Author:
Subject: Mobile
Manufacturer: NVIDIA

The Hardware

Dear NVIDIA,

It has come to my attention that you are planning on producing and selling a device to be called “NVIDIA SHIELD.”  It should be noted that even though it shares the same name, this device has no matching attributes of the super-hero comic-based security agency.  Please adjust.

 

When SHIELD was previewed to the world at CES in January of this year, there were a hundred questions about the device.  What would it cost?  Would the build quality stand up to expectations?  Would the Android operating system hold up as a dedicated gaming platform?  After months of waiting a SHIELD unit finally arrived in our offices in early July, giving us plenty of time (I thought) to really get a feel for the device and its strengths and weakness.  As it turned out though, it still seemed like an inadequate amount of time to really gauge this product.  But I am going to take a stab at it, feature by feature.

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NVIDIA SHIELD aims to be a mobile gaming platform based on Android with a flip out touch-screen interface, high quality console design integrated controller, and added features like PC game streaming and Miracast support.

Initial Unboxing and Overview of Product Video

 

The Hardware

At the heart of NVIDIA SHIELD is the brand new Tegra 4 SoC, NVIDIA’s latest entry into the world of mobile processors.  Tegra 4 is a quad-core, ARM Cortex-A15 based SoC that includes a 5th A15 core built on lower power optimized process technology to run background and idle tasks using less power.  This is very similar to what NVIDIA did with Tegra 3’s 4+1 technology, and how ARM is tackling the problem with big.LITTLE philosophy. 

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Continue reading our review of the NVIDIA SHIELD Android gaming device!!

Unreal Engine 4 on Mobile Kepler at SIGGRAPH

Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards, Mobile, Shows and Expos | July 24, 2013 - 05:15 PM |
Tagged: Siggraph, kepler, mobile, tegra, nvidia, unreal engine 4

SIGGRAPH 2013 is wrapping up in the next couple of days but, now that NVIDIA removed the veil surrounding Mobile Kepler, people are chatting about what is to follow Tegra 4. Tim Sweeney, founder of Epic Games, contributed to NVIDIA Blogs the number of ways that certain attendees can experience Unreal Engine 4 at the show. As it turns out, NVIDIA engineers have displayed the engine both on Mobile Kepler as well as behind closed doors on desktop PCs.

Not from SIGGRAPH, this is a leak from, I believe, GTC late last March.

Also, this is Battlefield 3, not Unreal Engine 4.

Tim, obviously taking the developer standpoint, is very excited about OpenGL 4.3 support within the mobile GPU. In all, he did not say too much of note. They are targeting Unreal Engine 4 at a broad range of platforms: mobile, desktop, console, and, while absent from this editorial, web standards. Each of these platforms are settling on the same set of features, albeit with huge gaps in performance, allowing developers to focus on a scale of performance instead of a flowchart of capabilities.

Unfortunately for us, there have yet to be leaks from the trade show. We will keep you up-to-date if we find any, however.

Source: NVIDIA Blogs
Author:
Manufacturer: NVIDIA

A necessary gesture

NVIDIA views the gaming landscape as a constantly shifting medium that starts with the PC.  But the company also sees mobile gaming, cloud gaming and even console gaming as part of the overall ecosystem.  But that is all tied together by an investment in content – the game developers and game publishers that make the games that we play on PCs, tablets, phones and consoles.

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The slide above shows NVIDIA targeting for each segment – expect for consoles obviously.  NVIDIA GRID will address the cloud gaming infrastructure, GeForce and the GeForce Experience will continue with the PC systems and NVIDIA SHIELD and the Tegra SoC will get the focus for the mobile and tablet spaces.  I find it interesting that NVIDIA has specifically called out Steam under the PC – maybe a hint of the future for the upcoming Steam Box?

The primary point of focus for today’s press meeting was to talk about the commitment that NVIDIA has to the gaming world and to developers.  AMD has been talking up their 4-point attack on gaming that starts really with the dominance in the console markets.  But NVIDIA has been the leader in the PC world for many years and doesn’t see that changing.

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With several global testing facilities, the most impressive of which exists in Russia, NVIDIA tests more games, more hardware and more settings combinations than you can possibly imagine.  They tune drivers and find optimal playing settings for more than 100 games that are now wrapped up into the GeForce Experience software.  They write tools for developers to find software bottlenecks and test for game streaming latency (with the upcoming SHIELD). They invest more in those areas than any other hardware vendor.

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This is a list of technologies that NVIDIA claims they invented or developed – an impressive list that includes things like programmable shaders, GPU compute, Boost technology and more. 

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Many of these turned out to be very important in the development and advancement of gaming – not for PCs but for ALL gaming. 

Continue reading our editorial on NVIDIA's stance on it's future in PC gaming!!

NVIDIA Announces Shield Pricing, Taking Pre-orders

Subject: General Tech, Mobile | May 14, 2013 - 09:06 AM |
Tagged: tegra 4, tegra, shield, project shield, nvidia

Solid information about the NVIDIA Shield (no longer called Project Shield) is finally becoming available with a blog post written up today on NVIDIA's website.  The company will begin accepting pre-orders from users that have previously signed up for the Shield mailing list while the rest of you will have to wait until May 20th to plop down your money. 

The cost?  $349.  Newegg, Gamestop, Micro Center and Canada Computer will carry it.

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If you want to sign up for official June release schedule of the Tegra 4 powered mobile Android gaming device, you'll have to head over to shield.nvidia.com

NVIDIA does point out in the blog that the PC game streaming feature that I truly believe is the one thing that makes Shield a compelling gaming device, will be launching as BETA feature.

And GeForce game streaming, launching as a beta feature, will give SHIELD the power to access your NVIDIA GeForce GTX GPU-powered computer from the comfort of your couch. We’re working on streaming your favorite PC games to SHIELD, including great titles from Steam.

High level features of the device, for those of you that are unaware, include:

  • Tegra 4 – The world’s fastest mobile processor delivers rich graphics and unbeatable performance thanks to 72 GPU cores, four CPU cores and 2GB of RAM
  • Console-grade controller – Precise control thanks to dual analog joysticks, a full-sized D-Pad, left and right analog triggers, full-sized bumpers and A/B/X/Y buttons
  • Multi-touch display – 5-inch, 720p retinal multi-touch display for high-fidelity visuals
  • Integrated speakers – Custom, bass reflex, tuned port audio system – we think this is SHIELD’s sleeper feature
  • Wi-Fi – 802.11n 2X2 MIMO game-speed Wi-Fi for seamless game streaming
  • Pure Android – Latest Android Jelly Bean operating system from Google, for access to Android games and apps
  • There’s more – We put into SHIELD everything we would want in a premium mobile gaming device: 16 GB memory, GPS, Bluetooth 3.0, a mini-HDMI output, micro-USB 2.0, a microSD storage slot, a 3.5-mm stereo headphone jack. See the full spec sheet, here.

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We took a look at the NVIDIA Shield device at CES this year and posted a video of our experiences, so check it out below. 

NVIDIA has also posted a separate blog that talks about some of the upcoming Android games that will highlight the power of the Tegra 4 mobile processor including Broken Age and Costume Quest from Double Fine, Chuck's Challenge from Niffler and more. 

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I think many people at NVIDIA as well as in the media are very curious to see what the reaction of Shield will actully be upon its release.  I am very excited to test it out in real-world, long term usage models but I definitely have doubts about the market's desire for another mobile gaming platform. 

Leave me your thoughts in the comments below!!

Source: NVIDIA

NVIDIA shows Project Shield manufacturing mold, building hype

Subject: Mobile | May 10, 2013 - 03:28 PM |
Tagged: tegra 4, tegra, shield, project shield, nvidia

After the initial announcement at CES in January, NVIDIA has been trying hard to keep excitement and interest about Project Shield going.  The upcoming Tegra 4-powered mobile Android-based gaming machine will be launched sometime in the summer; both Computex and E3 would make perfect timing. 

NVIDIA passed us a photo of the mold for the casing of Project Shield and though you don't really get any awesome new information out of it, I thought I would share.

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The photo you see below shows the production mold that's used to craft the ergonomic casing that houses Project SHIELD's high-powered components: Tegra 4, 5-inch 720p HD retinal touchscreen, Stereo Bass Reflex Speakers, WiFi, accelerometer, gyro, a massive battery, and more. 

To create the casing, we inject a polycarbonate material into the RHCM (Rapid Heat Cycle Molding) tool at 10,800 PSI and 300 degrees Celsius. We use a polycarbonate mixture comprised of 90% Sabic 500ECR-739 PC and 10% glass. This material and injection molding process ensures a sturdy yet lightweight casing that will deliver hours of gaming with no fatigue.

 

In case you are behind on what Project Shield is, you should check out the hands-on video we made during our time with the device last January.

What do you think...are you excited about the launch of this device?  Do any of its features really make you want to buy it once available?

Source: NVIDIA

NVIDIA's plans for Tegra and Tesla

Subject: General Tech | April 24, 2013 - 01:38 PM |
Tagged: Steve Scott, nvidia, HPC, tesla, logan, tegra

The Register had a chance to sit down with Steve Scott, once CTO of Cray and now CTO of NVIDIA's Tesla projects to discuss the future of their add-in cards as well as that of x86 in the server room.  They discussed Tegra and why it is not receiving the same amount of attention at NVIDIA as Tegra is, as well as some of the fundamental differences in the chips both currently and going forward.  NVIDIA plans to unite GPU and CPU onto both families of chips, likely with a custom interface as opposed to placing them on the same die, though both will continue to be designed for very different functions.  A lot of the article focuses on Tegra, its memory bandwidth and most importantly its networking capabilities as it seems NVIDIA is focused on the server room and providing hundreds or thousands of interconnected Tegra processors to compete directly with x86 offerings.  Read on for the full interview.

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"Jen-Hsun Huang, co-founder and CEO of Nvidia has been perfectly honest about the fact that the graphics chip maker didn't intend to get into the supercomputing business. Rather, it was founded by a bunch of gamers who wanted better graphics cards to play 3D games. Fast forward two decades, though, and the Nvidia Tesla GPU coprocessor and the CUDA programming environment have taken the supercomputer world by storm."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: The Register

Khronos Group Announces WebGL 1.0.2 Specification and Extensions, Formal Release Expected in April

Subject: General Tech | March 28, 2013 - 12:54 AM |
Tagged: webgl 1.0.2, webgl, web browser, tegra, programming

The Khronos Group recently announced that the WebGL 1.0.1 specification is compliant across mobile and desktop systems on a number of platforms. Chrome 25 and Firefox 19 support WebGL 1.0.1 on Windows, Mac, and Linux operating systems. Further, mobile devices with Tegra SoCs can tap into WebGL using a WebGL-enhanced Android browser.

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Additionally, the WebGL 1.0.2 specification and its extensions have been submitted for ratification, and is expected to be formally released in April. According to the press release, the following features are being rolled into the WebGL 1.0.2 specification:

  • "adds many clarifications for specification behavioral precision
  • mandates support for certain combinations of framebuffer formats, to ease developer adoption;
  • clarifies interactions with the encompassing HTML5 platform, including the browser compositor and high-DPI displays;
  • dramatically increases the number of conformance tests to roughly 21,000 to improve both the breadth and depth of test coverage - thanks principally to work by Gregg Tavares at Google and the OpenGL ES working group."

The WebGL working group has also submitted several optional extensions for ratifications along with the 1.0.2 spec. On the developer side of things is a JavaScript debugger for WebGL API calls and shaders, and functionality to communicate when a mobile device is powered off while WebGL is running. The other extension deals with adding additional 3D features from OpenGL ES 2.0 including anisotropic filtering (AF), vertex array objects, and standard derivative functions.

Khronos President and NVIDIA Vice President of Mobile Content Neil Trevett stated that "The close cooperation between browser and silicon vendors to ensure the GPU is being reliably and securely exposed to the Web is ongoing proof that Khronos is a highly productive forum to evolve this vital Web standard." Meanwhile, WebGL Working group chair Ken Russell indicated that WebGL 1.0.2 is "a major milestone in bringing the power of the GPU to the Web.”

Although there are security concerns to consider, WebGL does open up some interesting opportunities for new web services. The full press release can be found here.

Source: Khronos

NVIDIA's Project SHIELD is just about ready

Subject: General Tech | March 26, 2013 - 01:49 PM |
Tagged: tegra 4, tegra, shield, nvidia, Tegrazone

Remember Project Shield from CES and before?  The Inquirer has managed to get their hands on an actual console at the Game Developers Conference and played a bit of Need For Speed streamed from a PC onto the Shield.  Project Shield its self is a Tegra 4 powered controller running Android 4.2 with a 5" 720p display attached and wireless connectivity.  The actual game is streamed wireless from a PC with a Kepler GPU via the Tegrazone application, so the real performance limit occurs from latency, similar to the company once known as Onlive.  While The Inq was not quite ready to toss their money at Project Shield, but it was close.

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"CHIP DESIGNER Nvidia caused something of a stir at CES when it announced the Project Shield handheld games console, and with its launch nearing, the firm is letting people try its first own-brand game console, which we managed to get our hands on at this week's GDC gaming conference in San Francisco."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: The Inquirer

Podcast #243 - ASUS Crosshair V Formula-Z, MSI Z77A-G45 Thunderbolt, 2TB SSDs and more!

Subject: General Tech | March 21, 2013 - 02:54 PM |
Tagged: z77a-g45 thunderbolt, video, tegra, quadro, podcast, GTX 690, GTC 2013, DDR3-3000, Crosshair V Formula Z, 2tb ssd

PC Perspective Podcast #243 - 03/21/2013

Join us this week as we discuss the ASUS Crosshair V Formula-Z, MSI Z77A-G45 Thunderbolt, 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: Josh Walrath, Jeremy Hellstrom, Allyn Malventano, Morry Teitelman, and sometimes Ken Addison

This Podcast is brought to you by MSI!

Program length: 1:18:24

Podcast topics of discussion:
  1. Week in Review:
  1. News items of interest:
  2. Closing:
    1. 1:09:50 Hardware / Software Pick of the Week
      1. Morry: Memory, always more memory - G.Skill Sniper 1866 16GB DDR3
  3. 1-888-38-PCPER or podcast@pcper.com

 

NVIDIA Details Tegra 4 and Tegra 4i Graphics

Subject: Graphics Cards | February 25, 2013 - 08:01 PM |
Tagged: nvidia, tegra, tegra 4, Tegra 4i, pixel, vertex, PowerVR, mali, adreno, geforce

 

When Tegra 4 was introduced at CES there was precious little information about the setup of the integrated GPU.  We all knew that it would be a much more powerful GPU, but we were not entirely sure how it was set up.  Now NVIDIA has finally released a slew of whitepapers that deal with not only the GPU portion of Tegra 4, but also some of the low level features of the Cortex A15 processor.  For this little number I am just going over the graphics portion.

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This robust looking fellow is the Tegra 4.  Note the four pixel "pipelines" that can output 4 pixels per clock.

The graphics units on the Tegra 4 and Tegra 4i are identical in overall architecture, just that the 4i has fewer units and they are arranged slightly differently.  Tegra 4 is comprised of 72 units, 48 of which are pixel shaders.  These pixel shaders are VLIW based VEC4 units.  The other 24 units are vertex shaders.  The Tegra 4i is comprised of 60 units, 48 of which are pixel shaders and 12 are vertex shaders.  We knew at CES that it was not a unified shader design, but we were still unsure of the overall makeup of the part.  There are some very good reasons why NVIDIA went this route, as we will soon explore.

If NVIDIA were to transition to unified shaders, it would increase the overall complexity and power consumption of the part.  Each shader unit would have to be able to handle both vertex and pixel workloads, which means more transistors are needed to handle it.  Simpler shaders focused on either pixel or vertex operations are more efficient at what they do, both in terms of transistors used and power consumption.  This is the same train of thought when using fixed function units vs. fully programmable.  Yes, the programmability will give more flexibility, but the fixed function unit is again smaller, faster, and more efficient at its workload.

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On the other hand here we have the Tegra 4i, which gives up half the pixel pipelines and vertex shaders, but keeps all 48 pixel shaders.

If there was one surprise here, it would be that the part is not completely OpenGL ES 3.0 compliant.  It is lacking in one major function that is required for certification.  This particular part cannot render at FP32 levels.  It has been quite a few years since we have heard of anything not being able to do FP32 in the PC market, but it is quite common to not support it in the power and transistor conscious mobile market.  NVIDIA decided to go with a FP 20 partial precision setup.  They claim that for all intents and purposes, it will not be noticeable to the human eye.  Colors will still be rendered properly and artifacts will be few and far between.  Remember back in the day when NVIDIA supported FP16 and FP32 while they chastised ATI for choosing FP24 with the Radeon 9700 Pro?  Times have changed a bit.  Going with FP20 is again a power and transistor saving decision.  It still supports DX9.3 and OpenGL ES 2.0, but it is not fully OpenGL ES 3.0 compliant.  This is not to say that it does not support any 3.0 features.  It in fact does support quite a bit of the functionality required by 3.0, but it is still not fully compliant.

This will be an interesting decision to watch over the next few years.  The latest Mali 600 series, PowerVR 6 series, and Adreno 300 series solutions all support OpenGL ES 3.0.  Tegra 4 is the odd man out.  While most developers have no plans to go to 3.0 anytime in the near future, it will eventually be implemented in software.  When that point comes, then the Tegra 4 based devices will be left a bit behind.  By then NVIDIA will have a fully compliant solution, but that is little comfort for those buying phones and tablets in the near future that will be saddled with non-compliance once applications hit.

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The list of OpenGL ES 3.0 features that are actually present in Tegra 4, but the lack of FP32 relegates it to 2.0 compliant status.

The core speed is increased to 672 MHz, well up from the 520 MHz in Tegra 3 (8 pixel and 4 vertex shaders).  The GPU can output four pixels per clock, double that of Tegra 3.  Once we consider the extra clock speed and pixel pipelines, the Tegra 4 increases pixel fillrate by 2.6x.  Pixel and vertex shading will get a huge boost in performance due to the dramatic increase of units and clockspeed.  Overall this is a very significant improvement over the previous generation of parts.

The Tegra 4 can output to a 4K display natively, and that is not the only new feature for this part.  Here is a quick list:

2x/4x Multisample Antialiasing (MSAA)

24-bit Z (versus 20-bit Z in the Tegra 3 processor) and 8-bit Stencil

4K x 4K texture size incl. Non-Power of Two textures (versus 2K x 2K in the Tegra 3 processor) – for higher quality textures, and easier to port full resolution textures from  console and PC games to Tegra 4 processor.  Good for high resolution displays.

16:1 Depth (Z) Compression and 4:1 Color Compression (versus none in Tegra 3 processor) – this is lossless compression and is useful for reducing bandwidth to/from the frame buffer, and especially effective in antialiasing processing when processing multiple samples per pixel

Depth Textures

Percentage Closer Filtering for Shadow Texture Mapping and Soft Shadows

Texture border color eliminate coarse MIP-level bleeding

sRGB for Texture Filtering, Render Surfaces and MSAA down-filter

1 - CSAA is no longer supported in Tegra 4 processors

This is a big generational jump, and now we only have to see how it performs against the other top end parts from Qualcomm, Samsung, and others utilizing IP from Imagination and ARM.

Source: NVIDIA