NVIDIA SHIELD Tablet Gets OTA2.1 Update

Subject: General Tech, Mobile | December 28, 2014 - 08:18 PM |
Tagged: shield tablet, shield, nvidia, Android

NVIDIA has upgraded their SHIELD Tablet software to version 2.1. This release increments Android Lollipop to 5.0.1, updates a bit of bundled software, improves localization support, and adds OpenGL 4.5. The updated landed on December 23rd, alongside their Grid Tuesday release.

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The new graphics API is interesting, but its usefulness is a bit questionable. Google does not really support OpenGL on the platform, although they do not prevent companies (like NVIDIA) from providing their own SDKs. This could be a bit increase in performance for apps that are optimized for the SHIELD Tablet and possibly the Nexus 9, especially since its main features increase performance and security. On the other hand, this should increase the potential for NVIDIA's first-party releases and ports.

If you have the NVIDIA SHIELD Tablet, then this is might be week-old news. If not, the update was released on December 23rd.

Source: NVIDIA

#GRIDTuesday Brings F1 2010 and Dirt Showdown

Subject: General Tech | December 27, 2014 - 04:23 PM |
Tagged: shield tablet, shield, nvidia, grid, geforce grid, f1 2010, dirt showdown

Okay, so I forgot about #GRIDTuesday for a little while. NVIDIA didn't. They have been releasing two games for the GRID service each and every week. You will need a SHIELD device to access it, which I don't have, and you will also need to be in a supported region. If you qualify in both criteria, then you can have access to NVIDIA's cloud-streamed game service for free (until June 30th). Since our post last month, which aligned with the release of Psychonauts and Red Faction: Armageddon, eight new games have been added.

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The most recent inclusions, occurring two days before Christmas, were F1 2010 and Dirt Showdown. The previous Tuesday was Lego-themed, with LEGO The Hobbit and LEGO The Lord of the Rings joining the service. This followed the indie titles, Stacking and PixelJunk Monsters Ultimate on December 9th. Finally, December 2nd was Batman: Arkham Origins and LEGO Batman: The Video Game.

Now you're all caught up.

These are quite good games. Batman: Arkham Origins was released just about a year ago and enjoyed by most, especially fans of the franchise. Some have complained about bugs and glitches, but it is free in this promotional period, so why not?

This week brought the number of available games up to an even 30, and they are quite diverse. If you have a SHIELD device, and are in the United States, Canada, or Western Europe, then be sure to check it out.

Source: NVIDIA

Podcast #330 - MSI GT72 Dominator Pro, 10 Days of Christmas, Mechanical Keyboards and more!

Subject: General Tech | December 18, 2014 - 02:05 PM |
Tagged: podcast, video, msi, gt72, 10 days of christmas, ncase, Sasmung, vnand, nvidia, amd, Intel, Broadwell, nuc

PC Perspective Podcast #330 - 12/18/2014

Join us this week as we discuss the MSI GT72 Dominator Pro, 10 Days of Christmas, Mechanical Keyboards 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!!

Nvidia GeForce 347.09 beta drivers have arrived

Subject: Graphics Cards | December 17, 2014 - 09:19 PM |
Tagged: geforce, nvidia, 347.09 beta

The 347.09 beta driver is out, which will help performance in Elite: Dangerous and Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes.  If you use GeForce Experience they will install automatically otherwise head to the driver page to manually install them.  Project CARS should also benefit from this new beta and you will be able to enable 3D on Alien: Isolation, Elite: Dangerous, Escape Dead Island, Far Cry 4 and Middle-Earth - Shadow of Mordor.  NVIDIA's new incremental updates, called GeForce Game Ready will mean more frequent driver updates with less changes than we have become accustomed to but do benefit those playing the games which they have been designed to improve.

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As with the previous WHQL driver, GTX 980M SLI and GTX 970M SLI on notebooks does not function and if you do plan on updating your gaming laptop you should disable SLI before installing them.  You can catch up on all the changes in this PDF

Source: NVIDIA

NVIDIA Launches Half-Life 2: Episode One on SHIELD Tablet

Subject: General Tech, Mobile | December 15, 2014 - 03:31 PM |
Tagged: shield tablet, shield, Portal, nvidia, half-life 2: episode one, half-life 2, google play, google, Android

Back in November, we published news about the NVIDIA SHIELD Tablet update to Android 5.0. A part of the update was the “Green Box” promotion, which gives Half-Life 2, Portal, and Half-Life 2: Episode One free with the purchase of a 32GB LTE SHIELD Tablet. Today, Half-Life 2: Episode One launches on Google Play store for $7.99 USD (or free with the Green Box). Unlike Half-Life 2 and Portal, which runs on the original NVIDIA SHIELD, Episode One requires an NVIDIA SHIELD Tablet. It also requires a controller.

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Like the previous release of Half-Life 2 and Portal, this is a complete port to the ARM architecture of NVIDIA Tegra K1. The game will run natively on the device, without being streamed from a host PC. For a little perspective, the Tegra K1 has a little more compute performance than a GeForce 9600 GT – a popular mid-range GPU that launched two years after Episode One.

Half-Life 2: Episode One launched today for $7.99 USD (or free with “The Green Box” bundle).

Source: Google
Subject: Mobile
Manufacturer: MSI

Introduction and Design

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MSI’s unapologetically large GT70 “Dominator Pro” series of machines knows its audience well: for every gripe about the notebooks’ hulking sizes, a snicker and a shrug are returned by the community, who rarely value such items as portability as highly as the critics who are hired to judge based on them.  These machines are built for power, first and foremost.  While featherweight construction and manageable dimensions matter to those regularly tossing machines into their bags, by contrast, MSI’s desktop replacements recognize the meaning of their classification: the flexibility of merely moving around the house with one’s gaming rig is reason enough to consider investing in one.

So its priorities are arguably well in line.  But if you want to keep on dominating, regular updates are a necessity, too.  And with the GT72 2QE, MSI takes it all up yet another notch: our review unit (GT72 2QE-208US) packs four SSDs in a RAID-0 array (as opposed to the GT70’s three), plus a completely redesigned case which manages to address some of our biggest complaints.  Oh yeah, and an NVIDIA GTX 980M GPU with 8 GB GDDR5 RAM—the fastest mobile GPU ever.  (You can find much more information and analysis on this GPU specifically in Ryan’s ever-comprehensive review.)

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Of course, these state-of-the-art innards come at no small price: $2,999 as configured (around a $2,900 street price), or a few hundred bucks less with storage or RAM sacrifices—a reasonable trade-off considering the marginal benefits one gains from a quad-SSD array or 32 GB of RAM.

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Continue reading our MSI GT72 review now!!!

Podcast #328 - G-Sync Flickering, In Win D-Frame Mini, Fractal R5 Silent and more!

Subject: General Tech | December 4, 2014 - 03:34 PM |
Tagged: podcast, video, g-sync, flickering, ROG Swift, pg278q, in win, d-frame mini, fractal, define r5 silent, nvidia, amd, Intel, asus, gtx 970 DirectCU Mini, msi, 970 Gaming

PC Perspective Podcast #328 - 12/04/2014

Join us this week as we discuss G-Sync Flickering, In Win D-Frame Mini, Fractal R5 Silent 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: Allyn Malventano, Jeremy Hellstrom, Josh Walrath, and Sebastian Peak

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

 

Manufacturer: PC Percpective

Overview

We’ve been tracking NVIDIA’s G-Sync for quite a while now. The comments section on Ryan’s initial article erupted with questions, and many of those were answered in a follow-on interview with NVIDIA’s Tom Petersen. The idea was radical – do away with the traditional fixed refresh rate and only send a new frame to the display when it has just completed rendering by the GPU. There are many benefits here, but the short version is that you get the low-latency benefit of V-SYNC OFF gaming combined with the image quality (lack of tearing) that you would see if V-SYNC was ON. Despite the many benefits, there are some potential disadvantages that come from attempting to drive an LCD panel at varying periods of time, as opposed to the fixed intervals that have been the norm for over a decade.

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As the first round of samples came to us for review, the current leader appeared to be the ASUS ROG Swift. A G-Sync 144 Hz display at 1440P was sure to appeal to gamers who wanted faster response than the 4K 60 Hz G-Sync alternative was capable of. Due to what seemed to be large consumer demand, it has taken some time to get these panels into the hands of consumers. As our Storage Editor, I decided it was time to upgrade my home system, placed a pre-order, and waited with anticipation of finally being able to shift from my trusty Dell 3007WFP-HC to a large panel that can handle >2x the FPS.

Fast forward to last week. My pair of ROG Swifts arrived, and some other folks I knew had also received theirs. Before I could set mine up and get some quality gaming time in, my bro FifthDread and his wife both noted a very obvious flicker on their Swifts within the first few minutes of hooking them up. They reported the flicker during game loading screens and mid-game during background content loading occurring in some RTS titles. Prior to hearing from them, the most I had seen were some conflicting and contradictory reports on various forums (not limed to the Swift, though that is the earliest panel and would therefore see the majority of early reports), but now we had something more solid to go on. That night I fired up my own Swift and immediately got to doing what I do best – trying to break things. We have reproduced the issue and intend to demonstrate it in a measurable way, mostly to put some actual data out there to go along with those trying to describe something that is borderline perceptible for mere fractions of a second.

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First a bit of misnomer correction / foundation laying:

  • The ‘Screen refresh rate’ option you see in Windows Display Properties is actually a carryover from the CRT days. In terms of an LCD, it is the maximum rate at which a frame is output to the display. It is not representative of the frequency at which the LCD panel itself is refreshed by the display logic.
  • LCD panel pixels are periodically updated by a scan, typically from top to bottom. Newer / higher quality panels repeat this process at a rate higher than 60 Hz in order to reduce the ‘rolling shutter’ effect seen when panning scenes or windows across the screen.
  • In order to engineer faster responding pixels, manufacturers must deal with the side effect of faster pixel decay between refreshes. This is a balanced by increasing the frequency of scanning out to the panel.
  • The effect we are going to cover here has nothing to do with motion blur, LightBoost, backlight PWM, LightBoost combined with G-Sync (not currently a thing, even though Blur Busters has theorized on how it could work, their method would not work with how G-Sync is actually implemented today).

With all of that out of the way, let’s tackle what folks out there may be seeing on their own variable refresh rate displays. Based on our testing so far, the flicker only presented at times when a game enters a 'stalled' state. These are periods where you would see a split-second freeze in the action, like during a background level load during game play in some titles. It also appears during some game level load screens, but as those are normally static scenes, they would have gone unnoticed on fixed refresh rate panels. Since we were absolutely able to see that something was happening, we wanted to be able to catch it in the act and measure it, so we rooted around the lab and put together some gear to do so. It’s not a perfect solution by any means, but we only needed to observe differences between the smooth gaming and the ‘stalled state’ where the flicker was readily observable. Once the solder dust settled, we fired up a game that we knew could instantaneously swing from a high FPS (144) to a stalled state (0 FPS) and back again. As it turns out, EVE Online does this exact thing while taking an in-game screen shot, so we used that for our initial testing. Here’s what the brightness of a small segment of the ROG Swift does during this very event:

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Measured panel section brightness over time during a 'stall' event. Click to enlarge.

The relatively small ripple to the left and right of center demonstrate the panel output at just under 144 FPS. Panel redraw is in sync with the frames coming from the GPU at this rate. The center section, however, represents what takes place when the input from the GPU suddenly drops to zero. In the above case, the game briefly stalled, then resumed a few frames at 144, then stalled again for a much longer period of time. Completely stopping the panel refresh would result in all TN pixels bleeding towards white, so G-Sync has a built-in failsafe to prevent this by forcing a redraw every ~33 msec. What you are seeing are the pixels intermittently bleeding towards white and periodically being pulled back down to the appropriate brightness by a scan. The low latency panel used in the ROG Swift does this all of the time, but it is less noticeable at 144, as you can see on the left and right edges of the graph. An additional thing that’s happening here is an apparent rise in average brightness during the event. We are still researching the cause of this on our end, but this brightness increase certainly helps to draw attention to the flicker event, making it even more perceptible to those who might have not otherwise noticed it.

Some of you might be wondering why this same effect is not seen when a game drops to 30 FPS (or even lower) during the course of normal game play. While the original G-Sync upgrade kit implementation simply waited until 33 msec had passed until forcing an additional redraw, this introduced judder from 25-30 FPS. Based on our observations and testing, it appears that NVIDIA has corrected this in the retail G-Sync panels with an algorithm that intelligently re-scans at even multiples of the input frame rate in order to keep the redraw rate relatively high, and therefore keeping flicker imperceptible – even at very low continuous frame rates.

A few final points before we go:

  • This is not limited to the ROG Swift. All variable refresh panels we have tested (including 4K) see this effect to a more or less degree than reported here. Again, this only occurs when games instantaneously drop to 0 FPS, and not when those games dip into low frame rates in a continuous fashion.
  • The effect is less perceptible (both visually and with recorded data) at lower maximum refresh rate settings.
  • The effect is not present at fixed refresh rates (G-Sync disabled or with non G-Sync panels).

This post was primarily meant as a status update and to serve as something for G-Sync users to point to when attempting to explain the flicker they are perceiving. We will continue researching, collecting data, and coordinating with NVIDIA on this issue, and will report back once we have more to discuss.

During the research and drafting of this piece, we reached out to and worked with NVIDIA to discuss this issue. Here is their statement:

"All LCD pixel values relax after refreshing. As a result, the brightness value that is set during the LCD’s scanline update slowly relaxes until the next refresh.

This means all LCDs have some slight variation in brightness. In this case, lower frequency refreshes will appear slightly brighter than high frequency refreshes by 1 – 2%.

When games are running normally (i.e., not waiting at a load screen, nor a screen capture) - users will never see this slight variation in brightness value. In the rare cases where frame rates can plummet to very low levels, there is a very slight brightness variation (barely perceptible to the human eye), which disappears when normal operation resumes."

So there you have it. It's basically down to the physics of how an LCD panel works at varying refresh rates. While I agree that it is a rare occurrence, there are some games that present this scenario more frequently (and noticeably) than others. If you've noticed this effect in some games more than others, let us know in the comments section below. 

(Editor's Note: We are continuing to work with NVIDIA on this issue and hope to find a way to alleviate the flickering with either a hardware or software change in the future.)

The MSI GTX 980 GAMING 4G and its fancy new fan

Subject: Graphics Cards | December 1, 2014 - 02:52 PM |
Tagged: msi, nvidia, GTX 980, GAMING 4G, factory overclocked, Twin Frozr V

MSI has updated their Twin Frozr V with Torx fans which are effective at moving a lot of air very quietly and 'S' shaped heatpipes which bear the name SuperSU.  Connectivity is provided by dual-link DVI-I, HDMI and three DisplayPort plugs which ought to provide enough flexibility for anyone.  It is clocked at 1216 - 1331MHz out of the box with GDDR5 running at 7GHz effective which [H]ard|OCP managed to increase to 1406 - 1533MHz and 7.16GHz on the memory which is rather impressive for a Maxwell chip with NVIDIA's power limits and shows just how much you can squeeze out of their new chip without needing to up the amount of juice you are providing it.  The overclocked card upped the full system wattage to 378W which was much lower than the R9 290 they tested against and the GPU temperature went as high as 70C when pushed to the limit which again is lower than the 290 however NVIDIA's selling price is certainly higher than AMD's.  Check out their full review here.

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"The MSI GTX 980 GAMING 4G video card has a factory overclock and the new Twin Frozr V cooling system. We'll push it to its highest custom overclock and pit it against the ASUS ROG R9 290X MATRIX Platinum overclocker, and determine the gaming bang for your buck. May the best card win."

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

Graphics Cards

Source: [H]ard|OCP
Manufacturer: MSI

Card Overview

It has been a couple of months since the release of the GeForce GTX 970 and the GM204 GPU that it is based on. After the initial wave of stock on day one, NVIDIA had admittedly struggled to keep these products available. Couple that with rampant concerns over coil whine from some non-reference designs, and you could see why we were a bit hesitant to focus and spend our time on retail GTX 970 reviews.

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These issues appear to be settled for the most part. Finding GeForce GTX 970 cards is no longer a problem and users with coil whine are getting RMA replacements from NVIDIA's partners. Because of that, we feel much more comfortable reporting our results with the various retail cards that we have in house, and you'll see quite a few reviews coming from PC Perspective in the coming weeks.

But let's start with the MSI GeForce GTX 970 4GB Gaming card. Based on user reviews, this is one of the most popular retail cards. MSI's Gaming series of cards combines a custom cooler that typically runs quieter and more efficient than reference design, and it comes with a price tag that is within arms reach of the lower cost options as well.

The MSI GeForce GTX 970 4GB Gaming

MSI continues with its Dragon Army branding, and its associated black/red color scheme, which I think is appealing to a wide range of users. I'm sure NVIDIA would like to see a green or neutral color scheme, but hey, there are only so many colors to go around.

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Continue reading our review of the MSI GeForce GTX 970 Gaming graphics card!!