and so forth. AMD calls this plug-in component AMD GPU-PRO.
This component has now been released for Ubuntu 16.04, which includes OpenGL 4.5, OpenCL 1.2, and Vulkan 1.0.
Open-source developers can create their own components, using the same AMDGPU hooks that AMD uses, and release those on their own. This is not a perfect solution, though. If, at any point, AMD disagrees with a necessary, proposed change, then the only way forward could be to fork the project, which AMD wouldn't support with their closed-source blob, leading to the previous situation. That said, AMD is putting a lot of effort into this, so it would stand to reason that they aren't intending to throw all of that away over a pull request.
Either way, you can get AMD GPU-PRO Beta from AMD's page for Ubuntu 16.04. SteamOS added AMD GPU-PRO with their 2.80 update last week.
Subject: Graphics Cards | May 24, 2016 - 06:36 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: nvidia, graphics drivers
Yesterday, NVIDIA has released WHQL-certified drivers to align with the release of Overwatch. This version, 368.22, is the first public release of the 367 branch. Pascal is not listed in the documentation as a supported product, so it's unclear whether this will be the launch driver for it. The GTX 1080 comes out on Friday, but two drivers in a week would not be unprecedented for NVIDIA.
While NVIDIA has not communicated this too well, 368.22 will not install on Windows Vista. If you are still using that operating system, then you will not be able to upgrade your graphics drivers past 365.19. 367-branch (and later) drivers will required Windows 7 and up.
Before I continue, I should note that I've experienced so issues getting these drivers to install through GeForce Experience. Long story short, it took two attempts (with a clean install each time) to end up with a successful boot into 368.22. I didn't try the standalone installer that you can download from NVIDIA's website. If the second attempt using GeForce Experience failed, then I would have. That said, after I installed it, it seemed to work out well for me with my GTX 670.
While NVIDIA is a bit behind on documentation, the driver also rolls in other fixes. There were some GPU compute developers who had crashes and other failures in certain OpenCL and CUDA applications, which are now compatible with 368.22. I've also noticed that my taskbar hasn't been sliding around on its own anymore, but I've only been using the driver for a handful of hours.
You can get GeForce 368.22 drivers from GeForce Experience, but you might want to download the standalone installer (or skip a version or two if everything works fine).
Subject: Graphics Cards | May 11, 2016 - 11:53 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: amd, crimson, graphics drivers
For the second time this month, hence the version number, AMD has released a driver to coincide with a major game release. This one is for DOOM, which will be available on Friday. Like the previous driver, which was aligned with Forza, it has not been WHQL-certified. That's okay, though. NVIDIA's Game Ready drivers didn't strive for WHQL certification until just recently, and, even then, WHQL certification doesn't mean what it used to.
But yeah, apart from game-specific optimizations for DOOM, 16.5.2 has a few extra reasons to be used. If you play Battleborn, which launched on May 3rd, then AMD has added a new CrossFire profile for that game. They have also fixed at least eleven issues (plus however many undocumented ones). It comes with ten known issues, but none of them seem particularly troubling. It seems to be mostly CrossFire-related issues.
You can pick up the driver at AMD's website.
Subject: Graphics Cards | May 9, 2016 - 02:05 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: amd, graphics drivers, crimson
This is good to see. AMD has released Radeon Software Crimson Edition 16.5.1 to align with Forza Motorsport 6: Apex. The drivers are classified as Beta, and so is the game, coincidentally, which means 16.5.1 is not WHQL-certified. That doesn't have the weight that it used to, though. Its only listed feature is performance improvements with that title, especially for the R9 Fury X graphics card. Game-specific optimizations near launch appear to be getting consistent, and that was an area that AMD really needed to improve upon, historically.
There are a handful of known issues, but they don't seem particularly concerning. The AMD Gaming Evolved overlay may crash in some titles, and The Witcher 3 may flicker in Crossfire, both of which could be annoying if they affect a game that you have been focusing on, but that's about it. There might be other issues (and improvements) that are not listed in the notes, but that's all I have to work on at the moment.
If you're interested in Forza 6: Apex, check out AMD's download page.
Subject: Graphics Cards | April 14, 2016 - 06:44 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: nvidia, graphics drivers
The GeForce 364.xx line of graphics drivers hasn't been smooth for NVIDIA. Granted, they tried to merge Vulkan support into their main branch at the same time as several new games, including DirectX 12 ones, launched. It was probably a very difficult period for NVIDIA, but WHQL-certified drivers should be better than this.
Regardless, they're trying, and today they released GeForce Hot Fix Driver 364.96. Some of the early reactions mock NVIDIA for adding “Support for DOOM Open Beta” as the only listed feature of a “hotfix” driver, but I don't see it. It's entirely possible that the current drivers have a known issue with DOOM Open Beta and, thus, they require a hotfix. It's not necessarily “just a profile,” and “profiles” isn't exactly what a hardware vendor does to support a new title.
But anyway, Manuel Guzman, one of the faces for NVIDIA Customer Care, also says that this driver includes fixes for FPS drops in Dark Souls 3. According to some forum-goers, despite its numbering, it also does not contain the Vulkan updates from 364.91. This is probably a good thing, because it would be a bit silly to merge developer-branch features into a customer driver that only intends to solve problems before an official driver can be certified. I mean, that's like patching a flat tire, then drilling a hole in one of the good ones to mess around with it, too.
The GeForce 364.96 Hotfix Drivers are available at NVIDIA's website. If you're having problems, then it might be your solution. Otherwise? Wait until NVIDIA has an official release (or you start getting said problems).
Subject: Graphics Cards | April 10, 2016 - 09:04 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: nvidia, vulkan, graphics drivers
This is not a main-line, WHQL driver. This is not even a mainstream beta driver. The beta GeForce 364.91 drivers (364.16 on Linux) are only available on the NVIDIA developer website, which, yes, is publicly accessible, but should probably not be installed unless you are intending to write software and every day counts. Also, some who have installed it claim that certain Vulkan demos stop working. I'm not sure whether that means the demo is out-of-date due to a rare conformance ambiguity, the driver has bugs, or the reports themselves are simply unreliable.
That said, if you are a software developer, and you don't mind rolling back if things go awry, you can check out the new version at NVIDIA's website. It updates Vulkan to 1.0.8, which is just documentation bugs and conformance tweaks. These things happen over time. In fact, the initial Vulkan release was actually Vulkan 1.0.3, if I remember correctly.
The driver also addresses issues with Vulkan and NVIDIA Optimus technologies, which is interesting. Optimus controls which GPU acts as primary in a laptop, switching between the discrete NVIDIA one and the Intel integrated one, depending on load and power. Vulkan and DirectX 12, however, expose all GPUs to the system. I'm curious how NVIDIA knows whether to sleep one or the other, and what that would look like to software that enumerates all compatible devices. Would it omit listing one of the GPUs? Or would it allow the software to wake the system out of Optimus should it want more performance?
Anywho, the driver is available now, but you probably should wait for official releases. The interesting thing is this seems to mean that NVIDIA will continue to release non-public Vulkan drivers. Hmm.
Subject: Graphics Cards | March 9, 2016 - 07:42 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: amd, radeon, graphics drivers, vulkan, dx12, DirectX 12
New graphics drivers from AMD have just been published, and it's a fairly big release. First, Catalyst 16.3 adds Vulkan support to main-branch drivers, which they claim is conformant to the 1.0 specification. The Khronos Group website still doesn't list AMD as conforming, but I assume that they will be added shortly (rather than some semantic “conformant” “fully conformant” thing going on). This is great for the platform, as we are still in the launch window of DirectX 12.
Performance has apparently increased as well, significantly. This is especially true in the DirectX 12 title, Gears of War Ultimate Edition. AMD claims that FuryX will see up to a 60% increase in that title, and the R9 380 will gain up to 44%. It's unclear how much that is in real world performance, especially in terms of stutter and jank, which apparently plagues that game.
The driver also has a few other interesting features. One that I don't quite understand is “Power Efficiency Toggle”. This supposedly “allows the user to disable some power efficiency optimizations”. I would assume that means keeping you GPU up-clocked under certain conditions, but I don't believe that was much of an issue for the last few generations. That said, the resolved issues section claims that some games were choppy because of core clock fluctuation, and lists this option as the solution, so maybe it was. It is only available on “select” Radeon 300 GPUs and Fury X. That is, Fury X specifically, not the regular Fury or the Nano. I expect Ryan will be playing around with it in the next little while.
Last of the main features, the driver adds support for XConnect, which is AMD's new external graphics standard. It requires a BIOS that support external GPUs, which AMD lists the Razer Blade Stealth as. Also noteworthy, Eyefinity can now be enabled with just two displays, and Display Scaling can be set per-game. I avoid manually controlling drivers, even my Wacom tablet, to target specific applications, but that's probably great for those who do.
As a final note: the Ashes of the Singularity 2.0 benchmark now supports DirectFlip.
If you have a recent AMD GPU, grab the drivers from AMD's website.
Subject: Graphics Cards | March 9, 2016 - 03:30 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: ubuntu, graphics drivers, graphics driver, amd
AMD has been transitioning their kernel driver from the closed-source fglrx to the open-source AMDGPU driver that was announced last year. This forms the base that both closed and open user-mode drivers will utilize. For the upcoming Ubuntu 16.04 LTS, Canonical has decided to deprecate fglrx and remove it from the system upon upgrade. Users can then choose to install an AMDGPU-based one, or reinstall the Radeon driver. That will need to be done without Canonical's support, though.
It makes sense that they would choose Ubuntu 16.04 to pull the plug. This is the version that Canonical will be maintaining for the next five years, which could give a headache when AMD has spent the last year trying to get rid of it. AMDGPU is a much safer target as the years roll forward. On the other hand, GPUs prior to Fiji will not have the luxury of choosing, because AMD still hasn't announced AMDGPU for
GDC (Update March 9th @ 6pm: Fixed typo) GCN 1.0 and 1.1.