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.
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.
Subject: Graphics Cards | November 29, 2014 - 09:57 AM | Sebastian Peak
Tagged: pcie, PCI Express, nvidia, mini-itx, GTX 970, graphics card, geforce, directcu mini, DirectCU, asus
ASUS has announced a tiny new addition to their GTX 970 family, and it will be their most powerful mini-ITX friendly card yet with a full GeForce GTX 970 GPU.
Image credit: ASUS
The ASUS 970 DirectCU Mini card will feature a modest factory overclock on the GTX 970 core running at 1088 MHz (stock 1050 MHz) with a 1228 MHz Boost Clock (stock 1178 MHz). Memory is not overclocked and remains at the stock 7 GHz speed.
The GTX 970 DirectCU Mini features a full backplate. Image credit: ASUS
The ASUS GTX 970 DirectCU Mini uses a single 8-pin PCIe power connector in place of the standard dual 6-pin configuration, which shouldn’t be a problem considering the 150W spec of the larger connector (and 145W NVIDIA spec of the 970).
Part of this complete mITX gaming breakfast. Image credit: ASUS
The tiny card offers a full array of display outputs including a pair of dual-link DVI connectors, HDMI 2.0, and DisplayPort 1.2. No word yet on pricing or availability, but the product page is up on the ASUS site.
Subject: General Tech, Systems | November 27, 2014 - 08:53 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: nvidia, IBM, power9, Volta
The Oak Ridge National Laboratory has been interested in a successor for their Titan Supercomputer. Sponsored by the US Department of Energy, the new computer will be based on NVIDIA's Volta (GPU) and IBM's POWER9 (CPU) architectures. Its official name will be “Summit”, and it will have a little sibling, “Sierra”. Sierra, also based on Volta and POWER9, will be installed at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.
Image Credit: NVIDIA
The main feature of these supercomputers is expected to be “NVLink”, which is said to allow unified memory between CPU and GPU. This means that, if you have a workload that alternates rapidly between serial and parallel tasks, that you can save the lag in transferring memory between each switch. One example of this would be a series of for-each loops on a large data set with a bit of logic, checks, and conditional branches between. Memory management is like a lag between each chunk of work, especially across two banks of memory attached by a slow bus.
Summit and Sierra are both built by IBM, while Titan, Oak Ridge's previous supercomputer, was developed by Cray. Not much is known about the specifics of Sierra, but Summit will be about 5x-10x faster (peak computational throughput) than its predecessor at less than a fifth of the nodes. Despite the fewer nodes, it will suck down more total power (~10MW, up from Titan's ~9MW).
These two supercomputers are worth $325 million USD (combined). They are expected to go online in 2017. According to Reuters, an additional $100 million USD will go toward research into "extreme" supercomputing.
Subject: General Tech | November 26, 2014 - 02:42 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: far cry 3, amd, nvidia, gaming
Far Cry 4 uses the same engine as the previous game, Dunia Engine 2, albeit updated and modified for the new features GPUs can handle, especially NVIDIA's Gameworks features. This gives you some idea of how your system will handle the game but for a definitive look at performance just check out this review at [H]ard|OCP. For their testing they used the GeForce 344.75 WHQL on their GTX 980 and 970 and the Catalyst 14.11.2 Beta for the R9 290X and 290. On the Ultra preset running at 1440p the performance differences between the AMD and NVIDIA cards were negligible, once they started testing the new features such as the enhanced godrays and AA options there were some significant differences which you should educate yourself about. It is worth noting that even two GTX 980s in SLI at 3600x1920 are not capable of handling 8x MSAA, thankfully SMAA is supported in the game.
"Far Cry 4 is here, and we take an early look at how current video cards stack up in performance, and which quality settings are graphically demanding. We will also look at some image quality comparisons and talk about the state of this game at launch. Will it measure up to Far Cry 3 in terms of graphic fidelity?"
Here is some more Tech News from around the web:
- Just blame Gabe for your credit card bill
- Hot Loot: Torchlight For Free @ Rock, Paper, SHOTGUN
- CCP Shut Down Vampire: TM – Bloodlines Fan Remake @ Rock, Paper, SHOTGUN
- Wot I Think: Tales From The Borderlands Ep One @ Rock, Paper, SHOTGUN
- Bioshock Through The Looking Glass @ Rock, Paper, SHOTGUN
- Valve updates Steam key gift tradability rules @ HEXUS
- Wot I Think: Far Cry 4 @ Rock, Paper, SHOTGUN
- Commander Ladystab: Another Shadow Of Mordor Outfit @ Rock, Paper, SHOTGUN
- Gaming on the Grid with Nvidia's Shield Tablet @ The Tech Report
- Dragon Age Inquisition: Our chief weapons are... @ The Register
- Why Far Cry 2 Is Still The Best In The Series @ Rock, Paper, SHOTGUN
Subject: General Tech, Mobile | November 25, 2014 - 07:21 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: nvidia, shield, grid, shield tablet, Psychonauts, red faction: armageddon
Last Tuesday, NVIDIA launched the November SHIELD update with Android 5.0 Lollipop, The Green Box promotion, and a refreshed GRID service. Regarding the last part, which is a game streaming service, they also committed to adding at least one extra title per week. Now, seven days later, they pushed two titles to the service: Psychonauts and Red Faction: Armageddon.
While I have never played Red Faction: Armageddon, I did purchase Psychonauts for the Xbox and, later, the PC. It is a fun, linear narrative about kids in a summer camp that specializes in telekinetic/telepathic education for gifted individuals. If you have a SHIELD device, and you are able to play it on GRID, try it. Like it or not, it's free and does not require an installation.
As will be the case until June 30th, access to the service is free for owners of the SHIELD and SHIELD Tablet. Future titles are expected to be announced on Twitter via the “#GRIDTuesday” hashtag. We will probably have a news post about them, too.
Subject: General Tech | November 20, 2014 - 02:40 PM | Ken Addison
Tagged: podcast, video, msi, am3+, windows 10, Inateck, corsair, Neutron XT, nvidia, mfaa, shield, grid, gigabyte, raptr, Dell 4K
PC Perspective Podcast #327 - 11/20/2014
Join us this week as we discuss NVIDIA MFAA, Corsair's Neutron XT SSD, New Dell 4K Monitors
The URL for the podcast is: http://pcper.com/podcast - Share with your friends!
- iTunes - Subscribe to the podcast directly through the 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
Program length: 1:33:45
Week in Review:
News items of interest:
Hardware/Software Picks of the Week:
Ryan: ProClip for your car
Subject: Displays | November 20, 2014 - 10:50 AM | Josh Walrath
Tagged: TN, Samsung, nvidia, monitor, ips, g-sync, freesync, amd
We have been teased for the past few months about when we would see the first implementations of AMD’s FreeSync technology, but now we finally have some concrete news about who will actually be producing these products.
Samsung has announced that they will be introducing the world’s first FreeSync enabled Ultra HD monitors. The first models to include this feature will be the updated UD590 and the new UE850. These will be introduced to the market in March of 2015. The current UD590 monitor is a 28” unit with 3845x2160 resolution with up to 1 billion colors. This looks to be one of those advanced TN panels that are selling from $500 to $900, depending on the model.
AMD had promised some hand’s on time for journalists by the end of this year, and shipping products in the first half of next year. It seems that Samsung is the first to jump on the wagon. We would imagine that others will be offering the technology. In theory this technology offers many of the same benefits of NVIDIA’s G-SYNC, but it does not require the same level of hardware. I can imagine that we will be seeing some interesting comparisons next year with shipping hardware and how Free-Sync stacks up to G-SYNC.
Joe Chan, Vice President of Samsung Electronics Southeast Asia Headquarters commented, “We are very pleased to adopt AMD FreeSync technology to our 2015 Samsung Electronics Visual Display division’s UHD monitor roadmap, which fully supports open standards. With this technology, we believe users including gamers will be able to enjoy their videos and games to be played with smoother frame display without stuttering or tearing on their monitors.”
Subject: Mobile | November 18, 2014 - 10:40 AM | Ryan Shrout
Tagged: tegra, shield tablet, shield, nvidia, grid
In December of last year we took NVIDIA's GRID technology through some testing and discussed our experiences in text and video. At that point you were able to play 8 specific games under the guise of a beta program. The experience was pretty good and a definite improvement over my first attempt at streaming games (OnLive). Here is what I wrote last year:
Overall my experience with the first beta of GRID was very positive including both latency and image quality. Yes, there were definitely times when we got a lot of macro-blocking due to bandwidth hiccups, but they were infrequent. You could tell pretty much anytime there was motion on the screen that you were watching a video rather than native gameplay, but I think the effect is much less apparent now than it was when I first tried services like OnLive.
Input latency is also definitely seen, and was most evident in my testing with Street Fighter IV. You can even see some of it in our video embedded on this post. That is something that NVIDIA claims to have really optimized for with their integrated H.264 encoding on the server GPUs, but getting more servers in more locations will help tremendously moving forward.
Today, along with the official roll out of the Android 5.0 Lollipop software update for the SHIELD Tablet, the NVIDIA GRID service goes into official release. What exactly that means is up in the air, as the service is still set to be free to all SHIELD and SHIELD Tablet users through June 2015. What I can tell you is that the quality of the experience has been improved and the game selection has expanded quite a bit, with more to come.
Setup of GRID is much easier now, as long as you have the appropriate hardware to get GRID service up and running. That means a SHIELD Portable or SHIELD Tablet with SHIELD Controller. These are the items that stand out beyond that:
- Internet connection with at least a 10 Mbps download speed
- Home network with 60 ms or less ping time to a GRID server
- NVIDIA GameStream-ready 5 GHz Wi-Fi router
I have asked for the location of the GRID servers geographically, as that will definitely be a factor in your ability to get the appropriate 60 ms or lower ping time. (UPDATE: NVIDIA tells me that the current locations are Oregon and Virginia.) The list of compatible routers has been growing over the last year as well including some from Netgear, D-Link, Buffalo and ASUS. If you don't already have one of these routers, you can still TRY to use the GRID service but it won't be officially supported by NVIDIA.
LEGO Batman 2
The games available to play on NVIDIA GRID has expanded as well.
- Alan Wake's American Nightmare
- Batman: Arkham Asylum
- Batman: Arkham City
- Borderlands 2
- Brutal Legend
- Darksiders 2
- Dead Island
- Dirt 2
- LEGO Batman 2
- LEGO Marvel Super Heroes
- Race Driver GRID
- Strike Suit Zero
- Saints Row: The Third
- Street Fighter X Tekken
- The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings
- Trine 2
- Ultra Street Fighter IV
There are some great titles in here including Borderlands, Saint's Row, The Witcher 2, the Batman games, etc. and if you haven't played them before then getting access to them for free is awesome. Even better, NVIDIA has committed to adding one new game each week between now and June of next year. NVIDIA upgraded the login / account system to move away from being associated solely with the device and instead uses your Google account login information to register save data.
In terms of game quality and gaming experience, I would say that GRID continues to improve. I spent some time with DiRT 2, LEGO Batman 2, Street Fighter IV and The Witcher 2 and in all cases the games looked great, with very little macro-blocking or stutter. We tested on both our office connection (1.0 Gbps fiber) and my home connection (30 Mbps cable) and the results were pretty much the same.
For those concerned with latency of input, there is definitely still some there, most apparent in fighting game like Street Fighter IV. With Borderlands and Borderlands 2 being the only FPS games in the collection, you could likely assume that the twich-style actions of these types of shooters would be most affected. Titles like Street Fighter IV and DiRT 2, for those of us that don't consider ourselves experts, can be adjusted to; you can make your mind compensate for the added input differences of playing games locally.
With the SHIELD Tablet, another possible use for GRID is to play these streaming games on your TV. The tablet itself has an HDMI output and is capable of outputting 1080p to your big screen. With the SHIELD Controller you can get a true couch gaming experience with GRID; I am looking forward to showing this to my niece and nephews over the Thanksgiving holiday and getting some reactions and feedback.
The Witcher 2
The other big news today is the release of SHIELD Tablet software update 2.0 that includes Android 5.0 and Lollipop, updates for the new GRID release and an updated NVIDIA Dabbler V2.0 program. We'll have more thoughts on that software update very soon but you can get more details on the upgrades Lollipop provides for NVIDIA's tablet right here.
MFAA Technology Recap
In mid-September NVIDIA took the wraps off of the GeForce GTX 980 and GTX 970 GPUs, the first products based on the GM204 GPU utilizing the Maxwell architecture. Our review of the chip, those products and the package that NVIDIA had put together was incredibly glowing. Not only was performance impressive but they were able to offer that performance with power efficiency besting anything else on the market.
Of course, along with the new GPU were a set of new product features coming along for the ride. Two of the most impressive were Dynamic Super Resolution (DSR) and Multi-Frame Sampled AA (MFAA) but only one was available at launch: DSR. With it, you could take advantage of the extreme power of the GTX 980/970 with older games, render in a higher resolution than your panel, and have it filtered down to match your screen in post. The results were great. But NVIDIA spent as much time talking about MFAA (not mother-fu**ing AA as it turned out) during the product briefings and I was shocked when I found out the feature wouldn't be ready to test or included along with launch.
That changes today with the release of NVIDIA's 344.75 driver, the first to implement support for the new and potentially important anti-aliasing method.
Before we dive into the results of our testing, both in performance and image quality, let's get a quick recap on what exactly MFAA is and how it works.
Here is what I wrote back in September in our initial review:
While most of the deep, architectural changes in GM204 are based around power and area efficiency, there are still some interesting feature additions NVIDIA has made to these cards that depend on some specific hardware implementations. First up is a new antialiasing method called MFAA, or Multi-Frame Sampled AA. This new method alternates the AA sample pattern, which is now programmable via software, in both temporal and spatial directions.
The goal is to change the AA sample pattern in a way to produce near 4xMSAA quality at the effective cost of 2x MSAA (in terms of performance). NVIDIA showed a couple of demos of this in action during the press meetings but the only gameplay we saw was in a static scene. I do have some questions about how this temporal addition is affected by fast motion on the screen, though NVIDIA asserts that MFAA will very rarely ever fall below the image quality of standard 2x MSAA.
That information is still correct but we do have a little bit more detail on how this works than we did before. For reasons pertaining to patents NVIDIA seems a bit less interested in sharing exact details than I would like to see, but we'll work with what we have.
Subject: Graphics Cards | November 14, 2014 - 11:46 AM | Ryan Shrout
Tagged: sli, nvidia, N980X3WA-4GD, maxwell, GTX 980, gigabyte, geforce, 3-way
Earlier this week, a new product showed up on Gigabyte's website that has garnered quite a bit of attention. The GA-N980X3WA-4GD WaterForce Tri-SLI is a 3-Way SLI system with integrated water cooling powered by a set of three GeForce GTX 980 GPUs.
That. Looks. Amazing.
What you are looking at is a 3-Way closed loop water cooling system with an external enclosure to hold the radiators while providing a display full of information including temperatures, fans speeds and more. Specifications on the Gigabyte site are limited for now, but we can infer a lot from them:
- WATERFORCE :3-WAY SLI Water Cooling System
- Real-Time Display and Control
- Flex Display Technology
- Powered by NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980 GPU
- Integrated with 4GB GDDR5 memory 256-bit memory interface(Single Card)
- Features Dual-link DVI-I / DVI-D / HDMI / DisplayPort*3(Single Card)
- BASE: 1228 MHz / BOOST: 1329 MHz
- System power supply requirement: 1200W(with six 8-pin external power connectors)
The GPUs on each card are your standard GeForce GTX 980 with 4GB of memory (we reviewed it here) though they are running at overclocked base and boost clock speeds, as you would hope with all that water cooling power behind it. You will need a 1200+ watt power supply for this setup, which makes sense considering the GPU horsepower you'll have access to.
Another interesting feature Gigabyte is listing is called GPU Gauntlet Sorting.
With GPU Gauntlet™ Sorting, the Gigabyte SOC graphics card guarantees the higher overclocking capability in terms of excellent power switching.
Essentially, Gigabyte is going to make sure that the GPUs on the WaterForce Tri-SLI are the best they can get their hands on, with the best chance for overclocking higher than stock.
Setup looks interesting - the radiators and fans will be in the external enclosure with tubing passing into the system through a 5.25-in bay. It will need to have quick connect/disconnect points at either the GPU or radiator to make that installation method possible.
Pricing and availability are still unknown, but don't expect to get it cheap. With the GTX 980 still selling for at least $550, you should expect something in the $2000 range or above with all the custom hardware and fittings involved.
Can I get two please?