New ASUS GeForce GTX 950 2G Requires No PCIe Power

Subject: Graphics Cards | March 4, 2016 - 09:48 PM |
Tagged: PCIe power, PCI Express, nvidia, GTX 950 2G, gtx 950, graphics card, gpu, geforce, asus, 75W

ASUS has released a new version of the GTX 950 called the GTX 950 2G, and the interesting part isn't what's been added, but what was taken away; namely, the PCIe power requirement.

gtx9502g_1.jpeg

When NVIDIA announced the GTX 950 (which Ryan reviewed here) it carried a TDP of 90W, which prevented it from running without a PCIe power connector. The GTX 950 was (seemingly) the replacement for the GTX 750, which didn't require anything beyond motherboard power via the PCIe slot, and the same held true for the more powerful GTX 750 Ti. Without the need for PCIe power that GTX 750 Ti became our (any many others) default recommendation to turn any PC into a gaming machine (an idea we just happened to cover in depth here).

Here's a look at the specs from ASUS for the GTX 950 2G:

  • Graphics Engine: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 950
  • Interface: PCI Express 3.0
  • Video Memory: GDDR5 2GB
  • CUDA Cores: 768
  • Memory Clock: 6610 MHz
  • Memory Interface: 128-bit
  • Engine Clock
    • Gaming Mode (Default) - GPU Boost Clock : 1190 MHZ , GPU Base Clock : 1026 MHz
    • OC Mode - GPU Boost Clock : 1228 MHZ , GPU Base Clock : 1051 MHz
  • Interface: HDMI 2.0, DisplayPort, DVI
  • Power Consumption: Up to 75W, no additional PCIe power required
  • Dimensions: 8.3 x 4.5 x 1.6 inches

gtx9502g_2.jpeg

Whether this model has any relation to the rumored "GTX 950 SE/LP" remains to be seen (and other than power, this card appears to have stock GTX 950 specs), but the option of adding in a GPU without concern over power requirements makes this a very attractive upgrade proposition for older builds or OEM PC's, depending on cost.

The full model number is ASUS GTX950-2G, and a listing is up on Amazon, though seemingly only a placeholder at the moment. (Link removed. The listing was apparently for an existing GTX 950 product.)

Source: ASUS

AMD to Add DirectFlip for DX12, Indicates FreeSync Incompatible with UWP Games

Subject: Graphics Cards | March 3, 2016 - 08:00 PM |
Tagged: uwp, radeon, dx12, amd

AMD's Robert Hallock, frequenter of the PC Perspective live streams and a favorite of the team here, is doing an AMAA on reddit today. While you can find some excellent information and views from Robert in that Q&A session, two particular answers stood out to me.

Asked by user CataclysmZA: Can you comment on the recent developments regarding Ashes of the Singularity and DirectX 12 in PC Perspective and Extremetech's tests? Will changes in AMD's driver to include FlipEx support fix the framerate issues and allow high-refresh monitor owners to enjoy their hardware fully? http://www.pcper.com/reviews/General-Tech/PC-Gaming-Shakeup-Ashes-Singularity-DX12-and-Microsoft-Store

Answer from Robert: We will add DirectFlip support shortly.

Well, there you have it. This is the first official notice I have from AMD that it is in fact its driver that was causing the differences in behavior between Radeon and GeForce cards in Ashes of the Singularity last week. It appears that a new driver will be incoming (sometime) that will enable DirectFlip / FlipEx, allowing exclusive full screen modes in DX12 titles. Some of our fear of the unknown can likely be resolved - huzzah!

vsyncon.jpg

Ashes of the Singularity wouldn't enter exclusive full screen mode on AMD Radeon hardware.

Another quesiton also piqued my interest:

Asked by user CataclysmZA: Can you comment on how FreeSync is affected by the way games sold through the Windows Store run in borderless windowed mode?

Answer from Robert: This article discusses the issue thoroughly. Quote: "games sold through Steam, Origin [and] anywhere else will have the ability to behave with DX12 as they do today with DX11."

While not exactly spelling it out, this answer seems to indicate that for the time being, AMD doesn't think FreeSync will work with Microsoft Store sold games in the forced borderless windowed mode. NVIDIA has stated that G-Sync works in some scenarios with the new Gears of War (a Universal Windows Platform app), but it seems they too have issues. 

As more informaiton continues to come in, from whatever sources we can validate, I'll keep you updated!

Source: reddit

Microsoft Comments on UWP Games and Full Screen Capability

Subject: Graphics Cards | March 3, 2016 - 04:54 PM |
Tagged: uwp, uwa, universal windows platform, microsoft, full screen, dx12, DirectX 12

With all of the debate and discussion that followed the second release of Ashes of the Singularity's DX12 benchmark mode, questions about full screen capabilities on AMD hardware and a debate of the impact the Microsoft Store and Universal Windows Platform would have on PC gaming, we went to the source of the debate to try and get some feedback. Microsoft was willing to talk about the issues that arose from this most recent storm though honestly what it is willing to say on the record today is limited.

When asked specifically about the UWP and PC games made available on the Windows 10 Store, Microsoft reiterated its desire to work with gamers and the community to find what works.

“UWP (Universal Windows Platform) allows developers to create experiences that are easily deployed across all Windows 10 devices, from PCs to tablets to phones to Xbox One. When it comes to a UWP game on Windows 10 PCs, we’re early in our journey. We’re listening to the feedback from the community – multiple GPUs, SLI, crossfire, v-sync, etc. We’re embracing the feedback and working to ensure gamers on Windows 10 have a great experience. We’ll have more to discuss in the coming months.” – a Microsoft spokesperson

It's good to know that Microsoft is listening to the media and gamers and seems willing to make changes based on feedback. It will have to be seen though what of this feedback gets implemented and in what time frame.

ed1.jpg

Universal Windows Platform

One particular fear for some gamers is that Microsoft would attempt to move to the WDDM compositing model not just for games sold in the Windows Store, but for all games that run on the OS. I asked Microsoft directly:

To answer your question, can we assume that those full screen features that work today with DX12 will work in the future as well – yes.

This should ease the worries of people thinking the very worst for Windows and DX12 gaming going forward. As long as DX12 allows for games to enter into an exclusive full screen mode, like the FlipEx option we discussed in a previous story, games sold through Steam, Origin and anywhere else will have the ability to behave with DX12 as they do today with DX11.

windowsstore.jpg

Windows 10 Store

I have some meetings setup with various viewpoints on this debate for GDC in a couple weeks, so expect more then!

NVIDIA Releases GeForce Drivers for Far Cry Primal, Gears of War: Ultimate Edition

Subject: Graphics Cards | March 2, 2016 - 10:30 PM |
Tagged: nvidia, geforce, game ready, 362.00 WHQL

The new Far Cry game is out (Far Cry Primal), and for NVIDIA graphics card owners this means a new GeForce Game Ready driver. The 362.00 WHQL certified driver provides “performance optimizations and a SLI profile” for the new game, is now available via GeForce Experience, as well as the manual driver download page.

FC_Primal.jpg

(Image credit: Ubisoft)

The 362.00 WHQL driver also supports the new Gears of War: Ultimate Edition, which is a remastered version of 2007 PC version of the game that includes Windows 10 only enhancements such as 4k resolution support and unlocked frame rates. (Why these "need" to be Windows 10 exclusives can be explained by checking the name of the game’s publisher: Microsoft Studios.)

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(Image credit: Microsoft)

Here’s a list of what’s new in version 362.00 of the driver:

Gaming Technology

  • Added Beta support on GeForce GTX GPUs for external graphics over Thunderbolt 3. GPUs supported include all GTX 900 series, Titan X, and GeForce GTX 750 and 750Ti.

Fermi GPUs:

  • As of Windows 10 November Update, Fermi GPUs now use WDDM 2.0 in single GPU configurations.

For multi-GPU configurations, WDDM usage is as follows:

  • In non-SLI multi-GPU configurations, Fermi GPUs use WDDM 2.0. This includes configurations where a Fermi GPU is used with Kepler or Maxwell GPUs.
  • In SLI mode, Fermi GPUs still use WDDM 1.3. Application SLI Profiles

Added or updated the following SLI profiles:

  • Assassin's Creed Syndicate - SLI profile changed (with driver code as well) to make the application scale better
  • Bless - DirectX 9 SLI profile added, SLI set to SLI-Single
  • DayZ - SLI AA and NVIDIA Control Panel AA enhance disabled
  • Dungeon Defenders 2 - DirectX 9 SLI profile added
  • Elite Dangerous - 64-bit EXE added
  • Hard West - DirectX 11 SLI profile added
  • Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain - multiplayer EXE added to profile
  • Need for Speed - profile EXEs updated to support trial version of the game
  • Plants vs Zombies Garden Warfare 2 - SLI profile added
  • Rise of the Tomb Raider - profile added
  • Sebastien Loeb Rally Evo - profile updated to match latest app behavior
  • Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six: Siege - profile updated to match latest app behavior
  • Tom Clancy's The Division - profile added
  • XCOM 2 - SLI profile added (including necessary code change)

release_notes.png

The "beta support on GeForce GTX GPUs for external graphics over Thunderbolt 3" is certainly interesting addition, and one that could eventually lead to external solutions for notebooks, coming on the heels of AMD teasing their own standardization of external GPUs.

The full release 361 (GeForce 362.00) notes can be viewed here (warning: PDF).

Source: NVIDIA

Tesla Motors Hires Peter Bannon of Apple

Subject: Graphics Cards, Processors | February 29, 2016 - 11:48 PM |
Tagged: tesla motors, tesla, SoC, Peter Bannon, Jim Keller

When we found out that Jim Keller has joined Tesla, we were a bit confused. He is highly skilled in processor design, and he moved to a company that does not design processors. Kind of weird, right? There are two possibilities that leap to mind: either he wanted to try something new in life, and Elon Musk hired him for his general management skills, or Tesla wants to get more involved in the production of their SoCs, possibly even designing their own.

tesla-2016-logo2.png

Now Peter Bannon, who was a colleague of Jim Keller at Apple, has been hired by Tesla Motors. Chances are, the both of them were not independently interested in an abrupt career change that led them to the same company. That seems highly unlikely, to say the least. So it appears that Tesla Motors wants experienced chip designers in house. What for? We don't know. This is a lot of talent to just look over the shoulders of NVIDIA and other SoC partners, to make sure they have an upper hand in negotiation. Jim Keller is at Tesla as their “Vice-President of Autopilot Hardware Engineering.” We don't know what Peter Bannon's title will be.

And then, if Tesla Motors does get into creating their own hardware, we wonder what they will do with it. The company has a history of open development and releasing patents (etc.) into the public. That said, SoC design is a highly encumbered field, depending on what they're specifically doing, which we have no idea about.

Source: Eletrek

JPR Notes Huge Increase in Enthusiast AIBs for 2015

Subject: Graphics Cards | February 29, 2016 - 07:06 PM |
Tagged: nvidia, amd, AIB, pc gaming

Jon Peddie Research, which is market analysis firm that specializes in PC hardware, has compiled another report about add-in board (AIB) sales. There's a few interesting aspects to this report. First, shipments of enthusiast AIBs (ie: discrete GPUs) are up, not a handful of percent, but a whole two-fold. Second, AMD's GPU market share climbed once again, from 18.8% up to 21.1%.

jpr-aib-february-2016.png

This image seems contradict their report, which claims the orange line rose from 44 million in 2014 to 50 million in 2015. I'm not sure where the error is, so I didn't mention it in the news post.
Image Credit: JPR

The report claims that neither AMD nor NVIDIA released a “killer new AIB in 2015.” That... depends on how you look at it. They're clearly referring to upper mainstream, which sit just below the flagship and contribute to a large chunk of enthusiast sales. If they were including the flagship, then they ignored the Titan X, 980 Ti, and Fury line of GPUs, which would just be silly. Since they were counting shipped units, though, it makes sense to neglect those SKUs because they are priced way above the inflection point in actual adoption.

jpr-aib-february-2016-table.png

Image Credit: JPR

But that's not the only “well... sort-of” with JPR's statement. Unlike most generations, the GTX 970 and 980 launched late in 2014, rather than their usual Spring-ish cadence. Apart from the GeForce GTX 580, this trend has been around since the GeForce 9000-series. As such, these 2014 launches could have similar influence as another year's early-2015 product line. Add a bit of VR hype, and actual common knowledge that consoles are lower powered than PCs this generation, and you can see these numbers make a little more sense.

Even still, a 100% increase in enthusiast AIB shipments is quite interesting. This doesn't only mean that game developers can target higher-end hardware. The same hardware to consume content can be used to create it, which boosts both sides of the artist / viewer conversation in art. Beyond its benefits to society, this could snowball into more GPU adoption going forward.

Source: JPR

MWC 16: Imagination Technologies Ray Tracing Accelerator

Subject: Graphics Cards, Mobile, Shows and Expos | February 24, 2016 - 01:46 AM |
Tagged: raytracing, ray tracing, PowerVR, mwc 16, MWC, Imagination Technologies

For the last couple of years, Imagination Technologies has been pushing hardware-accelerated ray tracing. One of the major problems in computer graphics is knowing what geometry and material corresponds to a specific pixel on the screen. Several methods exists, although typical GPUs crush a 3D scene into the virtual camera's 2D space and do a point-in-triangle test on it. Once they know where in the triangle the pixel is, if it is in the triangle, it can be colored by a pixel shader.

imagtech-2016-PowerVR-GR6500-GPU-PowerVR-Wizard-GPUs.png

Another method is casting light rays into the scene, and assigning a color based on the material that it lands on. This is ray tracing, and it has a few advantages. First, it is much easier to handle reflections, transparency, shadows, and other effects where information is required beyond what the affected geometry and its material provides. There are usually ways around this, without resorting to ray tracing, but they each have their own trade-offs. Second, it can be more efficient for certain data sets. Rasterization, since it's based around a “where in a triangle is this point” algorithm, needs geometry to be made up of polygons.

It also has the appeal of being what the real world sort-of does (assuming we don't need to model Gaussian beams). That doesn't necessarily mean anything, though.

At Mobile World Congress, Imagination Technologies once again showed off their ray tracing hardware, embodied in the PowerVR GR6500 GPU. This graphics processor has dedicated circuitry to calculate rays, and they use it in a couple of different ways. They presented several demos that modified Unity 5 to take advantage of their ray tracing hardware. One particularly interesting one was their quick, seven second video that added ray traced reflections atop an otherwise rasterized scene. It was a little too smooth, creating reflections that were too glossy, but that could probably be downplayed in the material ((Update: Feb 24th @ 5pm Car paint is actually that glossy. It's a different issue). Back when I was working on a GPU-accelerated software renderer, before Mantle, Vulkan, and DirectX 12, I was hoping to use OpenCL-based ray traced highlights on idle GPUs, if I didn't have any other purposes for it. Now though, those can be exposed to graphics APIs directly, so they might not be so idle.

The downside of dedicated ray tracing hardware is that, well, the die area could have been used for something else. Extra shaders, for compute, vertex, and material effects, might be more useful in the real world... or maybe not. Add in the fact that fixed-function circuitry already exists for rasterization, and it makes you balance gain for cost.

It could be cool, but it has its trade-offs, like anything else.

Valve Releases SteamVR Performance Test - Is Your Rig Ready?

Subject: Graphics Cards | February 22, 2016 - 11:03 PM |
Tagged: vive, valve, steamvr, steam, rift, performance test, Oculus, htc

Though I am away from my stacks of hardware at the office attending Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Valve dropped a bomb on us today in the form of a new hardware performance test that gamers can use to determine if they are ready for the SteamVR revolution. The aptly named "SteamVR Performance Test" is a free title available through Steam that any user can download and run to get a report card on their installed hardware. No VR headset required!

And unlike the Oculus Compatibility Checker, the application from Valve runs actual game content to measure your system. Oculus' app only looks at the hardware on your system for certification, not taking into account the performance of your system in any way. (Overclockers and users with Ivy Bridge Core i7 processors have been reporting failed results on the Oculus test for some time.)

screen1.jpg

The SteamVR Performance Test runs a set of scenes from the Aperture Science Robot Repair demo, an experience developed directly for the HTC Vive and one that I was able to run through during CES last month. Valve is using a very interesting new feature called "dynamic fidelity" that adjusts image quality of the game in a way to avoid dropped frames and frame rates under 90 FPS in order to maintain a smooth and comfortable experience for the VR user. Though it is the first time I have seen it used, it sounds similar to what John Carmack did with the id Tech 5 engine, attempting to balance performance on hardware while maintaining a targeted frame rate.

The technology could be a perfect match for VR content where frame rates above or at the 90 FPS target are more important than visual fidelity (in nearly all cases). I am curious to see how Valve may or may not pursue and push this technology in its own games and for the Vive / Rift in general. I have some questions pending with them, so we'll see what they come back with.

fury.png

A result for a Radeon R9 Fury provided by AMD

Valve's test offers a very simple three tiered breakdown for your system: Not Ready, Capable and Ready. For a more detailed explanation you can expand on the data to see metrics like the number of frames you are CPU bound on, frames below the very important 90 FPS mark and how many frames were tested in the run. The Average Fidelity metric is the number that we are reporting below and essentially tells us "how much quality" the test estimates you can run at while maintaining that 90 FPS mark. What else that fidelity result means is still unknown - but again we are trying to find out. The short answer is that the higher that number goes, the better off you are, and the more demanding game content you'll be able to run at acceptable performance levels. At least, according to Valve.

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Because I am not at the office to run my own tests, I decided to write up this story using results from a third part. That third party is AMD - let the complaining begin. Obviously this does NOT count as independent testing but, in truth, it would be hard to cheat on these results unless you go WAY out of your way to change control panel settings, etc. The demo is self run and AMD detailed the hardware and drivers used in the results.

  • Intel i7-6700K
  • 2x4GB DDR4-2666 RAM
  • Z170 motherboard
  • Radeon Software 16.1.1
  • NVIDIA driver 361.91
  • Win10 64-bit

GPU Score
2x Radeon R9 Nano 11.0
GeForce GTX 980 Ti 11.0
Radeon R9 Fury X 9.6
Radeon R9 Fury 9.2
GeForce GTX 980 8.1
Radeon R9 Nano 8.0
Radeon R9 390X 7.8
Radeon R9 390 7.0
GeForce GTX 970 6.5

These results were provided by AMD in an email to the media. Take that for what you will until we can run our own tests.

First, the GeForce GTX 980 Ti is the highest performing single GPU tested, with a score of 11 - because of course it goes to 11. The same score is reported on the multi-GPU configuration with two Radeon R9 Nanos so clearly we are seeing a ceiling of this version of the SteamVR Performance Test. With a single GPU score of 9.2, that is only a 19% scaling rate, but I think we are limited by the test in this case. Either way, it's great news to see that AMD has affinity multi-GPU up and running, utilizing one GPU for each eye's rendering. (AMD pointed out that users that want to test the multi-GPU implementation will need to add the -multigpu launch option.) I still need to confirm if GeForce cards scale accordingly. UPDATE: Ken at the office ran a quick check with a pair of GeForce GTX 970 cards with the same -multigpu option and saw no scaling improvements. It appears NVIDIA has work to do here.

Moving down the stack, its clear why AMD was so excited to send out these early results. The R9 Fury X and R9 Fury both come out ahead of the GeForce GTX 980 while the R9 Nano, R9 390X and R9 390 result in better scores than NVIDIA's GeForce GTX 970. This comes as no surprise - AMD's Radeon parts tend to offer better performance per dollar when it comes to benchmarks and many games.

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There is obviously a lot more to consider than the results this SteamVR Performance Test provides when picking hardware for a VR system, but we are glad to see Valve out in front of the many, many questions that are flooding forums across the web. Is your system ready??

Source: Valve

LinuxGameCast Benchmarks Vulkan on Linux

Subject: Graphics Cards | February 20, 2016 - 12:11 AM |
Tagged: vulkan, linux

Update: Venn continued to benchmark and came across a few extra discoveries. For example, he disabled VDPAU and jumped to 89.6 FPS in OpenGL and 80.6 FPS in Vulkan. Basically, be sure to read the whole thread. It might be updated further even. Original post below (unless otherwise stated).

On Windows, the Vulkan patch of The Talos Principle leads to a net loss in performance, relative to DirectX 11. This is to be expected when a developer like Croteam optimizes their game for existing APIs, and tries to port all that work to a new, very different standard, with a single developer and three months of work. They explicitly state, multiple times, not to expect good performance.

croteam-2016-talos-benchmark-vulkan.png

Image Credit: Venn Stone of LinuxGameCast

On Linux, Venn Stone of LinuxGameCast found different results. With everything maxed out at 1080p, his OpenGL benchmark reports 38.2 FPS, while his Vulkan raises this to an average of 66.5 FPS. Granted, this was with an eight-core AMD FX-8150, which launched with the Bulldozer architecture back in 2011. It did not have the fastest single-threaded performance, falling behind even AMD's own Phenom II parts before it in that regard.

Still, this is a scenario that allowed the game to scale to Bulldozer's multiple cores and circumvent a lot of the driver overhead in OpenGL. It resulted in a 75% increase in performance, at least for people who pair a GeForce 980 Ti ((Update: The Ti was a typo. Venn uses a standard GeForce GTX 980.)) with an eight-core, Bulldozer CPU from 2011.

Report: NVIDIA Working on Another GeForce GTX 950 GPU

Subject: Graphics Cards | February 16, 2016 - 05:01 PM |
Tagged: rumor, report, nvidia, Maxwell 2.0, GTX 950 SE, GTX 950 LP, gtx 950, gtx 750, graphics card, gpu

A report from VideoCardz.com claims that NVIDIA is working on another GTX 950 graphics card, but not the 950 Ti you might have expected.

gtx950.jpg

Reference GTX 950 (Image credit: NVIDIA)

While the GTX 750 Ti was succeeded by the GTX 950 in August of last year, the higher specs for this new GPU came at the cost of a higher TDP (90W vs. 60W). This new rumored GTX 950, which might be called either 950 SE or 950 LP according to the report, would be a lower power version of the GTX 950, and would actually have a lot more in common with the outgoing GTX 750 Ti than the plain GTX 750 as we can see from this chart:

chart.png

(Image credit: VideoCardz)

As you can see the GTX 750 Ti is based on GM107 (Maxwell 1.0) and has 640 CUDA cores, 40 TUs, 16 ROPs, and it operates at 1020 MHz Base/1085 MHz Boost clocks. The reported specs of this new GTX 950 SE/LP would be nearly identical, though based on GM206 (Maxwell 2.0) and offering greater memory bandwidth (and slightly higher power consumption).

The VideoCardz report was sourced from Expreview, which claimed that this GTX 950 SE/LP product would arrive next month at some point. This report is a little more vague than some of the rumors we see, but it could very well be that NVIDIA has a planned replacement for the remaining Maxwell 1.0 products on the market. I would have personally expected to see a"Ti” product before any “LE/LP” version of the GTX 950, and this reported name seems more like an OEM product than a retail part. We will have to wait and see if this report is accurate.

Source: VideoCardz

EVGA Releases GeForce GTX 980 Ti VR Edition

Subject: Graphics Cards | February 10, 2016 - 10:59 PM |
Tagged: VR, vive vr, Oculus, evga, 980 Ti

You might wonder what makes a graphics card “designed for VR,” but this is actually quite interesting. Rather than plugging your headset into the back of your desktop, EVGA includes a 5.25” bay that provides 2x USB 3.0 ports and 1x HDMI 2.0 connection. The use case is that some users will want to easily connect and disconnect their VR devices, which, knowing a few indie VR developers, seems to be a part of their workflow. The same may be true of gamers, but I'm not sure.

evga-2016-980Ti-VR-Header_BG.jpg

While the bay allows for everything, including the HDMI plug via an on-card port, to be connected internally, you will need a spare USB 3.0 header on your motherboard to hook it up. It would have been interesting to see whether EVGA could have attached a USB 3.0 controller on the add-in board, but that might have been impossible (or unpractical) given that the PCIe connector would need to be shared with the GPU (not to mention the complexity of also adding a USB 3.0 controller to the board). Also, I expect motherboards should have at least one. If not, you can find USB 3.0 add-in cards with internal headers.

evga-2016-980ti.jpg

The card comes in two sub-versions, one with the NVIDIA-style blower cooler, and the other with EVGA's ACX 2.0+ cooler. I tend to prefer exposed fan GPUs because they're easier to blow air into after a few years, but you might have other methods to control dust.

Both are currently available for $699.99 on Newegg.com, while Amazon only lists the ACX2.0+ cooler version, and that's out of stock. It is also $699.99, though, so that should be what to expect.

Source: EVGA

Mods like memory; the Gainward GTX 960 Phantom 4GB

Subject: Graphics Cards | February 4, 2016 - 10:51 PM |
Tagged: gainward, GTX 960 Phantom 4GB. gtx 960, NVIDA, 4GB

If you don't have a lot of cash on hand for games or hardware, a 4k adaptive sync monitor with two $600 GPUs and a collection of $80 AAA titles simply isn't on your radar.  That doesn't mean you have to toss in your love of gaming for occasional free to play gaming sessions; you just have to adapt.  A prime example are those die hard Skyrim fans who have modded the game to oblivion over the past few years, with many other games and communities that may not be new but are still thriving.  Chances are that you are playing at 1080p so a high powered GPU is not needed, however mods that upscale textures and many others do love huge tracts of RAM. 

So for those outside of North America looking for a card they can afford after a bit of penny pinching, check out Legion Hardware's review of the 4GB version of the Gainward GTX 960 Phantom.  It won't break any benchmarking records but it will let you play the games you love and even new games as their prices inevitably decrease over time.

Image_03S.jpg

Today we are checking out Gainward’s premier GeForce GTX 960 graphics card, the Phantom 4GB. Equipped with twice the memory buffer of standard cards, it is designed for extreme 1080p gaming. Therefore it will be interesting to see how the Phantom 4GB compares to a 2GB GTX 960..."

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

Graphics Cards

 

AMD FirePro S-Series Introduces Hardware-Based GPU Virtualization

Subject: Graphics Cards | February 3, 2016 - 07:37 AM |
Tagged: virtual machines, virtual graphics, mxgpu, gpu virtualization, firepro, amd

AMD made an interesting enterprise announcement today with the introduction of new FirePro S-Series graphics cards that integrate hardware-based virtualization technology. The new FirePro S1750 and S1750 x2 are aimed at virtualized workstations, render farms, and cloud gaming platforms where each virtual machine has direct access to the graphics hardware.

The new graphics cards use a GCN-based Tonga GPU with 2,048 stream processors paired with 8GB of ECC GDDR5 memory on the single slot FirePro S1750. The dual slot FirePro S1750 x2, as the name suggests, is a dual GPU card that features a total of 4,096 shaders (2,048 per GPU) and 16 GB of ECC GDDR5 (8 GB per GPU). The S1750 has a TDP of 150W while the dual-GPU S1750 x2 variant is rated at 265W and either can be passively cooled.

AMD FirePro S1750 x2 Hardare-based virtualized GPU MxGPU.png

Where the graphics cards get niche is the inclusion of what AMD calls MxGPU (Multi-User GPU) technology which is derived from the SR-IOV (Single Root Input/Output Virtualization) PCI-Express standard. According to AMD, the new FirePro S-Series allows virtual machines direct access to the full range of GPU hardware (shaders, memory, ect.) and OpenCL 2.0 support on the software side. The S1750 supports up to 16 simultaneous users and the S1750 x2 tops out at 32 users. Each virtual machine is allocated an equal slice of the GPU, and as you add virtual machines the equal slices get smaller. AMD’s solution to that predicament is to add more GPUs to spread out the users and allocate each VM more hardware horsepower. It is worth noting that AMD has elected not to charge companies any per-user licensing fees for all these VMs the hardware supports which should make these cards more competitive.

The graphics cards use ECC memory to correct errors when dealing with very large numbers and calculations and every VM is reportedly protected and isolated such that one VM can not access any data of a different VM stored in graphics memory.

I am interested to see how these stack up compared to NVIDIA’s GRID and VGX GPU virtualization specialized graphics cards. The difference between the software versus hardware-based virtualization may not make much difference, but AMD’s approach may be every so slightly more efficient with the removal of layer between the virtual machine and hardware. We’ll have to wait and see, however.

Enterprise users will be able to pick up the new cards installed in systems from server manufacturers sometime in the first half of 2016. Pricing for the cards themselves appears to be $2,399 for the single GPU S1750 and $3,999 for the dual GPU S1750 x2.

Needless to say, this is all a bit more advanced (and expensive!) than the somewhat finicky 3D acceleration option desktop users can turn on in VMWare and VirtualBox! Are you experimenting with remote workstations and virtual machines for thin clients that can utilize GPU muscle? Does AMD’s MxGPU approach seem promising?

Source: AMD

EVGA Winter 2016 Prize Pack and Giveaway!!

Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards, Motherboards, Cases and Cooling | February 2, 2016 - 07:07 PM |
Tagged: Z170, PSU, power supply, motherboard, GTX 970, giveaway, ftw, evga, contest

For many of you reading this, the temperature outside has fallen to its deepest levels, making it hard to even bare the thought of going outdoors. What would help out a PC enthusiast and gamer in this situation? Some new hardware, delivered straight to your door, to install and assist in warming up your room, that's what!

PC Perspective has partnered up with EVGA to offer up three amazing prizes for our fans. They include a 750 G2 power supply (obviously with a 750 watt rating), a Z170 FTW motherboard and a GTX 970 SSC Gaming ACX 2.0+ graphics card. The total prize value is over $650 based on MSRPs!

All you have to do to enter is follow the easy steps in the form below. 

We want to thank EVGA for its support of PC Perspective in this contest and over the years. Here's to a great 2016 for everyone!

EVGA Winter 2016 Giveaway!!

 

The ~$220 showdown, XFX R9 380 DD Black Edition OC 4GB versus the GTX 960

Subject: Graphics Cards | January 25, 2016 - 08:19 PM |
Tagged: XFX R9 380 Double Dissipation Black Edition OC 4GB, xfx, gtx 960

In one corner is the XFX R9 380 DD Black Edition OC 4GB, at factory settings and with an overclock of 1170MHz core and 6.4GHz memory and in the other corner is a GTX 960 with a 1178MHz Boost clock and 7GHz memory.  These two contenders will compete in a six round 1080p match featuring Fallout 4, Project Cars, Witcher 3, GTAV, Dying Light and BF4 to see which is worthy of your hard earned buckaroos.  Your referee for today will be [H]ard|OCP, tune in to see the final results.

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"Today we evaluate a custom R9 380 from XFX, the XFX R9 380 DD BLACK EDITION OC 4GB. Sporting a hefty factory overclock and the Ghost Thermal 3.0 custom cooling with Double Dissipation, we compare it to an equally priced reference GeForce GTX 960. Find out which video card provides the better bargain."

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

Graphics Cards

 

Source: [H]ard|OCP

AMD Shows Dual-Fiji Graphics Card in a Falcon Northwest PC at VRLA

Subject: Graphics Cards | January 25, 2016 - 04:51 PM |
Tagged: fury x2, Fiji, dual fiji, amd

Lo and behold! The dual-Fiji card that we have previous dubbed the AMD Radeon Fury X2 still lives! Based on a tweet from AMD PR dude Antal Tungler, a PC from Falcon Northwest at the VRLA convention was utilizing a dual-GPU Fiji graphics card to power some demos.

This prototype Falcon Northwest Tiki system was housing the GPU beast but no images were shown of the interior of the system. Still, it's good to see AMD at least recognize that this piece of hardware still exists at all, since it was initially promised to the enthusiast market by "fall of 2015."  Even in October we had hints that the card might be coming soon after seeing some shipping manifests leak out to the web. 

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Better late than never, right? One theory floating around inside the offices here is that AMD is going to release the Fury X2 along with the VR headsets coming out this spring, with hopes of making it THE VR graphics card of choice. The value of using multi-GPU for VR is interesting, with one GPU dedicated to each eye, though the pitfalls that could haunt both AMD and NVIDIA in this regard (latency, frame time consistency) make the technological capability a debate. 

Source: Twitter

GDDR5X Memory Standard Gets Official with JEDEC

Subject: Graphics Cards, Memory | January 22, 2016 - 04:08 PM |
Tagged: Polaris, pascal, nvidia, jedec, gddr5x, GDDR5, amd

Though information about the technology has been making rounds over the last several weeks, GDDR5X technology finally gets official with an announcement from JEDEC this morning. The JEDEC Solid State Foundation is, as Wikipedia tells us, an "independent semiconductor engineering trade organization and standardization body" that is responsible for creating memory standards. Getting the official nod from the org means we are likely to see implementations of GDDR5X in the near future.

The press release is short and sweet. Take a look.

ARLINGTON, Va., USA – JANUARY 21, 2016 –JEDEC Solid State Technology Association, the global leader in the development of standards for the microelectronics industry, today announced the publication of JESD232 Graphics Double Data Rate (GDDR5X) SGRAM.  Available for free download from the JEDEC website, the new memory standard is designed to satisfy the increasing need for more memory bandwidth in graphics, gaming, compute, and networking applications.

Derived from the widely adopted GDDR5 SGRAM JEDEC standard, GDDR5X specifies key elements related to the design and operability of memory chips for applications requiring very high memory bandwidth.  With the intent to address the needs of high-performance applications demanding ever higher data rates, GDDR5X  is targeting data rates of 10 to 14 Gb/s, a 2X increase over GDDR5.  In order to allow a smooth transition from GDDR5, GDDR5X utilizes the same, proven pseudo open drain (POD) signaling as GDDR5.

“GDDR5X represents a significant leap forward for high end GPU design,” said Mian Quddus, JEDEC Board of Directors Chairman.  “Its performance improvements over the prior standard will help enable the next generation of graphics and other high-performance applications.”

JEDEC claims that by using the same signaling type as GDDR5 but it is able to double the per-pin data rate to 10-14 Gb/s. In fact, based on leaked slides about GDDR5X from October, JEDEC actually calls GDDR5X an extension to GDDR5, not a new standard. How does GDDR5X reach these new speeds? By doubling the prefech from 32 bytes to 64 bytes. This will require a redesign of the memory controller for any processor that wants to integrate it. 

gddr5x.jpg

Image source: VR-Zone.com

As for usable bandwidth, though information isn't quoted directly, it would likely see a much lower increase than we are seeing in the per-pin statements from the press release. Because the memory bus width would remain unchanged, and GDDR5X just grabs twice the chunk sizes in prefetch, we should expect an incremental change. No mention of power efficiency is mentioned either and that was one of the driving factors in the development of HBM.

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Performance efficiency graph from AMD's HBM presentation

I am excited about any improvement in memory technology that will increase GPU performance, but I can tell you that from my conversations with both AMD and NVIDIA, no one appears to be jumping at the chance to integrate GDDR5X into upcoming graphics cards. That doesn't mean it won't happen with some version of Polaris or Pascal, but it seems that there may be concerns other than bandwidth that keep it from taking hold. 

Source: JEDEC

Phoronix Tests Almost a Decade of GPUs

Subject: Graphics Cards | January 20, 2016 - 08:26 PM |
Tagged: nvidia, linux, tesla, fermi, kepler, maxwell

It's nice to see long-term roundups every once in a while. They do not really provide useful information for someone looking to make a purchase, but they show how our industry is changing (or not). In this case, Phoronix tested twenty-seven NVIDIA GeForce cards across four architectures: Tesla, Fermi, Kepler, and Maxwell. In other words, from the GeForce 8 series all the way up to the GTX 980 Ti.

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Image Credit: Phoronix

Nine years of advancements in ASIC design, with a doubling time-step of 18 months, should yield a 64-fold improvement. The number of transistors falls short, showing about a 12-fold improvement between the Titan X and the largest first-wave Tesla, although that means nothing for a fabless semiconductor designer. The main reason why I include this figure is to show the actual Moore's Law trend over this time span, but it also highlights the slowdown in process technology.

Performance per watt does depend on NVIDIA though, and the ratio between the GTX 980 Ti and the 8500 GT is about 72:1. While this is slightly better than the target 64:1 ratio, these parts are from very different locations in their respective product stacks. Swapping the 8500 GT for the following year's 9800 GTX, which leads to a comparison between top-of-the-line GPUs of their respective times, and you see a 6.2x improvement in performance per watt versus the GTX 980 Ti. On the other hand, that part was outstanding for its era.

I should note that each of these tests take place on Linux. It might not perfectly reflect the landscape on Windows, but again, it's interesting in its own right.

Source: Phoronix

TSMC Allegedly Wants 5nm by 2020

Subject: Graphics Cards, Processors | January 20, 2016 - 04:38 AM |
Tagged: TSMC

Digitimes is reporting on statements that were allegedly made by TSMC co-CEO, Mark Liu. We are currently seeing 16nm parts come out of the foundry, which is expected to be used in the next generation of GPUs, replacing the long-running 28nm node that launched with the GeForce GTX 680. (It's still unannounced whether AMD and NVIDIA will use 14nm FinFET from Samsung or GlobalFoundries, or 16nm FinFET from TSMC.)

Update (Jan 20th, @4pm EST): Couple minor corrections. Radeon HD 7970 launched at 28nm first by a couple of months. I just remember NVIDIA getting swamped in delays because it was a new node, so that's probably why I thought of the GTX 680. Also, AMD announced during CES that they will use GlobalFoundries to fab their upcoming GPUs, which I apparently missed. We suspect that NVIDIA will use TSMC, and have assumed that for a while, but it hasn't been officially announced yet (if ever).

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According to their projections, which (again) are filtered through Digitimes, the foundry expects to have 7nm in the first half of 2018. They also expect to introduce extreme ultraviolet (EUV) lithography methods with 5nm in 2020. Given that Silicon in a solid has a lattice spacing of ~0.54nm at room temperature, 7nm transistors will consist of about 13 atoms, and 5nm transistors will have features containing about 9 atoms.

We continue the march toward the end of silicon lithography.

Even if the statement is correct, much can happen between then and now. It wouldn't be the first time that I've seen a major foundry believe that a node would be available, but end up having it delayed. I wouldn't hold my breath, but I might cross my fingers if my hands were free.

At the very least, we can assume that TSMC's roadmap is 16nm, 10nm, 7nm, and then 5nm.

Source: Digitimes

Samsung Mass Produces HBM2 Memory

Subject: Graphics Cards, Memory | January 20, 2016 - 04:01 AM |
Tagged: Samsung, HBM2, hbm

Samsung has just announced that they have begun mass production of 4GB HBM2 memory modules. When used on GPUs, four packages can provide 16GB of Video RAM with very high performance. They do this with a very wide data bus, which trade off frequency for transferring huge chunks. Samsung's offering is rated at 256 GB/s per package, which is twice what the Fury X could do with HBM1.

samsung-2016-4GB-HBM2-DRAM-structure_main.jpg

They also expect to mass produce 8GB HBM2 packages within this calendar year. I'm guessing that this means we'll see 32GB GPUs in the late-2016 or early-2017 time frame unless "within this year" means very, very soon (versus Q3/Q4). They will likely be for workstation or professional cards, but, in NVIDIA's case, those are usually based on architectures that are marketed to high-end gaming enthusiasts through some Titan offering. There's a lot of ways this could go, but a 32GB Titan seems like a bit much; I wouldn't expect that this affects the enthusiast gamer segment. It might mean that professionals looking to upgrade from the Kepler-based Tesla K-series might be waiting a little longer, maybe even GTC 2017. Alternatively, they might get new cards, just with a 16GB maximum until a refresh next year. There's not enough information to know one way or the other, but it's something to think about when more of it starts rolling in.

Samsung's HBM2 are compatible with ECC, although I believe that was also true for at least some HBM1 modules from SK Hynix.

Source: Samsung