Author:
Manufacturer: NVIDIA

Specifications

When NVIDIA launched the GeForce GTX Titan X card only back in March of this year, I knew immediately that the GTX 980 Ti would be close behind. The Titan X was so different from the GTX 980 when it came to pricing and memory capacity (12GB, really??) that NVIDIA had set up the perfect gap with which to place the newly minted GTX 980 Ti. Today we get to take the wraps off of that new graphics card and I think you'll be impressed with what you find, especially when you compare its value to the Titan X.

Based on the same Maxwell architecture and GM200 GPU, with some minor changes to GPU core count, memory size and boost speeds, the GTX 980 Ti finds itself in a unique spot in the GeForce lineup. Performance-wise it's basically identical in real-world game testing to the GTX Titan X, yet is priced $350 less that that 12GB behemoth. Couple that with a modest $50 price drop in the GTX 980 cards and you have all markers of an enthusiast graphics card that will sell as well as any we have seen in recent generations.

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The devil is in all the other details, of course. AMD has its own plans for this summer but the Radeon R9 290X is still sitting there at a measly $320, undercutting the GTX 980 Ti by more than half. NVIDIA seems to be pricing its own GPUs as if it isn't even concerned with what AMD and the Radeon brand are doing. That could be dangerous if it goes on too long, but for today, can the R9 290X put up enough fight with the aging Hawaii XT GPU to make its value case to gamers on the fence?

Will the GeForce GTX 980 Ti be the next high-end GPU to make a splash in the market, or will it make a thud at the bottom of the GPU gene pool? Let's dive into it, shall we?

Continue reading our review of the new NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980 Ti 6GB Graphics Card!!

NVIDIA G-Sync Update: New Monitors, Windowed Mode, V-Sync Options

Subject: Displays | May 31, 2015 - 10:00 PM |
Tagged: nvidia, gsync, g-sync, computex 2015, computex

In conjunction with the release of the new GeForce GTX 980 Ti graphics card today, NVIDIA is making a handful of other announcements around the GeForce brand. The most dramatic of the announcements center around the company's variable refresh monitor technology called G-Sync. I assume that any of you reading this are already intimately familiar with what G-Sync is, but if not, check out this story that dives into how it compares with AMD's rival tech called FreeSync.

First, NVIDIA is announcing a set of seven new G-Sync ready monitors that will be available this summer and fall from ASUS and Acer.

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Many of these displays offer configurations of panels we haven't yet seen in a G-Sync display. Take the Acer X34 for example: this 34-in monitor falls into the 21:9 aspect ratio form factor, with a curved screen and a 3440x1440 resolution. The refresh rate will peak at 75 Hz while also offering the color consistency and viewing angles of an IPS screen. This is the first 21:9, the first 34x14 and the first curved monitor to support G-Sync, and with a 75 Hz maximum refresh it should provide a solid gaming experience. ASUS has a similar model, the PG34Q, though it peaks at a refresh rate of 60 Hz.

ASUS will be updating the wildly popular ROG Swift PG278Q display with the PG279Q, another 27-in monitor with a 2560x1440 resolution. Only this time it will run at 144 Hz with an IPS screen rather than TN, again resulting in improved color clarity, viewing angles and lower eye strain. 

Those of you on the look out for 4K panels with G-Sync support will be happy to find IPS iterations of that configuration but still will peak at 60 Hz refresh - as much a limitation of DisplayPort as anything else though. 

Another technology addition for G-Sync with the 352-series (353-series, sorry!) driver released today is support for windowed mode variable refresh.

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By working some magic with the DWM (Desktop Window Manager), NVIDIA was able to allow for VRR to operate without requiring a game to be in full screen mode. For gamers that like to play windowed or borderless windowed while using secondary or large displays for other side activities, this is a going to a great addition to the G-Sync portfolio. 

Finally, after much harassment and public shaming, NVIDIA is finally going to allow users the choice to enable or disable V-Sync when your game render rate exceeds the maximum refresh rate of the G-Sync monitor it is attached to.

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One of the complaints about G-Sync has been that it is restrictive on the high side of the VRR window for its monitors. While FreeSync allowed you to selectively enable or disable V-Sync when your frame rate goes above the maximum refresh rate, G-Sync was forcing users into a V-Sync enabled state. The reasoning from NVIDIA was that allowing for horizontal tearing of any kind with G-Sync enabled would ruin the experience and/or damage the technology's reputation. But now, while the default will still be to keep V-Sync on, gamers will be able to manually set the V-Sync mode to off with a G-Sync monitor.

Why is this useful? Many gamers believe that a drawback to V-Sync enabled gaming is the added latency of waiting for a monitor to refresh before drawing a frame that might be ready to be shown to the user immediately. G-Sync fixes this from frame rates of 1 FPS to the maximum refresh of the G-Sync monitor (144 FPS, 75 FPS, 60 FPS) but now rather than be stuck with tear-free, but latency-added V-Sync when gaming over the max refresh, you'll be able to play with tearing on the screen, but lower input latency. This could be especially useful for gamers using 60 Hz G-Sync monitors with 4K resolutions.

Oh, actually one more thing: you'll now be able to enable ULMB (ultra low motion blur) mode in the driver as well without requiring entry into your display's OSD.

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NVIDIA is also officially announcing G-Sync for notebooks at Computex. More on that in this story!

NVIDIA G-Sync for Notebooks Announced, No Module Required

Subject: Displays, Mobile | May 31, 2015 - 10:00 PM |
Tagged: nvidia, notebooks, msi, mobile, gsync, g-sync, asus

If you remember back to January of this year, Allyn and posted an article that confirmed the existence of a mobile variant of G-Sync thanks to a leaked driver and an ASUS G751 notebook. Rumors and speculation floated around the Internet ether for a few days but we eventually got official word from NVIDIA that G-Sync for notebooks was a real thing and that it would launch "soon." Well we have that day here finally with the beginning of Computex.

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G-Sync for notebooks has no clever branding, no "G-Sync Mobile" or anything like that, so discussing it will be a bit more difficult since the technologies are different. Going forward NVIDIA claims that any gaming notebook using NVIDIA GeForce GPUs will be a G-Sync notebook and will support all of the goodness that variable refresh rate gaming provides. This is fantastic news as notebook gaming is often at lower frame rates than you would find on a desktop PC because of lower powered hardware yet comparable (1080p, 1440p) resolution displays.

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Of course, as we discovered in our first look at G-Sync for notebooks back in January, the much debated G-Sync module is not required and will not be present on notebooks featuring the variable refresh technology. So what gives? We went over some of this before, but it deserves to be detailed again.

NVIDIA uses the diagram above to demonstrate the complication of the previous headaches presented by the monitor and GPU communication path before G-Sync was released. You had three different components: the GPU, the monitor scalar and the monitor panel that all needed to work together if VRR was going to become a high quality addition to the game ecosystem. 

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NVIDIA's answer was to take over all aspects of the pathway for pixels from the GPU to the eyeball, creating the G-Sync module and helping OEMs to hand pick the best panels that would work with VRR technology. This helped NVIDIA make sure it could do things to improve the user experience such as implementing an algorithmic low-frame-rate, frame-doubling capability to maintain smooth and tear-free gaming at frame rates under the panels physical limitations. It also allows them to tune the G-Sync module to the specific panel to help with ghosting and implemention variable overdrive logic. 

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All of this is required because of the incredible amount of variability in the monitor and panel markets today.

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But with notebooks, NVIDIA argues, there is no variability at all to deal with. The notebook OEM gets to handpick the panel and the GPU directly interfaces with the screen instead of passing through a scalar chip. (Note that some desktop monitors like the ever popular Dell 3007WFP did this as well.)  There is no other piece of logic in the way attempting to enforce a fixed refresh rate. Because of that direct connection, the GPU is able to control the data passing between it and the display without any other logic working in the middle. This makes implementing VRR technology much more simple and helps with quality control because NVIDIA can validate the panels with the OEMs.

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As I mentioned above, going forward, all new notebooks using GTX graphics will be G-Sync notebooks and that should solidify NVIDIA's dominance in the mobile gaming market. NVIDIA will be picking the panels, and tuning the driver for them specifically, to implement anti-ghosting technology (like what exists on the G-Sync module today) and low frame rate doubling. NVIDIA also claims that the world's first 75 Hz notebook panels will ship with GeForce GTX and will be G-Sync enabled this summer - something I am definitely looking forward to trying out myself.

Though it wasn't mentioned, I am hopeful that NVIDIA will continue to allow users the ability to disable V-Sync at frame rates above the maximum refresh of these notebook panels. With most of them limited to 60 Hz (but this applies to 75 Hz as well) the most demanding gamers are going to want that same promise of minimal latency.

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At Computex we'll see a handful of models announced with G-Sync up and running. It should be no surprise of course to see the ASUS G751 with the GeForce GTX 980M GPU on this list as it was the model we used in our leaked driver testing back in January. MSI will also launch the GT72 G with a 1080p G-Sync ready display and GTX 980M/970M GPU option. Gigabyte will have a pair of notebooks: the Aorus X7 Pro-SYNC with GTX 970M SLI and a 1080p screen as well as the Aorus X5 with a pair of GTX 965M in SLI and a 3K resolution (2560x1440) screen. 

This move is great for gamers and I am eager to see what the resulting experience is for users that pick up these machines. I have long been known as a proponent of variable refresh displays and getting access to that technology on your notebook is a victory for NVIDIA's team.

Subject: Displays
Manufacturer: Acer

Introduction and Specifications

Displays have been a hot item as of late here at PC Perspective. Today we are looking at the new Acer XB270HU. In short, this is an IPS version of the ASUS ROG Swift. For the long version, it is a 1440P, 144Hz, G-Sync enabled 27 inch display. This is the first G-Sync display released with an IPS panel, which is what makes this release such a big deal. Acer has been pushing hard on the display front, with recent releases of the following variable refresh capable displays:

  • XB270H 27in 1080P 144Hz G-Sync
  • XB280HK 28in 4K 60Hz G-SYnc
  • XG270HU 27in 1440P 40-144Hz FreeSync
  • XB270HU 27in 1440P 144Hz G-Sync < you are here

The last entry in that list is the subject of todays review, and it should look familiar to those who have been tracking Acer's previous G-Sync display releases:

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Here's our video overview of this new display. I encourage you to flip through the review as there are more comparison pictures and information to go along.

Continue reading our review of the Acer XB270HU 1440P 144Hz IPS G-Sync Monitor!!

Podcast #348 - DirectX 12, New AMD GPU News, Giveaways and more!

Subject: General Tech | May 7, 2015 - 07:17 PM |
Tagged: podcast, video, amd, Fiji, hbm, microsoft, build 2015, DirectX 12, Intel, SSD 750, freesync, gsync, Oculus, rift

PC Perspective Podcast #348 - 05/07/2015

Join us this week as we discuss DirectX 12, New AMD GPU News, Giveaways 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

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

Put some Spring in your step with new peripherals

Subject: General Tech | April 29, 2015 - 04:34 PM |
Tagged: freesync, 4k, gsync, keyboard, gaming mouse, input

It has been a relatively quiet year for new CPUs and GPUs as we await new releases apart from the occasional incredibly high priced new product.  On the peripheral side it has been anything but quiet, with numerous gaming mice and keyboards of both mechanical and other types being released.  Not only that but we are finally starting to see both AMD and NVIDIA's variable refresh rate monitors appear on the market as well as new 4k and other more traditional displays.  The Tech Report has some recommendations for all of the above as well as other backup peripherals, audio devices and more in this article here.

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"It's time for our latest roundup of recommendations for monitors, keyboards, mice, and more. We've tied it all together in our April 2015 peripheral staff picks."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Podcast #344 - Intel SSD 750 Series, NZXT S340, an ASUS FreeSync Monitor and more!

Subject: General Tech | April 9, 2015 - 04:58 PM |
Tagged: video, podcast, nvidia, mg279q, Intel, gsync, gigabyte, freesync, ddr4-3400, corsair, compute stick, asus, amd, 750 series

PC Perspective Podcast #344 - 04/09/2015

Join us this week as we discuss the Intel SSD 750 Series, NZXT S340, an ASUS FreeSync Monitor 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

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

Author:
Manufacturer: Various

It's more than just a branding issue

As a part of my look at the first wave of AMD FreeSync monitors hitting the market, I wrote an analysis of how the competing technologies of FreeSync and G-Sync differ from one another. It was a complex topic that I tried to state in as succinct a fashion as possible given the time constraints and that the article subject was on FreeSync specifically. I'm going to include a portion of that discussion here, to recap:

First, we need to look inside the VRR window, the zone in which the monitor and AMD claims that variable refresh should be working without tears and without stutter. On the LG 34UM67 for example, that range is 48-75 Hz, so frame rates between 48 FPS and 75 FPS should be smooth. Next we want to look above the window, or at frame rates above the 75 Hz maximum refresh rate of the window. Finally, and maybe most importantly, we need to look below the window, at frame rates under the minimum rated variable refresh target, in this example it would be 48 FPS.

AMD FreeSync offers more flexibility for the gamer than G-Sync around this VRR window. For both above and below the variable refresh area, AMD allows gamers to continue to select a VSync enabled or disabled setting. That setting will be handled as you are used to it today when your game frame rate extends outside the VRR window. So, for our 34UM67 monitor example, if your game is capable of rendering at a frame rate of 85 FPS then you will either see tearing on your screen (if you have VSync disabled) or you will get a static frame rate of 75 FPS, matching the top refresh rate of the panel itself. If your game is rendering at 40 FPS, lower than the minimum VRR window, then you will again see the result of tearing (with VSync off) or the potential for stutter and hitching (with VSync on).

But what happens with this FreeSync monitor and theoretical G-Sync monitor below the window? AMD’s implementation means that you get the option of disabling or enabling VSync.  For the 34UM67 as soon as your game frame rate drops under 48 FPS you will either see tearing on your screen or you will begin to see hints of stutter and judder as the typical (and previously mentioned) VSync concerns again crop their head up. At lower frame rates (below the window) these artifacts will actually impact your gaming experience much more dramatically than at higher frame rates (above the window).

G-Sync treats this “below the window” scenario very differently. Rather than reverting to VSync on or off, the module in the G-Sync display is responsible for auto-refreshing the screen if the frame rate dips below the minimum refresh of the panel that would otherwise be affected by flicker. So, in a 30-144 Hz G-Sync monitor, we have measured that when the frame rate actually gets to 29 FPS, the display is actually refreshing at 58 Hz, each frame being “drawn” one extra instance to avoid flicker of the pixels but still maintains a tear free and stutter free animation. If the frame rate dips to 25 FPS, then the screen draws at 50 Hz. If the frame rate drops to something more extreme like 14 FPS, we actually see the module quadruple drawing the frame, taking the refresh rate back to 56 Hz. It’s a clever trick that keeps the VRR goals and prevents a degradation of the gaming experience. But, this method requires a local frame buffer and requires logic on the display controller to work. Hence, the current implementation in a G-Sync module.

As you can see, the topic is complicated. So Allyn and I (and an aging analog oscilloscope) decided to take it upon ourselves to try and understand and teach the implementation differences with the help of some science. The video below is where the heart of this story is focused, though I have some visual aids embedded after it.

Still not clear on what this means for frame rates and refresh rates on current FreeSync and G-Sync monitors? Maybe this will help.

Continue reading our story dissecting NVIDIA G-Sync and AMD FreeSync!!

Podcast #342 - FreeSync Launch, Dell XPS 13, Super Fast DDR4 and more!

Subject: General Tech | March 26, 2015 - 05:51 PM |
Tagged: XPS 13, video, Vector 180, usb 3.1, supernova, Silverstone, quadro, podcast, ocz, nvidia, m6000, gsync, FT05, freesync, Fortress, evga, dell, ddr4-3400, ddr4, corsair, broadwell-u, amd

PC Perspective Podcast #342 - 03/25/2015

Join us this week as we discuss the launch of FreeSync, Dell XPS 13, Super Fast DDR4 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 Sebastian Peak

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

 

Author:
Subject: Displays
Manufacturer: AMD

What is FreeSync?

FreeSync: What began as merely a term for AMD’s plans to counter NVIDIA’s launch of G-Sync (and mocking play on NVIDIA’s trade name) has finally come to fruition, keeping the name - and the attitude. As we have discussed, AMD’s Mantle API was crucial to pushing the industry in the correct and necessary direction for lower level APIs, though NVIDIA’s G-Sync deserves the same credit for recognizing and imparting the necessity of a move to a variable refresh display technology. Variable refresh displays can fundamentally change the way that PC gaming looks and feels when they are built correctly and implemented with care, and we have seen that time and time again with many different G-Sync enabled monitors at our offices. It might finally be time to make the same claims about FreeSync.

But what exactly is FreeSync? AMD has been discussing it since CES in early 2014, claiming that they would bypass the idea of a custom module that needs to be used by a monitor to support VRR, and instead go the route of open standards using a modification to DisplayPort 1.2a from VESA. FreeSync is based on AdaptiveSync, an optional portion of the DP standard that enables a variable refresh rate courtesy of expanding the vBlank timings of a display, and it also provides a way to updating EDID (display ID information) to facilitate communication of these settings to the graphics card. FreeSync itself is simply the AMD brand for this implementation, combining the monitors with correctly implemented drivers and GPUs that support the variable refresh technology.

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A set of three new FreeSync monitors from Acer, LG and BenQ.

Fundamentally, FreeSync works in a very similar fashion to G-Sync, utilizing the idea of the vBlank timings of a monitor to change how and when it updates the screen. The vBlank signal is what tells the monitor to begin drawing the next frame, representing the end of the current data set and marking the beginning of a new one. By varying the length of time this vBlank signal is set to, you can force the monitor to wait any amount of time necessary, allowing the GPU to end the vBlank instance exactly when a new frame is done drawing. The result is a variable refresh rate monitor, one that is in tune with the GPU render rate, rather than opposed to it. Why is that important? I wrote in great detail about this previously, and it still applies in this case:

The idea of G-Sync (and FreeSync) is pretty easy to understand, though the implementation method can get a bit more hairy. G-Sync (and FreeSync) introduces a variable refresh rate to a monitor, allowing the display to refresh at wide range of rates rather than at fixed intervals. More importantly, rather than the monitor dictating what rate this refresh occurs at to the PC, the graphics now tells the monitor when to refresh in a properly configured G-Sync (and FreeSync) setup. This allows a monitor to match the refresh rate of the screen to the draw rate of the game being played (frames per second) and that simple change drastically improves the gaming experience for several reasons.

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Gamers today are likely to be very familiar with V-Sync, short for vertical sync, which is an option in your graphics card’s control panel and in your game options menu. When enabled, it forces the monitor to draw a new image on the screen at a fixed interval. In theory, this would work well and the image is presented to the gamer without artifacts. The problem is that games that are played and rendered in real time rarely fall into a very specific frame rate. With only a couple of exceptions, games frame rates will fluctuate based on the activity happening on the screen: a rush of enemies, a changed camera angle, an explosion or falling building. Instantaneous frame rates can vary drastically, from 30, to 60, to 90, and force the image to be displayed only at set fractions of the monitor's refresh rate, which causes problems.

Continue reading our first impressions of the newly released AMD FreeSync technology!!