Podcast #405 - AMD RX 480 Hands-on, 32-core Zen rumors, VBIOS scandal and more!

Subject: General Tech | June 23, 2016 - 01:02 PM |
Tagged: Zen, western digital, video, vbios, SM961, sli, Samsung, rx 480, radeon, podcast, My Passport Wireless Pro, msi, GTX 1080, evga, drobo, be quiet, asus, amd, 960 PRO

PC Perspective Podcast #405 - 06/23/2016

Join us this week as we discuss an AMD RX 480 hands-on, 32-core Zen rumors, the ASUS/MSI VBIOS scandal 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!

This episode of the PC Perspective Podcast is sponsored by Kaspersky Labs!

Hosts:  Ryan Shrout, Allyn Malventano, Jeremy Hellstrom, and Josh Walrath

Program length: 1:33:07
  1. Week in Review:
  2. This episode is sponsored by Kaspersky Labs!
  3. News items of interest:
  4. Hardware/Software Picks of the Week
    1. Allyn: devCalc Pro - Engineering Mode calculator for iOS
  5. Closing/outro

Podcast #403 - Fractal Define S, Corsair Lapdog, Pascal dropping 3+4 way SLI game support, EVGA SLI HB's, and more!

Subject: General Tech | June 9, 2016 - 02:21 PM |
Tagged: Wit.nes, video, technology, SSD 750 M.2, sli, podcast, GTX 1080, gtx 1070, GP104 laptop, Fractal Nano S, fan speed fix, EVGA SLI HB, Corsair SF

PC Perspective Podcast #403 - 06/09/2016

Join us this week as we discuss the Fractal Define S, Corsair Lapdog, Pascal dropping 3+4 way SLI game support, EVGA SLI HB's, 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!

This episode of the PC Perspective Podcast is sponsored by Lenovo!

Hosts:  Allyn Malventano, Jeremy Hellstrom, Josh Walrath, and Sebastian Peak

Program length: 1:19:54
  1. Week in Review:
  2. News items of interest:
      1. This is actually in the Mirror’s Edge Driver!
  3. Hardware/Software Picks of the Week
    1. Sebastian: Clean install Windows 8.1 or Windows 10
  4. Closing/outro

GeForce GTX 1080 and 1070 3-Way and 4-Way SLI will not be enabled for games

Subject: Graphics Cards | June 8, 2016 - 08:44 PM |
Tagged: sli, pascal, nvidia, GTX 1080, GP104, geforce, 4-way sli, 3-way sli

IMPORTANT UPDATE: After writing this story, but before publication, we went to NVIDIA for comment. As we were getting ready to publish, the company updated me with a shift in its stance on multi-GPU configurations. NVIDIA will no longer require an "enthusiast key" to enable SLI on more than two GPUs. However, NVIDIA will also only be enabling 3-Way and 4-Way SLI for a select few applications. More details are at the bottom of the story!

You'll likely recall that during our initial review of the GeForce GTX 1080 Founders Edition graphics card, we mentioned that NVIDIA was going to be moving people towards the idea that "only 2-Way SLI will be supported" and promoted. There would still be a path for users that wanted 3 and 4 GPU configurations anyway, and it would be called the Enthusiast Key.

As it turns out, after returning from an AMD event focused on its upcoming Polaris GPUs, I happen to have amassed a total of four GeForce GTX 1080 cards.

01.jpg

Courtesy of some friends at EVGA and two readers that were awesome enough to let me open up their brand new hardware for a day or so, I was able to go through the 3-Way and 4-Way SLI configuration process. Once all four were installed, and I must point out how great it is that each card only required a single 8-pin power connector, I installed the latest NVIDIA driver I had on hand, 368.19.

driver2.jpg

Knowing about the need for the Enthusiast Key, and also knowing that I did not yet have one and that the website that was supposed to be live to enable me to get one is still not live, I thought I might have stumbled upon some magic. The driver appeared to let me enable SLI anyway. 

driver1.jpg

Enthusiasts will note however that the green marker under the four GPUs with the "SLI" text is clearly only pointing at two of the GTX 1080s, leaving the remaining two...unused. Crap.

At this point, if you have purchased more than two GeForce GTX 1080 cards are simply out of luck and are waiting on NVIDIA to make good on it's promise to allow for 3-Way and 4-Way configurations via the Enthusiast Key. Or some other way. It's way too late now to simply say "we aren't supporting it at all." 

03.jpg

While I wait...what is there for a gamer with four GeForce GTX 1080 cards to do? Well, you could run Ashes of the Singularity. It's multi-GPU mode uses MDA mode, which means the game engine itself accesses each GPU on its own, without the need for the driver to handle anything regarding GPU load balancing. Unfortunately, Ashes only supports two GPUs today.

Well...you could run an OpenCL based benchmark like LuxMark that access all the GPUs independently as well.

lux2.jpg

I did so, and the result is an impressive score of 17,127!!

lux.jpg

How does that compare to some other products?

luxmarkgraph.jpg

The four GTX 1080 cards produce a score that is 2.57x the result provided by the AMD Radeon Pro Duo and 2.29x the score of SLI GeForce GTX 980 Ti cards. Nice!

02.jpg

So there you go! We are just as eager to get our hands on the ability to test 3-Way and 4-Way SLI with new Pascal GPUs as some of the most extreme and dedicated enthusiasts out there are. With any luck, NVIDIA will finally figure out a way to allow it - no matter how it finally takes place.

IMPORTANT UPDATE: Before going to press with this story I asked NVIDIA for comment directly: when was the community finally going to get the Enthusiast Key website to unlock 3-Way and 4-Way SLI for those people crazy enough to have purchased that many GTX 1080s? The answer was quite surprising: NVIDIA is backing away from the idea of an "Enthusiast Key" and will no longer require it for enabling 3-Way and 4-Way SLI. 

Here is the official NVIDIA statement given to PC Perspective on the subject:

With the GeForce 10-series we’re investing heavily in 2-way SLI with our new High Bandwidth bridge (which doubles the SLI bandwidth for faster, smoother gaming at ultra-high resolutions and refresh rates) and NVIDIA Game Ready Driver SLI profiles.  To ensure the best possible gaming experience on our GeForce 10-series GPUs, we’re focusing our efforts on 2-way SLI only and will continue to include 2-way SLI profiles in our Game Ready Drivers.
 
DX12 and NVIDIA VR Works SLI technology also allows developers to directly implement and control multi-GPU support within their games.  If a developer chooses to use these technologies then their game will not need SLI profiles.  Some developers may also decide to support more than 2 GPUs in their games. We continue to work with all developers creating games and VR applications that take advantage of 2 or more GPUs to make sure they’ll work great on GeForce 10-series GPUs.
 
For our overclocking community, our Game Ready Drivers will also include SLI profiles for 3- and 4-way configurations for specific OC applications only, including Fire Strike, Unigine and Catzilla.

NVIDIA clearly wants to reiterate that only 2-Way SLI will get the attention that we have come to expect from the GeForce driver dev team. As DX12 and Vulkan next-generation APIs become more prolific, the game developers will still have the ability to directly access more than two GeForce GTX 10-series GPUs, though I expect that be a very narrow window of games simply due to development costs and time.

NVIDIA will enable support for three and four card configurations in future drivers (without a key) for specific overclocking/benchmarking tools only, as a way to make sure the GeForce brand doesn't fall off the 3DMark charts. Only those specific applications will be able operate in the 3-Way and 4-Way SLI configurations that you have come to know. There are no profiles to change manually and even the rare games that might have "just worked" with three or four GPUs will not take advantage of more than two GTX 10-series cards. It's fair to say at this point that except for the benchmarking crowd, NVIDIA 3-Way and 4-Way SLI is over.

We expect the "benchmark only" mode of 3-Way and 4-Way SLI to be ready for consumers with the next "Game Ready" driver release. If you happened to get your hands on more than two GTX 1080s but aren't into benchmarking, then find those receipts and send a couple back.

So there you have it. Honestly, this is what I was expecting from NVIDIA with the initial launch of Pascal and the GeForce GTX 1080/1070 and I was surprised when I first heard about the idea of the "enthusiast key." It took a bit longer than expected, and NVIDIA will get more flak for the iterated dismissal of this very niche, but still pretty cool, technology. In the end, this won't have much impact on the company's bottom line as the quantity of users that were buying 3+ GTX GPUs for a single system was understandably small.

Computex 2016: EVGA Is Making Custom SLI HB Bridges

Subject: Graphics Cards | June 4, 2016 - 02:39 AM |
Tagged: evga, sli, SLI HB, GTX 1080, nvidia, gtx 1070

Still no idea when these are coming out, or how much they'll cost, but EVGA will introduce their own custom SLI High-Bandwidth (HB) bridges. These are designed for the GTX 1080 and GTX 1070 cards in two-way SLI mode to share frames in high-speed 1440p, 4K, 5K, and Surround configurations. As TAP mentioned on our live stream, if the bridge was overloaded, it would fall back to communicating PCIe, which should be doing other things at the time.

nvidia-2016-dreamhack-newsli.png

NVIDIA's SLI HB connector.
We didn't have a presence at Computex, so you'll need to check out Fudzilla's photo for EVGA's.

As for EVGA's model? Without pricing and availability, all we can say is that they have a different aesthetic from NVIDIA's. They also, unlike NVIDIA's version, have RGB LEDs on them to add a splash (or another splash) of colored light inside your case. Three versions will be offered, varying with the distances between your cards, but, as the SLI HB spec demands, each of them only supports two at a time.

Source: Fudzilla

Teaser - GTX 1080's Tested in SLI - EVGA SC ACX 3.0

Subject: Graphics Cards | May 27, 2016 - 02:58 PM |
Tagged: sli, review, led, HB, gtx, evga, Bridge, ACX 3.0, 3dmark, 1080

...so the time where we manage to get multiple GTX 1080's in the office here would, of course, be when Ryan is on the other side of the planet. We are also missing some other semi-required items, like the new 'SLI HB 'bridge, but we should be able to test on an older LED bridge at 2560x1440 (under the resolution where the newer style is absolutely necessary to avoid a sub-optimal experience). That said, surely the storage guy can squeeze out a quick run of 3DMark to check out the SLI scaling, right?

config.png

For this testing, I spent just a few minutes with EVGA's OC Scanner to take advantage of GPU Boost 3.0. I cranked the power limits and fans on both cards, ending up at a stable overclock hovering at right around 2 GHz on the pair. I'm leaving out the details of the second GPU we got in for testing as it may be under NDA and I can't confirm that as all of the people to ask are in an opposite time zone, so I'm leaving out that for now (pfft - it has an aftermarket cooler). Then I simply ran Firestrike (25x14) with SLI disabled:

3dmark-single.png

...and then with it enabled:

3dmark-sli.png

That works out to a 92% gain in 3DMark score, with the FPS figures jumping by almost exactly 2x. Now remember, this is by no means a controlled test, and the boss will be cranking out a much more detailed piece with frame rated results galore in the future, but for now I just wanted to get some quick figures out to the masses for consumption and confirmation that 1080 SLI is a doable thing, even on an older bridge.

*edit* here's another teaser:

heaven-oc-.png

Aftermarket coolers are a good thing as evidenced by the 47c of that second GPU, but the Founders Edition blower-style cooler is still able to get past 2GHz just fine. Both cards had their fans at max speed in this example.

*edit again*

I was able to confirm we are not under NDA on the additional card we received. Behold:

IMG_1692.jpg

IMG_1698.jpg

This is the EVGA Superclocked edition with their ACX 3.0 cooler.

More to follow (yes, again)!

NVIDIA Limits GTX 1080 SLI to Two Cards

Subject: Graphics Cards | May 11, 2016 - 10:57 PM |
Tagged: sli, nvidia, GTX 1080, GeForce GTX 1080

Update (May 12th, 1:45am): Okay so the post has been deleted, which was originally from Chris Bencivenga, Support Manager at EVGA. A screenshot of it is attached below. Note that Jacob Freeman later posted that "More info about SLI support will be coming soon, please stay tuned." I guess this means take the news with a grain of salt until an official word can be released.

evga-2016-gtx1080sli.png

Original Post Below

According to EVGA, NVIDIA will not support three- and four-way SLI on the GeForce GTX 1080. They state that, even if you use the old, multi-way connectors, it will still be limited to two-way. The new SLI connector (called SLI HB) will provide better performance “than 2-way SLI did in the past on previous series”. This suggests that the old SLI connectors can be used with the GTX 1080, although with less performance and only for two cards.

nvidia-2016-dreamhack-newsli.png

This is the only hard information that we have on this change, but I will elaborate a bit based on what I know about graphics APIs. Basically, SLI (and CrossFire) are simplifications of the multi-GPU load-balancing problems such that it is easy to do from within the driver, without the game's involvement. In DirectX 11 and earlier, the game cannot interface with the driver in that way at all. That does not apply to DirectX 12 and Vulkan, however. In those APIs, you will be able to explicitly load-balance by querying all graphics devices (including APUs) and split the commands yourself.

Even though a few DirectX 12 games exist, it's still unclear how SLI and CrossFire will be utilized in the context of DirectX 12 and Vulkan. DirectX 12 has the tier of multi-GPU called “implicit multi-adapter,” which allows the driver to load balance. How will this decision affect those APIs? Could inter-card bandwidth even be offloaded via SLI HB in DirectX 12 and Vulkan at all? Not sure yet (but you would think that they would at least add a Vulkan extension). You should be able to use three GTX 1080s in titles that manually load-balance to three or more mismatched GPUs, but only for those games.

If it relies upon SLI, which is everything DirectX 11, then you cannot. You definitely cannot.

Source: EVGA

MSI Ships Vortex: Cylindrical Gaming PC with High-End Specs

Subject: Systems | March 16, 2016 - 03:28 PM |
Tagged: Vortex Gaming Tower, vortex, sli, msi, Killer E2400, GTX 980, gtx 960, Core i7-6700K

MSI is now shipping Vortex; the tiny, cylindrical gaming tower showcased at CES 2016.

msi_vortex.jpg

"Standing at a mere 10.5” high, weighing as little as 8.8lbs, and measuring in at 6.5L, the Vortex pushes more power per inch than most mid to full size tower gaming PC’s without the having to deal with the same bulkiness or weight."

Followers of PC Perspective might recall our coverage of the powerful mini-system during January's CES, and our video is available below:

Specs and pricing hadn't been finalized when we first reported on the Vortex, and as of today we have the full story. Pricing will start at $2199, and you get a Core i7-6700K with SLI GTX 960 graphics cards at that price. Upgrade options include SLI GTX 980 GPUs, 32GB of RAM, and "Super RAID", which is 4x 256GB PCIe (Gen 3 x4) SSDs.

Here's a look at the specs for the two shipping versions of this new system:

  Vortex G65 SLI-002 Vortex G65 SLI-011
Processor Intel Core i7-6700K
Chipset Intel Z170
Memory 32 GB (8 GB x4)
2133 MHz DDR4
16 GB (8 GB x2)
2133 MHz DDR4
Graphics Dual GeForce GTX 980 SLI Dual GeForce GTX 960 SLI
Storage Super RAID: 4x 256 GB PCIe Gen 3 SSD
2x 128 GB SSD + 1TB SATA 7200 RPM HDD
Networking Dual Killer E2400 NIC
Connectivity Thunderbolt x2
USB 3.0 x4
Dimensions 7.61 x 7.01 x 10.55 inches
Weight 8.8 lbs
OS Windows 10
Price $3999 $2199

Obviously these are very powerful system configurations, anchored by a Z170 motherboard and Intel Core i7-6700K processor with plenty of RAM, and SLI NVIDIA GeForce GTX 960 or 980 GPUs. It will be interesting to see what (if any) overclocking headroom is available for CPU/GPU, though a 6.5L chassis is probably going to be at least somewhat thermally constrained.

vortex_exploded_view.jpg

Exploded view of the Vortex

Listings are up on Amazon, with the G65 SLI-011 at $2199, and G65 SLI-002 at $3999, though shipping times are listed at "2 - 5 weeks".

Source: MSI

MSI Announces Z170A SLI PLUS Motherboard

Subject: Motherboards | November 3, 2015 - 04:00 AM |
Tagged: Z170A SLI PLUS, X99 SLI PLUS, sli, msi, motherboard, crossfire, black PCB

MSI has announced their third PRO Series motherboard, the all-black Z170A SLI PLUS.

z170a_sli_plus.jpg

"MSI, leading in motherboard design, completes the PRO Series motherboard line-up with the launch of the all black Z170A SLI PLUS motherboard. Inheriting DNA from the critically acclaimed X99A SLI PLUS motherboard, the Z170A SLI PLUS is powerful, packed with features and styled with class."

While not lacking in stealthy looks from the black PCB to the matching RAM slots and heatsinks, the specifications of this new SLI PLUS board place it firmly into the premium category.

cpu.jpg

Features include Intel Gigabit LAN, MSI’s DDR4 Boost technology (which isolates memory traces on the board), Turbo M.2 (and U.2) with speeds up to 32 Gb/s with NVMe SSDs, and the Steel Armor PCI Express slots. And while SLI is right there in the title, there is also support for AMD Crossfire with those super-strong PCIe slots.

pcie.jpg

The board is fabricated with MSI’s Military Class 4 components including super ferrite chokes and all solid capacitors, and also offer a “EZ Debug” LED and overvoltage protection. In addition to support for the fastest internal storage standards (M.2, U.2, and SATA Express), the Z170A SLI PLUS offers full USB 3.1 Gen2 support for transfers up to 10 Gb/s for compatible devices.

  • Supports 6th Gen Intel Core / Pentium / Celeron processors for LGA 1151 socket
  • Supports DDR4-3600 Memory (OC)
  • DDR4 Boost
  • USB 3.1 Gen2
  • Turbo M.2 32Gb/s + Turbo U.2 ready + USB 3.1 Gen2 Type-C + SATA 6Gb/s
  • Steel Armor PCI-E slots; Supports NVIDIA SLI and AMD Crossfire
  • OC Genie 4
  • Click BIOS 5
  • Audio Boost
  • Military Class 4
  • Guard-Pro
  • EZ Debug LED
  • Overvoltage Protection
  • 4K UHD Support
  • Windows 10 Ready

io.png

Pricing and availability were not specified with this morning’s announcement.

Source: GIGABYTE

4K performance when you can spend at least $1.3K

Subject: Graphics Cards | October 6, 2015 - 02:40 PM |
Tagged: 4k, gtx titan x, fury x, GTX 980 Ti, crossfire, sli

[H]ard|OCP shows off just what you can achieve when you spend over $1000 on graphics cards and have a 4K monitor in their latest review.  In Project Cars you can expect never to see less than 40fps with everything cranked to maximum and if you invested in Titan X's you can even enable DS2X AntiAliasing for double the resolution, before down sampling.  Witcher 3 is a bit more challenging and no card is up for HairWorks without a noticeable hit to performance.  FarCry 4 still refuses to believe in Crossfire and as far as NVIDIA performance goes, if you want to see soft shadows you are going to have to invest in a pair of Titan X's.  Check out the full review to see what the best of the current market is capable of.

1444048041PaXLI3YOE9_1_2_l.jpg

"The ultimate 4K battle is about to begin, AMD Radeon R9 Fury X CrossFire, NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980 Ti SLI, and NVIDIA GeForce GTX TITAN X SLI will compete for the best gameplay experience at 4K resolution. Find out what $1300 to $2000 worth of GPU backbone will buy you. And find out if Fiji really can 4K."

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

Graphics Cards

Source: [H]ard|OCP

The fast and the Fury(ous): 4K

Subject: Graphics Cards | September 28, 2015 - 04:45 PM |
Tagged: R9 Fury, asus strix r9 fury, r9 390x, GTX 980, crossfire, sli, 4k

Bring your wallets to this review from [H]ard|OCP which pits multiple AMD and NVIDIA GPUs against each other at 4K resolutions and no matter the outcome it won't be cheap!  They used the Catalyst 15.8 Beta and the GeForce 355.82 WHQL which were the latest drivers available at the time of writing as well as trying out Windows 10 Pro x64.  There were some interesting results, for instance you want an AMD card when driving in the rain playing Project Cars as the GTX 980's immediately slowed down in inclement weather.  With Witcher 3, AMD again provided frames faster but unfortunately the old spectre of stuttering appeared, which those of you familiar with our Frame Rating tests will understand the source of.  Dying Light proved to be a game that liked VRAM with the 390X taking top spot though sadly neither AMD card could handle Crossfire in Far Cry 4.  There is a lot of interesting information in the review and AMD's cards certainly show their mettle but the overall winner is not perfectly clear, [H] chose Fury the R9 Fury with a caveat about Crossfire support.

1443216420fs0qY26cjj_1_1.jpg

"We gear up for multi-GPU gaming with AMD Radeon R9 Fury CrossFire, NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980 SLI, and AMD Radeon R9 390X CrossFire and share our head-to-head results at 4K resolution and find out which solution offers the best gameplay experience. How well does Fiji game when utilized in a CrossFire configuration?"

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

Graphics Cards

Source: [H]ard|OCP