Video Perspective: GPU Shortages and Litecoin Mining Discussion

Subject: Graphics Cards | December 12, 2013 - 05:20 PM |
Tagged: video, amd, radeon, hawaii, r9 290, R9 290X, bitcoin, litecoin, mining

If you already listened to this weeks PC Perspective Podcast, then feel free to disregard this post.  For the rest of you - subscribe to our damned weekly podcast would you already?!?

In any event, I thought it might be interesting to extract this 6 minute discussion we had during last nights live streamed podcast about how the emergence of Litecoin mining operations is driving up prices of GPUs, particularly the compute-capable R9 290 and R9 290X Hawaii-based cards from AMD.

Check out these prices currently on Amazon!

The price of the GTX 770 is a bit higher than it should be while the GTX 780 and GTX 780 Ti are priced in the same range they have been for the last month or so.  The same cannot be said for the AMD cards listed here - the R9 280X is selling for $130 more than its expected MSRP at a minimum but you'll see quite a few going for much higher on Amazon, Ebay (thanks TR) and others.  The Radeon R9 290 has an MSRP of $399 from AMD but the lowest price we found on Amazon was $499 and anything on Newegg.com is showing at the same price, but sold out.  The R9 290X is even more obnoxiously priced when you can find them.

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Do you have any thoughts on this?  Do you think Litecoin mining is really causing these price inflations and what does that mean for AMD, NVIDIA and the gamer?

Controversy continues to erupt over AMD's new GPU

Subject: Graphics Cards | November 27, 2013 - 04:44 PM |
Tagged: sapphire, radeon, R9 290X, hawaii, amd, 290x

Ryan is not the only one who felt it necessary to investigate the reports of differing performance between retail R9 290X cards and the ones sent out for review.  Legit Reviews also ordered a retail card made by Sapphire and tested it against the card sent to them by AMD.  As with our results, ambient temperature had more effect on the frequency of the retail card than it did on the press sample with a 14% difference being common.  Legit had another idea after they noticed that while the BIOS version was the same on both cards the part numbers differed.  Find out what happened when they flashed the retail card to exactly match the press sample.

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"The AMD Radeon R9 290X and R9 290 have been getting a ton of attention lately due to a number of reports that the retail cards are performing differently than the press cards that the media sites received. We have been following these stories for the past few weeks and finally decided to look into the situation ourselves."

Here are some more Graphics Card articles from around the web:

Graphics Cards

Author:
Manufacturer: Sapphire

Another retail card reveals the results

Since the release of the new AMD Radeon R9 290X and R9 290 graphics cards, we have been very curious about the latest implementation of AMD's PowerTune technology and its scaling of clock frequency as a result of the thermal levels of each graphics card.  In the first article covering this topic, I addressed the questions from AMD's point of view - is this really a "configurable" GPU as AMD claims or are there issues that need to be addressed by the company? 

The biggest problems I found were in the highly variable clock speeds from game to game and from a "cold" GPU to a "hot" GPU.  This affects the way many people in the industry test and benchmark graphics cards as running a game for just a couple of minutes could result in average and reported frame rates that are much higher than what you see 10-20 minutes into gameplay.  This was rarely something that had to be dealt with before (especially on AMD graphics cards) so to many it caught them off-guard.

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Because of the new PowerTune technology, as I have discussed several times before, clock speeds are starting off quite high on the R9 290X (at or near the 1000 MHz quoted speed) and then slowly drifting down over time.

Another wrinkle occurred when Tom's Hardware reported that retail graphics cards they had seen were showing markedly lower performance than the reference samples sent to reviewers.  As a result, AMD quickly released a new driver that attempted to address the problem by normalizing to fan speeds (RPM) rather than fan voltage (percentage).  The result was consistent fan speeds on different cards and thus much closer performance.

However, with all that being said, I was still testing retail AMD Radeon R9 290X and R9 290 cards that were PURCHASED rather than sampled, to keep tabs on the situation. 

Continue reading our article on retail variance in R9 290X clock speeds and performance!!

Author:
Manufacturer: AMD

An issue of variance

AMD just sent along an email to the press with a new driver to use for Radeon R9 290X and Radeon R9 290 testing going forward.  Here is the note:

We’ve identified that there’s variability in fan speeds across AMD R9 290 series boards. This variability in fan speed translates into variability of the cooling capacity of the fan-sink.

The flexibility of AMD PowerTune technology enables us to correct this variability in a driver update. This update will normalize the fan RPMs to the correct values.

The correct target RPM values are 2200RPM for the AMD Radeon R9 290X ‘Quiet mode’, and 2650RPM for the R9 290. You can verify these in GPU-Z.

If you’re working on stories relating to R9 290 series products, please use this driver as it will reduce any variability in fan speeds. This driver will be posted publicly tonight.

Great!  This is good news!  Except it also creates some questions. 

When we first tested the R9 290X and the R9 290, we discussed the latest iteration of AMD's PowerTune technology. That feature attempts to keep clocks as high as possible under the constraints of temperature and power.  I took issue with the high variability of clock speeds on our R9 290X sample, citing this graph:

clock-avg.png

I then did some digging into the variance and the claims that AMD was building a "configurable" GPU.  In that article we found that there were significant performance deltas between "hot" and "cold" GPUs; we noticed that doing simple, quick benchmarks would produce certain results that were definitely not real-world in nature.  At the default 40% fan speed, Crysis 3 showed 10% variance with the 290X at 2560x1440:

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Continue reading our coverage of the most recent driver changes and how they affect the R9 290X and R9 290!!

AMD Releases Catalyst 13.11 Beta 9.2 Driver To Correct Performance Variance Issue of R9 290 Series Graphics Cards

Subject: Graphics Cards, Cases and Cooling | November 8, 2013 - 02:41 AM |
Tagged: R9 290X, powertune, hawaii, graphics drivers, gpu, GCN, catalyst 13.11 beta, amd, 290x

AMD recently launched its 290X graphics card, which is the new high-end single GPU solution using a GCN-based Hawaii architecture. The new GPU is rather large and incorporates an updated version of AMD's PowerTune technology to automatically adjust clockspeeds based on temperature and a maximum fan speed of 40%. Unfortunately, it seems that some 290X cards available at retail exhibited performance characteristics that varied from review units.

Retail versus Review Sample Performance Variance Testing.jpg

AMD has looked into the issue and released the following statement in response to the performance variances (which PC Perspective is looking into as well).

Hello, We've identified that there's variability in fan speeds across AMD R9 290 series boards. This variability in fan speed translates into variability of the cooling capacity of the fan-sink. The flexibility of AMD PowerTune technology enables us to correct this variability in a driver update. This update will normalize the fan RPMs to the correct values.

The correct target RPM values are 2200RPM for the AMD Radeon R9 290X "Quiet mode", and 2650RPM for the R9 290. You can verify these in GPU-Z. If you're working on stories relating to R9 290 series products, please use this driver as it will reduce any variability in fan speeds. This driver will be posted publicly tonight.

From the AMD statement, it seems to be an issue with fan speeds from card to card causing the performance variances. With a GPU that is rated to run at up to 95C, a fan limited to 40% maximum, and dynamic clockspeeds, it is only natural that cards could perform differently, especially if case airflow is not up to par. On the other hand, the specific issue pointed out by other technology review sites (per my understanding, it was initially Tom's Hardware that reported on the retail vs review sample variance) is  an issue where the 40% maximum on certain cards is not actually the RPM target that AMD intended.

AMD intended for the Radeon R9 290X's fan to run at 2200RPM (40%) in Quiet Mode and the fan on the R9 290 (which has a maximum fan speed percentage of 47%) to spin at 2650 RPM in Quiet Mode. However, some cards 40% values are not actually hitting those intended RPMs, which is causing performance differences due to cooling and PowerTune adjusting the clockspeeds accordingly.

Luckily, the issue is being worked on by AMD, and it is reportedly rectified by a driver update. The driver update ensures that the fans are actually spinning at the intended speed when set to the 40% (R9 290X) or 47% (R9 290) values in Catalyst Control Center. The new driver, which includes the fix, is version Catalyst 13.11 Beta 9.2 and is available for download now. 

If you are running a R9 290 or R9 290X in your system, you should consider updating to the latest driver to ensure you are getting the cooling (and as a result gaming) performance you are supposed to be getting.

Catalyst 13.11 Beta 9.2 is available from the AMD website.

Also read:

Stay tuned to PC Perspective for more information on the Radeon R9 290 series GPU performance variance issue as it develops.

Image credit: Ryan Shrout (PC Perspective).

Source: AMD

For AMD, X does not mark the spot

Subject: General Tech | November 5, 2013 - 01:22 PM |
Tagged: radeon, r9 290, hawaii, crossfire, amd, 290x, powertune

How does all the power of a GTX 780 for a price tag $100 lower sound to you?  Honestly it might sound a little loud as the reference cooler on the R9 290 can be a little loud at 50% which is the speed you need to be able to keep this card running full out.  As long as you don't mind the sound or are willing to wait for custom air or water cooling solutions there are no negatives about the 290.  Frame pacing makes Crossfire much smoother and it sports the hardware improvements for EyeFinity to improve your experience in 4K and multi-monitor usage.  [H]ard|OCP actually uses the word epic just before giving this card a Gold Award, check out their full review here.

Ryan's review, including Frame Rating can be found by clicking here.

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"It is time now to look at AMD's Radeon R9 290. This lower-cost R9 290 series video card packs a punch, not only in performance, but also in price. Watch it compete with the GeForce GTX 780, and win while being priced lower. This is the value you have been waiting for with gaming performance."

Here are some more Graphics Card articles from around the web:

Graphics Cards


Source: [H]ard|OCP
Author:
Manufacturer: AMD

More of the same for a lot less cash

The week before Halloween, AMD unleashed a trick on the GPU world under the guise of the Radeon R9 290X and it was the fastest single GPU graphics card we had tested to date.  With a surprising price point of $549, it was able to outperform the GeForce GTX 780 (and GTX TITAN in most cases) while under cutting the competitions price by $100.  Not too bad! 

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Today's release might be more surprising (and somewhat confusing).  The AMD Radeon R9 290 4GB card is based on the same Hawaii GPU with a few less compute units enabled (CUs) and an even more aggressive price and performance placement.  Seriously, has AMD lost its mind?

Can a card with a $399 price tag cut into the same performance levels as the JUST DROPPED price of $499 for the GeForce GTX 780??  And, if so, what sacrifices are being made by users that adopt it?  Why do so many of our introduction sentences end in question marks?

The R9 290 GPU - Hawaii loses a small island

If you are new to the Hawaii GPU and you missed our first review of the Radeon R9 290X from last month, you should probably start back there.  The architecture is very similar to that of the HD 7000-series Tahiti GPUs with some modest changes to improve efficiency with the biggest jump in raw primitives per second to 4/clock over 2/clock.

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The R9 290 is based on Hawaii though it has four fewer compute units (CUs) than the R9 290X.  When I asked AMD if that meant there was one fewer CU per Shader Engine or if they were all removed from a single Engine, they refused to really answer.  Instead, several "I'm not allowed to comment on the specific configuration" lines were given.  This seems pretty odd as NVIDIA has been upfront about the dual options for its derivative GPU models.  Oh well.

Continue reading our review of the AMD Radeon R9 290 4GB Graphics Card Review!!!

Author:
Manufacturer: AMD

Clock Variations

When AMD released the Radeon R9 290X last month, I came away from the review very impressed with the performance and price point the new flagship graphics card was presented with.  My review showed that the 290X was clearly faster than the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780 and (and that time) was considerably less expensive as well - a win-win for AMD without a doubt. 

But there were concerns over a couple of aspects of the cards design.  First was the temperature and, specifically, how AMD was okay with this rather large silicon hitting 95C sustained.  Another concern, AMD has also included a switch at the top of the R9 290X to switch fan profiles.  This switch essentially creates two reference defaults and makes it impossible for us to set a baseline of performance.  These different modes only changed the maximum fan speed that the card was allowed to reach.  Still, performance changed because of this setting thanks to the newly revised (and updated) AMD PowerTune technology.

We also saw, in our initial review, a large variation in clock speeds both from one game to another as well as over time (after giving the card a chance to heat up).  This led me to create the following graph showing average clock speeds 5-7 minutes into a gaming session with the card set to the default, "quiet" state.  Each test is over a 60 second span.

clock-avg.png

Clearly there is variance here which led us to more questions about AMD's stance.  Remember when the Kepler GPUs launched.  AMD was very clear that variance from card to card, silicon to silicon, was bad for the consumer as it created random performance deltas between cards with otherwise identical specifications. 

When it comes to the R9 290X, though, AMD claims both the GPU (and card itself) are a customizable graphics solution.  The customization is based around the maximum fan speed which is a setting the user can adjust inside the Catalyst Control Center.  This setting will allow you to lower the fan speed if you are a gamer desiring a quieter gaming configuration while still having great gaming performance.  If you are comfortable with a louder fan, because headphones are magic, then you have the option to simply turn up the maximum fan speed and gain additional performance (a higher average clock rate) without any actual overclocking.

Continue reading our article on the AMD Radeon R9 290X - The Configurable GPU!!!

Fall of a Titan, check out the R9 290X

Subject: Graphics Cards | October 24, 2013 - 02:38 PM |
Tagged: radeon, R9 290X, kepler, hawaii, amd

If you didn't stay up to watch our live release of the R9 290X after the podcast last night you missed a chance to have your questions answered but you will be able to watch the recording later on.  The R9 290X arrived today, bringing 4K and Crossfire reviews as well as single GPU testing on many a site including PCPer of course.  You don't just have to take our word for it, [H]ard|OCP was also putting together a review of AMD's Titan killer.  Their benchmarks included some games we haven't adopted yet such as ARMA III.  Check out their results and compare them to ours, AMD really has a winner here.

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"AMD is launching the Radeon R9 290X today. The R9 290X represents AMD's fastest single-GPU video card ever produced. It is priced to be less expensive than the GeForce GTX 780, but packs a punch on the level of GTX TITAN. We look at performance, the two BIOS mode options, and even some 4K gaming."

Here are some more Graphics Card articles from around the web:

Graphics Cards

Source: [H]ard|OCP
Author:
Manufacturer: AMD

A slightly new architecture

Note: We also tested the new AMD Radeon R9 290X in CrossFire and at 4K resolutions; check out that full Frame Rating story right here!!

Last month AMD brought media, analysts, and customers out to Hawaii to talk about a new graphics chip coming out this year.  As you might have guessed based on the location: the code name for this GPU was in fact, Hawaii. It was targeted at the high end of the discrete graphics market to take on the likes of the GTX 780 and GTX TITAN from NVIDIA. 

Earlier this month we reviewed the AMD Radeon R9 280X, R9 270X, and the R7 260X. None of these were based on that new GPU.  Instead, these cards were all rebrands and repositionings of existing hardware in the market (albeit at reduced prices).  Those lower prices made the R9 280X one of our favorite GPUs of the moment as it offers performance per price points currently unmatched by NVIDIA.

But today is a little different, today we are talking about a much more expensive product that has to live up to some pretty lofty goals and ambitions set forward by the AMD PR and marketing machine.  At $549 MSRP, the new AMD Radeon R9 290X will become the flagship of the Radeon brand.  The question is: to where does that ship sail?

 

The AMD Hawaii Architecture

To be quite upfront about it, the Hawaii design is very similar to that of the Tahiti GPU from the Radeon HD 7970 and R9 280X cards.  Based on the same GCN (Graphics Core Next) architecture AMD assured us would be its long term vision, Hawaii ups the ante in a few key areas while maintaining the same core.

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Hawaii is built around Shader Engines, of which the R9 290X has four.  Each of these includes 11 CU (compute units) which hold 4 SIMD arrays each.  Doing the quick math brings us to a total stream processor count of 2,816 on the R9 290X. 

Continue reading our review of the AMD Radeon R9 290X 4GB Graphics Card!!