The Waiting Game
NVIDIA G-Sync was announced at a media event held in Montreal way back in October, and promised to revolutionize the way the display and graphics card worked together to present images on the screen. It was designed to remove hitching, stutter, and tearing -- almost completely. Since that fateful day in October of 2013, we have been waiting. Patiently waiting. We were waiting for NVIDIA and its partners to actually release a monitor that utilizes the technology and that can, you know, be purchased.
In December of 2013 we took a look at the ASUS VG248QE monitor, the display for which NVIDIA released a mod kit to allow users that already had this monitor to upgrade to G-Sync compatibility. It worked, and I even came away impressed. I noted in my conclusion that, “there isn't a single doubt that I want a G-Sync monitor on my desk” and, “my short time with the NVIDIA G-Sync prototype display has been truly impressive…”. That was nearly 7 months ago and I don’t think anyone at that time really believed it would be THIS LONG before the real monitors began to show in the hands of gamers around the world.
Since NVIDIA’s October announcement, AMD has been on a marketing path with a technology they call “FreeSync” that claims to be a cheaper, standards-based alternative to NVIDIA G-Sync. They first previewed the idea of FreeSync on a notebook device during CES in January and then showed off a prototype monitor in June during Computex. Even more recently, AMD has posted a public FAQ that gives more details on the FreeSync technology and how it differs from NVIDIA’s creation; it has raised something of a stir with its claims on performance and cost advantages.
That doesn’t change the product that we are reviewing today of course. The ASUS ROG Swift PG278Q 27-in WQHD display with a 144 Hz refresh rate is truly an awesome monitor. What did change is the landscape, from NVIDIA's original announcement until now.
Subject: General Tech, Mobile | August 11, 2014 - 08:00 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: webgl, tegra k1, nvidia, geforce, Chromebook, Bay Trail, acer
Today Acer unveiled a new Chromebook powered by an NVIDIA Tegra K1 processor. The aptly-named Chromebook 13 is 13-inch thin and light notebook running Google’s Chrome OS with up to 13 hours of battery life and three times the graphical performance of existing Chromebooks using Intel Bay Trail and Samsung Exynos processors.
The Chromebook 13 is 18mm thick and comes in a white plastic fanless chassis that hosts a 13.3” display, full size keyboard, trackpad, and HD webcam. The Chromebook 13 will be available with a 1366x768 or 1920x1080 resolution panel depending on the particular model (more on that below).
Beyond the usual laptop fixtures, external I/O includes two USB 3.0 ports, HDMI video output, a SD card reader, and a combo headphone/mic jack. Acer has placed one USB port on the left side along with the card reader and one USB port next to the HDMI port on the rear of the laptop. Personally, I welcome the HDMI port placement as it means connecting a second display will not result in a cable invading the mousing area should i wish to use a mouse (and it’s even south paw friendly Scott!).
The Chromebook 13 looks decent from the outside, but it is the internals where the device gets really interesting. Instead of going with an Intel Bay Trail (or even Celeron/Core i3), Acer has opted to team up with NVIDIA to deliver the world’s first NVIDIA-powered Chromebook.
Specifically, the Chromebook 13 uses a NVIDIA Tegra K1 SoC, up to 4GB RAM, and up to 32GB of flash storage. The K1 offers up four A15 CPU cores clocked at 2.1GHz, and a graphics unit with 192 Kepler-based CUDA cores. Acer rates the Chromebook 13 at 11 hours with the 1080p panel or 13 hours when equipped with the 1366x768 resolution display. Even being conservative, the Chromebook 13 looks to be the new leader in Chromebook battery life (with the previous leader claiming 11 hours).
A graph comparing WebGL performance between the NVIDIA Tegra K1, Intel (Bay Trail) Celeron N2830, Samsung Exynos 5800, and Samsung Exynos 5250. Results courtesy NVIDIA.
The Tegra K1 is a powerful little chip, and it is nice to see NVIDIA get a design win here. NVIDIA claims that the Tegra K1, which is rated at 326 GFLOPS of compute performance, offers up to three times the graphics performance of the Bay Trail N2830 and Exynos 5800 SoCs. Additionally, the K1 reportedly uses slightly less power and delivers higher multi-tasking performance. I’m looking forward to seeing independent reviews in this laptop formfactor and hoping that the chip lives up to its promises.
The Chromebook 13 is currently up for pre-order and will be available in September starting at $279. The Tegra K1-powered laptop will hit the United States and Europe first, with other countries to follow. Initially, the Europe roll-out will include “UK, Netherlands, Belgium, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Norway, France, Germany, Russia, Italy, Spain, South Africa and Switzerland.”
Acer is offering three consumer SKUs and one education SKU that will be exclusively offering through a re-seller. Please see the chart below for the specifications and pricing.
|Acer Chromebook 13 Models||System Memory (RAM)||Storage (flash)||Display||Price MSRP|
|CB5-311-T9B0||2GB||16GB||1920 x 1080||$299.99|
|CB5-311-T1UU||4GB||32GB||1920 x 1080||$379.99|
|CB5-311-T7NN - Base Model||2GB||16GB||1366 x 768||$279.99|
|Educational SKU (Reseller Only)||4GB||16GB||1366 x 768||$329.99|
Intel made some waves in the Chromebook market earlier this year with the announcement of several new Intel-powered Chrome devices and the addition of conflict-free Haswell Core i3 options. It seems that it is now time for the ARM(ed) response. I’m interested to see how NVIDIA’s newest model chip stacks up to the current and upcoming Intel x86 competition in terms of graphics power and battery usage.
As far as Chromebooks go, if the performance is at the point Acer and NVIDIA claim, this one definitely looks like a decent option considering the price. I think a head-to-head between the ASUS C200 (Bay Trail N2830, 2GB RAM, 16GB eMMC, and 1366x768 display at $249.99 MSRP) and Acer Chromebook 13 would be interesting as the real differentiator (beyond aesthetics) is the underlying SoC. I do wish there was a 4GB/16GB/1080p option in the Chromebook 13 lineup though considering the big price jump to get 4GB RAM (mostly as a result of the doubling of flash) in the $379.99 model at, say, $320 MSRP.
Read more about Chromebooks at PC Perspective!
Experience with Silent Design
In the time periods between major GPU releases, companies like ASUS have the ability to really dig down and engineer truly unique products. With the expanded time between major GPU releases, from either NVIDIA or AMD, these products have continued evolving to offer better features and experiences than any graphics card before them. The ASUS Strix GTX 780 is exactly one of those solutions – taking a GTX 780 GPU that was originally released in May of last year and twisting it into a new design that offers better cooling, better power and lower noise levels.
ASUS intended, with the Strix GTX 780, to create a card that is perfect for high end PC gamers, without crossing into the realm of bank-breaking prices. They chose to go with the GeForce GTX 780 GPU from NVIDIA at a significant price drop from the GTX 780 Ti, with only a modest performance drop. They double the reference memory capacity from 3GB to 6GB of GDDR5, to assuage any buyer’s thoughts that 3GB wasn’t enough for multi-screen Surround gaming or 4K gaming. And they change the cooling solution to offer a near silent operation mode when used in “low impact” gaming titles.
The ASUS Strix GTX 780 Graphics Card
The ASUS Strix GTX 780 card is a pretty large beast, both in physical size and in performance. The cooler is a slightly modified version of the very popular DirectCU II thermal design used in many of the custom built ASUS graphics cards. It has a heat dissipation area more than twice that of the reference NVIDIA cooler and uses larger fans that allow them to spin slower (and quieter) at the improved cooling capacity.
Out of the box, the ASUS Strix GTX 780 will run at 889 MHz base clock and 941 MHz Boost clock, a fairly modest increase over the 863/900 MHz rates of the reference card. Obviously with much better cooling and a lot of work being done on the PCB of this custom design, users will have a lot of headroom to overclock on their own, but I continue to implore companies like ASUS and MSI to up the ante out of the box! One area where ASUS does impress is with the memory – the Strix card features a full 6GB of GDDR5 running 6.0 GHz, twice the capacity of the reference GTX 780 (and even GTX 780 Ti) cards. If you had any concerns about Surround or 4K gaming, know that memory capacity will not be a problem. (Though raw compute power may still be.)
Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards | August 3, 2014 - 04:59 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: nvidia, maxwell, gtx 880
Just recently, we posted a story that claimed NVIDIA was preparing to launch high-end Maxwell in the October/November time frame. Apparently, that was generous. The graphics company is said to announce their GeForce GTX 880 in mid-September, with availability coming later in the month. It is expected to be based on the GM204 architecture (which previous rumors claim is 28nm).
It is expected that the GeForce GTX 880 will be available with 4GB of video memory, with an 8GB version possible at some point. As someone who runs multiple (five) monitors, I can tell you that 2GB is not enough for someone of my use case. Windows 7 says the same. It kicks me out of applications to tell me that it does not have enough video memory. This would be enough reason for me to get more GPU memory.
We still do not know how many CUDA cores will be present in the GM204 chip, or if the GeForce GTX 880 will have all of them enabled (but I would be surprised if it didn't). Without any way to derive its theoretical performance, we cannot compare it against the GTX 780 or 780Ti. It could be significantly faster, it could be marginally faster, or it could be somewhere between.
But we will probably find out within two months.
Subject: General Tech | July 31, 2014 - 01:49 PM | Ken Addison
Tagged: podcast, video, nvidia, shield tablet, amd, freesync, crucial, M550, mx100, Oculus, DK2, logitech g402, evga, TORQ X10
PC Perspective Podcast #311 - 07/31/2014
Join us this week as we discuss AMD FreeSync, NVIDIA SHIELD Tablet, Crucial M550 SSD and more!
The URL for the podcast is: http://pcper.com/podcast - Share with your friends!
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- MP3 - Direct download link to the MP3 file
Hosts: Ryan Shrout, Jeremy Hellstrom, Josh Walrath, and Allyn Malventano
Hey, we have a contest, stay tuned!!
Week in Review:
0:42:25 EVGA Contest
News items of interest:
Hardware/Software Picks of the Week:
Ryan: Logitech G402 Mouse
Allyn: Oculus - needs to happen sooner!!!
Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards, Displays | July 29, 2014 - 09:02 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: vesa, nvidia, g-sync, freesync, DisplayPort, amd
Dynamic refresh rates have two main purposes: save power by only forcing the monitor to refresh when a new frame is available, and increase animation smoothness by synchronizing to draw rates (rather than "catching the next bus" at 16.67ms, on the 16.67ms, for 60 Hz monitors). Mobile devices prefer the former, while PC gamers are interested in the latter.
Obviously, the video camera nullifies the effect.
NVIDIA was first to make this public with G-Sync. AMD responded with FreeSync, starting with a proposal that was later ratified by VESA as DisplayPort Adaptive-Sync. AMD, then, took up "Project FreeSync" as an AMD "hardware/software solution" to make use of DisplayPort Adaptive-Sync in a way that benefits PC gamers.
Today's news is that AMD has just released an FAQ which explains the standard much more thoroughly than they have in the past. For instance, it clarifies the distinction between DisplayPort Adaptive-Sync and Project FreeSync. Prior to the FAQ, I thought that FreeSync became DisplayPort Adaptive-Sync, and that was that. Now, it is sounding a bit more proprietary, just built upon an open, VESA standard.
If interested, check out the FAQ at AMD's website.
Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards | July 29, 2014 - 08:27 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: nvidia, geforce, graphics drivers, shield tablet, shield
Alongside the NVIDIA SHIELD Tablet launch, the company has released their GeForce 340.52 drivers. This version allows compatible devices to use GameStream and it, also, is optimized for Metro: Redux and Final Fantasy XIV (China).
The driver supports GeForce 8-series graphics cards, and later. As a reminder, for GPUs that are not based on the Fermi architecture (or later), 340.xx will be your last driver version. NVIDIA does intend to provided extended support for 340.xx (and earlier) drivers until April 1st, 2016. But, when Fermi, Kepler, and Maxwell move on to 343.xx, Tesla and earlier will not. That said, most of the content of this driver is aimed at Kepler and later. Either way, the driver itself is available for those pre-Fermi cards.
I should also mention that a user of Anandtech's forums noted the removal of Miracast from NVIDIA documentation. NVIDIA has yet to comment, although it is still very short notice, at this point.
A Tablet and Controller Worth Using
An interesting thing happened a couple of weeks back, while I was standing on stage at our annual PC Perspective Hardware Workshop during Quakecon in Dallas, TX. When NVIDIA offered up a SHIELD (now called the SHIELD Portable) for raffle, the audience cheered. And not just a little bit, but more than they did for nearly any other hardware offered up during the show. That included motherboards, graphics card, monitors, even complete systems. It kind of took me aback - NVIDIA SHIELD was a popular brand, a name that was recognized, and apparently, a product that people wanted to own. You might not have guessed that based on the sales numbers that SHIELD has put forward though. Even though it appeared to have a significant mind share, market share was something that was lacking.
Today though, NVIDIA prepares the second product in the SHIELD lineup, the SHIELD Tablet, a device the company hopes improves on the idea of SHIELD to encourage other users to sign on. It's a tablet (not a tablet with a controller attached), it has a more powerful SoC that can utilize different APIs for unique games, it can be more easily used in a 10-ft console mode and the SHIELD specific features like Game Stream are included and enhanced.
The question of course though is easy to put forward: should you buy one? Let's explore.
The NVIDIA SHIELD Tablet
At first glance, the NVIDIA SHIELD Tablet looks like a tablet. That actually isn't a negative selling point though, as the SHIELD Tablet can and does act like a high end tablet in nearly every way: performance, function, looks. We originally went over the entirety of the tablet's specifications in our first preview last week but much of it bears repeating for this review.
The SHIELD Tablet is built around the NVIDIA Tegra K1 SoC, the first mobile silicon to implement the Kepler graphics architecture. That feature alone makes this tablet impressive because it offers graphics performance not seen in a form factor like this before. CPU performance is also improved over the Tegra 4 processor, but the graphics portion of the die sees the largest performance jump easily.
A 1920x1200 resolution 7.9-in IPS screen faces the user and brings the option of full 1080p content lacking with the first SHIELD portable. The screen is bright and crisp, easily viewable in bring lighting for gaming or use in lots of environments. Though the Xiaomi Mi Pad 7.9 had a 2048x1536 resolution screen, the form factor of the SHIELD Tablet is much more in line with what NVIDIA built with the Tegra Note 7.
Subject: General Tech, Mobile | July 24, 2014 - 10:04 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: shield tablet, shield, nvidia
Just a small note to continue with our SHIELD Tablet coverage. It turns out that the $299 (16GB) SHIELD Tablet, its cover, and its wireless controller are all available for pre-order on Amazon. The unit will actually be available on July 29th, but we were not aware that pre-orders would be possible until now.
While Ryan wrote a preview for the SHIELD Tablet, he is not giving a final word until he gets it into his lab and is capable of giving a full review. Also, we do not know how many units will be available. Whether you should pre-order, or wait for Ryan's final word, is up to you.
Thanks to our fans for alerting us of this availabilty in the IRC during TWiCH.
Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards | July 24, 2014 - 07:32 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: nvidia, gtx 880
Many of our readers were hoping to drop one (or more) Maxwell-based GPUs in their system for use with their 4K monitors, 3D, or whatever else they need performance for. That has not happened, nor do we even know, for sure, when it will. The latest rumors claim that the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 870 and 880 desktop GPUs will arrive in October or November. More interesting, it is expected to be based on GM204 at the current, 28nm process.
The recent GPU roadmap, as of GTC 2014
NVIDIA has not commented on the delay, at least that I know of, but we can tell something is up from their significantly different roadmap. We can also make a fairly confident guess, by paying attention to the industry as a whole. TSMC has been struggling to keep up with 28nm production, having increased wait times by six extra weeks in May, according to Digitimes, and whatever 20nm capacity they had was reportedly gobbled up by Apple until just recently. At around the same time, NVIDIA inserted Pascal between Maxwell and Volta with 3D memory, NVLink, and some unified memory architecture (which I don't believe they yet elaborated on).
The previous roadmap. (Source: Anandtech)
And, if this rumor is true, Maxwell was pushed from 20nm to a wholly 28nm architecture. It was originally supposed to be host of unified virtual memory, not Pascal. If I had to make a safe guess, I would assume that NVIDIA needed to redesign their chip to 28nm and, especially with the extra delays at TSMC, cannot get the volume they need until Autumn.
Lastly, going by the launch of the 750ti, Maxwell will basically be a cleaned-up Kepler architecture. Its compute units were shifted into power-of-two partitions, reducing die area for scheduling logic (and so forth). NVIDIA has been known to stash a few features into each generation, sometimes revealing them well after retail availability, so that is not to say that Maxwell will be "a more efficient Kepler".
I expect its fundamental architecture should be pretty close, though.