A curious new driver from AMD
In case you missed the news, AMD is going to be making a big push with their Radeon brand from now until the end of the year starting with an incredibly strong game bundle that includes as many as three full games and 20% off the new Medal of Honor. The second part of this campaign is a new driver specifically the 12.11 beta that will be posted to the public later this week.
AMD is claiming to have made some substantial improvements on quite a few games including the very popular Battlefield 3 and the upcoming Medal of Honor (both of which use the same base engine). But keep in mind that 15% is a LOT and this is the best case scenario in specific maps and you may not see benefits on others.
There are going to be some debates about the validity of these performance boosts from AMD until we can get some more specific details on WHAT has changed. Essentially the company line is that they have finally "caught up" to the GCN GPU architecture introduced with the Radeon HD 7970 in January of 2012. We traditionally see this happen with new GPU architectures from both vendors but for it to have taken this long is troublesome and will surely cause some raised eyebrows from gamers and the competition.
We decided to run through the Radeon HD 7870 GHz Edition with this new 12.11 beta driver to compare it to the 12.9 beta driver we had just completed testing on a few weeks ago. AMD claims performance advantages for all the GCN cards including the 7700/7800/7900 cards though we only had time to test a single card for our initial article. The results are on the following pages...
PhysX Settings Comparison
Borderlands 2 is a hell of a game; we actually ran a 4+ hour live event on launch day to celebrate its release and played it after our podcast that week as well. When big PC releases occur we usually like to take a look at performance of the game on a few graphics cards as well to see how NVIDIA and AMD cards stack up. Interestingly, for this title, PhysX technology was brought up again and NVIDIA was widely pushing it as a great example of implementation of the GPU-accelerated physics engine.
What you may find unique in Borderlands 2 is that the game actually allows you to enabled PhysX features at Low, Medium and High settings, with either NVIDIA or AMD Radeon graphics cards installed in your system. In past titles, like Batman: Arkham City and Mafia II, PhysX was only able to be enabled (or at least at higher settings) if you had an NVIDIA card. Many gamers that used AMD cards saw this as a slight and we tended to agree. But since we could enable it with a Radeon card installed, we were curious to see what the results would be.
Of course, don't expect the PhysX effects to be able to utilize the Radeon GPU for acceleration...
Borderlands 2 PhysX Settings Comparison
The first thing we wanted to learn was just how much difference you would see by moving from Low (the lowest setting, there is no "off") to Medium and then to High. The effects were identical on both AMD and NVIDIA cards and we made a short video here to demonstrate the changes in settings.
Subject: Graphics Cards | September 25, 2012 - 02:59 PM | Ryan Shrout
Tagged: radeon, amd, video, pitcairn, hd 7870 ghz edition, hd 7870
There have been quite a few new graphics card releases this year and with the now crowded GPU market, we have gotten many requests to revisit some of the earlier launches to see how they stack up in the latest GPU landscape. One such card is AMD’s Radeon HD 7870 GHz Edition, which has seen some dramatic improvements since its initial release in March.
AMD’s entire lineup of graphics cards based on the Southern Islands architecture were released between the months of January and March of this year, with only a few updates during the summer to combat new releases from NVIDIA. Though they don’t get as much review time anymore, the Tahiti, Pitcairn and Cape Verde GPUs still have a lot to offer gamers and the Radeon HD 7870 GHz Edition is a perfect example of that.
Thanks to recent price cuts, the Sapphire Radeon HD 7870 GHz Edition and all other Pitcairn GPUs can be found for much less than when they were launched. With a starting price of $350 in March, some base HD 7870s can be found online for $250 and sometimes less with rebates today making it a great deal for gamers on a budget.
You can check out all of our graphics card reviews right here to see how the market currently stands but there are really very few bad choices anymore.
Subject: Graphics Cards | September 21, 2012 - 02:55 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: tenerife, Sea Islands, radeon, GCN, amd, 8970
(Updated to add additional information on the 8900 series rumors – mainly on Radeon 8950.)
Earlier this week, we reported on rumors of two upcoming mid-range AMD 8800 series graphics cards based on the Sea Islands architecture. As mentioned previously, Sea Islands is the successor to the Southern Islands architecture used on the 7000 series. It features an improved Graphics Core Next GPU processor architecture based on TSMC's 28nm process. With that said, the chip will draw less power and be faster on GPGPU workloads thanks to several efficiency tweaks. Graphics cards based on Sea Islands will support DirectX 11, and will be available early next year.
While the 8850 and 8870 are based on the Oland GPU, this newly leaked Radeon HD 8970 will use the "Sea Islands" Tenerife GPU. New information seems to suggest that AMD will actually brand it the Venus XTX for 8970 cards and Venus XT/Pro for 8950 cards, though Oland would remain the chip name for 8800 series cards.
Tenerife offers up some impressive (but realistic) specifications, including 2,560 shaders, 160 texture units, 48 ROPs, and a relatively massive 384-bit memory bus. Also impressive is an alleged transistor count of 5.1 billion, which puts it a great deal above the Radeon 7970's 4.31 billion transistors. This rumored Tenerife/Venus XTX GPU (whichever AMD ends up calling it) will have a 250W TDP and will be use in the 8970 flagship graphics card. Venus XT/Pro will scale back the chip a bit by featuring 2,304 shaders, 144 texture units, and 32 ROPs. No word yet on what the TDP will be.
Both the HD 8970 and HD 8950 are said to support 3GB of GDDR5 memory running at 6GHz on a 384-bit bus, which works out such that the cards have approximately 322 GB/s of bandwidth! Further, the 16 additional ROP units in the Radeon HD 8970 will give it a nice performance boost over the 8950 and 8800 series, especially when running multiple monitors in Eyefinity configurations.
As far as specifications go, we do not yet know the die size of the GPU or what the GPU base (and boost) clockspeeds are beyond a source indicating the boost frequency of the 8970 will be above 1050 MHz. According to PC Perspective's GPU
packrat reviewer Josh Walrath, the Tenerife GPU will have a much larger die than that of Oland. Because it will feature a sizeable increase in number of transistors, but still be based on a 28nm process, the die size will be somewhere between 380mm^2 and 420mm^2.
To put that in perspective, the 8850/8870 has a die size of 270mm^2, and the current generation predecessor (7950/7970) has a die size of only 365mm^2.
The following chart compares the various rumored Radeon 8000-series graphics cards to their previous generation counterparts.
|Radeon HD 7850||Radeon HD 8850||Radeon HD 7870||Radeon HD 8870||Radeon 7950||Radeon 8950||Radeon HD 7970||Radeon HD 8970|
|Die Size||212mm^2||270mm^2||212mm^2||270mm^2||365mm^2||~400mm^2||365mm^2||~ 400mm^2|
|Bandwidth||153.6 GB/s||192 GB/s||153.6 GB/s||192 GB/s||240 GB/s||322 GB/s||288 GB/s||322 GB/s|
*Tenerife die size is estimate only, actual die size is still unknown.
The AMD Radeon HD 8970 will be AMD's next generation single-GPU flagship graphics card, and it looks to offer up some respectable hardware. The Radeon HD 8950 should be a decent step up in performance versus the 7950, though it would have been nice to see the 8970's additional ROP units stick around in the 8950. Unfortunately we do not know what this Tenerife (aka Venus) GPU-based graphics card will be priced at. For now, we will just have to be cautiously optimistic and wait a few months to see how much this card will cost. The wait should not be very long either, if rumors are true as they seem to indicate that the 8970 will enter manufacturing in late 2012 and launched in early (January/February) 2013.
Are you excited for AMD's next-generation flagship?
Subject: General Tech | September 11, 2012 - 10:41 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: virtualization, radeon, onlive, gaming, cloud gaming, ciinow, amd
In the wake of OnLive going bankrupt and selling itself to new investors, a new cloud gaming company has emerged called CiiNOW. The company was founded in 2010 and now has 24 employees. It has managed to raise more than $13 million USD, but with a new investment from new chip designer AMD CiiNow is ready to go public with its software. Interestingly, instead of starting its own cloud gaming service, CiiNow is positioning itself as a Middleware company by selling its virtualization and gaming software to other companies. Those business customers would then use CiiNow’s software to start their own cloud gaming services.
In the deal with AMD, CiiNOW will recommend AMD Radeon graphics cards to customers as well as supporting them on its software platform. According to CiiNow, its virtualized platform is able to run on any data center or cloud computing platform’s hardware. While OnLive generally required specialized servers where the graphics card was dedicated to providing games to one (or a small number of) user(s), CiiNow claims to be able to provide up to eight 720p HD streams per server blade, and up to 272 HD streams per traditional server rack. On the user side of things, CiiNow has stated that gamers would need at least a Mbps internet connection in order to play the streamed games effectively. Company CEO Ron Haberman was quoted by Venture Beat in stating the following:
“One of the big issues with cloud gaming is that no one likes to talk about costs, we are more economical because we virtualize any hardware that fits underneath our software.”
While the company has not gone into details about how the virtualization software works on off-the-shelf servers, they claim that it is an extremely scalable solution that can support rapidly growing numbers of end users without dramatically increasing hardware costs. It's impossible to say how well cloud gaming services based on this technology will work without more details or a hands on, but it is nice to see someone else take up the mantle from OnLive – especially with competitor Gaikai being bought out by Sony. CiiNow wants its technology to be used to deliver AAA titles to gamers over the Internet, so I'm interested in how they are going to pull that off using varying hardware with CiiNow's software layer running on top (specifically, the performance they will be able to get out of the hardware and how it will be sliced up between clients/gamers).
The company has said that games will not need to be ported to the virtualized software to work, only a DRM free copy from the publisher needs to be provided to load it onto the platform. Further, the cloud gaming provider using CiiNow's software will be able to support game pads and other controllers to interact with the streamed games. CiiNow does not list specific latency numbers on its site, but claims that it is using a low latency H.264 video stream to send the gameplay down to users. It remains to be seen whether or not it will be able to match or exceed NVIDIA's GRID technology in that respect, however.
There are still a lot of questions about how CiiNOW's software will work, and whether it will advance cloud gaming in general. Fortunately, you should be able to get some answers soon as the company's software is now available to the public, and we should start to see some new cloud gaming providers popping up based on the virtualization technology. Reportedly, the company has completed several trial runs in Europe and has potential customers in the US, Korea, and Australia. CiiNow claims that it could take around two months from when a customer orders equipment before its cloud gaming service can go live, so the first fruits of CiiNow's labor might emerge by the end of this year.
There is a preview of a cloud gaming service up on CiiNOW's website, but no partners with plans to launch gaming services have been publicly announced yet.
In the video below, CiiNOW CEO Ron Haberman introduces the company's new cloud gaming platform.
Continue reading for my speculation and brief thoughts on cloud gaming. Feel free to join the comment discussion (no registration required).
Subject: Graphics Cards | August 22, 2012 - 06:31 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: radeon, price cuts, amd
While this move could hurt AMD's bottom line, there is only good news for gamers looking to upgrade their system with a new (or another) GPU from AMD. With the release of NVIDIA's GTX 660 Ti at a price close to that of the HD 7870 and performance closer to an HD 7950, AMD has once again cut the pricing of their cards. The price cuts should kick in by the end of the week, so hold off purchasing those cards for another week to benefit from the new pricing and to give NVIDIA a chance to respond as well.
You've gotta love it when graphics hardware pricing starts trending away from the $500 mark!
There are two HD7950 available on NewEgg for $320, though if you include MIR this XFX model is the least expensive while most others are sitting at $330 after MIR. The 7870 GHz editions are starting to move towards the $230 mark which is better than promised and seem to have pushed the HD7850 out of the picture at $210 as that extra $20 gets you a lot more performance.
Be sure to check out our reviews on these recent graphics cards to find out which fit your specific needs!
- GeForce GTX 660 Ti 2GB
- Radeon HD 7950 3GB with Boost
- Radeon HD 7970 3GB GHz Edition
- GeForce GTX 670 2GB
- GeForce GTX 690 4GB
- GeForce GTX 680 2GB
Subject: Graphics Cards | July 17, 2012 - 05:07 PM | Ryan Shrout
Tagged: stock check, radeon, nvidia, HD 7970, hd 7950, hd 7870, hd 7850, hd 7770, hd 7750, GTX 690, gtx 680, gtx 670, geforce, amd
Due to popular request, I am going to try to keep our readers up to date on the current availability of graphics cards and pricing on the market. With the recent price drops from AMD, the frequent out-of-stock status of the GTX 680 cards and the release of the GTX 670, I thought this would be a great summary of the current situation.
AMD's Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition 3GB
We will try to post new updates weekly or maybe more frequently as we see fit. Newegg is our partner of choice for this today, so let's see what we have.
AMD Radeon HD 7000 Series
Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition 3GB - Out of Stock
Starting at $499
Radeon HD 7970 3GB - In Stock
Starting at $429
Radeon HD 7950 3GB - In Stock
Starting at $349
Radeon HD 7870 2GB - In Stock
Starting at $299
Radeon HD 7850 2GB - In Stock
Starting at $239
Radeon HD 7770 1GB - In Stock
Starting at $124
Radeon HD 7750 1GB - In Stock
Starting at $109
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 600 Series
GeForce GTX 690 4GB - Out of Stock
Starting at $999
GeForce GTX 680 2GB - In Stock
Starting at $499
GeForce GTX 670 2GB - In Stock
Starting at $399
In a stunning change of fate, the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 680 has been steadily in stock for the last few weeks but the Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition that we reviewed on June 24th has yet to show its face. Yes, you can find HD 7970 cards running at 1000 MHz core clock speeds (and higher) though they don't have the 6.0 Gbps memory speeds nor the "PowerTune with Boost" technology that really set the new version of the GPU apart.
When asked, AMD told us to expect Sapphire and XFX models in stock early next week - so we'll definitely keep an eye on the online retailers for that.
The only other changes are some more price drops on the AMD side. You can now get a standard HD 7970 for $80 less than the GeForce GTX 680 and the Radeon HD 7950 for $50 less than the GTX 670. AMD knows that with NVIDIA's great branding and marketing they needed to make a case for their GPUs over the competition and these types of price cuts really give gamers two great options for their gaming dollar.
We are still waiting on NVIDIA's answer for sub-$399 GPUs based on Kepler - hopefully we won't be waiting long.
If you are looking for our latest graphics reviews to judge the performance of the above cards, here you go:
- Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition
- GeForce GTX 670
- GeForce GTX 690
- GeForce GTX 680
- MSI R7970 Lightning
- Radeon HD 7870 and HD 7850
- Radeon HD 7770 and HD 7750
- Radeon HD 7950
- Radeon HD 7970
Subject: Graphics Cards | July 17, 2012 - 12:02 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: toxic edition, sapphire, radeon, overclocked GPU, gpu, 7970 ghz edition
GPU add-in-board partner Sapphire Technology has launched a new factory overclocked graphics card based on the AMD 7970 GHz Edition GPU (which we did a live video review of recently). That particular chip is built on the 28nm Graphics Core Next (GCN) architecture and brings several improvements over the initial (non GHz Edition) 7970 GPU. The main difference between the two is that the GHz variant is a higher binned part that also features a new GPU boost technology similar to NVIDIA’s dynamic overclocking function. The new Sapphire Toxic card takes that chip and pushes it to the max with two levels of factory overclocked settings.
Packing the company’s custom dual 90mm fan and heatpipe-equipped Vapor-X cooler, the HD 7970 TOXIC Edition features 6GB of GDDR5 memory, 2,048 stream processors, and a 7970 GHz Edition GPU. Out of the box, the card has a base GPU clockspeed of 1050 MHz and a boost speed of 1100 MHz. On the memory side of things, it runs the GDDR5 at 6,000 MHz (effective). When you press a button – which the company calls the Lethal Boost Button – the base clockspeed becomes 1100 MHz and the boost speed becomes 1200 MHz. The Lethal Boost also overclocks the memory to 6400 MHz (effective).
The card also includes a 12 layer black PCB with a new eight phase power design package for the GPU and an additional power phase for the VDDCI and MVDD along with other high-end goodies to deliver the stable voltage necessary for the high factory overclocks. Rear IO on the graphics card includes two DVI ports – one dual link and one single link – one mini-DisplayPort, and one full-sized HDMI port. In all, it is a dual slot card and measures 275mm in length, and 115mm wide. You will be able to purchase the Toxic edition card for $680. It looks like a really good card, but it’s not cheap.
Subject: Graphics Cards | July 13, 2012 - 02:59 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: tahiti, radeon, hd7970, hd 7970 ghz edition, hd 7870 ghz edition, hd 7870, amd
AMD today announced that the HD7970 GHz Edition will be available on July 16th for a MSRP of $500. As well there will be a 7870 GHz Edition as well, retailing for around $300 which is a rather nice price point for a premium model of the 7870. As far as changes to existing models, the Radeon HD 7970 will be available for $429 and the HD 7950 will be available for $349. While these prices may disappoint early adopters, perhaps the fact that a CrossFire setup has become more affordable will give some comfort.
These new prices will come in conjunction with AMD's "Three-for-Free promotion" which will allow you to choose three DX11 games to acquire for free along with your purchase of a Tahiti based Radeon GPU. For those on a lower budget, the 7870 GHz Edition will net you a free copy of DiRT Showdown.
Subject: Graphics Cards | July 3, 2012 - 08:36 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: radeon, hd 7770, graphics cards, gpu, clock speed, amd
Gigabyte has had an overclocked version of the Radeon HD 7770 graphics card for a couple months now, but the company is already readying a second revision of the card. Curiously, the new revision will maintain the same hardware but will run at slightly lower clock speeds. While the current revision (1.0) runs at 1100 MHz and 5000 MHz for the GPU core and memory respectively, the updated graphics card will run at 1050 MHz and 4500 MHz.
Beyond the lower clock speeds, the new revision of the GV-R7770 OC card maintains the same PCB, chips, and cooler design. That hardware includes a 28nm GPU, 1GB of GDDR5 memory on a 128-bit interface, and a PCI-E 3.0 expansion slot. Display outputs include a DVI port, full-size HDMI port, and two mini DisplayPorts. It also maintains the same custom Gigabyte heatsink and fan.
According to Videocardz, users will be able to identify which revision they are getting before handing over any money by looking at the box. Alternatively, users can identify which revision it is by looking at the sticker on the underside of the card just above the PCI-E connector. As a new revision, especially with the release of higher-binning chips from AMD, it is a bit confusing that the card is being released with lower clock speeds than its predecessor. It may be that the higher factory overclock was not stable on enough cards and Gigabyte was having to deal with too many returns – that’s only a guess though.
All the same, if you are shopping for a 7770 graphics card and have been considering the Gigabyte model, be sure to double check which revision you are getting.