AMD to erupt Volcanic Islands GPUs as early as Q4 2013?

Subject: Editorial, General Tech, Graphics Cards, Processors | May 8, 2013 - 09:32 PM |
Tagged: Volcanic Islands, radeon, ps4, amd

So the Southern Islands might not be entirely stable throughout 2013 as we originally reported; seismic activity being analyzed suggests the eruption of a new GPU micro-architecture as early as Q4. These Volcanic Islands, as they have been codenamed, should explode onto the scene opposing NVIDIA's GeForce GTX 700-series products.

It is times like these where GPGPU-based seismic computation becomes useful.

The rumor is based upon a source which leaked a fragment of a slide outlining the processor in block diagram form and specifications of its alleged flagship chip, "Hawaii". Of primary note, Volcanic Islands is rumored to be organized with both Serial Processing Modules (SPMs) and a Parallel Compute Module (PCM).

Radeon9000.jpg

So apparently a discrete GPU can have serial processing units embedded on it now.

Heterogeneous Systems Architecture (HSA) is a set of initiatives to bridge the gap between massively parallel workloads and branching logic tasks. We usually make reference to this in terms of APUs and bringing parallel-optimized hardware to the CPU. In this case, we are discussing it in terms of bringing serial processing to the discrete GPU. According to the diagram, the chip within would contain 8 processor modules each with two processing cores and an FPU for a total of 16 cores. There does not seem to be any definite identification whether these cores would be based upon their license to produce x86 processors or their other license to produce ARM processors. Unlike an APU, this is heavily skewed towards parallel computation rather than a relatively even balance between CPU, GPU, and chipset features.

Now of course, why would they do that? Graphics processors can do branching logic but it tends to sharply cut performance. With an architecture such as this, a programmer might be able to more efficiently switch between parallel and branching logic tasks without doing an expensive switch across the motherboard and PCIe bus between devices. Josh Walrath suggested a server containing these as essentially add-in card computers. For gamers, this might help out with workloads such as AI which is awkwardly split between branching logic and massively parallel visibility and path-finding tasks. Josh seems skeptical about this until HSA becomes further adopted, however.

Still, there is a reason why they are implementing this now. I wonder, if the SPMs are based upon simple x86 cores, how the PS4 will influence PC gaming. Technically, a Volcanic Island GPU would be an oversized PS4 within an add-in card. This could give AMD an edge, particularly in games ported to the PC from the Playstation.

This chip, Hawaii, is rumored to have the following specifications:

  • 4096 stream processors
  • 16 serial processor cores on 8 modules
  • 4 geometry engines
  • 256 TMUs
  • 64 ROPs
  • 512-bit GDDR5 memory interface, much like the PS4.
  • 20 nm Gate-Last silicon fab process
    • Unclear if TSMC or "Common Platform" (IBM/Samsung/GLOBALFOUNDRIES)

Softpedia is also reporting on this leak. Their addition claims that the GPU will be designed on a 20nm Gate-Last fabrication process. While gate-last is considered to be not worth the extra effort in production, Fully Depleted Silicon On Insulator (FD-SOI) is apparently "amazing" on gate-last at 28nm and smaller fabrication. This could mean that AMD is eying that technology and making this design with intent of switching to an FD-SOI process, without a large redesign which an initially easier gate-first production would require.

Well that is a lot to process... so I will leave you with an open question for our viewers: what do you think AMD has planned with this architecture, and what do you like and/or dislike about what your speculation would mean?

Source: TechPowerUp

GDC 2013: Sony Reveals Additional Details About PS4 Hardware

Subject: General Tech | March 31, 2013 - 02:21 AM |
Tagged: sony, ps4, playstation eye, playstation 4, gaming, dualshock 4, APU, amd

Sony teased a few more details about its upcoming PlayStation 4 console at the Games Developer's Conference earlier this week. While the basic specifications have not changed since the original announcement, we now know more about the X86 console hardware.

The PS4 itself is powered by an AMD Jaguar CPU with eight physical cores and eight threads. Each core gets 32 KB L1 I-cache and D-cache. Further, each group of four physical cores shares 2 MB of L2 cache, for 4MB total L2. The processor is capable of Out of Order Execution, as are AMDs other processor offerings. The console also reportedly features 8GB of GDDR5 memory that is shared by the CPU and GPU. It offers 176 GB/s of bandwidth, and is a step above the PS3 which did not use a unified memory design. The system will also sport a faster GPU rated at 1.843 TFLOPS, and clocked at 800MHz. The PS3 will have a high-capacity hard drive and a new Blu-ray drive that is up to 3-times faster. Interestingly, the console also has a co-processor that allows the system to process the video streaming features and allow the Remote Play game streaming to the PlayStation Vita at its native resolution of 960x554.

Playstation 4 Controller (1).jpg

The PlayStation Eye has also been upgraded with the PS4 to include 2 cameras, four microphones, and a 3-axis accelerometer. The Eye cameras have an 85-degree field of view, and can record video at 1280x800 at 60 Hz and 12 bits per pixel or 640x480 and 120Hz. The new PS4 Eye is a noteworthy upgrade to the current generation model which is limited to either 640x480 pixels at 60Hz or 320x240 pixels at 120Hz. The extra resolution should allow developers to be more accurate. The DualShock 4 controllers sport a light-bar that can be tracked by the new Eye camera, for example. The light-bar on the controllers uses an RGB LED that changes to blue, red, pink, or green for players 1-4 respectively.

Speaking of the new DualShock 4, Sony has reportedly ditched the analog face buttons and D-pad for digital buttons. With the DS3 and the PS3, the analog face buttons and D-pad came in handy with racing games, but otherwise they are not likely to be missed. The controllers will now charge even when the console is in standby mode, and the L2 and R2 triggers are more resistant to accidental pressure. The analog sticks have been slightly modified and feature a reduced dead zone. The touchpad, which is a completely new feature for the DualShock lineup, is capable of tracking 2 points at a resolution of 1920x900–which is pretty good.

While Sony has still not revealed what the actual PS4 console will look like, most of the internals are now officially known. It will be interesting to see just where Sony prices the new console, and where game developers are able to take it. Using a DX11.1+ feature set, developers are able to use many of the same tools used to program PC titles but also have additional debugging tools and low level access to the hardware. A new low level API below DirectX, but above the driver level gives developers deeper access to the shader pipeline. I'm curious to see how PC ports will turn out, with the consoles now running X86 hardware, I'm hoping that the usual fare of bugs common to ported titles from consoles to PCs will decrease–a gamer can dream, right?

Read more about the upcoming PlayStation 4 (PS4) at PC Perspective.

Source: HEXUS

Unreal Engine 4 Demo for PS4, Reduced Quality?

Subject: Editorial, General Tech, Systems | February 26, 2013 - 08:07 PM |
Tagged: ps4, unreal engine 4

Unreal Engine 4 was present at Sony's Playstation 4 press conference, but that is no surprise. Epic Games has been present at several keynotes for new console launches. Last generation, Unreal Engine 3 kicked off both Xbox 360 and PS3 with demos of Gears of War and Unreal Tournament 2007, respectively. The PS4 received a continuation of the Elemental Demo first released at the end of E3 last June.

All I could think about when I watched the was, “This looks pretty bad. What happened?”

If you would like to follow along at home, both demos are available on Youtube:

As you can see from the animated GIF above, particle count appears to have been struck the worst. The eyes contain none of the particle effects in the PS4 version. There appears to be an order of magnitude or two more particles on the PC version than the PS4. There are no particle effects around the eyes of the statue. Whole segments of particles are not even rendered.

UE4_2_PCvPS4.jpg

In this screenshot, downsampled to 660x355, the loss of physical detail is even more apparent. The big cluster of particles near the leg are not present in the PS4 version and the regular cluster is nowhere near as densely packed.

And the lighting, oh the lighting.

On the PS4 everything looks a lot higher contrast without a lot of the subtle lighting information. This loss of detail is most apparent with the volcano smoke and the glow of the hammer but are also obvious in the character model when viewed in the video.

Despite the 8GB of RAM, some of the textures also seem down-resolution. Everything appears to have much more of a plastic look to it.

Still, while computers still look better, at least high-end PC gaming will still be within the realm of scalability for quite some time. We have been hampered by being so far ahead of consoles that it was just not feasible to make full use of the extra power. At least that is looking to change.

Podcast #239 - NVIDIA GTX TITAN, PlayStation 4 Hardware, SSD Endurance and more!

Subject: General Tech | February 21, 2013 - 02:58 AM |
Tagged: titan, Tegra 4i, tegra 4, ssd, ps4, podcast, nvidia, Intel

PC Perspective Podcast #239 - 02/21/2013

Join us this week as we discuss NVIDIA GTX TITAN, PlayStation 4 Hardware, SSD Endurance 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

This Podcast is brought to you by MSI!

Program length: 0:59:53

Podcast topics of discussion:

  1. Week in Reviews:
    1. 0:01:20 Crysis 3 Live Game Stream - Win Free Stuff!!
    2. 0:03:20 Gigabyte GA-F2A85X-UP4 FM2 Motherboard Review: Overkill for Trinity?
    3. 0:09:25 NVIDIA GeForce GTX TITAN Preview - GK110, GPU Boost 2.0, Overclocking and GPGPU
    4. 0:24:15 Taking an Accurate Look at SSD Write Endurance
  2. 0:27:20 This Podcast is brought to you by MSI!
  3. News items of interest:
    1. 0:28:50 AMD wants to set the record straight on its future GPU strategy
    2. 0:36:05 A Crowd Funded Mini-ITX Case, the NCASE M1
    3. 0:38:30 Sony's Fourth Playstation (PS4) Specs Revealed
      1. Next Generation Consoles Likely Not Compatible
    4. 0:45:15 NVIDIA Releases Tegra 4i: Mini-Me!
  4. Closing:
    1. 0:49:00 Hardware / Software Pick of the Week
      1. Ryan: Excel 2013.. or not.
      2. Jeremy: WobbleWorks $75 Pen-Sized 3D Printer on Kickstarter
      3. Josh: Sweet lookin Monitor... not without quirks
      4. Allyn: Gunnar
  1. 1-888-38-PCPER or podcast@pcper.com
  2. http://pcper.com/podcast
  3. http://twitter.com/ryanshrout and http://twitter.com/pcper
  4. Closing/outro

Be sure to subscribe to the PC Perspective YouTube channel!!

Sony's Fourth Playstation (PS4) Specs Revealed

Subject: General Tech, Systems | February 20, 2013 - 06:53 PM |
Tagged: sony, ps4

We're currently in the middle of Sony's Playstation announcement and right off the bat they discussed system specifications.

(Update 2: Press conference was over a few hours ago, and we now have an official press release.)

PS4-01.png

The Playstation 4, as it will be titled, is very similar to a mid-range gaming PC. When discussing with developers, they requested for Sony to stick with a typical x86-based architecture. Of course that does not stop Sony from describing it as a “Supercharged PC architecture”. Still, they do seem to have quite a decent amount of hardware in this box.

  • 8-core x86 CPU
  • 2 Teraflops GPU integrated on same die (update: chip).
  • I did not hear AMD mentioned, but it totally is.
  • 8GB GDDR5 RAM (shared)
  • Stereo Camera on the controller with a light bar, like the Wii, to judge distance to TV.
  • Also touch sensor in the controller.
  • (Update/correction: At least a ...) Spindle-based Hard Drive

While these specifications have been sufficiently leaked in the recent past, we have not been able to pin down exactly how much RAM is provided. We found the development kit contained 8GB of system memory. The problem is that development kits require more RAM than the system it pretends to be to account for development tools and unoptimized assets.

As it turns out, the system itself will contain 8GB of GDDR5 shared between the CPU and GPU, which is quite a lot. Developers will need to finally push the PC platform past the 4GB RAM+VRAM 32-bit barrier in order to keep up with the next generation consoles.

Most of our gaming limitations were due to art assets being limited by memory constraints. Thanks to the new Sony console, PC releases could finally be taken off the 512MB-long leash of Sony and Microsoft.

(Update 2, cont.: The press release has official tech specs as below but are "subject to change")

 

Main Processor
Single-Chip Custom Processor
CPU: x86-64 AMD "Jaguar", 8 cores
GPU: 1.84 Teraflops, AMD next-generation Radeon(tm)-based graphics engine
Memory GDDR5 8GB
Hard Disk Drive Built-in
Optical Drive (Read-Only)
BD 6x CAV
DVD 8x CAV
I/O Ports Super-Speed USB (USB3.0), AUX
Communication
Ethernet (10BASE-T, 100BASE-TX, 1000BASE-T)
IEE 802.11 b/g/n
Bluetooth 2.1 (EDR)
AV output
HDMI
Analog-AV out
Digital Out

So clearly Sony was slightly rounding up when they claimed it was a 2 Teraflop GPU. Still, this looks to be a healthy computer.

We now have the official confirmation we needed that AMD Jaguar cores will power the PS4. Given AMD's big wins in the console platforms, I would wonder if game developers would be able to take some of the tricks they will learn in a few years and be able to start optimizing PC gamers for AMD CPUs.

GPUs too for that matter... this could mean a lot for AMD's PC gamers.

Podcast #235 - AMD Hardware in the PS4, a GK110 NVIDIA product, Corsair 200R case and more!

Subject: General Tech | January 24, 2013 - 03:31 PM |
Tagged: video, titan, ps4, podcast, nvidia, kavari, Kabini, H80i, gk110, GCN, corsair, APU, amd, 200r

PC Perspective Podcast #235 - 01/24/2013

Join us this week as we discuss potential AMD Hardware in the PS4, a GK110 NVIDIA product, Corsair 200R case 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

This Podcast is brought to you by MSI!

Program length: 1:16:39

Podcast topics of discussion:

  1. Week in Reviews:
    1. 0:01:25 Corsair Hydro Series H80i Taken Apart
    2. 0:03:45 Video: Corsair Carbide 200R Overview
    3. 0:10:30 Silverstone Zeus 1350 watt power supply
  2. 0:13:35 This Podcast is brought to you by MSI!
  3. News items of interest:
    1. 0:15:15 Corsair Launches 140mm and 280mm coolers
    2. 0:17:50 Catalyst 13.1 drivers released
    3. 0:19:30 SimCity Beta Weekend
    4. 0:25:00 NVIDIA GK110 Titan Rumored for February
    5. 0:30:50 Intel to exit motherboard business after Haswell
    6. 0:38:00 But ASUS says its okay...
    7. 0:41:30 PS4 Hardware discussion
  4. Closing:
    1. Hardware / Software Pick of the Week
      1. Ryan: Pegasus R4 with Thunderbolt
      2. Jeremy: Not since the Sumosac has there been something more sure to get you the ladies!
      3. Josh: Just built a machine with one of these
      4. Allyn: Zip Snip ($20 at Lowes)
  1. 1-888-38-PCPER or podcast@pcper.com
  2. http://pcper.com/podcast
  3. http://twitter.com/ryanshrout and http://twitter.com/pcper
  4. Closing/outro

Be sure to subscribe to the PC Perspective YouTube channel!!

 

PlayStation 4 (PS4) Orbis Hardware Specifications - AMD APU or Discrete?

Subject: Graphics Cards, Processors | January 23, 2013 - 02:42 PM |
Tagged: southern islands, sony, ps4, playstation 4, orbis, Kaveri, bulldozer, APU, amd

Earlier today a report from Kotaku.com posted some details about the upcoming PlayStation console, code named Orbis and sometimes just called the PS4.  Kotaku author Luke Plunkett got the information from a 90 page PDF that details the development kit so the information is likely pretty accurate if incomplete.  It discusses a new controller and a completely new accounts system but I was mostly interested in the hardware details given.

We'll begin with the specs. And before we go any further, know that these are current specs for a PS4 development kit, not the final retail console itself. So while the general gist of the things you see here may be similar to what makes it into the actual commercial hardware, there's every chance some—if not all of it—changes, if only slightly.

This is key to keep in mind because here are the specs listed on the report:

  • 8GB of system memory
  • 2.2GB of graphics memory
  • 4 module (8 core) AMD Bulldozer CPU
  • AMD "R10xx" based GPU
  • 4x USB 3.0 ports and 2x Ethernet connections
  • Blu-ray drive
  • 160GB HDD
  • HDMI and optical audio output

We are essentially talking about an AMD FX-series processor with a Southern Islands based discrete card and I am nearly 100% sure that this will not match the configuration of the shipping system.  Think about it - would a console developer really want to have a processor that can draw more than 100 watts inside its box in addition to a discrete GPU?  I doubt it. 

kaveri2.jpg

Instead, let's go with the idea that this developer kit is simply meant to emulate some final specifications.  More than likely we are looking at an APU solution that combines Bulldozer or Steamroller cores along with GCN-based GPU SIMD arrays.  The most likely candidate is Kaveri, a 28nm based product that meets both of those requirements.  Josh recently discussed the future with Kaveri in a post during CES, worth checking out.  AMD has told us several times that Kaveri should be able to hit the 1.0 TFLOPs level of performance and if we compare to the current discrete GPUs would enable graphics performance similar to that of an under-clocked Radeon HD 7770.

There is some room for doubt though - Kaveri isn't supposed to be out until "late Q4" though its possible that the PS4 will be the first customer.  It is also possible that AMD is making a specific discrete GPU for implementation on the PS4 based on the GCN architecture that would be faster than the graphics performance expected on the Kaveri APU. 

kaveri.JPG

When speaking with our own Josh Walrath on this rumor, he tended to think that Sony and AMD would not use an APU but would rather combine a separate CPU and GPU on a single substrate, allowing for better yields than a combined APU part.  In order to make up for the slower memory controller interface (on substrate is not as fast as on-die) AMD might again utilize backside cache, just like the one used on the Xbox 360 today.  With process technology improvements its not unthinkable to see that jump to 30 or 40MB of cache.

xbox360gpu.jpg

With the debate of a 2013 or 2014 release still up in the air, there is plenty of time for this to change still but we will likely know for sure after our next trip to Taipei.

Source: Kotaku

John Carmack Believes Next-Gen Consoles Will Continue Targeting 30FPS Games

Subject: General Tech | December 21, 2012 - 12:06 PM |
Tagged: xbox, ps4, gaming, games, consoles, carmack

While Nintendo has continued to pump out new gaming consoles, both Microsoft and Sony have been sitting on the current Xbox and PlayStation hardware for years. For example, the Xbox 360 is seven years old, and yet the Redmond company does not appear to be in any hurry to advance to better hardware with a new console. Sony is in a similar mindset with its PlayStation road map.

There have been rumors for the past couple years on the next Xbox and PlayStation, but there is one thing that is certain. Once gamers do (eventually) get a new console though, it will have substantially better hardware than the current generation. And considering that the latest games on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 have started to push the hardware to its limit, developers are clamoring for better hardware as their engines outgrow the consoles. Visuals are still increasing on iterative console games but the frame rates are starting to slip as a result. PC gamers have Eyefinity, multi-GPU, AA, AF, higher resolutions, and unrestricted frame rates. Meanwhile, developers that want games on both console and PC platforms have to contend with the fact that the Xbox 360 and PS3 are limited to a frame rate target of around 30 FPS. (And the latest games are jast barely able to achieve that target.)

Unfortunately, while many console gamers likely expect the next generation of consoles to set the frames per second bar higher, a statement by John Carmack suggests otherwise. On Twitter the id Software founder stated that “unfortunately, I can pretty much guarantee that a lot of next gen games will still target 30 fps.”

Carmack_30FPS.jpg

It is an interesting statement from the mind of a game developer. When next generation consoles do come out, they will likely push more than 30FPS on average as games built on (tweaked) existing engines will run faster on the updated hardware. However, it seems that developers are more concerned with pushing visual quality instead of framerates. As developers start pushing the new hardware, the framerates will fall towards the 30 FPS target, much like the current generation of consoles are experiencing. I suppose gamers that want unrestricted fram rates will have to stick to PC gaming for the forseeable future. 

Carmack_120FPS_On_PCs.jpg

Carmack is much more optimistic about higher framerates on PC games.

Do you think gamers care about higher framerates on their consoles?

Source: Shack News

Sony Buys Out Gaikai for $380 Million, A Stormy Future for Cloud Gaming?

Subject: General Tech | July 2, 2012 - 02:03 PM |
Tagged: sony, ps4, Internet, gaming, gaikai, cloud gaming

Gaikai, the streaming cloud gaming service was bought today by Sony Computer Entertainment. At this year’s Fusion Developer Summit, Gaikai stated its goal to be the gaming service on all of your devices, from your cell phone to Smart TV. Interestingly, the recent buyout from Sony raises questions about the future openness of the platform.

Gaikai.png

 

Purchased for $380 million, Sony plans to combine its game catalog with Gaikai’s streaming technology to provide cloud entertainment services. Gaikai CEO David Perry was quoted by The Verge as saying:

“We're honored to be able to help SCE rapidly harness the power of the interactive cloud and to continue to grow their ecosystem, to empower developers with new capabilities, to dramatically improve the reach of exciting content and to bring breathtaking new experiences to users worldwide.”

The biggest question I have about the future of Gaikai is whether not not it will now be a Sony-only technology. At AFDS, Gaikai showed off the technology running on Samsung Smart TVs, though it remains to be seen whether Sony will continue to license the technology to other companies. Should it remain Sony-only, the company could use that exclusivity as a feature-add for its consoles, Google TVs, blu ray players, and televisions. They could further use Gaikai to power its future consoles or to bring its entire library of console games to the PlayStation 3 and PlayStation Vita gaming platforms. The Verge speculates that Sony could be using the technology to bring its back-catalog of PS1 and PS2 games to the current generation console, now that it is otherwise no longer backwards compatible with the older hardware. That sounds like a very plausible plan of action for Sony.

 

396px-PS3-Slim-Console-Vert.png

Will Sony bring Gaikai-powered cloud gaming to the PS3?

You can find more additional quotes and speculation over at The Verge. What do you think will happen to Gaikai’s technology? Will Sony put it to good use or did they only buy it now to keep others from using it?

Source: The Verge

E3 sprouts rumours and facts about the next generation of consoles

Subject: General Tech | July 7, 2011 - 12:46 PM |
Tagged: ps4, xbox, Nintendo, consoles, amd, E3, cell processor

[H]ard|OCP heard quite a bit about the new generation of consoles via the grape vine at E3.  The big winner is AMD, who will be providing the graphical power for all three of the next generation of major consoles as well as being in the running for putting a Bulldozer APU inside Sony's next game system.  IBM is the other competitor for providing Nintendo's core with an updated Cell processor, which also will be running in the next generation XBox.  Nintendo is also going with IBM, though they are looking at a custom built 45nm CPU.  This is very good news for AMD, with a guaranteed presence in every console and a possible hardware monopoly with Sony.

amd_logo.gif

"Guys talk, you hear things. And at this year's E3 HardOCP picked up a lot of information about the upcoming hardware in the next generation consoles. It will be interesting to see if our rumor mill churns up truth or fiction. We wanted to get this out the week after E3, but we had some I's to dot and some T's to cross."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

 

Source: [H]ard|OCP