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?

Podcast #280 - NVIDIA GRID Beta, R9 290X Custom Coolers, 2TB SSDs and more!

Subject: General Tech | December 12, 2013 - 01:35 AM |
Tagged: z87, xfire, video, shield, R9 290X, podcast, pcper, nvidia, litecoin, grid, frame rating, eyefinity, crossfire, amd

PC Perspective Podcast #280 - 12/12/2013

Join us this week as we discuss the NVIDIA GRID Beta, R9 290X Custom Coolers, 2TB SSDs 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, Josh Walrath, Allyn Malventano and Scott Michaud

 
Program length: 1:09:46
  1. Week in Review:
  2. News items of interest:
  3. Hardware/Software Picks of the Week:
    1. Allyn: Windows 8.1 tweaks at WinAero.com
  4. Closing/outro

 

ASUS Teases R9 290X DirectCU II

Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards | December 9, 2013 - 03:03 AM |
Tagged: R9 290X, DirectCU II, asus

The AMD Radeon R9 290X is a very good graphics processor whose reference design is marred with a few famous design choices. AMD specs the GPU to run at a maximum of 95C, perpetually, and will push its frequency up to 1 GHz if it can stay at or under that temperature. Its cooler in the typical, "Quiet", default setting is generally unable to keep this frequency for more than a handful of minutes. This lead to countless discussions about what it means to be a default and what are the components actual specifications.

ASUS-R9290X-DirectCU2.jpg

All along we note that custom designs from add-in board (AIB) partners could change everything.

ASUS seems to be first to tease their custom solution. This card, based on their DirectCU II design, uses two fans and multiple 10mm nickel plated heatpipes directly atop the processor. The two fans should be able to move more air at a slower rate of rotation and thus be more efficient per decibel. The heatsink itself might also be able to pull heat, quicker, altogether. I am hoping that ASUS provisioned the part to remain at a stable 1GHz under default settings or perhaps even more!

The real test for Hawaii will be when the wave of custom editions washes on shore. We know the processor is capable of some pretty amazing performance figures when it can really open up. This, and other partner boards, would make for possibly the most interesting AIB round-up we have ever had.

No word, yet, on pricing or availability.

AMD responds to the variability issue

Subject: General Tech | December 6, 2013 - 12:53 PM |
Tagged: amd, R9 290X, leafblower

The Tech Report posted an statement from AMD about the variability that sites have seen when comparing retail 290X's to the press samples sent out to review sites.  At this moment they are citing heat issues and the fact that the performance delta is lessened under Uber mode but will be investigating other possible causes.  With the pending arrival of third party coolers we will be able to get a better sense of the possible contribution insufficient cooling has on these issues it is also possible that the golden sample theory is also at least partially correct.  The big win for consumers is AMD's attitude adjustment and admission that there is an issue worth investigating; if they can get your R9 290X running faster you will be the one who wins after all.

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"The range of performance differential is not expected to meaningfully change the user experience but we’ve taken note of recent reports that the degree of variability is higher than expected. Reasonably we would expect the variability to occur both above and below the performance of the press samples, however it appears that most reported performances are biased towards the low side."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Podcast #279 - R9 290 Variance Issues, OCZ's Bankruptcy, Kaveri Leaks and more!

Subject: General Tech | December 4, 2013 - 05:10 PM |
Tagged: video, ultrasharp, toshiba, R9 290X, r9 290, podcast, ocz, Kaveri, dell, amd, A10-7850K, A10-7700K, 4k

PC Perspective Podcast #279 - 12/04/2013

Join us this week as we discuss R9 290 Variance Issues, OCZ's Bankruptcy, Kaveri Leaks 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 Scott Michaud

 
Program length: 1:18:11
  1. Week in Review:
  2. 0:31:05 This episode is brought to you by Carbonite.com! Use offer code PC for two free months!
  3. Hardware/Software Picks of the Week:
  4. Closing/outro

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.

290x-cards-645x485.jpg

"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!!

So Apparently Some R9 290 Cards Can Flash in to a 290X?

Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards | November 26, 2013 - 03:18 AM |
Tagged: R9 290X, r9 290, amd

Multiple sites are reporting that some AMD's Radeon R9 290 cards could be software-unlocked into 290Xs with a simple BIOS update. While the difference in performance is minor, free extra shader processors might be tempting for some existing owners.

"Binning" is when a manufacturer increases yield by splitting one product into several based on how they test after production. Semiconductor fabrication, specifically, is prone to constant errors and defects. Maybe only some of your wafers are not stable at 4 GHz but they can attain 3.5 or 3.7 GHz. Why throw those out when they can be sold as 3.5 GHz parts?

amd-gpu14-06.png

This is especially relevant to multi-core CPUs and GPUs. Hawaii XT has 2816 Stream processors; a compelling product could be made even with a few of those shut down. The R9 290, for instance, permits 2560 of these cores. The remaining have been laser cut or, at least, should have been.

Apparently certain batches of Radeon R9 290s were developed with fully functional Hawaii XT chips that were software locked to 290 specifications. There have been reports that several users of cards from multiple OEMs were able to flash a new BIOS to unlock these extra cores. However, other batches seem to be properly locked.

This could be interesting for lucky and brave users but I wonder why this happened. I can think of two potential causes:

  • Someone (OEMs or AMD) had too many 290X chips, or
  • The 290 launch was just that unprepared.

Either way, newer shipments should be properly locked even from affected OEMs. Again, not that it really matters given the performance differences we are talking about.

Source: WCCFTech

Podcast #277 - GTX 780Ti, OCZ Vector 150 SSD, Details about Kaveri, and much more from APU13!

Subject: General Tech | November 14, 2013 - 12:38 AM |
Tagged: podcast, video, gtx 780ti, Vector 150, ocz, r9 290, R9 290X, 290, 290x, WD, My Cloud, EX 4

PC Perspective Podcast #277 - 11/14/2013

Join us this week as we discuss the GTX 780Ti, OCZ Vector 150 SSD, Details about Kaveri, and much more from APU13!

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

 
Program length: 1:09:03
  1. Reminder about Halloween contest - update when I get home
  2. Week in Review:
  3. 0:30:50 This episode is brought to you by Carbonite.com! Use offer code PC for two free months!
  4. Closing/outro

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:

Crysis3_2560x1440_OFPS.png

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