Aorus enters the keyboard battle armed with the Thunder K7

Subject: General Tech | January 30, 2015 - 01:49 PM |
Tagged: input, aoris, thunder k7, mechanical keyboard, cherry mx red

Aorus is expanding the mechanical keyboard market with their Thunder K7 which uses Cherry MX Red switches and has a removable numpad which you can attach to the left or right of the board, or completely separated from the main board if you so desire.  The 20 keys on the numpad can all be programmed with macros, to help you copy and paste the UbiSoft game keys given away during our podcasts.  The brightness of the keyboards backlighting can be adjusted with the wheel located at the top of the keyboard and the numpad as well.  Modders-Inc found themselves liking this board, you can read about it right here.

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"What do you look for in a keyboard? Do you look for items such as mechanical switches, dedicated macro keys, and LED backlighting? Do you want silent keys or loud keys? There are plenty of keyboards on the market with more features than you can shake a stick at. Some are useful, while others are gimmicky."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: Modders Inc

ASRock Adds VisionX 471D To Small Form Factor PC Lineup

Subject: General Tech, Systems | January 30, 2015 - 03:03 AM |
Tagged: visionx, SFF, radeon, m270x, haswell, asrock, amd

ASRock has unleashed an update to its small form factor VisionX series. The new VisionX 471D adds a faster Haswell processor and dedicated Radeon mobile graphics to the mini PC.

ASRock VisionX 471D SFF Mini PC.jpg

The 7.9” x 7.9” x 2.8” PC chassis comes in black or silver with rounded corners. External I/O is quite expansive with a DVD optical drive, two audio jacks, one USB 3.0 port, one MHSL* port (MHL compatible port that carries both data and video), and a SD card reader on the front. Further, the back of the PC holds the following ports:

  • Audio:
    • 5 x Analog audio jacks
    • 1 x Optical audio out
  • Video:
    • 1 x DVI
    • 1 x HDMI
  • Networking:
    • 1 x Gigabit Ethernet jack
    • 802.11ac (2 antennas)
  • Storage/Peripherals:
    • 5 x USB 3.0
    • 1 x USB 2.0
    • 1 x eSATA

ASRock has gone with the Intel Core i7-4712MQ processor. This is a 37W Haswell quad core (with eight threads) clocked at up to 3.3GHz. Graphics are handled by the AMD Radeon R9 M270X which is a mobile “Venus” GCN-based GPU with 1GB of memory. The 28nm GPU with 640 cores, 40 TMUs, and 16 ROPs is clocked at 725 MHz base and up to 775 MHz boost. The PC further supports two SO-DIMMS, two 2.5” drives, one mSATA connector, and the above-mentioned DVD drive (DL-8A4SH-01 comes pre-installed).

ASRock VisionX 471D Rear IO.jpg

The VisionX 471D is a “barebones” system where you will have to provide your own OS but does come with bundled storage and memory. Specifically, for $999, the SFF computer comes with 8GB of DDR3 memory, a 2TB mechanical hard drive, and a 256GB mSATA SSD (the ASint SSDMSK256G-M1 using a JMF667 controller and 64GB 20nm IMFT NAND). This leaves room for one additional 2.5” drive for expansion. Although it comes without an operating system, it does ship with a Windows Media Center compatible remote.

This latest addition to the VisionX series succeeds the 420D and features a faster processor. At the time of this writing, the PC is not available for purchase, but it is in the hands of reviewers (such as this review from AnandTech) and will be coming soon to retailers for $999 USD.

The price is on the steep side especially compared to some other recent tiny PCs, but you are getting a top end mobile Haswell chip and good I/O for a small system with enough hardware to possibly be "enough" PC for many people (or at least a second PC or a HTPC in the living room).

Source: ASRock

A pair of GTX 980Ms and a Cherry Keyboard; of course you can afford the MSI GT80 Titan

Subject: Mobile | January 29, 2015 - 03:02 PM |
Tagged: cherry, sli, gaming notebook, GTX 980M

How can you not be saving every penny to buy a MSI GT80 Titan?  With an i7 4980HQ running at 2.8 - 4GHz, 32GB of DDR3, four 256GB SSDs in RAID 0 and a 1TB HDD for long term storage along with a pair of GTX 980M's powering a 467mm 1080p display.   MSI did put together a nice package for those who don't mind paying the price, you also get a mouse, gel wrist pad, gold W, A, S, D and ESC keys and even a little plush dragon in addition to the laptop.  Check out the full review of the most powerful gaming laptop on the planet over at Kitguru but keep in mind, if you have to ask the price then you can't afford it.

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"Few products have generated as much hype and interest as the MSI GT80 Titan Gaming laptop. Kitguru was the first major publication to cover the new laptop when we flew over to Taipei last November. LEO then got his hands on an early pre retail sample for KITGURU TV back in December."

Here are some more Mobile articles from around the web:

Mobile

Source: KitGuru

Podcast #334 - GTX 970 Memory Issues, Samsung 840 Evo Slowdown, GTX 960 and more!

Subject: General Tech | January 29, 2015 - 02:43 PM |
Tagged: windows 10, wetbench, video, Samsung, Primochill, podcast, nvidia, microsoft, GTX 970, gtx 960, DirectX 12, 840 evo

PC Perspective Podcast #334 - 01/29/2015

Join us this week as we discuss GTX 970 Memory Issues, Samsung 840 Evo Slowdown, GTX 960 and more!

You can subscribe to us through iTunes and you can still access it directly through the RSS page HERE.

The URL for the podcast is: http://pcper.com/podcast - Share with your friends!

  • iTunes - Subscribe to the podcast directly through the iTunes Store
  • RSS - Subscribe through your regular RSS reader
  • MP3 - Direct download link to the MP3 file

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

Subscribe to the PC Perspective YouTube Channel for more videos, reviews and podcasts!!

 

Mow the lawn or enjoy the Internet we grew up with, kid

Subject: General Tech | January 29, 2015 - 01:17 PM |
Tagged: vexbox, Kickstarter, 56k

The VexBox will bring tears to the eyes of parents and children, though only for the parents will they be tears of joy.  It is a device being Kickstarted which will connect to your main router and provide a separate connection, both wired and wireless, to the devices you assign to it.  You can then throttle the connection when you feel it is needed, all the way down to 56K modem speeds while leaving your connection unaffected.  You will need to have a tiny bit more technical savvy than your children, if they can guess your password or the main router password then obviously they can circumvent the VexBox but as long as you can manage to keep a step ahead you can slow your internet down for anyone that isn't living up to your expectations.  The KickStarter is here, one of their stretch goals is to be able to limit speeds depending on the URL being accessed so that actual online research can be performed at full speed.   You will also need to block or confiscate 4G devices to avoid excess data charges if attempts are made to circumvent the VexBox.  Join The Inquirer and "retro enthusiasts and people of a certain age" in bringing this beautiful device to the market.

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"You can't shut kids in cupboards under the stairs these days, as it just leads to Harry Potter fantasies. So parents have had to come up with new ways of getting someone to mow the lawn."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: The Inquirer

Report: AMD Godavari CPU Lineup Leaked - New APUs and Athlon X4 Processors

Subject: Processors | January 29, 2015 - 10:41 AM |
Tagged: rumor, processors, Kaveri, Godavari, cpu, Athlon X4, APU, amd

VR-Zone has published a report with a detailed slide showing upcoming AMD Godavari processors, and the updated lineup includes 12 new models.

godavari.jpg

Image credit: VR-Zone

The release schedule indicates a spring availability for most of the new APUs, with the Athlon X4 850 and 870K shipping in May. The APU line gets a new flagship desktop part with the A10-8850K, and this appears to be a higher-clocked version of the A10-7850K, with a 100MHz higher boost clock (4.1 GHz vs. 4.0 GHz) and a higher GPU clock of 856 MHz (vs. 720 MHz).

Of particular interest for the potential budget quad-core buyer is the Athlon X4 870K, a new 95W part which would presumably replace the X4 860K - a processor that has seen inconsistent availability (and is currently unavailable on Newegg). With more games being released that require a quad-core to run, these sub-$100 Athlon CPUs present a great value in constructing a low-cost gaming system these days.

The slide does not indicate a change in the 28nm process from Kaveri, and it should be safe to assume these will not represent a significant architectural change. The modest clock increases from Kaveri will result in some performance gains, and this is good for consumers assuming these will sell at the same price points as the outgoing models.

Source: VR Zone

Kingston's new HyperX member, the Cloud II Pro gaming headset

Subject: General Tech | January 28, 2015 - 05:14 PM |
Tagged: audio, kingston, hyperx cloud II pro, gaming headset

Kingston's HyperX Cloud II Pro Gaming Headset can work as just a normal over the ear headset thanks to the removable microphone and 3.5" jack but provides more functionality when you use the inline 7.1 audio DSP connected to a USB port.  The speakers are rated at a frequency response of 15Hz–25,000 Hz and the microphone at 50–18,000 Hz but be aware that the quality of your voice is significantly better when not connected via USB.  The 7.1 audio emulation software works as advertised although the reviewer at Modders Inc prefers to use stereo.  Check out the full review right here.

hyperxcloudii05.jpg

"Two years ago, I walked into the Emperor's Ballroom in Caesar's Palace hotel in Las Vegas Nevada wearing khakis and a golf-shirt, feeling woefully underdressed for the venue as I did not exactly pack a ball gown nor do I look good in one. The room had high ornate coffered ceilings, triumphal arches, elaborate carpeting and real marble floors, all …"

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Audio Corner

Source: Modders Inc

The Bard's Tale is back baby!

Subject: General Tech | January 28, 2015 - 02:06 PM |
Tagged: old school, inxile, interplay, gaming, bards tale

Ah the sweet days of exploring Skara Brae on an Apple ][e, trying to figure out how to make it down a street or corridor without being teleported back to where you started and trying to figure out if you want to promote your magic user to a sorcerer or wizard.  InXile, the same company that brought Wasteland into the modern era will now be working to bring back The Bard's Tale. This will hopefully be a much better implementation than UbiSoft's disappointing Might & Magic X: Legacy, the change from Wasteland to Wasteland 2 is vast but has been well done.  Check out Rock, Paper, SHOTGUN for more and watch the fall of Baron Harkyn and his four groups of 99 berserkers below.

"Brian Fargo and the inXile team’s next project will be another revival of an Interplay oldie. Following the success of Wasteland 2, the studio is now turning its attention to The Bard’s Tale, the fantasy dungeon crawling series last seen in 1988."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Gaming

Tired of patching Flash? You might not need to worry as much anymore

Subject: General Tech | January 28, 2015 - 01:28 PM |
Tagged: youtube, google, flash, html5

Youtube has finally ditched Flash as the default player for video in Chrome, Internet Explorer 11 and Safari 8.  If you use the beta builds of Firefox you will also be provided HTML5 video by default but as of yet the official release will still be playing Flash videos.  The adaptive bitrate which HTML5 can handle, without the use of plugins, could reduce buffering by 50% in a normal situation and up to 80% on congested networks according to the information which was given to The Inquirer.  As well the VP9 Codec can provide a stream at 35% less bandwidth than Flash which makes 4K and 60fps videos start much faster.  Flash is not yet dead and you can revert back to it, if you want to play Snake while your video is loading.

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"GOOGLE'S YOUTUBE video portal has made the switch to HTML5 as a default renderer, marking yet another milestone in the downfall of the Adobe Flash format."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: The Inquirer

NVIDIA Plans Driver Update for GTX 970 Memory Issue, Help with Returns

Subject: Graphics Cards | January 28, 2015 - 10:21 AM |
Tagged: nvidia, memory issue, maxwell, GTX 970, GM204, geforce

UPDATE 1/29/15: This forum post has since been edited and basically removed, with statements made on Twitter that no driver changes are planned that will specifically target the performance of the GeForce GTX 970.

The story around the GeForce GTX 970 and its confusing and shifting memory architecture continues to update. On a post in the official GeForce.com forums (on page 160 of 184!), moderator and NVIDIA employee PeterS claims that the company is working on a driver to help improve performance concerns and will also be willing to "help out" for users that honestly want to return the product they already purchased. Here is the quote:

Hey,

First, I want you to know that I'm not just a mod, I work for NVIDIA in Santa Clara.

I totally get why so many people are upset. We messed up some of the stats on the reviewer kit and we didn't properly explain the memory architecture. I realize a lot of you guys rely on product reviews to make purchase decisions and we let you down.

It sucks because we're really proud of this thing. The GTX970 is an amazing card and I genuinely believe it's the best card for the money that you can buy. We're working on a driver update that will tune what's allocated where in memory to further improve performance.

Having said that, I understand that this whole experience might have turned you off to the card. If you don't want the card anymore you should return it and get a refund or exchange. If you have any problems getting that done, let me know and I'll do my best to help.

--Peter

This makes things a bit more interesting - based on my conversations with NVIDIA about the GTX 970 since this news broke, it was stated that the operating system had a much stronger role in the allocation of memory from a game's request than the driver. Based on the above statement though, NVIDIA seems to think it can at least improve on the current level of performance and tune things to help alleviate any potential bottlenecks that might exist simply in software.

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As far as the return goes, PeterS at least offers to help this one forum user but I would assume the gesture would be available for anyone that has the same level of concern for the product. Again, as I stated in my detailed breakdown of the GTX 970 memory issue on Monday, I don't believe that users need to go that route - the GeForce GTX 970 is still a fantastic performing card in nearly all cases except (maybe) a tiny fraction where that last 500MB of frame buffer might come into play. I am working on another short piece going up today that details my experiences with the GTX 970 running up on those boundaries.

Part 1: NVIDIA Responds to GTX 970 3.5GB Memory Issue
Part 2: NVIDIA Discloses Full Memory Structure and Limitations of GTX 970

NVIDIA is trying to be proactive now, that much we can say. It seems that the company understands its mistake - not in the memory pooling decision but in the lack of clarity it offered to reviewers and consumers upon the product's launch.

A Bit Off Topic: FCC Bans Wi-Fi Blocking

Subject: General Tech, Networking | January 27, 2015 - 08:45 PM |
Tagged: wifi, FCC

Because blocking a person's mobile hotspot so you can charge them to use your Wi-Fi is a completely jerk thing to do. The FCC has just released a warning to any individuals, groups, or businesses considering these measures that blocking Wi-Fi is illegal. This follows the decision in October to fine Marriott, the hotel chain, $600,000 for blocking personal networks in a Tennessee location.

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Now who's blowing the Raspberry?

Marriott, despite paying the fine, asked the commission to consider writing an official rule on this practice. They just did. It is illegal. The blocks of spectrum belonging to wireless internet are unlicensed, and thus no particular entity is apparently allowed to claim ownership over it, even in their geographic property.

It seems like a good decision to me, one that I cannot think of any immediate side-effects for, but this is one of those cases that a problem could be hiding in plain sight. What do you think? Am I missing something? Or is this a win for everyone (except those trying to block competing services)?

Source: FCC

Homeworld: Remastered Arrives February 25th

Subject: General Tech | January 27, 2015 - 08:13 PM |
Tagged: Homeworld Remastered, Homeworld, gearbox

When THQ liquidated their assets, many franchises found new, welcoming parents. One notable purchase was the Homeworld franchise, a space-based real-time strategy that was popular in the late 90's and early 2000's, by Gearbox Software. The deal was valued at $1.35 million USD. They did not sit on the asset either. Within three months, the game developer announced re-releases of Homeworld and Homeworld 2 along with HD remakes, which is now called Homeworld Remastered Collection.

gearbox-homeworld-remastered-launch.jpg

While it missed its original 2014 launch estimate, Gearbox has set a new, more specific date of February 25th. The collection will still contain the two originals, the two remasters, and a Steam beta for the unified multiplayer mode.

Like many classic titles, I missed the original release of Homeworld (minus a few hours at a friend's house -- I was an early teenager at the time). Maybe I will get enough time to give this a chance?

Source: Steam

GIGABYTE's clean looking X99 Gaming 5

Subject: Motherboards | January 27, 2015 - 02:17 PM |
Tagged: gigabyte, X99 Gaming 5, X99

If you like a nice clean black motherboard design with a few red highlights then the Gaming Series from Gigabyte is a great choice and their new X99 Gaming 5 will let you update to DDR4 and Haswell-E.  The four PCIe 3.0 slots can support up to x16/x0/x16/x8 or x8/x8/x16/x8 with the appropriate processor and the storage system is rather impressive with up to 10 SATA 6Gbps ports, a single SATA Express port, M.2, eight USB 3.0 port and eight USB 2.0 ports of which four are shielded for use with external DACs.  Speaking of sound, there is an OP-AMP socket and dedicated audio capacitors to let you get the best out of the onboard Realtec codec.  To see how it performs, overclocks and even more check out [H]ard|OCP's full review or if you need even more features you can look back at Morry's review of the Gaming G1.

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"GIGABYTE’s latest X99 Gaming 5 promises to be a solid overclocker with great features and a reasonable price tag. It comes with features like "Server Level Chokes" from Cooper Bussman and an all digital power solution from Power IR. Long Lifespan Durable Black capacitors and single package MOSFETs make the list as well."

Here are some more Motherboard articles from around the web:

Motherboards

Source: [H]ard|OCP

Hats and short term sales to the rescue in Greece?

Subject: General Tech | January 27, 2015 - 12:37 PM |
Tagged: valve, greece, economics

In 2008 Gabe Newell contacted a Greek academic economist by the name of Yanis Varoufakis to see if he would be interested in consulting with Valve on how to create a successful shared economy as well as how to balance payments globally and between the real and virtual economies that Valve now has.  He agreed and among other things started a Valve Economist blog which you can start reading here and which shows that he did contribute far more than just hats and the dreaded Steam Sale.  In what seems at first to be a rather bizarre turnaround in his career Yanis has gone from author, blogger and Valve consultant to being appointed the Finance Minister of his home country of Greece.  A closer look at his bona fides provide a good explanation, as he has been focused on how European economies interact since before the beginning of the economic downturns and austerity measures in countries like Greece.  Follow the previous links for a look at what he has accomplished or if you prefer, head to Slashdot for more hat jokes.

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"A turnover in the Greek government resulted from recent snap elections placing SYRIZA (Coalition of the Radical Left) in power — just shy of an outright majority by two seats. Atheist, and youngest Prime Minister in Greek history since 1865, Alexis Tsipras has been appointed the new prime minister and begun taking immediate drastic steps against the recent austerity laws put in place by prior administrations. One such step has been to appoint Valve's economist Yanis Varoufakis to position of Finance Minister of Greece."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: Slashdot

All may not be well in Samsung-ville, some EVOs are slowing down again

Subject: Storage | January 26, 2015 - 05:27 PM |
Tagged: Samsung, firmware, EVO, 840 evo

In the fall it was confirmed by Samsung that stale data on some 840 EVO drives would suffer performance degradation and released a tool to mitigate the issue which Al reviewed hereThe Tech Report recently heard of some cases of drives slowing even with the new EXT0CB6Q firmware installed and decided to investigate.  They took a 840 EVO 250GB SSD which had been filled with files to test the patch and was then left forgotten on a shelf for several months and tested the speeds.  The benchmarks showed an average speed between 35-54MB/s far below what you would expect to see from an SSD but in line with what users have been reported.  On the other hand another 840 EVO which has been in constant use since the firmware update shows no signs whatsoever of slowing down, though NTFS compression was recently used on the drive which could have refreshed the flash.  Obviously more testing needs to be done, keep your eyes out for updates on this new development.

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"In October, Samsung patched its 840 EVO SSD to address a problem that caused slow read speeds with old data. Recent reports suggest the issue isn't completely fixed, and the results of our own testing agree."

Here are some more Storage reviews from around the web:

Storage

A beautiful and quiet water cooled gaming machine

Subject: General Tech | January 26, 2015 - 03:42 PM |
Tagged: swiftech, MCP655 PWM, VisionTek, CryoVenom R9 290 LE, phanteks, Enthoo Luxe

Pictured below is a VisionTek R9 290 using a watercooler custome designed by EK Water Blocks for a limited edition of CryoVenom R9 290 LE and gives this build some serious GPU power.  As this system build is being done by Silent PC Review a generic pump is not going to cut the mustard and instead they chose the Swiftech MCP655 PWM for its low noise while operating.  To cool off the i7-4790K a VisionTek/EK Supremacy waterblock was chosen as IK produces very high quality parts.  To house the build a Phanteks Enthoo Luxe was chosen for it space and the ease of installing a radiator as well as its clean overall design.  Check out the full build over at SPCR.

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"Our seventh article in this season's new quiet gaming PC build guide series is our first complete discrete liquid cooled system, featuring the VisionTek CryoVenom R9 290 Limited Edition Graphics Card. This 450W beast of a system gets tamed to a cool, soft purr."

Here are some more Systems articles from around the web:

Systems

Lies, damned lies and statistics

Subject: General Tech | January 26, 2015 - 01:15 PM |
Tagged: statistics, mtbf, hdd, backblaze

Backblaze is a moderately sized hosting company with about 40,000 disks set up in their own style of arrays called Storage Pods, which are open sourced so that you can build one yourself if you so desire.  Every once and a while they put out reliability numbers for the HDDs that they use in their arrays; the newest report just arrived for your perusal.  This is good as most reliability and market share studies are done by professional organizations which they tend to charge quite a bit for their findings as they do put a lot of effort into ensuring that their data is correct.  Unfortunately that also means that most people do not have access to the information and make judgments based on incomplete or incorrect data.  As The Register points out, 40,000 HDDs is a very small sample size compared to the market as a whole or even large hosting companies and so the data set you can see here may not be the best representation of the actual market failure rates projected from it may not be overly accurate.  On the other hand it is nice to have any data, especially when you are provided with the actual sample size and a definition of failure.  If you are really into the numbers game, spend some time researching the Mean Time Between Failure and Average Failure Rate and the ongoing debate on how to properly measure expected mortality rates among large drives.

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"We're not entirely comfortable with cloud backup outfit Backblaze's data on disk drive reliability, but the company has just popped out another year's worth of analysis on which drives hang around longest. With due scepticism, let's have a look."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: The Register

NVIDIA Responds to GTX 970 3.5GB Memory Issue

Subject: Graphics Cards | January 24, 2015 - 11:51 AM |
Tagged: nvidia, maxwell, GTX 970, GM204, 3.5gb memory

UPDATE 1/28/15 @ 10:25am ET: NVIDIA has posted in its official GeForce.com forums that they are working on a driver update to help alleviate memory performance issues in the GTX 970 and that they will "help out" those users looking to get a refund or exchange.

UPDATE 1/26/25 @ 1:00pm ET: We have posted a much more detailed analysis and look at the GTX 970 memory system and what is causing the unusual memory divisions. Check it out right here!

UPDATE 1/26/15 @ 12:10am ET: I now have a lot more information on the technical details of the architecture that cause this issue and more information from NVIDIA to explain it. I spoke with SVP of GPU Engineering Jonah Alben on Sunday night to really dive into the quesitons everyone had. Expect an update here on this page at 10am PT / 1pm ET or so. Bookmark and check back!

UPDATE 1/24/15 @ 11:25pm ET: Apparently there is some concern online that the statement below is not legitimate. I can assure you that the information did come from NVIDIA, though is not attributal to any specific person - the message was sent through a couple of different PR people and is the result of meetings and multiple NVIDIA employee's input. It is really a message from the company, not any one individual. I have had several 10-20 minute phone calls with NVIDIA about this issue and this statement on Saturday alone, so I know that the information wasn't from a spoofed email, etc. Also, this statement was posted by an employee moderator on the GeForce.com forums about 6 hours ago, further proving that the statement is directly from NVIDIA. I hope this clears up any concerns around the validity of the below information!

Over the past couple of weeks users of GeForce GTX 970 cards have noticed and started researching a problem with memory allocation in memory-heavy gaming. Essentially, gamers noticed that the GTX 970 with its 4GB of system memory was only ever accessing 3.5GB of that memory. When it did attempt to access the final 500MB of memory, performance seemed to drop dramatically. What started as simply a forum discussion blew up into news that was being reported at tech and gaming sites across the web.

gtx970memory.jpg

Image source: Lazygamer.net

NVIDIA has finally responded to the widespread online complaints about GeForce GTX 970 cards only utilizing 3.5GB of their 4GB frame buffer. From the horse's mouth:

The GeForce GTX 970 is equipped with 4GB of dedicated graphics memory.  However the 970 has a different configuration of SMs than the 980, and fewer crossbar resources to the memory system. To optimally manage memory traffic in this configuration, we segment graphics memory into a 3.5GB section and a 0.5GB section.  The GPU has higher priority access to the 3.5GB section.  When a game needs less than 3.5GB of video memory per draw command then it will only access the first partition, and 3rd party applications that measure memory usage will report 3.5GB of memory in use on GTX 970, but may report more for GTX 980 if there is more memory used by other commands.  When a game requires more than 3.5GB of memory then we use both segments.
 
We understand there have been some questions about how the GTX 970 will perform when it accesses the 0.5GB memory segment.  The best way to test that is to look at game performance.  Compare a GTX 980 to a 970 on a game that uses less than 3.5GB.  Then turn up the settings so the game needs more than 3.5GB and compare 980 and 970 performance again.
 
Here’s an example of some performance data:

  GTX 980 GTX 970
Shadow of Mordor    
<3.5GB setting = 2688x1512 Very High 72 FPS 60 FPS
>3.5GB setting = 3456x1944 55 FPS (-24%) 45 FPS (-25%)
Battlefield 4    
<3.5GB setting = 3840x2160 2xMSAA 36 FPS 30 FPS
>3.5GB setting = 3840x2160 135% res 19 FPS (-47%) 15 FPS (-50%)
Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare    
<3.5GB setting = 3840x2160 FSMAA T2x, Supersampling off 82 FPS 71 FPS
>3.5GB setting = 3840x2160 FSMAA T2x, Supersampling on 48 FPS (-41%) 40 FPS (-44%)

On GTX 980, Shadows of Mordor drops about 24% on GTX 980 and 25% on GTX 970, a 1% difference.  On Battlefield 4, the drop is 47% on GTX 980 and 50% on GTX 970, a 3% difference.  On CoD: AW, the drop is 41% on GTX 980 and 44% on GTX 970, a 3% difference.  As you can see, there is very little change in the performance of the GTX 970 relative to GTX 980 on these games when it is using the 0.5GB segment.

So it would appear that the severing of a trio of SMMs to make the GTX 970 different than the GTX 980 was the root cause of the issue. I'm not sure if this something that we have seen before with NVIDIA GPUs that are cut down in the same way, but I have asked for clarification from NVIDIA on that. The ratios fit: 500MB is 1/8th of the 4GB total memory capacity and 2 SMMs is 1/8th of the total SMM count. (Edit: The ratios in fact do NOT match up...odd.)

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The full GM204 GPU that is the root cause of this memory issue.

Another theory presented itself as well: is this possibly the reason we do not have a GTX 960 Ti yet? If the patterns were followed from previous generations a GTX 960 Ti would be a GM204 GPU with fewer cores enabled and additional SMs disconnected to enable a lower price point. If this memory issue were to be even more substantial, creating larger differentiated "pools" of memory, then it could be an issue for performance or driver development. To be clear, we are just guessing on this one and that could be something that would not occur at all. Again, I've asked NVIDIA for some technical clarification.

Requests for information aside, we may never know for sure if this is a bug with the GM204 ASIC or predetermined characteristic of design. 

The questions remains: does NVIDIA's response appease GTX 970 owners? After all, this memory concern is really just a part of a GPU's story and thus performance testing and analysis already incorporates it essentially. Some users will still likely make a claim of a "bait and switch" but do the benchmarks above, as well as our own results at 4K, make it a less significant issue?

Our own Josh Walrath offers this analysis:

A few days ago when we were presented with evidence of the 970 not fully utilizing all 4 GB of memory, I theorized that it had to do with the reduction of SMM units. It makes sense from an efficiency standpoint to perhaps "hard code" memory addresses for each SMM. The thought behind that would be that 4 GB of memory is a huge amount of a video card, and the potential performance gains of a more flexible system would be pretty minimal.

I believe that the memory controller is working as intended and not a bug. When designing a large GPU, there will invariably be compromises made. From all indications NVIDIA decided to save time, die size, and power by simplifying the memory controller and crossbar setup. These things have a direct impact on time to market and power efficiency.  NVIDIA probably figured that a couple percentage of performance lost was outweighed by the added complexity, power consumption, and engineering resources that it would have taken to gain those few percentage points back.

The Latest NVIDIA GeForce Drivers Are Here: Version 347.25 adds GTX 960 Support, MFAA to Most Games

Subject: Graphics Cards | January 23, 2015 - 11:09 PM |
Tagged: nvidia, gtx 960, graphics drivers, graphics cards, GeForce 347.25, geforce, game ready, dying light

With the release of GTX 960 yesterday NVIDIA also introduced a new version of the GeForce graphics driver, 347.25 - WHQL.

GeForce_Experience_Badge_Type_H_blk.png

NVIDIA states that the new driver adds "performance optimizations, SLI profiles, expanded Multi-Frame Sampled Anti-Aliasing support, and support for the new GeForce GTX 960".

While support for the newly released GPU goes without saying, the expanded MFAA support will help provide better anti-aliasing performance to many existing games, as “MFAA support is extended to nearly every DX10 and DX11 title”. In the release notes three games are listed that do not benefit from the MFAA support, as “Dead Rising 3, Dragon Age 2, and Max Payne 3 are incompatible with MFAA”.

347.25 also brings additional SLI profiles to add support for five new games, and a DirectX 11 SLI profile for one more:

SLI profiles added

  • Black Desert
  • Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris
  • Nosgoth
  • Zhu Xian Shi Jie
  • The Talos Principle

DirectX 11 SLI profile added

  • Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn

The update is also the Game Ready Driver for Dying Light, a zombie action/survival game set to debut on January 27.

DYING_LIGHT.png

Much more information is available under the release notes on the driver download page, and be sure to check out Ryan’s chat with Tom Peterson from the live stream for a lot more information about this driver and the new GTX 960 graphics card.

Source: NVIDIA

DirectX 12 Preview in New Windows 10 Build. No Drivers Yet.

Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards | January 23, 2015 - 07:11 PM |
Tagged: windows 10, microsoft, dx12, DirectX 12, DirectX

Microsoft has added DirectX 12 with the latest Windows 10 Technical Preview that was released today. Until today, DXDIAG reported DirectX 11 in the Windows 10 Technical Preview. At the moment, there has not been any drivers or software released for it, and the SDK is also no-where to be found. Really, all this means is that one barrier has been lifted, leaving the burden on hardware and software partners (except to release the SDK, that's still Microsoft's responsibility).

microsoft-windows10-jan-preview-dx12.png

No-one needs to know how old my motherboard is...

Note: I have already experienced some issues with Build 9926. Within a half hour of using it, I suffered an instant power-down. There was not even enough time for a bluescreen. When it came back, my Intel GPU (which worked for a few minutes after the update) refused to be activated, along with the monitor it is attached to. My point? Not for production machines.

Update: Looks like a stick of RAM (or some other hardware) blew, coincidentally, about 30 minutes after the update finished, while the computer was running, which also confused my UEFI settings. I haven't got around to troubleshooting much, but it seems like a weirdly-timed, abrupt hardware failure (BIOS is only reporting half of the RAM installed, iGPU is "enabled" but without RAM associated to it, etc.).

The interesting part, to me, is how Microsoft pushed DX12 into this release without, you know, telling anyone. It is not on any changelog that I can see, and it was not mentioned anywhere in the briefing as potentially being in an upcoming preview build. Before the keynote, I had a theory that it would be included but, after the announcement, figured that it might be pushed until GDC or BUILD (but I kept an open mind). The only evidence that it might come this month was an editorial on Forbes that referenced a conversation with Futuremark, who allegedly wanted to release an update to 3DMark (they hoped) when Microsoft released the new build. I could not find anything else, so I didn't report on it -- you would think that there would be a second source for that somewhere. It turns out that he might be right.

The new Windows 10 Technical Preview, containing DirectX 12, is available now from the preview build panel. It looks like Futuremark (and maybe others) will soon release software for it, but no hardware vendor has released a driver... yet.